Taped during a 1999 tribute in Pittsburgh, this straightforward, live review honors rock 'n' roll's '50s and early '60s legacy of vocal groups. For oldies fans hoping to bask in nostalgia, the caliber of the hits and the... more » inclusion of most of the groups originally associated with the recorded hits make Doo Wop at 50 a satisfying stroll down memory lane. In light of the focal importance of the songs, rather than the singers, for the majority of listeners the program's choice of material will be sufficient reason to watch, as underscored by the success of PBS's broadcast of the complete concert. Veteran soul stylist Jerry Butler, who hosts the show, is himself a legitimate bridge between the street corner symphonies of the '50s and the more sophisticated urban pop and soul that succeeded them. Butler shepherds a lineup including current editions of the Platters, the Del-Vikings, Jimmy Beaumont and the Skyliners, the Penguins, the Cadillacs, the Moonglows, the Flamingos, and other fondly remembered groups. A competent if not exactly inspired revue band accompanies all the acts, taped performing on a set decorated with oversized portraits of '50s icons like James Dean and Marilyn Monroe, with a few vintage hot rods parked alongside to hammer home the nostalgic thrust of the night. More impassioned doo-wop fans and rock historians, however, will be a tougher sell. If the groups indeed carry the names associated with the hits, many feature reconstituted lineups with few of the members actually heard on the original singles, a practice that can be traced back to the '60s (as with the Platters). Alternatively, more authentic lineups, like The Marcels (heard performing their galloping version of "Blue Moon" for the first time in decades), reflect their advancing years in rough vocal edges or arrangements transposed to lower keys. Given the show's inspiration (Rhino's exemplary Doo Wop Box anthologies, which unearthed both big hits and forgotten gems and placed the music and performers in a rich historical context), it would have been intriguing to provide some documentary context. --Sam Sutherland« less
Lawrence Curcio | West View, Pennsylvania United States | 04/21/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Some background on this tape, made in Pittsburgh, by a resident: It seems that some time back, the local PBS station had a Doo Wop show for its fund drive. The most return anyone had hoped for was on the order of $10,000, but Doo Wop pulled in 11 times that. The producer of the show, a remarkably young fellow named T. J. Lubinsky, must have received the green light to produce more Doo Wop stuff, and to distribute it nationally to PBS stations wishing to broaden their contributing demographic. Lubinsky did an admirable job. Whereas the first attempt had consisted of some (variably engineered) in-studio stuff, and some borrowed video, subsequent shows were staged in a grand theater (The Benedum Center), which was required to house a good portion of Pittsburgh's ample aging, Doo Wop-loving population. Some of the voices on the tape have, of course, faded. More remarkable are the ones that have not. On this score, Johnny Maestro stands out. He delivers an impressive - nay amazing performance. Jerry Butler also delivered - but mostly as a master of ceremonies. His singing was on-key, but let's face it, he could never keep the beat very well. The Del Vikings sound just like they always did, even though they are not all there anymore. The Cleftones were wonderfully entertaining, and seemed to be having a good deal of fun. The Moonglows were excellent, even though the televised arrangements both had Harvey Fuqua as lead singer. Harvey is great as a songwriter and as a manager, but he is far from the group's strongest voice. Fuqua came through, though, and the group's signature blow harmony was intact. There are some special moments, like a gracious speech given by Herbie Cox, the lead singer of the Cleftones, thanking the producers and expressing respect for the groups with which the Cleftones appeared. The reunion of the Chantels with their former lead singer, Arlene Smith, was moving (if perhaps a trifle overdone). This was also one of the very last appearances for the Flamingos before Jake Carey passed on, and even though they only hinted at their former celestial harmonies, the hint was the more precious as a last glimpse.Speedo of the Cadillacs doing his steps and strut was also memorable - particularly for yours truly. Ya see, I came to Pittsburgh in 1989 to go to graduate school. My choice of cities was made, in part, because of the city's Doo Wop tradition. Years later, I watched this tape, and there, as Speedo strutted through the audience, was my old adviser - who was standing up, grinning from ear to ear, and clapping in time to the music. It's a side of him I never saw before, and now I have it on tape! (He'll never live it down!)Less memorable were Lee Andrews, and also The Capris. Jimmy Gallagher, who really can still sing, was painfully off-key that particular night. Earl Lewis and the Channels could easily have been a high point, but Lewis was evidently more interested in showing off than he was in contributing to the collective effort. The tape transcends these things, though, and the lower points have the ironic effect of making the good stuff seem even better. To anyone who remembers the racial tension of the 50's/60's, and the controversy about black music and white covers, it is gratifying to see black and white performers on the same stage and even in the same groups. The Del Vikings, a group out of the Air Force, were always this way. (Johnny Maestro's original group, The Crests, were too.) One of the new reorganized groups consisted of members from Vito and the Salutations, The Impalas, and The Teenagers. The equally mixed audience, now allowed to listen to music simultaneously in the same theater, approved. Everybody is finally on good terms. There! That wasn't so hard, was it? One last note: A number of reviewers, here and elsewhere, commented on the quality of the unnamed group who backed up Jerry Butler and Gene Chandler. They are fine indeed. Some of their members were also playing in the orchestra, and if they are credited anywhere, I haven't been able to find the place. Even Jerry Butler didn't know their name, and he was on stage with them. They are from a larger local Pittsburgh group named, PURE GOLD, and if you are ever out this way, they will probably be playing somewhere. They put on quite a show. Wish I could name the graying Sax player in the tux. He looked like he should be playing classical music, but his rock 'n roll wailing was... perfect. Taken for what it is, the tape is also perfect. Mostly it's a bunch of old guys (and some old ladies) trying to sing. If you listen to them with your ears, you will find points to criticize. If you have a heart for this music, though, you will listen with that. It's the very best way to appreciate this tape. I give it all the stars."
