Saturday, January 31, 2009

Blossoms in February

For the background on this blog series, see this post.

This post will look a bit thin, because I’m writing it under unusual circumstances. All will be back to normal in a week.

January 29, 1955: It’s all about cover versions on this week’s Best Sellers chart. LaVern Baker’s “Tweedlee Dee” faces a challenge from Georgia Gibbs’s new single, “Tweedle Dee.” I guess dropping that final “e” from Tweedlee makes it all better. You can’t say it was a mistake for the McGuire Sisters to focus on “Sincerely” as the A-side of their current single, but now that the DeJohn Sisters are in the Best Sellers Top Ten with “(My Baby Don’t Love Me) No More,” it makes sense for the flip side of “Sincerely,” namely “No More,” to be pushed as well. The gamble will pay off, as “Sincerely” is bound for the top anyway. “No More” won’t do as well as its competition, but it’s still a decent chart hit. And the Crew-Cuts, who have made a career of covering R&B hits for white audiences, will have the tables turned, because they are first to the chart with “Ko Ko Mo (I Love You So),” but next week, another really white artist, Perry Como, will shove their version aside. Their response will be to cover the Penguins’ “Earth Angel,” but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Speaking of the Penguins’ version of “Earth Angel,” its Top Ten Best Sellers performance has finally helped it onto the Disc Jockey chart—for one pitiful week. By contrast, the Jockeys will take the Crew-Cuts’ version to #3 quickly, though the Penguins outsell their version.

Error to note: The Top 40 book says that “Earth Angel” by the Crew-Cuts entered the charts on 1/29/1955, but it debuted on 2/5/1955. The Hot 100 book confirms that fact.

February 4, 1956: Dean Martin continues to rule the four charts with “Memories Are Made of This.” The Top 100 shows some liveliness in its debuts: Both “Tutti Fruttis,” the Little Richard and the Pat Boone versions, chart this week.

Two really classy singles by “One-Hit Wonders” come aboard as well: “Lullaby of Birdland,” sung in French by New York native Blossom Dearie as part of the Blue Stars, and “April in Paris,” an instrumental by a guy who sounds pretty smooth for a Rock-Era One-Hit Wonder. His name? Count Basie. As you may know, William “Count” Basie charted 26 times from 1937 to 1948, and then twice more in 1954, just before the Rock Era began. “April in Paris” fits solidly into the Rock Era timewise, but the recording makes no concessions to Elvis or anyone else. Basie is Basie.

February 2, 1957: Guy Mitchell refused to yield the top spot on any chart. “Singing the Blues” logs its 9th week atop three charts, and its 8th atop the Juke Box chart. Coming on strong on the Best Sellers chart is “Too Much” by Elvis Presley. Note of interpretation: The flip of “Too Much,” “Playing for Keeps,” is listed in the Top 40 book as a 2/9/1957 chart entry, but that takes into account only the Top 100 chart. It is listed as a flip on the Best Sellers already chart this week.

Among the numerous Top 100 debuts this week is “Ain’t Got No Home” by Clarence Henry, nicknamed “Frog Man.” The song has already come and gone on the Best Sellers, but it will last slightly longer here, despite its late start. Clarence earned the nickname “Frog Man” because he claims on this record to be able to sing like a frog (which he does, for the third verse). However, he also claims that he can sing like a girl (which he does, for the second verse). So, I ask why no one nicknamed him “Girlie Man.” Or maybe “Girlie-Frog Man.” I wonder if he feels slighted to have just his frog-singing talents noted.

February 3, 1958: “At the Hop” by Danny and the Juniors maintains its stranglehold at #1. One notable debut, destined to be used in numerous commercials, is “Short Shorts” by the Royal Teens. Boasting one of the thickest East Coast accents you will find in a Top 40 hit, this bunch of Jersey boys will eventually cough up one member, Bob Gaudio, to the benefit of the 4 Seasons. An enduring Perry Como double-sided hit debuts on the Best Sellers: “Catch a Falling Star” and “Magic Moments.”

An unusual Disc Jockey debut is “A Very Special Love” by Johnny Nash, which sneaks onto the Jockey chart for one week but never makes the Top 40 on either sales chart.

February 2, 1959: The Platters hold steady at #1 with “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.” Ritchie Valens maintains his #3 grip with “Donna,” while “La Bamba” jumps 11 spots on the Hot 100 to #22.

