Sixty Minute Man
|"Sixty Minute Man"|
|Song by The Dominoes|
|Recorded||December 30, 1950|
|Genre||Rhythm and blues
Rock and roll
|Writer||Billy Ward, Rose Marks|
"Sixty Minute Man" is a rhythm and blues (R&B) record released in 1951 by The Dominoes. It was written by Billy Ward and Rose Marks and was one of the first R&B hit records to cross over to become a pop hit on the pop charts. It is regarded as one of the most important of the recordings which helped generate and shape rock and roll.
The Dominoes were a black vocal group consisting of Clyde McPhatter (1932–1972), who later left the group to form the Drifters, Bill Brown (1936-1956), Charlie White (1930-2005) and Joe Lamont (d. 1998), led by their pianist, manager and songwriter, Billy Ward (1921–2002). Ward was a black, classically trained vocal coach who had formed a business partnership with a white New York talent agent, Rose Marks.
The pair decided to put together a smooth vocal group to rival the Ink Spots, the Orioles, and other similar groups who were beginning to win acceptance with white audiences. In 1950, the Dominoes were signed to Federal Records, and held a series of recording sessions at the National Studios in New York in November and December of that year.
Their initial release was "Do Something For Me", the first record on which McPhatter sang lead, was musically a gospel song with gospel-style melismas but lyrically secular. This was a success, entering the R&B charts at the beginning of February 1951. However, its follow-up, the pop standard "Harbor Lights", which had been recorded on 30 December 1950, failed to match its success.
The record company then turned to the other, sharply contrasting, straight R&B song which the group had recorded on the same day, "Sixty Minute Man". It was issued in May 1951 (on Federal 12022), and by the end of the month had reached #1 on the R&B charts, a position it held for an almost unprecedented 14 weeks. The single also made it to number seventeen, on the pop singles chart.
The recording used Bill Brown's bass voice, rather than McPhatter's tenor, as the lead. It featured the singer's boasts of his sexual prowess, of being able to satisfy his girls with fifteen minutes each of kissing, teasing, and squeezing, before his climactic fifteen minutes of "blowing [his] top".
The chorus was specific:
- There'll be fifteen minutes of kissin'
- Then you'll holler "Please don't stop" (Don't stop!)
- There'll be fifteen minutes of teasin'
- Fifteen minutes of squeezin'
- And fifteen minutes of blowin' my top
Although the writing credits were given to Ward and Marks, the song's origins go back much further. Bragging about sexual prowess was a feature of the "hokum" style of early blues recordings. The reference to "Dan" (alternatively, "Jim Dandy") dates back at least to minstrel shows in the nineteenth century. A common reference was to "Dan, the Back Door Man" - the lover of a married woman who would leave her house by the back door - as in a song of that title recorded by Georgia White in 1937.
"Sixty Minute Man" was banned by many radio stations, and was seen as a novelty record at the time. However, in hindsight it was an important record in several respects: it crossed the boundaries between gospel singing and blues, its lyrics pushed the limits of what was deemed acceptable, and it appealed to many white as well as black listeners, peaking at #17 on the pop charts. Cover versions were made by several white artists including Hardrock Gunter. Bill Haley & His Comets sang the song in the mid-1950s during their live shows. In later years, the Dominoes' record became a contender for the title of "the first rock and roll record".
The Dominoes went on to become one of the most popular vocal groups of the 1950s, with Clyde McPhatter eventually being replaced by Jackie Wilson. However, Bill Brown, lead singer of "Sixty Minute Man", had left even earlier, in 1952, to form a new group, the Checkers. They released their own answer song with the same melody, "Can't Do Sixty No More", which included the line, "Please excuse this blown-out fuse, but I can't do sixty no more." Brown died in 1956.
Ultimately "Sixty Minute Man" remained a novelty song, a throwback to such songs as "Open the Door, Richard" in the tradition of coon songs, and did not contribute significantly to the merging of pop music and R&B. Although McPhatter's tenor singing and falsetto whoops were in the background on this recording, the following year, McPhatter was the lead singer in another song by The Dominoes, "Have Mercy Baby", a hit R&B song which had a stronger gospel influence. It was considered the definitive fast "rhythm and gospel record" and was Number One on the R&B Charts for 10 weeks.
In 1951 "Sixty Minute Man" was recorded as a duet by Hardrock Gunter and Roberta Lee, and also by the York Brothers. The Lee/Gunter recording is cited as an early example of rockabilly. A group called "The Untouchables" released a version of the song in 1960. A version was recorded in the early 1970s by Australian band Daddy Cool. It was recorded in 1977 by the a cappella group The Persuasions on their record Chirpin' An instrumental version was recorded as the title song to Charles Tyler's solo saxophone album in 1979. Huey Lewis frequently covers the song in concert. Country group Restless Heart performed the song on their "Fast Movin' Train" tour in the late 1980s. Rockapella also recorded a cover of the song, featuring Barry Carl as the lead vocalist.
- "Sixty Minute Man" was featured in the 1988 movie Bull Durham, starring Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon, and Tim Robbins.
- "Sixty Minute Man" was featured in the 1989 movie Shag, starring Phoebe Cates and Bridget Fonda.
- Ed Bradley, African-American reporter for 60 Minutes, the television newsmagazine, performed the song at musical promotions he was involved in although he did not otherwise represent himself as a singer. Ed Bradley performed the song on stage with Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band at a concert in New York's Madison Square Garden in November 2001.
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- Jim Dawson and Steve Propes, What Was The First Rock'n'Roll Record?, Faber and Faber Books (1992) ISBN 0-571-12939-0