Let’s put Elvis to the side.
Among the other top recording artists of the 1950s were:
- Fats Domino
- Chuck Berry
- Little Richard
- The Everly Brothers
- Bill Haley & the Comets
Even for those who are music mavens, this list is probably one that is more informational than musical.
That is, there probably aren’t a whole lot of people who spend any time listening to any of these musicians.
This is not to doubt their talents or contributions to music.
But to go to the point that with time (1) tastes change and (2) there is an abundance of other music that becomes available such that “Blueberry Hill,” “Johnny B. Goode,” “Tutti Fruitti,” “Bye Bye Love,” and “Shake, Rattle and Roll” just aren’t as compelling as they once may have been. And when you factor in demographics—let’s say for the sake of argument that in mid-decade a given fan of any of those recording artists was 16 years old; this fan would be 84 years old—the larger cultural relevance of these songs, to say nothing of all of the others that the musicians created, becomes somewhat marginal at most.
(A digression: in 1977 NASA launched Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, both of which carried along gold-plated albums.
The NASA description of the process of creating the records is worth quoting at length:
“Blank records were provided by the Pyral S.A. of Creteil, France. CBS Records contracted the JVC Cutting Center in Boulder, Colorado to cut the lacquer masters which were then sent to the James G. Lee Record Processing center in Gardena, California to cut and gold plate eight Voyager records. Gold plating took place on August 23, 1977; afterward, the records were mounted in aluminum containers and delivered to JPL. The record is constructed of gold-plated copper and is 12 inches (30 cm) in diameter. The record’s cover is aluminum and electroplated upon it is an ultra-pure sample of the isotope uranium-238. Uranium-238 has a half-life of 4.468 billion years. The records also had the inscription ‘To the makers of music – all worlds, all times’ hand-etched on its surface.”
Carl Sagan and his colleagues selected the contents of the Golden Record (this is far more meaningful than anything from the RIAA, given that it is meant to represent all of planet Earth, not just transactions).