CLIFF RICHARD born Harry Webb on 14 October 1940, was originally styled as Britain's answer to Elvis Presley. In 1958 he became the lead singeer of a rock and roll group called The Drifters and changed his name to Cliff Richard. For his debut recording session, Norrie Paramor provided Cliff with "Schoolboy Crush", a cover of an American record by Bobby Helms. Richard was permitted to record one of his own songs for the B-side; this was "Move It", written by the Drifters' Ian Samwell, allegedly on a bus on the way to Cliff's house for a rehearsal. Legend has it that Norrie Paramor's daughter raved about the B-side and TV producer Jack Good, who used the act for his TV show Oh Boy!, only wanted them to perform "Move It" that it was changed to the A-Side. The single went to No. 2 on the UK Singles Chart. Music critics Roy Carr and Tony Tyler wrote that it was the first genuine British rock classic, followed by Johnny Kidd and the Pirates' "Shakin' All Over". John Lennon was quoted as saying that "Move It" was the first English rock record.
MARTY WILDE was performing under the name Reg Patterson at London's Condor Club in 1957, when he was spotted by impresario Larry Parnes. following a change of name Wilde was signed to the British recording arm of Philips Records. From mid 1958 to the end of 1959, Wilde was one of the leading British rock and roll singers, along with Tommy Steele and Cliff Richard. Wilde, along with his backing group, the Wildcats, appeared regularly on the BBC Television show 6.5 Special and was the main regular artiste on the Saturday ITV popular music shows Oh Boy! and Boy Meets Girls. There he met and married Joyce Baker, one of The Vernons Girls who were also show regulars. The courtship was highly public but, after the marriage, Wilde's popularity as a teen idol declined. He enjoyed success as a songwriter in the late 1960s and early 1970s. With Ronnie Scott, he co-wrote the The Casuals' "Jesamine" Later on, as songwriter and record producer, he masterminded a string of 1980s hits for his daughter Kim Wilde. In April 2010, Wilde was still touring.
ALMA COGAN was a singer of traditional pop music in the 1950s and early 1960s, who was the highest paid British female entertainer of her era. Throughout the mid-1950s, she was the most consistently successful female singer in the UK enjoying steady chart success: She appeared on the UK Singles Chart eighteen times between 1954 and 1960 with the 1955 release "Dreamboat" reaching #1. In December 1956, 57 and 58, Cogan topped the annual NME reader's poll as "Outstanding British Female Singer". She finished second to Shirley Bassey in 1959. Born Alma Angela Cohen in Golders Green, London, her first release was "To Be Worthy Of You" / "Would You". When none of her first recordings became hits Cogan submitted a demo to the BBC who hired her as vocalist for the programme Take It From Here. In 1953 Cogan was recording the song "If I Had A Golden Umbrella" and broke into a giggle: she played up this effect on some later recordings and become known as "The girl with the giggle in her voice". She died in 1966 at the age of 34.
SHIRLEY BASSEY signed her first professional contract in 1953 for a touring variety show. Her love affair with show business didn't last long and the following year she went back to waitressing in her native Cardiff. However, in 1955, a chance recommendation of her to Michael Sullivan, a booking agent, changed the course of her career. He vowed he would make her a star and got her on the touring circuit until she got an offer to star in Al Read's Such Is Life in London's West End. While starring in this show record producer Johnny Franz spotted her and offered her a recording deal. In 1959 her record "As I Love You" became Number One in the pop music charts. Bassey also recorded "Kiss Me, Honey Honey, Kiss Me" and while "As I Love You" raced up the charts, so too did this record, with both songs being in the top three at the same time. A few months later, Bassey signed to EMI's Columbia label. Bassey was created a Dame in December 1999.
ADAM FAITH became one of Britain's significant early pop stars and the first UK artist to lodge his first seven hits in the Top 5. Faith began work in 1957 as a film cutter in London and was singing with a skiffle group, The Worried Men. They played in Soho coffee bars after work, and became the resident band at The 2i's Coffee Bar, where they appeared on the BBC Television live music programme Six-Five Special. The producer, Jack Good, was impressed by the singer and arranged a solo recording contract with HMV. Good gave him a part in the stage show of Six-Five Special, along with The John Barry Seven but the show folded after four performances. Faith returned to work as a film cutter at Elstree until March 1959, when Barry invited him to audition for a BBC TV show, Drumbeat. The producer, Stewart Morris, gave him a contract for three shows, extended to the full 22-week run. Faith's success on Drumbeat enabled another recording contract with Parlophone. His 1959 record, "What Do You Want?" became his first number one hit in the UK Singles Chart.
This is by no means meant to be a definitive list but a general overview. You may agree or disagree with the editors choice of 1950s music icons. If you would like to add to the list and get a credit for doing so, just email us and tell us in no more than 200 words why your choice should join the icons of the 1950s.