Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary
1958, from the nonsense harmony phrases sung under the vocal lead (this one attested from mid-1950s).
n. A style of vocal-based rhythm and blues music popular in the mid-1950s to the early 1960s in America characterized by nonsensical backing vocals.
n. a genre (usually a capella) of Black vocal-harmony music of the 1950s that evolved in New York City from gospel singing; characterized by close four-part harmonies; the name derived from some of the nonsense syllables sung by the back-up vocalists
Doo-wop is a genre of music that was developed in African-American communities in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Baltimore, Newark, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Detroit, Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles in the 1940s, achieving mainstream popularity in the 1950s and early 1960s. Built upon vocal harmony, doo-wop was one of the most mainstream, pop-oriented R&B styles of the time. Singer Bill Kenny (1914–1978) is often called the "Godfather of Doo-wop" for his introducing the "top and bottom" format which featured a high tenor singing the lead and a bass singer reciting the lyrics in the middle of the song. Doo-wop features vocal group harmony, nonsense syllables, a simple beat, sometimes little or no instrumentation, and simple music and lyrics.
The first record to use the syllables "doo-wop" was the 1955 hit "When You Dance" by the Turbans. The term "doo-wop" first appeared in print in 1961. During the late 1950s many Italian-American groups contributed a significant part in the doo-wop scene. The peak of doo-wop was in 1961. Doo-wop's influence continued in soul, pop, and rock groups of the 1960s. At various times in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, the genre has seen revivals. Doo-wop was a precursor to many of the African-American musical styles seen today. An evolution of jazz and blues, doo-wop also influenced many of the major rock and roll groups that defined the later decades of the 20th century. Doo-wop is iconic for its swing-like beats and using the off-beat to keep time. Doo-wop laid the foundation for many musical innovations, for example, R&B.
Usage examples of "doo-wop".
Gentle's claque of doo-wopping Motown cabinet-puppets have purple dresses and matching lipstick and nail polish, and bouffants so blindingly Afrosheened that there had been special lighting and film-speed problems in the custodial closet: SEC.