The birth of acappella as a new pop urban genre which began in 1963 was a continuation of the vocal group style of the 1950’s from black performers. This time period frequently called the “Golden Age of Acappella” a term used by Jerry Wexler of Atlantic Records as a disparaging term when groups had to sing without music, had a tremendous impact in urban working class communities. When teenagers began singing on street corners in the 1950’s and 60’s and acappella became a commercial venture in the 1960’s, it restored the 1950’s black group sound to a place of partial prominence. However, it wasn’t until 1970 and after, that the group sound and the onomatopoeic term “doo wop” became a fully recognized genre. The acappella era (1963-1973) shaped and molded the future of the new recognizable genre we now call today doo wop.
The transformation that was taking place along the acappella corridor during the 1960’s social and cultural upheaval in urban cities, was an unanticipated mix of racial/ethnic teenagers coming together and re-creating their own version of their favorite “cover songs” from the 1950's. The new doo wop genre was no longer black groups singing songs of the past decades, but non-African Americans who were singing, promoting and preserving the black sound of the 1950’s with their version of harmonization. Thus we have in the mid 1970’s and beyond “white groups” doing what black groups did twenty years prior. The musical sway of group harmony flowed from the original pioneer acappella groups of the 1960s through the 70s and has continued into the music of today. The makeover and transformation was complete. Doo wop became a gentrified genre of black music sung mostly by a mix-ethnic/racial assemblage.
What has happened during the past fifty years since the birth of acappella as a new urban pop genre is a sub-musical culture and cottage industry within the confines of rhythm and blues. This self-contained musical expression, within a small body of vocal group aficionados is basically non-African American. It has also become a “regional-centric” genus despite the fact that it is sung and heard in Spain, England, Germany, Japan, Australia and many other countries. Yet it is still basically known as an east coast urban musical style of singing. Like gentrification in urban cities, blacks have moved out of their vocal group matrix neighborhood.
From the forthcoming new book: BROTHERS OF ANOTHER SHADE: Non-African American Contribution to Rhythm and Blues, Abraham J. Santiago Mellow Sound Press © 2013 All Rights reserved, Printed with written permission