Todd Clingan | Farmington Hills, Michigan USA | 10/04/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For those of you out there who enjoy the sounds of Doo Wop this DVD is for you and is certainly a keepsake for anyone who remembers that period of time or who just enjoys listening to good music. I found this musical presentation to be very good in it's own way and it seemed to have captured some fine musical moments in here worth watching such as Gene Chandler's vocal on "Duke Of Earl" and Jerry Buttler's soulfull rendering on "Your Precious Love" which were the two exciting highlights for me on this disc. This is one video presentation I think worth buying because it gathers together some of the finest performances ever assembled in one place and that it is truly a concert event that may never happen again in our lifetime. Or in any future lifetime. I found the sound quality of this DVD to be very good and the visual quality not to bad eather. So what are you waiting for? Go out and buy this."
Doo Wop at 50 2pk DVD
Clifford A. Hedgepeth | Franklin, Virginia USA | 12/28/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As several reviewers have stated, when I saw the PBS program, I had to have the DVD. I grew up with this music. So what if some of the voices have faded. After all they are at least 40 years older than when the recordings were first made.The camera work was outstanding and all the groups looked as if they were having fun as well as captivating the audience. Most of my favorite groups were there. The Marcells were great! As were the Cadillacs, Skyliners, and Jive 5. The Platters did a great job. We all know that Herb Reed is the only original, but he does a commendable job of keeping the sound alive.My 8 year old granddaughter is now a Doo Wop fan.I will buy the 51 concert when it is on DVD."
A Definite Must-Have !!!
Jack L. Haney | Asheville, NC United States | 09/24/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A nice addition to anyone's musical library, especially fans of the greatest music ever-Doo Wop! Hosted by the great Jerry Butler, many groups sound as wonderful as they did 40+ years ago and many have most of the original group members. Gene Chandler gets an A+ for "Duke of Earl". Others who sounded fantastic include the Cleftones,the Jive Five,the Capris,the Penguins ("Earth Angel")and the Cadillacs performing the classic "Speedo". Johnny Maestro-formerly of the Crests and more recently with Brooklyn Bridge-brought back memories with "Sixteen Candles".The sound of this video is tops!! Warrants my first 5 Star review!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
A must-have for music lovers
Jack L. Haney | 12/03/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Watching Doo Wop 50 is like sitting down and eating an old fashioned banana split or hot fudge sundae... You remember what it was like, but you'd forgotten how good it really is!!Not only is the music still pure and simple, but the class and sophistication used to tell the tales of love lost and found makes hearing it just that much better.Many of the groups featured on this DVD actually sound more mature and better than when they originally recorded. On the other hand, it brings a tear to your heart to hear Jimmy Beaumont struggle to pour his soul into "Since I Don't Have You."I'm not a DVD fanatic--far from it, but I bought this one simply to hear and see many of my favorite groups perform one last time. Many of these groups will never be seen again, and it's too bad that they weren't given the forum to perform extended sets. Still, where else will you see (and hear) the Spaniels sing "Stormy Weather", the Jive Five with Earl Pitts sing "What Time Is It?", or the Marcels sing "Blue Moon"?You don't need the DVD to hear the music--God knows you can drop into any discount store and find a compliation of most of this music; but it's worth the few extra bucks to see the creased pants, the shining shoes, the hand gestures, and the appreciation these groups have for people that love their music.It's not grunge---it's not hip hop or country rock. It was a period of time that many can only appreciate because they've been there. Sit back and take bite out of that sundae and savor how good it is...one more time."