Crossover
In the 1950’s, in the midst of deep segregation, there were artists who were able to cross over to Top 40 charts in radio.  With their broad appeal, they were on different charts at the same time – blues, pop, easy listening, country or R&B.  At the top of the list was a young pianist, songwriter and singer who shaped the sound of rhythm and blues with his soulful renditions of pop and country music.  He was none other than Ray Charles.  There was also the pianist Nat King Cole who was the first African-American to host a television variety show.  Another extraordinary all-around entertainer was a singer, actor, multi-instrumentalist, impressionist, comedian and dancer named Sammy Davis Jr.  Johnny Mathis found his niche in the evolution of pop Black music as a romantic smooth jazz performer. Sam Cooke had 29 top 40 hits and was one of the first African-American performers to guide his own career by owning a record and publishing company.
 
Ray Charles pioneered soul music, which became enormously popular among both black and white audiences beginning in the late '50s. In secularizing certain aspects of gospel music (chord changes, song structures, call and response techniques, and vocal screams, wails, and moans) and adding blues based lyrics, he virtually invented a new genre of music.  Charles crossed over to top 40 radio with the release of "What'd I Say."  The song would reach #1 on the R&B list and would become Charles' first top 10 single on the pop charts. Hit songs such as "Georgia On My Mind," "Hit the Road Jack" helped him transition to pop success and his landmark 1962 album, Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music helped to bring country into the mainstream of music.
 
Nat King Cole first came to prominence as a leading jazz pianist. Although an accomplished pianist, he owes most of his popular musical fame to his soft baritone voice, which he used to perform in big band and jazz genres. He conquered the pop charts in the '50s and early '60s as a warm-voiced singer of orchestrated ballads like “Mona Lisa” and “Unforgettable” and breezy, countrified sing-alongs like “Ramblin’ Rose” and “Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer.”  He was the first black American to host a television variety show and is widely considered one of the most important musical personalities in United States history.
 
Sammy Davis, Jr. was a remarkably popular and versatile performer equally adept at acting, singing, dancing and impersonations. A member of the famed Rat Pack, he was among the very first African-American talents to find favor with audiences on both sides of the color barrier, and remains a perennial icon of cool.
 
Johnny Mathis, one of the last and most popular in a long line of traditional male vocalists who emerged before the rock-dominated 1960s, concentrated on romantic readings of jazz and pop standards for the ever-shrinking adult contemporary audience of the '60s and '70s. Mathis made it big in the album market, where a dozen of his LPs hit gold or platinum and over 60 made the charts. “Wonderful, Wonderful” and “It’s Not For Me To Say” reached their peaks on the chart in July of 1957. These successes were followed by the monumental single “Chances Are” which became Johnny’s first #1 hit.
 
Sam Cooke was one of the most popular and influential black singers to emerge in the late '50s,.  His synthesis of gospel music and secular themes  provided the early foundation of soul music. Cooke had 29 Top 40 hits including "You Send Me", "A Change Is Gonna Come", "Chain Gang", "Wonderful World", and "Bring It on Home to Me." Cooke was also among the first modern black performers and composers to attend to the business side of his musical career. He founded both a record label and a publishing company as an extension of his careers as a singer and composer. He also took an active part in the  Civil Rights Movement.