Newer music fans are often surprised by how many hits came in 1957. These are more than just memorable songs; they are staples that changed the course of American music forever.
From Elvis to Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee to Little Richard, many of the greatest musicians released some really good music this year. Here are some of the best songs from 1957.
1. “Blueberry Hill” by Fats Domino
When that piano and the drums kick in, what a feeling. Fats Domino was the best-selling rhythm and blues musician of 1957, and there was a reason. He was a phenomenal musician. Born in New Orleans in 1928, Domino would release his first single, “The Fat Man”, in 1949. Many historians consider it the first rock and roll song ever. And the single sold over one million copies which was a huge deal.
Rock and roll music was long established when “Blueberry Hill” arrived in 1957. The song was originally recorded in 1940, and Louis Armstrong’s 1949 version was already popular. But it wasn’t until Fats injected “Blueberry Hill” with rock and roll that the song became an American staple.
2. “All Shook Up” by Elvis Presley
They call him the king, but Elvis Presley was humbler than his larger-than-life personality let on. Elvis skyrocketed to fame because of his suggestive hip-shaking that drove girls crazy and their parents into a rage. The funny thing is Presley started the leg shimmy because of nerves and stage fright. What a fun way to get people all shaken up.
3. “School Days” by Chuck Berry
Chuck Berry, the father of rock and roll and the man who took rhythm and blues and turned it on its head. Berry once joked that not only did he invent rock and roll, but he also invented teenagers. There might be some truth to that. “School Days” is just another sign of Chuck Berry’s greatness. And to think, “Johnny B. Goode” still won’t be released for another year.
4. “You Send Me” by Sam Cooke
“You Send Me” introduced the world to Sam Cooke. This debut single topped the Billboard Rhythm & Blues charts in 1957. More importantly, it reached number one on the Hot 100 that year. That was an impressive feat for a black artist at the time and a testament to Cooke’s importance to American music. Rolling Stone magazine also named it among its 500 Greatest Songs.
5. “Whole Lotta Shaking Going On” by Jerry Lee Lewis
Jerry Lee Lewis was truly the last man standing, as his 2006 comeback album would declare. Believe it or not, this rock & roll legend lived until 2022. Surprisingly, the “killer” outlived every other rocker from his era. Good thing this song that would propel Lewis into the spotlight will live forever in American music history. No one could bang on the ivories better than old Jerry Lee.
6. “Tutti Frutti” by Little Richard
Little Richard’s father kicked him out of the house as a teenager for not living up to his expectations. Music fans are happy that he did because all expectations since have been exceeded time and again.
Tutti Frutti was originally released in late 1955 – but when Elvis covered it a year later, Little Richard’s version broke again into the Billboard charts. An interesting fact claims that the original lyrics needed to be changed for radio play due to explicit content. Who would have thought that gangsta rap would have nothing on Little Richard?
7. “Diana” by Paul Anka
This teenage anthem was a chart-topper for the Canadian American singer and actor. Anka admitted in his autobiography that he wrote the song for a gal from his church for whom he developed a crush. Anka re-recorded a Latin version of the song with Ricky Martin in 1995.
Anko has also written some very famous songs for some very famous people. The star has written for Frank Sinatra and Michael Jackson. And Anka even wrote the original Tonight Show theme for Johnny Carson.
8. “Peggy Sue” by Buddy Holly
Any music fan knows the story of Buddy Holly and that tragic plane crash when he was just 21 years old. Although forever memorialized for that, Holly is also remembered for his classic song “Peggy Sue.” Originally titled “Cindy Lou” after his niece, Holly changed the lyrics to reflect a fellow Crickets bandmate’s girlfriend at the time, Peggy Sue Gerron.
Holly would record a follow-up alone in a hotel room called “Peggy Sue Got Married” which was released after his death. “Peggy Sue” reached number three on the Billboard Hot 100.
9. “At the Hop” by Danny & The Juniors
“At the Hop” had it all: rock and roll, 12-bar blues, boogie-woogie. In a nutshell, it drove the teenagers wild. The song was such a massive hit for Danny & The Juniors that it hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B charts. It was even somehow a top ten country song and reached number three in the UK. “At the Hop” is such an iconic hit that Sha Na Na covered it at the legendary Woodstock music festival in 1969.
