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The Greatest Musicians Before 1950

As I gently lower the needle onto the spinning vinyl, a crackle fills the air before the room swells with the rich, warm tones of a bygone era. It’s a familiar ritual for me, one that transcends mere listening—it’s a communion with the past, a moment where time collapses and the greats of pre-1950s music stand before me, their legacies undimmed by the passing decades.

In this intimate space, I’m not just a listener; I’m a curator of memories, a guardian of the old tunes that paved the way for everything we hear today. And I’m reminded that before the electric guitar riffs of the ’50s, there was a symphony of sounds that set the stage for the rock and roll revolution.

I encourage you to pause, find their music online, and let each song play. Feel the rhythm, embrace the nostalgia, and maybe, like me, you’ll find yourself in a duet with history, if only for a song.

So, dust off that record player, or simply click on the links provided, and let’s give a listen to the masters who crafted the very foundation of today’s music.

This isn’t just history; it’s a living, breathing tapestry of sound, waiting to be rediscovered and revered anew.

The 10 Biggest Music Stars Before 1950, Elvis Presley And Rock And Roll

Frank Sinatra

You’ve probably heard of Frank Sinatra, at least, unless you’ve been living under a rock.

His career started in 1939, he went solo in the 1940s and sold a lot more than a million records.

His career continued into the 1980s, by which point “Old Blue Eyes” had won 11 grammy awards, including a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and sold over 150 million records worldwide.

Frank Sinatra is one of the best-selling artists ever to have lived.

Listen to it here.

Ray Charles

Ray Charles often shared a stage with Frank Sinatra and though he went blind from glaucoma when he was just seven, Ray Charles learned to play the piano (using a braille-marked keyboard).

His first hit came in 1949 in the form of the single “Confession Blues“.

He won a ton of Grammy awards and is often considered by musicians to be the most important figure in music.

Frank Sinatra said, “Ray Charles is the only true genius in show business.”

Listen to it here.

Bing Crosby

Crosby is nearly forgotten now which is incredible given that he sold over a billion records and was the biggest-selling artist of the 20th century.

He charted 396 singles, that’s more than Elvis Presley and The Beatles put together!

His song “White Christmas” is the biggest-selling single of all time too.

Listen to it here.

Judy Garland

Judy Garland’s singing career began in the 1930s, she sang and acted in the movie Love Finds Andy Hardy opposite Mickey Rooney in 1937.

She had a rough ride during the 1940s as she battled addiction and weight problems but it was in this decade that she rose to fame.

She would then make a film career comeback and musical comeback in the 1950s and 1960s too!

Sadly, she passed away early at the age of just 47.

Listen to it here.

Al Jolson

Nowadays Al Jolson is best remembered for wearing “black face” and not in a positive light.

He appeared in the first ever talking picture in 1927, The Jazz Singer and he was considered to be the world’s greatest entertainer in the 1920s and 1930s.

His music influenced pretty much everyone who came after him including Ray Charles and Elvis Presley.

However, as with many acts that peaked before the 1950s, his name is barely known outside of industry circles, today.

Listen to it here.

Louis Armstrong

This jazz trumpeter is worth repeated listens on good quality jazz headphones, even today.

He won a couple of grammy awards towards the end of his career and will be remembered as the singer who brought us “Hello Dolly!” (the lyrics of which appear in every new WordPress installation) and “What A Wonderful World“.

In the 1940s, he was playing up to 300 gigs a year with various jazz bands.

Listen to it here.

Lena Horne

Lena Horne’s heyday was in the 1930s and 1940s, when she worked on the chorus line, took up acting, and then broke through on the music scene.

Her signature tune “Stormy Weather” is very well-known even today and has been covered many times.

The singer spent the 1950s unable to perform music as she was blacklisted during the “red scare”. She still won four Grammy awards and had a comeback in the 1960s.

Listen to it here.

Perry Como

Perry Como released his first track “You Can’t Pull the Wool Over My Eyes” in 1935.

He sang with Ray Charles and Frank Sinatra at one point and started the “crooning craze”.

Bing Crosby would call him “the man who invented casual.”

Listen to it here.

Nat King Cole

Nat King Cole’s Straighten Up and Fly Right had sold over 500,000 copies long before the 1950s came around.

This single is considered to have paced the way for rock and roll in the 1950s!

Sadly, he died young at the age of just 45 in 1965.

Listen to it here.

George M Cohan

Once known as the “man who owned Broadway” Cohan was the big star of the early 1900s.

His first band was the “Four Cohans” which was formed in the 1890s!

Many in the know consider this singer to be the Father of American Pop.

He passed away in 1942 at the age of 64.

Listen to it here.

American music could never have taken off in the 1950s if it hadn’t been for the bands and artists that paved the way.

These ten artists are already disappearing into obscurity, which is sad because their music is as relevant today as it ever was.