The future of music

30 Best 50s Musicians (Top Artists From the 1950s)

May 22, 2023
50s musicians

Rock and roll is a musical genre that emerged in the 1950s and has significantly impacted the world of music and popular culture. 

Rock and roll’s roots can be traced to a combination of African-American rhythm and blues and country music. 

This fusion of styles created an energetic and rebellious new sound that captured the spirit of a generation.

The 1950s was the decade when the music industry changed a lot as rock and roll emerged as a powerful new force. 

The next generation of musicians broke away from the traditional sound of big band and swing music and instead embraced new styles heavily influenced by blues and rhythm and blues. 

These young artists pushed the boundaries and created something unique.

Enjoy our list of the best 50s musicians!

1. Elvis Presley

As “The King of Rock and Roll,” Elvis Presley was one of the most well-known performers of the 1950s. 

His distinctive fusion of rockabilly and country music made him a phenomenon, and his charismatic stage personality and excellent looks made him a teen heartthrob. 

Presley’s impact on popular music is immense, and songs like “Heartbreak Hotel,” and “Jailhouse Rock” contributed to defining the sound of rock and roll. 

He carried on recording throughout the 1950s and into the 1960s, confirming his place in music history as a legend. 

Elvis Presley’s songs and legacy continue to inspire fans despite his tragic death in 1977.

2. Little Richard

He was a pioneer in the early days of rock and roll, known for his flamboyant style and energetic performances. 

His hits like “Tutti Frutti”, “Long Tall Sally” and “Good Golly Miss Molly” shaped the sound of rock and roll and influenced generations of musicians. 

Wild Pompadour With his hairstyle and eye-catching outfits, Little His Richard was a true showman who always delivered unforgettable performances. 

Despite challenges and discrimination throughout his career, Little Richard remained a true icon and legend until his passing in 2020.

3. Buddy Holly

Buddy Holly is a singer-songwriter and guitarist who played an essential role in the creation of rock music. 

He rose to fame in the 1950s with hits like “When Will It Be the Day”, and “Every Day”, emphasizing his unique singing and songwriting skills. 

Holly’s music mixes country and rock, and her influence on future musicians is huge. 

He was known for his thick-rimmed glasses that became part of his image. 

Despite his short career, Buddy Holly’s music and legacy continue to inspire and influence musicians today.

4. Chuck Berry

Chuck Berry is an American guitarist, singer, and songwriter.

Born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1926, Berry began his music career in the 1950s and quickly gained fame for his distinctive blend of blues, rock, and country music.

With hits like “Johnny B. Goode,” and “Maybelline,” Berry became known for his electrifying guitar solos and energetic performances. 

Despite personal and legal troubles throughout his career, Berry continued to make music and influence the music industry until he died in 2017. 

He posthumously received his Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2018 Grammy Awards.

Today, Chuck Berry’s music inspires and influences musicians worldwide, making him a true icon of rock and roll music.

5. Ray Charles

Born in 1930 in Albany, Georgia, Ray Charles was blind from childhood due to glaucoma but this didn’t stop him from developing his musical talent from a young age.

Charles had a string of hits in the 1950s including “I Got a Woman,” and “Georgia on My Mind,” which became his signature song. 

He was also known for his soulful voice, powerful stage presence, and ability to connect with his audiences.

Charles’ music and influence extended beyond the 1950s, with his collaborations with other musicians and his contributions to the civil rights movement in the 1960s.

6. Fats Domino

American pianist and singer-songwriter Fats Domino is a founding rock and roll father. 

His cheerful piano playing and his warm, soulful voice defined his music.

In the 1950s, he enjoyed a run of successes with songs including “Ain’t That a Shame,” “Blueberry Hill,” and “I’m Walkin’.” 

He was given a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1987 after being elected into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.

His distinctive aesthetic and timeless songs never fail to enthrall listeners everywhere.

7. Bill Haley & His Comets

The 1952 formation of the American rock and roll group Bill Haley & His Comets made them famous for the song “Rock Around the Clock,” which became a worldwide hit.

The song became a cultural sensation and contributed to the global acceptance of rock & roll music.

Haley & His Comets were renowned for their spirited live shows and peppy, catchy tunes.

Despite Haley’s passing in 1981, his legacy is still felt today thanks to his songs and his impact on rock and roll.

8. Jerry Lee Lewis

Jerry Lee Lewis mixed the sounds of country, gospel, and blues music to create his distinctive brand of rock & roll.

With classics like “Crazy Arms” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” highlighting his energetic piano playing and passionate vocals, he swiftly rose to fame.

Jerry Lee Lewis signed with Sun Records, the company that gave Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and other legendary rock & roll performers their first break. 

Lewis’s trademark pounding piano technique and obscene lyrics are present in the song, which sparked controversy and made him a target of censorship. 

Jerry Lee Lewis also made country music recordings, earning him the nickname “The Country Killer”.

9. Ritchie Valens

Ritchie Valens was a Mexican-American singer-songwriter who rose to fame as one of the fathers of rock and roll music in the late 1950s.

