White Artists and Black Music: Randy Wood, 1917-2011

Dot Records founder Randolph Clay Wood died Saturday at his home in San Diego after a fall. Wood turned a Gallatin, Tennessee radio station into one of the most successful music labels in the world in the 1950s by hiring white singers to record cover versions of songs by black artists. Some people thought this was great, others thought it was not so great. Dot Records made stars out of folks like Gale Storm, The Fontane Sisters, and Pat Boone — to whom Wood suggested changing the words of Fats Domino’s “Ain’t That a Shame” to “Isn’t That a Shame.” Which, looking back, would have been perhaps more fitting. Let’s compare.

Fats Domino wrote “Ain’t That a Shame” in New Orleans, in 1955, with his frequent collaborator, Dave Bartholomew. Another song that Bartholomew co-wrote (this time with Pearl King), “I Hear You Knocking,” became a big hit for Dot Records when Gale Storm sing it in 1956.

“I Hear You Knocking” was originally a R&B; hit for Smiley Lewis the year before.

The Fontane Sisters were a trio from Millford, New Jersey, who signed to Dot Records and hit the top of the pop charts with a song called “Hearts Made of Stone.”

Which had been a hit on the R&B; charts for the Cincinnati doo-wop group Otis Williams and the Charms earlier that year:

Though it was written and first recorded by Johnny Torrence and the Jewels, from San Bernadino, California.