Tennessee Ernie Ford (1919-1991) had a rare million seller with the folk song “16 Tons”. It is itself a 1955 cover version of a song written by Merle Travis (1917-1983) and released in 1947.
Not only is it Tennessee Errnie Ford’s signature tune, Ford sung it so definitively, that it is the only singer one readily identifies with the song. By today, there are easily over 100 cover versions of this song, done by artists as diverse as Johnny Cash, Stevie Wonder, The Dandy Warhols, and Rage Against The Machine.
A year later, Gene Vincent had a smash hit that caused great controversy. And after some kind of a public inquiry, it was concluded that no one could understand the lyrics. There was no dispute that it was a fun tune, and Be-Bop-A-Lula was listed as the 103rd of the 500 top songs of all time by Rolling Stone Magazine in 2004.
Rumor has it that “Shredding for Satan” was an album released in 1957 (same year as Be-Bop-A-Lula). If that is true it seemed to pass without all of the bothersome controversy that was brought to Gene Vincent.
If Yvette Oldemeyer existed at all, it was as a model posing with an electric guitar and a cute yellow amplifier on the cover of a 1957 edition of Popular Electronics, showing her preference for “throbbing vibrato”.