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What a Difference a Day Makes - Women Who Conquered 1950s Music

What a Difference a Day Makes

Women Who Conquered 1950s Music

By Steve Bergsman
Foreword by Lillian Walker-Moss
Series: American Made Music Series

Hardcover : 9781496844965, 296 pages, October 2023
Paperback : 9781496848956, 296 pages, October 2023

A fun-filled survey of the women who topped the charts in jazz, blues, R&B, and rock ’n’ roll


In What a Difference a Day Makes: Women Who Conquered 1950s Music, Steve Bergsman highlights the Black female artists of the 1950s, a time that predated the chart-topping girl groups of the early 1960s. Many of the singers of this era became wildly famous and respected, and even made it into the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame. However, there were many others, such as Margie Day, Helen Humes, Nellie Lutcher, Jewel King, and Savannah Churchill, who made one or two great records in the 1950s and then disappeared from the scene. The era featured former jazz and blues singers, who first came to prominence in the 1940s, and others who pioneered early forms of rock ’n’ roll.

In a companion volume, Bergsman has written the history of white women singers of the same era. Although song styles were parallel, the careers of Black and white female singers of the period ran in very different directions as the decade progressed. The songs of African American vocalists like Dinah Washington and Etta James were segregated to the R&B charts or covered by pop singers in the early and mid-1950s but burst into prominence in the last part of the decade and well into the 1960s. White singers, on the other hand, excelled in the early 1950s but saw their careers decline with the advent of rock music. In this volume, Bergsman takes an encyclopedic look at both the renowned and the sadly faded stars of the 1950s, placing them and their music back in the spotlight.


"A singular look and fully researched account of the women singers who were trailblazers in the early 1950s as R&B evolved into rock ’n’ roll."

- Aaron Cohen, author of Move On Up: Chicago Soul Music and Black Cultural Power and Aretha Franklin's "Amazing Grace"

"An encyclopedic history that conveys important contributions of individual artists as well as the collective body of women singers."

- Frank Matheis, contributing writer for Living Blues, publisher of, and coauthor of Sweet Bitter Blues: Washington, DC's Homemade Blues

"Balancing the biographical and the historical, this informative and stylishly written work illuminates the lives and contributions of these gifted performers. For popular-music lovers."

- Carol J. Binkowski, Library Journal (starred review)