10. “Wake Up Little Susie” by The Everly Brothers
It is shocking how many classic songs were released in 1957. “Wake Up Little Susie” was a number-one pop hit for The Everly Brothers. Surprisingly, some radio stations refused to play this hit due to its “suggestive language.” The song lyrics explain that the artist and Susie had fallen asleep while watching an extremely boring movie and were six hours past curfew. And that means gossipers will imply the two were being a bit too naughty.
11. “Come Go With Me” by The Del-Vikings
If you didn’t recognize the song by its title or the artists who performed it, once that doo-wop of an opening started, you couldn’t mistake it for the world. “Come Go With Me” is so popular that it appears in nearly any movie based on the 1950s. This top ten hit for Del-Vikings is heard in American Graffiti, Diner, Stand by Me, and other Hollywood films. It is also covered by The Beach Boys and John Lennon’s early band, The Quarrymen.
12. “Great Balls of Fire” by Jerry Lee Lewis
Jerry Lee Lewis has seen his share of trouble. His career was nearly destroyed after fans discovered that he had legally married his 13-year-old cousin. Lewis once drove to Graceland with a pistol in his glove box in a drunken threat to kill Elvis. He once shot his drummer in the chest. But no one could play the piano like “the killer”, and that’s why “Great Balls of Fire” will forever be remembered as one of the pillars of 1950s rock and roll music.
13. “Lucille” by Little Richard
Little Richard was already on top of the world in 1957 when “Lucille” was released. It is considered a precursor to the rock style of early 1960s music. Listen to that bassline; it makes sense. The number one R&B hit from 1957 also broke the top ten in the pop and UK charts, and maybe that’s how the Beatles heard it. John and Paul covered “Lucille” frequently during the next three decades.
14. “Stardust” by Nat King Cole
Yes, 1957 was all about rock and roll – but there were plenty of chill singles, too. Nat King Cole was phenomenal at crooning calm, love tunes. “Stardust” was no exception. First recorded in 1927, “Stardust” has been covered an astonishing 1,500 times!
Cole’s rendition is included on his 1957 number-one-selling album Love is the Thing. Cole initially refused to record the track because of the overabundance of variations at the time. But he was eventually convinced to include it on the album.
15. “Tammy” by Debbie Reynolds
Another slow love song perfect for romance is “Tammy”, the number one hit song from the forgettable movie Tammy and the Bachelor. Two versions of the song are included in the film, but the Debbie Reynolds version is the one people preferred. The song was so popular that it was nominated for Best Original Song at the 1957 Academy Awards. “Tammy” would lose to Frank Sinatra’s “All the Way” from his movie The Joker Is Wild.
16. “Witchcraft” by Frank Sinatra
Speaking of Ol’ Blue Eyes, he had a busy 1957. The Chairman of the Board appeared in two other movies that year: The Pride and the Passion and Pal Joey. Sinatra also released four albums in 1957, three of which would break the top ten – and the fourth was a Christmas album.
But the hit single “Witchcraft” wouldn’t be released on an LP until it appeared on the 1961 compilation album All the Way. “Witchcraft” went on to reach number six on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1957.
17. “Jailhouse Rock” by Elvis Presley
“Jailhouse Rock” was written for the Elvis movie of the same name. The song hit the top of the charts in several countries, and radio stations played it often from coast to coast in 1957. The smash single was one of many successful pairings of Elvis and songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.
The trio would also work together on the songs “Love Me”, “Loving You”, and “Don’t.” The song, one of Elvis’ many hits, is also listed at number 67 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
18. “April in Paris” by Count Basie
William James, better known as Count Basie, is considered one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time. His storied career includes multiple awards and hall of fame inductions. In 1957, Basie became the first African American to win a Grammy award. Basie had a great year, appearing in the 1957 movie Jamboree and releasing the instant classic jazz album April in Paris. The title track from that album helped catapult its sales that year.
