WOUB-HD to Broadcast ‘Doo Wop Generations (My Music)’ March 10 at 3 p.m. and March 11 at 9 p.m.< < Back to
The term “doo wop” was first coined in 1961 when it was used in The Chicago Defender in reference to a resurgence in the popularity of vocal harmony groups. Although the term was cited as being from WCBS radio disc jockey Gus Gossert, Gossert asserted that the term had actually been in use for far longer than his use of it.
Trying to define the genre is all at once difficult and yet deceptively simple – much like the music itself. It is a subgenre of rhythm and blues, and it can be traced to the ‘30s, and the years surrounding World War II, with tunes by the likes of The Ink Spots, The Delta Rhythm Boys, The Mills Brothers and others all fitting into the typical tropes of the genre: a heavy reliance on high tenor voices delivering the lead melody of a tune while the bass provides syllable-based lyrics throughout, a light usage of instruments in general, and the potential to be categorized as novelty songs. Like so much great music, doo wop can be traced back largely to the industrial northeast and the cities that make up that portion of the country.
On Saturday, March 10 at 3 p.m. and on Sunday, March 11 at 9 p.m., WOUB-HD will broadcast Doo Wop Generations (My Music) which features various performances by some of the more recognizable ‘50s/late ‘60s doo wop outfits such as The Duprees and The Belmonts performing along more contemporary acts who have taken some of the core tenants of doo wop into the new century. You can find encore presentations of the program right here.
“Throughout much of my childhood, I was listening to 45s of, in some cases, very obscure Pittsburgh doo wop groups,” said Tom Berich, who works within Ohio University’s Dance Division and is the host of WOUB’s 1340AM weekly show, ArtsAthens. Berich grew up in Pittsburgh, and was exposed to many of the doo wop groups of that region throughout his youth. “In general, people used to just call them ‘oldies,’ and when anybody would reference ‘oldies,’ they were actually talking about doo wop.”
Berich said that many things about the genre appealed to him as a child.
“As I was growing up, it seemed like doo wop was always on in the background. It connected with me as a young person because a lot of the choruses were nonsense syllables that a five-year-old could sing and not feel embarrassed about – in fact, they are very fun to sing,” said Berich. “Doo wop itself is very different from the rock of the ‘60s, and it predates it by quite a bit and, in some ways, it is the direct precursor to Motown. If we’re looking at Motown, it is adding horns and strings, things that doo wop didn’t typically have because doo wop is pretty stripped down and basic and kind of grungy and dirty, but doo wop was achieving the same things sonically as Motown was, just with vocal arrangements instead of those other flourishes.”
Berich said that doo wop serves as a sort of bridge from the early popular music genres of jazz and gospel into Motown, which ultimately led to the formulation of the pop music we know and love so well today.
“Doo wop preceded so much of the music that we know and love today,” said Berich. “For example, the music of Beyoncé would not sound the same as it does if doo-wop had never occurred. It is a part of an important musical lineage that we can trace back quite a ways.”
For Kate Renner, the manager of The Union Bar, doo wop is a part of a sort of collective understanding of oldies music, and those tunes happen to be the type that have a pronounced effect on patrons at the bar.
“I wouldn’t say that I am an expert on doo wop, but I would say that I started to enjoy that kind of music dating back to whenever I first saw “Dirty Dancing,’” she said. “It’s simple music with simple lyrics, and I can play it at the bar when I’m working and it generally lifts people up, and it lifts me up, too. I tend to be really perceptive of how people communicate with their body language, and I notice that when I play my doo-wop playlist – which isn’t all doo wop, it has some Motown and girl groups and soul music too, people do seem to relax more.”
As a part of her job, Renner hears all types of music on a regular basis. She said that doo wop in particular resonates with her because of the genre’s inherent simplicity.
“It is so instrumentally simple, and it focuses on the vocals making sounds rather than the instruments, and it’s just so fun and goofy and poppy,” she said. “And I love pop music. When you think about what those songwriters were trying to do, they were just trying to formulate something that would get young people to sing and dance along with it, and that is pretty redeemable in terms of artistic intent.”