The 1950s (pronounced nineteen-fifties; commonly abbreviated as the ’50s or Fifties) was a decade of the Gregorian calendar that began on January 1, 1950, and ended on December 31, 1959.
By its end, the world had largely recovered from World War II and the Cold War developed from its modest beginning in the late-1940s to a hot competition between the United States and the Soviet Union by the early-1960s.
Clashes between communism and capitalism dominated the decade, especially in the Northern Hemisphere. The conflicts included the Korean War in the beginnings of the decade and the beginning of the Space Race with the launch of Sputnik 1. Along with increased testing of nuclear weapons (such as RDS-37 and Upshot–Knothole), this created a politically conservative climate. In the United States, the Second Red Scare caused Congressional hearings by both houses in Congress and anti-communism was the prevailing sentiment in the United States throughout the decade. The beginning of decolonization in Africa and Asia took place in this decade and accelerated in the following decade
1950 – Korean War begins
1951 – 22nd Amendment, establishing term limits for President.
1951 – Mutual Security Act
1951 – General Douglas MacArthur fired by President Truman for comments about using nuclear weapons on China
1951 – The first live transcontinental television broadcast takes place in San Francisco, California from the Japanese Peace Treaty Conference. One month later, the situation comedy I Love Lucy premieres on CBS, sparking the rise of television in the American home and the Golden Age of Television.
1952 – ANZUS Treaty enters into force
<1952 – Immigration and Nationality Act
1952 – United States presidential election, 1952 (Dwight D. Eisenhower
1953 – Dwight D. Eisenhower inaugurated as President.
1953 – Rosenbergs executed1953 – Korean Armistice Agreement1953 – Shah of Iran returns to power in CIA-orchestrated coup known as Operation Ajax
1954 – Detonation of ‘Bravo’ a 15 megaton Hydrogen bomb on Bikini Atoll. 1,000 times more powerful than the Hiroshima and Nagasaki weapons, it vaporised three islands, displaced the islanders and caused long-lasting contamination.
1954 – Joseph McCarthy discredited in Army-McCarthy hearings
1954 – Saint Lawrence Seaway Act, permitting the construction of the system of locks, canals and channels that permits ocean-going vessels to travel from the Atlantic Ocean to the North American Great Lakes, is approved
1954 – Brown v. Board of Education, a landmark decision of the Supreme Court, declares state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students and denying black children equal educational opportunities unconstitutional
1954 – The U.S. becomes a member of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (or SEATO) alliance
1954 – Geneva Conference. U.S. rejects the French decision to recognize Communist control of North Vietnam. U.S. increases aid to South Vietnam.
1954 – NBC airs the The Tonight Show the first late-night talk show is originally hosted by Steve Allen1955 – Ray Kroc opens a McDonald’s fast food restaurant and, after purchasing the franchise from its original owners, oversees its national (and later, worldwide) expansion
1955 – Warsaw Pact, which establishes a mutual defense treaty subscribed to by eight communist states in Eastern Europe (including the USSR)
1955 – Rock and roll music enters the mainstream, with “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley & His Comets becoming the first record to top the Billboard pop charts. Elvis Presley also begins his rise to fame around this same time.
1955 – ActorJames Deanis killed in a highway accident
These events cover the years from 1956 to 1959
1956 – President Eisenhower secures passages of Interstate Highway Act, which will construct 41,000 miles (66,000 km) of the Interstate Highway System over a 20-year period
1956 – The U.S. refuses to provide military support the Hungarian Revolution
1956 – Elvis Presley appears on The Ed Sullivan Show for the first time.
1956 – Marilyn Monroe marries playwright Arthur Miller.
1956 – Jackson Pollock dies in a car crash
1956 – United States presidential election, 1956 (Eisenhower re-elected)
1956 – “In God We Trust” adopted as national motto
1957 – Eisenhower Doctrine, wherein a country could request American economic assistance and/or aid from military forces if it was being threatened by armed aggression from another state
1957 – Civil Rights Act of 1957, primarily a voting rights bill, becomes the first civil rights legislation enacted by Congress since Reconstruction
1957 – Soviets launch Sputnik; “space race” begins
1957 – Shippingport Atomic Power Station, the first commercial nuclear power plant in the U.S., goes into service
1957 – Little Rock, Arkansas school desegregation
1958 – National Defense Education Act
1958 – NASA formed as the U.S. begins ramping up efforts to explore space
1958 – Jack Kilby invents the integrated circuit
1959 – The NBC western Bonanza becomes the first drama to be broadcast in color
1959 – Cuban Revolution
1959 – Landrum–Griffin Act, a labor law that regulates labor unions’ internal affairs and their officials’ relationships with employers, becomes law
1959 – Alaska and Hawaii became the 49th and 50th U.S. states; to date, they are the final two states admitted to the union.