19. “Ain’t That Love” by Ray Charles
When Ray Charles released his self-titled debut album in 1957, it already included ten top hits like that year’s “Ain’t That Love.” The rhythm and blues track fused perfectly with traditional American gospel music. The song could be considered a precursor to the Motown hits of the 1960s. And despite losing his mother and brother at an early age, as well as going blind by age seven, Ray Charles would become one of the greatest American musicians of all time.
20. “Love Letters in the Sand” by Pat Boone
Although it was first written in 1931, “Love Letters in the Sand” didn’t become an American standard until Pat Boone recorded and released it in 1957. The crooner’s hit stayed at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for five weeks and remained there for 34 weeks in 1957. The slow-dancing pop tune appeared in the movie Bernadine, in which Boone himself starred. It must have been a thing in the 50s to market singers and songs in Hollywood films.
21. “Young Love” by Tab Hunter
“Young Love” was first recorded by rockabilly songwriter Ric Cartey the year before, in 1956. It was covered by three artists in 1957: Sonny James, the Crew-Cuts, and Tab Hunter. But it was the Tab Hunter version that would become the chart-topping Billboard hit. With its echoing, melodic harmony and background vocals, Tab Hunter’s “Young Love” is the type of song that comes to mind when anyone thinks of 1950s teenage love.
22. “Banana Boat (Day-O)” by Harry Belafonte
Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice. That’s all anyone thinks of when this classic calypso hit plays. Harry Belafonte made this traditional Jamaican folk song one of the legendary artist’s biggest hits. The call-and-response style of “Banana Boat” makes singing along with it so much fun. And here’s a fun pop culture fact: Bob Dylan makes his musical debut playing harmonica on Harry Belafonte’s 1961 song “Midnight Special.”
23. “Send For Me” by Nat King Cole
“Send For Me” was a number-one Billboard R&B hit for songwriter Ollie Jones and famous American crooner Nat King Cole. The song also ranked on Billboard’s Year-End Top 50 Singles of 1957. With sweet saxophone playing, slick guitar licks, and outstanding piano playing, “Send For Me” is a fun, slow-swinging song for all ages. It has also been covered every decade since and well into the 21st century. Nat King Cole is an American icon.
24. “Bye Bye Love” by The Everly Brothers
The opening guitar playing of “Bye Bye Love” could trick any music fan into thinking it was the mid-60s hit in the style of The Beach Boys or The Beatles. Needless to say, “Bye Bye Love” was years ahead of its time. Not only was it a pop chart hit, the single even topped the Billboard country charts in 1957.
The song is famously covered by Simon and Garfunkel as well as George Harrison, who would change the lyrics to reflect his wife’s affair with Eric Clapton.
25. “Matchbox” by Carl Perkins
Carl Perkins recorded this rockabilly hit for Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee. Based on the 1927 blues classic Blind Lemon Jefferson, “Matchbox” would become the biggest hit of the career of Carl Perkins. While Jerry Lee Lewis played piano for the track, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley stopped into the studio that day for various reasons. The twist of fate created one of the most iconic moments in music history: the impromptu formation of the legendary Million Dollar Quartet.
26. “Got My Mojo Working” by Muddy Waters
Muddy Waters has long been considered the father of Chicago blues, and one of the greatest blues musicians of all time. In 1957, he covered the Red Foster blues song “Got My Mojo Working”. The single includes several references to magic hoodoo talismans of African American folklore. The Muddy Waters version is included in the RIAA “Songs of the Century”. And the track would become inspirational to the blues style made famous in the coming decade.
27. “Rock and Roll Music” by Chuck Berry
No singer is better suited to conclude this list than the father of rock and roll. The legendary “Rock and Roll Music” was recorded in Chicago for Chess Records and released in September 1957. Considered one of Chuck Berry’s most memorable tunes, it is included in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll. The tune – like other songs on this list – would be covered by both The Beach Boys and The Beatles.
Top Songs From 1957, Final Thoughts
Without a doubt, 1957 is one of the most important years in American music history. Pioneers of rock and roll like Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis monopolized the Billboard charts as teenagers flocked to stores to buy their 45s.
The top songs of 1957 resonated from malt shop diner jukeboxes and high school sock hops around the nation. To this day, these classics are still played all over the world.