In 1990, while I was in college, I went to visit a friend in the US. I had a good, all around knowledge of 50’s music, but not so much of microphones. Like a spur of the moment thing, I decided I was going to find a Shure 55S microphone to buy. For those who are unfamiliar with this model, it’s practically the only vintage microphone still produced to this day. It went on the market in 1951, as a smaller version of the Shure 55 series (I’ll get to this one later on), and it’s still a hit for those who seek a retro look.
So, I picked up the yellow pages and found some musical instruments stores nearby. I got to one small shop that seemed like the type local musicians go to, with people here and there, and salesmen that looked like they belonged in the music industry. So I walked up to the center of the shop, and right there, in a glass display cabinet, there were two used Shure 55S. To me, it was like finding the Holy Grail. I didn’t know whether to keep staring at it or buy it. My friend convinced me to take both of them. At a $75.00 price tag, it wasn’t that steep in my pockets. Little did I know, that although I walked out of that store like a kid walks out of a candy shop, the Shure 55S was still being produced. In other words, had I found out a little bit more about it, I could have bought a new one.
During the 50’s/60’s, just about everyone used the Shure 55S at some point in their careers. From Elvis to JFK, from James Brown to the Rat Pack, it became a famous mic for live performances and speeches. Today, it still remains a sought after microphone by contemporary artists, no matter what style of music they sing. It is also a must in 50’s themed movies, like Great Balls of Fire, Ray, What’s Love Got To Do With It?, Walk The Line, etc. There are some mics that try to duplicate the look, like the Nady PCM-200, but it’s just not the same thing. If you want to be cool, get the real thing. Seal, for example, has a Shure on the cover of his 2008 Soul CD. (Unfortunately, the people responsible for the A Change is Gonna Come video weren't cautious enough to prevent him from singing into the wrong side of the mic in some shots). Although there are mics with beautiful designs out there, I think it’s safe to say that the Shure 55S (now called 55SH Series II), is the eternal vintage microphone.
|Jamie Foxx in Ray|