The Top 10 Biggest Doo-Wop Songs of All Time

The Most Popular Doo-Wop Songs Ever

Danny and the Juniors
Michael Ochs Archives / Stringer / Getty Images

If you love doo-wop, you'll love this list. Here are the biggest and most popular doo-wop songs of all time, as determined by Billboard chart rankings, which included sales and airplay. These are not necessarily the best doo-wop songs ever—although all of them are classics—but they remain the most popular, the ones that have stuck with us through decades of changing trends and styles.

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'At the Hop,' Danny & The Juniors

Label/number: ABC-Paramount 9871

B/w: "Sometimes (When I'm All Alone)"
Recorded: October 1957, Philadelphia, PA

Originally released as Singular S-711, Nov. 11, 1957, before being picked up nationally by ABC-Paramount.

Originally conceived by the songwriter as "Do the Bop," no less an authority than Dick Clark convinced Danny & The Juniors to rename this song to take advantage of the record/sock hop craze. (After all, Danny and the Juvenairs—as they were known before their manager got to them—were discovered at a hop.) Modeled as a sort of doo-wop take on Jerry Lee Lewis' "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On," this went on to define an era where you could calypso and chicken.

The record hit No. 1 on Billboard airplay, sales, R&B, and Top 100/Hot 100 charts. It stayed atop the Hot 100 for seven weeks, spending 21 weeks on the chart, starting in early December '57.

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'Duke of Earl,' Gene Chandler

Lable/number: Vee-Jay 416

Released: Jan. 13, 1962

B/w: "Kissin' in the Kitchen"
Recorded: November 1961, New York, NY

"Duke of Earl" was already dated when it was cut, perhaps, but time smooths out those edges in our memory, anyway, and Gene Chandler's whole rep is based on this late-period doo-wop classic. The Dukays, Gene's group, turned their vocal "doo doo doo"s into "Duke"s, and Dukay Earl Edwards provided the finishing touch to the name. The result is a pledge of fidelity matched in its era only by Ben E. King's "Stand by Me."

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'Blue Moon,' The Marcels

Label/number: Colpix 186

B/w "Goodbye to Love"

Released: February 1961
Recorded Feb. 15, 1961, New York, NY

Laid down in the last 10 minutes of a recording session and done in one unbelievable take, "Blue Moon" came about because The Marcels' producer wanted the group to combine the intro of one song, The Collegians' "Zoom Zoom Zoom," with the Richard Rodgers–Lorenz Hart standard "Heart and Soul." One problem: The band didn't know that song. But they did know another standard by the same team. The rest, as they say, is history. Murray The K made this one a smash, playing the acetate over and over before it was even turned into a record!

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'The Lion Sleeps Tonight,' The Tokens

Label/number: RCA Victor 47-7954

B/w: "Tina"

Released: September 1961

Recorded: July 21, 1961, New York, NY

One of the stranger anomalies in rock history, "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" began life as a spontaneous recorded outburst by a Zulu tribesman, morphed into a misinterpreted folk smash, found its way to a Noo Yawk doo-wop group, and eventually wound up in the hands of the Sam Cooke producing duo known as Hugo and Luigi, who added tympani, silly woodwinds, and an opera singer. You have to hear it to believe it. But you already have.

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'Little Star,' The Elegants

Label/number: Apt 25005

B/w: "Getting Dizzy"

Released: June 1958

Recorded: October 1957, New York, NY

Staten Island made its most enduring contribution to New York Italian-American doo-wop with the five teens The Elegants, who adapted the words if not the actual melody of Mozart's "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" (itself an adaptation) to create one of the era's most breathlessly beautiful odes. Recast as a romantic idyll, it shot up the charts, but The Elegants, like many of their brethren, never found success again.

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'Stay,' Maurice Williams & The Zodiacs

Label/number: Herald 552

B/w: "Do You Believe"

Released: October 1960
Recorded: July 1960, New York, NY

Written way back in '53 by the composer of "Little Darlin'," Maurice Williams & The Zodiacs' "Stay" was one of the finer entries in doo-wop's latter-day golden era; if it sounds flat, that's because the producer wanted the vocals sung just that way so that Joe Average could hum it on the street. And that's just what happened. Matters may have been helped by the abbreviated length (1:36), as this remains the shortest-ever No. 1 record.

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'Little Darlin,'' The Diamonds

Label/number: Mercury 71060

B/w: "Faithful and True"

Released: February 1957

Recorded: February 1957, Chicago, IL

When is a parody not a parody? This white quartet (Canadians, no less!) takes a lot of heat to this day for covering the (Black) Gladiolas' original and then inserting a silly spoken-word bridge. But if it's just a joke, then why is it such an improvement, right down to those immortal opening castanets? Writer Maurice Williams went on to front The Zodiacs ("Stay"), and The Diamonds went on to "The Stroll."

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'16 Candles,' The Crests

Label/number: Coed 506

B/w: "Beside You"

Released: Nov. 30, 1958)

Recorded: August 12, 1958, New York, NY

A real crowd favorite, this sweet little number—originally titled "21 Candles" but quickly changed when the teenage market started booming—retained its popularity long enough to inspire a 1980s teen-sex comedy. The Crests never had another big hit after this ode to the coming-of-age milestone, but leader Johnny Maestro went on to success with Brooklyn Bridge ("Worst That Could Happen"), while writer Luther Dixon went on to pen hits for The Shirelles.

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'There Goes My Baby,' The Drifters

Label/number: Atlantic 2025

B/w: "Oh My Love"

Released: May 1959

Recorded: March 6, 1959, New York, NY

One of the strangest and yet most breathtaking productions in rock history, this number—another important soul milestone but more urbane and filled with Latin inflections and off-tune tympani—caused Atlantic's Jerry Wexler to threaten to throw the master out the window. There's no denying the dizzying romantic swell of The Drifters' orchestration, however, which would guide singer Ben E. King through his own solo career.

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'Come Go With Me,' The Dell-Vikings (also Del Vikings)

Label/number: Dot 15538 (Feb. 16 1957)

B/w: "How Can I Find True Love"

Recorded: November 1956, Pittsburgh, PA

Originally released as Fee Bee 205 in December 1956 then leased to Dot for distribution through its nationwide network

"Come Go With Me" is another example of a hit that shouldn't have been; this integrated group of Air Force buddies recorded this classic, written by their bass vocalist, as the B-side. One of the rare doo-wop records from this era that incorporates the feel of a real rock 'n' roll band, it led to two more hits—rather, two more hits for members using the group name. (It's complicated.)