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Doo-wop and you don't stop

Reverb

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In retrospect, it seems like a more innocent time, but then the past always does.

Back in the late '50s, average Americans had put the Korean War and the McCarthy hearings behind them, and could never have anticipated the Vietnam War or the wave of political assassinations that lay ahead.

What every American did know was doo-wop, a largely black genre of music whose close four-part harmonies were faithfully rendered by urban street-corner crooners across America.

There was 1957's "Little Darlin'," which scaled the R&B charts while its singer, Maurice Williams, was still in high school. A year later, the Edsels entered the popular lexicon with their infectiously inane "Rama Lama Ding Dong," followed in 1959 by Dodie Stevens' million-selling "Tan Shoes and Pink Shoelaces."

All of the above artists will be performing this Friday at Hotel Eleganté Conference & Event Center as part of "The Ultimate Doo-Wop Show," a touring event that grew out of a PBS television fundraiser. Also on the bill are Jimmy Clanton ("Venus in Blue Jeans") Barbara Harris ("Lover's Concerto"), Chris Montez ("The More I See You") and the Cookies ("Don't Say Nothin' Bad About My Baby").

While you can still hear doo-wop on oldies radio — be it Colorado Springs' own KCMN-AM 1530 or online stations like The Doo-Wop Express — there's more to it than that.

Jurassic 5's "The Influence" sampled "Some Minor Changes" by the Hi-Lo's, while Gene Chandler's "Duke of Earl" runs throughout Cypress Hill's "Hand on the Pump." And then there's the Tee-Tones' new doo-wop cover of Miley Cyrus' "We Can't Stop," which has racked up more than 5 million YouTube views over the last month.

Another big fan of the genre is Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson of the Roots. Of course it doesn't hurt that he's the son of a doo-wop musician.

While Questlove was growing up in the '70s, his father's group, Lee Andrews & the Hearts, was riding the first wave of doo-wop nostalgia, performing hits like "Long Lonely Nights" and "Teardrops" on package shows everywhere from the Apollo Theater to Madison Square Garden.

As a result, the young Questlove got to hang out backstage with an array of doo-wop hitmakers that almost certainly included some who'll be performing here this Friday.

"I remember Dick Clark throwing all these shows, and Bowzer from Sha Na Na picking me up when I was a little kid and singing 'Goodnight Sweetheart,' all those things," Questlove told one interviewer. "I claim doo-wop just like I claim classic hip-hop."

Which makes a pretty nice segue for what's next on the agenda: a reminder about one of the most important old-school hip-hop artists ever, coming to the Black Sheep.

Working with DJ Scott La Rock under the name Boogie Down Productions, KRS-One is arguably the inventor of political hip-hop, if only because BDP's debut album came out in March of '87, a full month before Public Enemy's. (Hey, why argue substance when you can win on a technicality? And yes, the Last Poets and Gil Scott-Heron were around before either, but we've got a column to finish here.)

KRS-One also has a cool acronym — Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone — and is an activist, author and recording artist whose By All Means Necessary remains one of the greatest albums of all time.

According to promoter Gary Vanderpool, the artist is currently in the middle of a lecture tour, and Colorado Springs will be one of the few stops where he's doing an actual concert. A who's who of local hip-hop acts will be opening — including A Black Day, Che Bong and Made Up Minds — and it's all happening Oct. 23.

Which kind of sucks, really, since I'll be going back east to visit the folks next week, and KRS-One has stubbornly refused to reschedule the show on my behalf.

That also means that Reverb is taking a two-week hiatus. Which also means that I won't be around to personally remind you about upcoming shows like the one-year anniversary of Sunday Night Soul Sessions at Zodiac on Oct. 20, or Animus Invidious and Stoney Bertz's monthly Hoppinstance showcase at the Speak Easy Vape Lounge on Oct. 27, or Sanguine Addiction and Malakai's brutal takeover of the Black Sheep on Oct. 30, or PissJar's Hooker Fight EP release show at the Triple Nickel on Nov. 1. (Día de Muertos!)

So try to remember all that. Or, failing that, consult our Playing Around section for the latest music listings, and we'll look forward to seeing you back here in November.

Send news, photos and music to reverb@csindy.com; follow our updates at tiny.cc/indyreverb.

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