Ritchie Valens joined Del-Fi Records in 1958 at the age of just 17, the same year he recorded his debut single, “Come On, Let’s Go.” 

With his contagious rock & roll sound and endearing stage persona, Valens soon rose to fame after the song’s success.

Ritchie Valens’ life was tragically cut short in 1959 when he perished in an airplane crash alongside Buddy Holly and J.P. Richardson, who were also musicians. 

The incident—which came to be known as “The Day the Music Died”—shocked the music industry and sparked global grief for the young, gifted artists.

10. The Everly Brothers

Don and Phil Everly, brothers, made up the rock and roll combo known as The Everly Brothers in the United States. 

The brothers, who were raised in a musical household and were born in Kentucky in the 1930s, started playing together as youngsters.

Throughout their career, the Everly Brothers endured both professional and personal obstacles. 

They battled drug addiction and other personal problems, which occasionally damaged their partnership. 

The Everly Brothers are one of the most important rock and roll bands in history today. 

Their distinctive sound and moving lyrics have served as an example to other performers, and their music continues to be adored by listeners all around the world.

11. The Platters

In the 1950s, Los Angeles, California, saw the formation of the American vocal group The Platters. 

Herb Reed, who enlisted four other vocalists to make the original lineup, founded the group in 1952. 

Their silky harmonies and sultry melodies made them one of the most popular and significant R&B vocal groups of the time.

“Only You (And You Alone)” was their first big song, topping the R&B charts and transitioning to the mainstream charts in 1955. 

They frequently had to perform in segregated spaces and encountered prejudice while on the road.

However, their music cleared the path for other African American musicians to become successful in the mainstream and assisted in the dismantling of racial barriers.

12. Eddie Cochran

American musician and composer Eddie Cochran rose to fame as a pioneer of rock and roll music in the late 1950s. 

He developed an interest in rock and roll in the middle of the 1950s and quickly established a reputation as a gifted guitarist and performer.

“Summertime Blues”, a song by Cochran that went on to become a classic of the rock & roll genre, was his first big hit in 1958. 

Cochran’s trademark guitar style and his ferocious, animated vocals are featured in the song. 

Cochran’s life was tragically cut short when he passed away at age 21 in a vehicle accident in 1960. 

His premature passing shook the music industry and sparked a global outpouring of sadness from fans.

13. Johnny Cash

One of the most important artists in country music history is the American singer, songwriter, and guitarist Johnny Cash.

He started playing in neighborhood bands in the 1950s, and his musical tastes included gospel, folk, and blues.

Cash joined Sun Records in 1955, and his debut single, “Cry! Cry! Cry!” became a hit.

He strongly supported social justice, and his songs frequently touched on topics like poverty, criminal justice reform, and Native American rights.

Numerous Grammys and Country Songs Association Awards were among the many tributes he received for his songs.

14. Bo Diddley

Rock and roll music was invented by the American singer, songwriter, and guitarist Bo Diddley.

In the 1940s, he relocated to Chicago and performed in neighborhood clubs and recording studios.

The “Bo Diddley beat”—a powerful pulse and repeating rhythm characteristic of his guitar play—became well-known.

As one of the first African American performers to find mainstream popularity, he also made a significant contribution to the removal of racial barriers in the music industry.

Diddley’s music greatly influenced rock & roll, and many of his songs, such as “Bo Diddley,” “Who Do You Love?”, and “I’m a Man,” went on to become standards of the genre.

15. Carl Perkins

Carl Perkins, an American singer, composer, and guitarist, played a significant role in the 1950s evolution of rock and roll music. 

He listened to a variety of genres of music, such as gospel, country, and blues.

His debut single, “Blue Suede Shoes,” which became a classic of the rock and roll genre, was released in 1956. 

He was a skilled songwriter as well, penning several of his own hits and songs for other artists.

Despite his early popularity, Perkins’ career took a turn for the worse when he was involved in a significant vehicle accident in the late 1950s that prevented him from performing for several years. 

But throughout this time he continued to compose and record music and eventually returned to the stage in the 1960s.

16. Sam Cooke

One of the most significant and influential people in the history of soul music is the American singer, composer, and businessman Sam Cooke

His ability to incorporate aspects of the gospel, R&B, and pop into his songs helped him swiftly build a fan base.

He is well known for his hits “You Send Me,” “Chain Gang,” and “Wonderful World.”

Cooke was a pioneering businessman in the music sector. 

He established his own record company, SAR Records, and was renowned for his astute financial acumen and capacity to secure advantageous contracts for both himself and other musicians.

17. Hank Williams

Williams, who was born in Alabama in 1923, started singing and playing the guitar at a young age.

In the 1930s, he started appearing regularly on regional radio stations.

His passionate words, unusual voice, and capacity to depict the joys and challenges of ordinary life in his songs immediately won him a following. 

He is best known for his hits “Hey Good Lookin’,” “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” and “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.”

Williams struggled with addiction and health issues in his personal life despite his fame as a music artist. 

He passed away in 1953 at the age of 29, leaving a legacy that would serve as an example for future generations of country performers.

18. The Coasters

The Coasters were a well-known American singing group that originated in Los Angeles, California, in the 1950s. 

