Sh-Boomin’ Up The Charts

As most long-time music fans know, early rock and roll was filled with examples of cutting-edge music being reissued in less ‘threatening’ versions, the intent being to make them accessible to a wider audience. Even though there were sometimes other factors, the key component in the process was usually the race of the performers.

One of the earliest instances occurred in 1954, when a doo-wop song called “Sh-Boom (Life Could Be a Dream)” became a hit for the guys who had written it, but didn’t reach its full sales potential until a ‘safer’ bunch recorded it. The former group was the Chords and the latter was the Crew Cuts.

Based in the Bronx, the original Chords consisted of the Feaster brothers — Carl and Claude  — along with Jimmy Keyes, Floyd “Buddy” McRae, and Ricky Edwards. They pretty much scuffled along without a lot of success at first, but then they recorded what would be their signature song. Ironically, it was the ‘B’ side of the record, but it ended up rising to near the top of the R&B charts — and also drew a lot of attention by placing in the Top Ten on the pop charts.

Enter the Crew Cuts, a bunch of Canadian guys as conservative as the name would suggest. Made up of brothers John and Ray Perkins, Rudi Maugeri, and Pat Barrett, the Crew Cuts’ style was something closer to the likes of the Four Freshmen. The group had already had some success, but its version of “Sh-Boom” would rocket to the top of the pop charts and set the stage for several years of solid record sales, fueled by best-sellers on revised versions of other R&B songs (which also earned a lot of scorn from critics).

As for the Chords, the guys went through some ups and downs, beginning with having to change the name of their group to the Chordcats to avoid confusion with another combo. But even though the original name was eventually reclaimed and the group continued to entertain fans, the Chords never had another hit as big as the first.

The Chords – “Sh-Boom (Life Would Be a Dream)”


6 thoughts on “Sh-Boomin’ Up The Charts

  1. Well, I was a ‘HUGE’ fan of the “Four Aces” so when the Crewcuts made their debut on a local radio station playing some of the early rock, it was love at first ‘hear’. Especially after hearing their version of “Earth Angel”.

    If memory serves me correctly, I recall “Sh-Boom” being well received more by all age groups whereas “Earth Angel”, another famous ‘cover’ as you well know, was to be more of a teenage anthem at the time.

    The Crewcuts remain one of my all-time favorite groups from that era.

    Enjoyed the post…. 🙂


  2. I’m sort of on the fence about this. In those days I was part of that ‘wider audience’ that was being exposed to the music, and those are the versions I now remember fondly — and that still play in my head. But in later years, I began to be more aware that the original R&B stars often got overlooked, and in some cases I’ve found some things I really like.


  3. Isn’t that guy at the bottom of the picture of Crew Cuts Maxwell Smart?

    We were really lucky here in Melbourne, blessed with a great DJ named Stan Rofe (no longer with us) in the 50s and 60s who always played the original versions of these songs. So my recollection of this tune is by The Chords (also the Penguins’ version of Earth Angel)


  4. I ran across something very interesting yesterday afternoon by chance, given the subject of this very post.

    Assuming you are familiar with Joel Whitburn who I personally consider very knowledgeable and authoritative with regard to rock and roll, he had noted in his book titled “Pop Memories 1890-1954” that “Sh-Boom” was the “FIRST” number one rock and roll song.

    It goes without saying how very debatable that declaration would be in a round table discussion but I thought it interesting to pass along, given the nature of this post.

    Although I respect Mr. Whitburn’s opinion greatly, I would normally not have considered the song a “rock and roll” song at all if it had not been initially recorded by the ‘Chords’. Nevertheless, it does make for an interesting discussion. 🙂


  5. It’s definitely a good subject for discussion — not only the song itself, but how music was even labeled at the time. What exactly was rock and roll?


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