No one could argue about Elvis being the most popular rock-and-roll entertainer; let’s face it, he sold over one BILLION records. Despite his stage presence and velvet voice, I don’t think he was a great musician. No one could argue whether Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder had singing abilities and styles that were phenomenal. No one should doubt whether Little Richard and Jerry Lee were original. Nobody should debate whether the old-time rock-a-billy singers like Carl Perkins and Bill Haley helped create rock and roll.
But, of all the top-selling performers of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, which one was really the most musically talented? Who could sing rock and roll, jazz, folk, commercial pop, and country music as well as anyone? Who could play guitar, play drums as well as Gene Krupa, play awesome boogie-woogie and R&B piano, play vibes, play harmonica (and sing at the same time), write much of his own music (including several classics) and vocalize as well as all the legends of his time? Who co-starred in many well-known movies, including those for which he wrote the sound track? Who could side-shuffle his feet across the stage like James Brown and gyrate like Tom Jones? Who had an IQ approaching Einstein’s?
I’m talking about the man who was born in 1936 and died in 1973 following a heart-valve operation at age 37, whose real name was Walden Cassotto from Bronx NY, who never knew his father and grew up believing the story that his older sister was his mother. From “Splish Splash” in 1958, to “Dream Lover” in 1959, to “Mack-the-Knife, Beyond the Sea, Clementine, and Lazy River” in 1960, he was the man who outsold Sinatra at the Copacabana and was the youngest performer to ever headline at a major Las Vegas casino. The greatest all-around musician and most versatile entertainer of the early days of rock and roll was Bobby Darin.