They sang rhythm and blues and rock and roll.

Among their most well-known songs are “Yakety Yak,” “Charlie Brown,” “Searchin’,” “Poison Ivy,” and “Young Blood.”

The Coasters were well renowned for their clever and hilarious lyrics, and they frequently used spoken word and tale elements in their songs.

19. Nat King Cole

Having started as a jazz pianist, Cole went on to create the Nat King Cole Trio in the 1940s. 

The band gained recognition for their own brand of jazz, which combined Cole’s mellow voice with the piano and bass.

Cole rose to prominence as a pop music superstar, releasing hits like “Mona Lisa,” “Unforgettable,” and “When I Fall in Love”  after switching to a solo career.

He became one of the first African Americans to host a television program when he took over “The Nat King Cole Show,” a variety show, in 1956.

20. Gene Vincent

Vincent Eugene Craddock, better known by his stage name Gene Vincent, was an American singer and guitarist who helped establish the rock and roll genre. 

“Be-Bop-A-Lula,” which Vincent and his band The Blue Caps recorded in 1956, is his most well-known hit. 

The song was a major hit, and the rockabilly movement was defined by the wild and rebellious vibe it had.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Vincent continued to perform and record, but a devastating car accident in 1960 that left him with significant injuries put an end to his career. 

21. James Brown

He was a poor child born on May 3, 1933, in Barnwell, South Carolina.

The “Godfather of Soul,” James Brown, is another name for him.

Throughout his career, he had a tonne of singles, such as “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag,” and “Sex Machine.”

Brown was an outspoken supporter of African American liberty and a civil rights campaigner. 

Throughout the Vietnam War, he entertained American soldiers and was active in many humanitarian endeavors.

22. The Drifters

The American R&B and soul vocal group The Drifters was founded in 1953. 

Although there have been many ensemble members throughout the years, Clyde McPhatter, Ben E. King, and Rudy Lewis were among its most well-known lineups.

The Drifters were renowned for their doo-wop-influenced R&B, soul, and sultry vocal harmonies. 

In the 1950s and 1960s, they enjoyed success with songs including “Under the Boardwalk,” and “Up on the Roof.”

23. Pat Boone

Boone had many singles throughout his career, including “Ain’t That a Shame,” and “April Love.” His music was heavily influenced by gospel and country music. 

In addition, he published several works on family and marriage-related issues.

Boone also had roles in several movies and television programs, such as “State Fair” and “The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom.” 

24. The Chordettes

In 1946, the American vocal band The Chordettes was founded in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.

The hit songs “Mr. Sandman” and “Lollipop,” both released in the 1950s, made The Chordettes famous.

Four women made up the original lineup: Dorothy Schwartz, Carol Buschmann, Janet Ertel, and Jinny Osborn.

In addition, they had more hit singles including “Born to Be With You” and “Just Between You and Me.”

25. Perry Como

He was born on May 18, 1912, in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania.

One of the most well-known performers of the 1950s was the American singer and television personality, Perry Como.

He was a choirboy in his local church when he started his musical career. 

“Till the End of Time,” is one of his many hits throughout his career. 

26. The Four Aces

The Four Aces were a United States singing group founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1950.

The 1950s and 1960s classic songs “Love is a Many-Splendored Thing” and “Three Coins in the Fountain” made The Four Aces famous. 

27. Roy Orbison

His passionate lyrics, unusual voice, and black shades made him well-known.

In the late 1950s, Orbison began his musical career. 

Throughout the 1960s, he enjoyed several singles, including “Only the Lonely” and “Crying.”

Orbison had a fruitful solo career and was a part of the band The Travelling Wilbury.

28. Connie Francis

She is renowned for having a strong voice and being able to sing in various languages.

Francis started her musical career in the late 1950s and enjoyed a string of songs in the 1960s, including “Lipstick on Your Collar” and “Who’s Sorry Now.”

Francis has a background in acting and has made appearances in several movies and TV shows.

29. Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers

The band included Herman Santiago, Joe Negroni, Sherman Garnes, Jimmy Merchant, and Frankie Lymon as the main vocalist.

The song “Why Do Fools Fall in Love,” written by Lymon and three of his pals when he was just 13 years old, became the group’s biggest success.

30. The Flamingos

The American doo-wop group The Flamingos was founded in Chicago in the mid-1950s.

The Flamingos are now regarded as one of the greatest and most recognizable doo-wop ensembles of all time.

Best 50s Musicians – Final Thoughts

Some of the most enduring and important music in history was created in the 1950s. 

The musicians who came of age in this period were truly pioneers, forging new ground and developing a style that will influence popular music in the future.

The artists of the 1950s included in this article have left a lasting impression on the music industry and are still loved today by fans both new and old. 

Future generations will continue to be inspired by and entertained by their music as it stands the test of time.

You may also like: Best 50s Songs

Will Fenton

Will, the founder of MIDDER, is a multifaceted individual with a deep passion for music and personal finance. As a self-proclaimed music and personal finance geek, he has a keen eye for futuristic technologies, especially those that empower creators and the public.

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