Rock and Roll:
Rock and roll arrived at a time of considerable technological change, soon after the development of the electric guitar, amplifier and microphone, and the 45 rpm record. There were also changes in the record industry, with the rise of independent labels like Atlantic, Sun and Chess servicing niche audiences and a similar rise of radio stations that played their music.[ It was the realization that relatively affluent white teenagers were listening to this music that led to the development of what was to be defined as rock and roll as a distinct genre.
Because the development of rock and roll was an evolutionary process, no single record can be identified as unambiguously “the first” rock and roll record. Contenders for the title of “first rock and roll record” include “The Fat Man” by Fats Domino (1949),
Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s “Strange Things Happening Everyday” Goree Carter’s “Rock Awhile” Jimmy Preston’s “Rock the Joint” (1949), which was later covered by Bill Haley & His Comets in 1952, “Rocket 88” by Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats (Ike Turner and his band The Kings of Rhythm), recorded by Sam Phillips for Sun Records in March 1951.
In terms of its wide cultural impact across society in the US and elsewhere, Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock”,[recorded in April 1954 but not a commercial success until the following year, is generally recognized as an important milestone, but it was preceded by many recordings from earlier decades in which elements of rock and roll can be clearly discerned.
Other artists with early rock and roll hits included Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Gene Vincent. Chuck Berry’s 1955 classic “Maybellene” in particular features a distorted electric guitar solo with warm overtones created by his small valve amplifier.
However, the use of distortion was predated by electric blues guitarists such as Joe Hill Louis, Guitar Slim, Willie Johnson of Howlin’ Wolf’s band, and Pat Hare; the latter two also made use of distorted power chords in the early 1950s
Also in 1955, Bo Diddley introduced the “Bo Diddley beat” and a unique electric guitar style,[ influenced by African and Afro-Cuban music and in turn influencing many later artists.
Rockabilly” usually (but not exclusively) refers to the type of rock and roll music which was played and recorded in the mid-1950s primarily by white singers such as Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis, who drew mainly on the country roots of the music. Many other popular rock and roll singers of the time, such as Fats Domino and Little Richard, came out of the black rhythm and blues tradition, making the music attractive to white audiences, and are not usually classed as “rockabilly”.
Bill Flagg who is a Connecticut resident, began referring to his mix of hillbilly and rock ‘n’ roll music as rockabilly around 1953. His song “Guitar Rock” is considered as classic rockabilly.
In July 1954, Elvis Presley recorded the regional hit “That’s All Right” at Sam Phillips’ Sun Studio in Memphis.Three months earlier, on April 12, 1954, Bill Haley & His Comets recorded “Rock Around the Clock”. Although only a minor hit when first released,
when used in the opening sequence of the movie Blackboard Jungle a year later, it set the rock and roll boom in motion. The song became one of the biggest hits in history, and frenzied teens flocked to see Haley and the Comets perform it, causing riots in some cities. “Rock Around the Clock” was a breakthrough for both the group and for all of rock and roll music. If everything that came before laid the groundwork, “Rock Around the Clock” introduced the music to a global audience.
In 1956, the arrival of rockabilly was underlined by the success of songs like “Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash, “Blue Suede Shoes” by Perkins and the #1 hit “Heartbreak Hotel” by Presley. For a few years it became the most commercially successful form of rock and roll. Later rockabilly acts, particularly performing songwriters like Buddy Holly, would be a major influence on British Invasion acts and particularly on the song writing of the Beatles and through them on the nature of later rock music.
Doo wop was one of the most popular forms of 1950s rhythm and blues, often compared with rock and roll, with an emphasis on multi-part vocal harmonies and meaningless backing lyrics (from which the genre later gained its name), which were usually supported with light instrumentation.
Its origins were in African-American vocal groups of the 1930s and 40s, like the Ink Spots and the Mills Brothers, who had enjoyed considerable commercial success with arrangements based on close harmonies They were followed by 1940s R&B vocal acts like the Orioles, the Ravens and the Clovers, who injected a strong element of traditional gospel and, increasingly, the energy of jump blues.
By 1954, as rock and roll was beginning to emerge, a number of similar acts began to cross over from the R&B charts to mainstream success, often with added honking brass and saxophone, with the Crows, the Penguins, the El Dorados and the Turbans all scoring major hits. Despite the subsequent explosion in records from doo wop acts in the later ’50s, many failed to chart or were one-hit wonders. Exceptions included the Platters, with songs including “The Great Pretender” (1955] and the Coasters with humorous songs like “Yakety Yak” (1958) both of which ranked among the most successful rock and roll acts of the era..
Towards the end of the decade there were increasing numbers of white, particularly Italian-American, singers taking up Doo Wop, creating all-white groups like the Mystics and Dion and the Belmonts and racially integrated groups like the Del-Vikings and the Impalas. Doo wop would be a major influence on vocal surf music, soul and early Merseybeat, including the Beatles.
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