By Gary Sorkin, Editor-In-Chief
I call it Doo-wop, Johnny Keyes, of Johnny
Keyes And The Magnificents calls it Du-wop. I guess
it really doesnt matter. It is the music we listened to, sang
along with - and fell in love with that special person to. Its
all about the moon, and love, and those magic moments so different
and so new. Johnny Keyes is a true affectionado of Du-wop.
Read his thoughts on the subject, read about its history,
our past, our present - and our future. You will learn much about
those magic moments. I also urge you to read between
the lines, there is much wisdom from a Baby Boomer by the name of
Johnny Keyes. Visit his website and buy his book, Du-Wop.
last word from me: Shoo-wop, doo-wah, baby. (I wish I could sing.)
Doo-wop, or Du-Wop as your book is called has such a distinctive
romantic sound and is usually about LOVE. So much of todays
music is about struggle and despair. What do you think of this?
Keyes: There are no new emotions to write or sing about...at any
time...not yesterday, not today, and maybe not tomorrow. Just
maybe, the "Trend" or Marketing Strategy"
will influence the direction that the Artist is being led by the
Record Company and or the Record Producer. Negative might be selling
this season, while Positive was hot last Season and Romantic was
happening the season before last. It is constantly changing, but
remaining the same, because of the Cycle.
Take me back. When did you first hit that note that convinced
you that music was important in your life? Where were you?
For me, it began at home with my family. My Grandmother would
be singing in the kitchen while preparing the meals. I would sit
there in the kitchen, listening to the songs and learning to sing
them with her. My father sang one or two songs, a couple of his
Al Hibbler favorites. Sometimes, hed sing a Bill Kenny tune.
It was when he had just come home after working the four-to twelve
shift at Union Carbide in Clearing, Illinois. He did his singing
in the kitchen, while he was fixing a snack or warming his dinner.
Every now and then, grown-ups would make you entertain their "company"
by singing a song. "Sing that song you and your grandmother
were singing in the kitchen, the other day." And of course
they would make you sing at school. There were Anthems, Hymns,
Christmas Carols, Christmas Pageants, Easter plays and the Little
Musicals.........Then there was High School. We found out that
one of the most effective ways to attract girls was to sing to
them. If you would serenade her in front of her parents, you would
score Major Points.
Explain that wonderful Doo-Wop harmony to me.
The Bass Part is the foundation. The next part (or building block)
is the Baritone voice; he will harmonize with the Bass. Next we
add the Second Tenor part; this is the third building block. We
are building the harmony - from the lowest pitched voice, to the
highest. The Second Tenor is harmonizing with the first two voices
now. The last voice or part will be the First Tenor. He, of course,
will harmonize with everybody else. And the Lead Singer is the
Leading Instrument in this Five-Piece Vocal Orchestra. And there
are, of course, many variations. The number of vocalists may differ
at times. There are four-man Groups, Trios, and Duos. Sometimes
the chords are voiced differently, but the example above is one
of the basic Du-Wop structures for our purposes here.
You do a lot of work with kids of today, what do you think of
When you say their music I suppose you are saying New Music (As
opposed to OUR Music...OLD Music). It has been my experience -
after singing before Boys and Girls Clubs, record stores, and
High School assemblies, I never got the feeling that the music
we were performing was anything else but OUR Music. Recently we
were singing at the James Jordan Boys and Girls Club on Chicago's
Westside. The age group ranged from six years old to fourteen
years old, with a couple of "Baby Boomer" Grandparents,
who must have snuck in. The audience responded enthusiastically
to Why Do Fools Fall In Love, Charlie Brown,
Rockin Robin, and Up On The Mountain.
It sounded to me like Our Music was their Music and vice-versa.
Maybe our Old Music was new to them? Theres that cycle again.
Which groups did you listen to back in those good ol
day? Who influenced you the most?
We listened to the Dixie Hummingbirds, The Soul Stirrers, The
5 Royals, and The Moonglows. Harvey had a way of arranging voices,
similar to the way Duke Ellington arranged his with horns and
strings. His backgrounds sang a counter-melody under Lead Singer,
Bobby Lester. (Check out The Beating Of My Heart or
What music do you listen to today?
All of it. I play Du-Wop tapes in the car on the way to work.
During the day I listen to the radio in the van, while I am working,
I groove to the "current music. by whatever name it's
called today. On the way home I listen to Du-Wop tapes in the
car...again. When I am working on my next book (Du-wop 2), Du-wop
tunes are playing in the background. After I turn in for the night,
I make sure Smooth Dusty Jazz plays all night while I am sleeping.
First thing in the morning it's Blues that starts my day. Yeah......
Baby Boomers love the doo-wop sound. Do you think that with the
passage of time that the doo-wop sound will fade much like swing
I don't agree with the notion that any Music Form fades with the
passage of time. Maybe, everything old becomes new again. All
you have to do is stick around long enough and you will see Swing
Music being played again - wide-legged, peg-legged pants, being
worn again. Men with their hair parted in the middle, women wearing
Up-Swept hairdos, and French-Rolls, Nehru Jackets, and maybe Du-Wop
didn't fade with the "passage of time" either. Just
maybe it never really left but went through a few changes, like
a different label, or accent. It might have been given a new "Look",
or a different sound, a Country flavor, a "Hard-Rock texture",
a different, but similar spelling. Maybe that's the way the Cycle
works. What comes around goes around. It never faded - it was
forced into a lateral move. It's a frame of reference. It's the
roots of Rock and Roll.
What was it like for an African-American rock n roll group to
tour the south in the 1950s?
We didn't gig in the South that much. The first time we made a
gig, it was in Memphis, Tennessee. Gerald Gregory, the late, great
Bass Singer of The Spaniels was with us. (He wasn't singing with
us. He was driving us to Memphis in The Spaniels station wagon.
We didn't have a wagon and he didn't have a gig that weekend so
he helped us out.} We were pulled over by the Highway Patrol and
detained until the ownership of the station wagon was verified.
We hadn't even crossed the Illinois State line......Another time,
The Tour Bus carrying the Roy Hamilton Show Members, our Group,
The Clovers, The Silhouettes, The Dubs, and a host of others,
pulled into Gulfport, Mississippi and we stopped for sandwiches.
Nobody left the bus, except for the designated sandwich
person, elected by the majority. That was the quietest busload
of Show-People I have ever seen in my life.....Of course the only
places we could stay the night were the "Colored Motels and
Rooming Houses"....Other than that, we didn't have any major
incidents. There were other "adventures" on other tours,
like the time in Louisiana and a few Texas close calls....but
I have to save something for my next Book, Du-Wop 2.
Where and when can your fans see you perform in the near future?
Johnny Keyes And The Magnificents can be seen performing on TV
in The PBS Special, Do-Wop51. It will play again and again (hopefully.)
Also there are plans being made to take this MARVELOUS SHOW on
the road in the form of a National Tour. As soon as I find out
the dates and Cities, I will let everyone know.
Johnny, last question: Why do fools fall in love?
To answer that question, I will have to find out WHO..WHO WROTE
THE BOOK OF LOVE? It's been fun doing my first written interview
for Boomers International. Thank you for your patience and understanding.
Johnny Keyes - and remember, Du-Wop Lives!
Please read Johnny Keyes book, Du-Wop, and relive those
From Jeri: Check out Johnny's local web pages that I created for
Johnny & The Magnificents
Keyes and The Magnificents will be performing on Public
TV. In several Markets, beginning this Past Weekend. Tonight
at 7:30 P.M., CST. The Show is called Doo-Wop 51. Over
thirty Artists from the 50s and 60s. PBS Program for the
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