The top teen singing idols from the 1950's and '60's include Elvis Presley, Ricky Nelson, Frankie Avalon, Bobby Rydell, Bobby Vee, Fabian, Tommy Sands, Tommy Steele, Johnny Crawford and Freddy Cannon.
Every generation has its young singing idols. The 1950s and early '60s was especially rich in talent that catered to the teenage crowd. Here are ten unforgettable teen-oriented solo artists from that bygone era...
Elvis Presley (1935-1977)
The undisputed King of Rock 'n' Roll, Elvis Presley took the music world by storm during the Eisenhower era. Parents groaned but screaming teens went wild, as Elvis went on to score a slew of number one hits, including "Heartbreak Hotel," "Don't Be Cruel," "Love Me Tender," "Too Much," "All Shook Up," "Jailhouse Rock," "Don't" and "Stuck on You." Elvis made the leap to motion pictures in 1956, appearing as Clint Reno in Love Me Tender. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Elvis Presley, 20th Century-Fox, 1956 - Heritage Auction Galleries
Ricky Nelson (1940-1985)
The youngest son of big band artists Ozzie and Harriet Hilliard Nelson, young Ricky got his start in show business on his parents' TV show The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (1952-66). Ricky's first record came in 1957 on the Verve label, a remake of the old Fats Domino tune "I'm Walkin" along with the flip side "A Teenager's Romance." In time, Ricky Nelson became one of the hottest teen singing idols of the era, scoring such hits as "Be-Bop Baby," "Stood Up," "Poor Little Fool," "Lonesome Town," "It's Late," "Travelin' Man" and "Hello Mary Lou." Nelson was killed in a plane crash on December 31, 1985.
Frankie Avalon (1940-)
Philadelphia-born Frankie Avalon got his start in show business as a 12-year-old trumpet player on television. From 1958 to 1962 Avalon scored 31 charted singles on the Billboard Hot 100, including "Why," "Venus," "Bobby Sox to Stockings," "De De Dinah," "I'll Wait for You" and "Just Ask Your Heart." Avalon, who made his film debut in Jamboree (1957) playing himself, also starred in such popular beach movies as Beach Party (1963), Bikini Beach (1964) and the classic Beach Blanket Bingo (1965).
Bobby Rydell (1942-)
Philadelphia-born Bobby Rydell, who as a teenager played the drums alongside Frankie Avalon in a band called Rocco and the Saints, signed with Cameo Records in 1959. His subsequent hits included "Kissin' Time," "We Got Love," "Wild One," "Volare," "Swingin' School," "Good Time Baby" and "Forget Him." Rydell played a surly teen singer in an April 18, 1960, episode of TV's Make Room for Daddy titled "The Singing Delinquent."
Bobby Vee (1943-)
Bobby Vee – "sweet as a honey bee" – scored his first hit single "Suzie Baby" for Minneapolis-based Soma Records in 1959. He was then signed by Liberty Records, where he recorded such hits as "Devil or Angel," "Rubber Ball," "Take Good Care of My Baby," "Run to Him," "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes" and "Come Back When You Grow Up." In a bit of music history, the teenage Rydell and several of his Fargo, North Dakota, schoolboy friends calling themselves The Shadows filled in at the last moment at a concert in Moorehead, Minnesota, for Buddy Holly, who had been killed in a plane crash on February 3, 1959.
Bobby Vee extended play record 1961 - Heritage Auction Galleries
Philadephia-born Fabian Forte got his big break with Chancellor Records in 1958. A frequent performer on Dick Clark's then Philly-based American Bandstand, Fabian's charted singles include "I'm a Man," "Hound-Dog Man," "Turn Me Loose," "Tiger," "String Along" and "This Friendly World." Fabian, who made his motion picture debut as Clint in Hound-Dog Man (1959), also appeared in High Time (1960), North to Alaska (1960), Love in a Goldfish Bowl (1961), Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation (1962) and Five Weeks in a Balloon (1962).
Tommy Sands (1937-)
Chicago-born Tommy Sands began his show business career on radio. Signed at age 15 to a contract with RCA Records by Elvis Presley's manager Colonel Tom Parker, Sands' first big hit was "Teen-Age Crush" in 1957 on the Capitol label. His other recordings include "Ring A Ding A Ding," "Going Steady," "Sing Boy Sing," "Teenage Doll" and "Big Date." Sands, who made his motion picture debut as Virgil Walker in Sing Boy Sing (1958), also appeared in Mardi Gras (1958), Babes in Toyland (1961), Love in a Goldfish Bowl (1961) and Ensign Pulver (1964). Sands starred in a January 30, 1957, episode of Kraft Television Theatre titled "The Singin' Idol."
Tommy Sands and Fabian in Love in a Goldfish Bowl (1961) - Heritage Auction Galleries
Tommy Steele (1936-)
London-born Tommy Steele is often recognized as the U.K.'s first rock 'n' roll teen idol. His first recordings came as a front man for the band The Steelmen in 1956, with Steele later going solo in 1958 where he racked up a string of charted U.K. hits, including "Come On, Let's Go," "Tallahassee Lassie," "Little White Bull" and "Must Be Santa." Steele also appeared in films, including Rock Around the World (1957), The Duke Wore Jeans (1958), Tommy the Toreador (1959), The Happiest Millionaire (1967) and Finian's Rainbow (1968).
Johnny Crawford (1946-)
A former Mouseketeer on TV's The Mickey Mouse Club, Johnny Crawford won fame playing Chuck Connors' son Mark McCain in the ABC-TV western The Rifleman (1958-63). Crawford also won adoration from his teenage admirers as a recording star, scoring five Top 40 hits in 1962-63 on the Del-Fi label, including the bubblegum classic "Cindy's Birthday," "Rumors," "Your Nose Is Gonna Grow" and "Proud." It may have a been a brief run in the limelight, but at one time little Johnny Crawford sent the teenage girls squealing.
Freddy Cannon (1939-)
Freddy "Boom "Boom" Cannon got his musical start in the Boston area as leader of Freddy Karmon & the Hurricanes. His first big hit as a solo artist came on the Swan label in 1959 with "Tallahassee Lassie," which peaked at number six on the Billboard charts. That was followed by more hits, including "Way Down Yonder in New Orleans," "Transistor Sister," "Palisades Park" and "Abigail Beecher." Cannon performed the theme song for Dick Clark's musical television show Where the Action Is (1965-67).
- Fabian and Carol Lynley in Hound-Dog Man (1959) - Heritage Auction Galleries