Doo-wop is a genre of RnB (rhythm and blues) music that was developed in the 1940s by African-American youths. The focal points were the large cities on the upper east coast, especially New York. It is a type of music where a vocal group carries an engaging melodic line to a simple beat with little or sometimes no instruments. Lyrics in Doo-wop songs are simple, most commonly about love, with nonsense syllables and with a melodramatic and sincere recitative monologue to the beloved. Doo-wop became popular in the 1950s and peaked in the early 1960s but continued to influence other genres.
Doo-wop has complex musical, social, and commercial origins. It is a mixture of its precedent styles of the 1930s and 1940s, taking from them the composition, orchestration, and vocals. Doo-wop performers generally performed without instruments but still made their music distinctive, in both fast and slow tempos. This was done by keeping time using a swing-like off-beat while using the recognizable Doo-wop syllables as a substitute for drums and a bass vocalist as a substitute for a bass instrument. This typical vocal style was influenced by groups like the Mills Brothers, and those groups were influenced by the earlier Barbershop Quartets.
Even though Doo-wop was popular in the 1950s and 1960s, the name itself did not appear until 1961. The name was attributed to a radio DJ, Gus Gossert, who said that he should not be credited for it because Doo-wop was already used in California to categorize the music.
Doo-wop is a good example of the nonsense syllables used in the songs of this genre. In fact, in the Delta Rhythm Boys’ song from 1945, ‘Just A-Sittin’ And A-Rockin’, it is heard in the backing vocal. It was also used in a number of later songs. Eventually, the term started being used for RnB groups from the 1940s and after.
Doo-wop’s influence formed soul music, but it cal also be heard in pop and rock music of the 1960s. It laid the foundation for many musical innovations of the 20th century. Doo-wop’s influence is very visible in Beach Boy’s music, especially in their psychedelic era where they experimented with the vocal harmony. Today, Doo-wop can be heard in modern artists like Bruno Mars and Meghan Trainor.