A huge debut is “Tall Paul” by Annette, her first hit, and a step toward making her less of a Mouseketeer and more of a teen idol at age 16. What’s next? Ask Elvis: Movies! Fabian gets his recording career off the ground this week as well, with “I’m a Man.” At this point, he hadn’t really learned to sing, but if you live in Philadelphia and look like Dick Clark’s vision of a teen idol, you’re set.

It’s worth noting that this is the final Top 40 week for the debut season of “The Little Drummer Boy” by the Harry Simeone Chorale. Whew! I just figured out that Harry is responsible for another perennial, “It’s a Beautiful Day for a Ballgame.”

Another newcomer is a sentimental favorite of mine, “Don’t Take Your Guns to Town” by Johnny Cash. The single was taken from the LP The Fabulous Johnny Cash, which my dad owned, and I inherited (or perhaps stole) when I started being the family DJ. The album died in the 1972 Great Vinyl Meltdown, but I was very happy to learn that Columbia reissued the album on CD, complete with cover art and liner notes. I bought the CD immediately, of course.

For your listening pleasure, here are the two 1956 One-Hit Wonders. Blossom Dearie formed the Blue Stars in Paris, which accounts for the decision to sing “Lullaby of Birdland” in French.

Here’s a link to a video of Blossom Dearie, playing piano and singing, in the mid-1980s. Sorry, I can’t embed the video.

And how could we have a Count Basie debut and not include it?

Blue Stars, Lullaby of Birdland

Count Basie, April in Paris

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Timi, a Chicago Lassie

Yesterday, in a class I teach, I was checking homework, and a young lady whose surname starts with Z (how niftily did I avoid the “zed” vs. “zee” issue there, eh?) asked if I would please start at the end of the alphabet once in awhile. I thought about it for a microsecond, and I called her up after I checked the homework of a guy whose name starts with A.

If I had done that earlier in life and more often, I would have discovered one of my favorite songs long before 2006. Why didn’t I find it before then? It’s singer’s last name starts with Y.

When I dig through my Top 40 Hits book for songs I don’t know, I rarely end up in the Ys. It’s a small section, and it’s really easy to overlook. A huge percentage of Y artists are One-Hit Wonders, which should tell you something about naming a band with a Y word. Only a couple of compelling artists are there: “Weird Al” Yankovic, the Yardbirds, and Yes.

Oh, that Neil Young guy, too. But there are 12 One-Hit Wonders out of 22 Y acts. Z is worse, 8 of 11, but let’s not nitpick. I’m tired.

So, I take no blame for missing one Y artist for so long. Whenever I saw the artist on compilations, it was always the same song, one I had never heard. I didn’t know if the artist was male or female, and I assumed it was another One-Hit Wonder. Finally, one of the compilations I bought contained this compilation cliché, and I listened to it.

It was a 1961 remake of a 1955 Roy Hamilton recording, and I was neutral as to its value to me. I liked the deep voice, which I figured to be a woman’s voice, though I also thought at one time that Eddie Holman might be a woman with a man’s name. This person had what could have been an odd spelling of a man’s name, so I was pretty confused.

This singer was Timi Yuro, and the song everyone anthologized was “Hurt,” a #4 song in late summer, 1961. Her vocal performance showed considerable skill and nuance, but the song was a basic 1955 song, and it was the Sixties when she recorded it.

The breakthrough for me came when I started iTunesing from the end of the alphabet. One of my first acquisitions was another Timi Yuro song, “What’s a Matter Baby (Is It Hurting You)" (Liberty 55469). This one was an ear-opener for me.

When whiteray graciously offered me the chance to share my 13 favorite Hot 100 hits, I nearly included this one. The arrangement sounds like a precursor to the 1964 Bert Berns-produced Drifters hits, which doesn’t mean the arrangement was ahead of its time. It simply recalls some other tunes I enjoy. It could also sound like a precursor to Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound, because he produced it. All of the Spector hallmarks are there, in a spectacular arrangement.

What hooked me was the voice. In both “Hurt” and her third hit, “Make the World Go Away” (which she recorded before Eddy Arnold), Timi does a fine job with slow numbers. Nevertheless, it’s in this uptempo number, one that allows her gruff voice to sound betrayed and gleeful at payback, that Timi’s voice finds its niche.

And she really cut loose on this one. It bugs me that the recording session came off as it did. In the other two hits, her voice is crystal-clear recording-wise, which allows us to hear the grit in her pipes. But on my favorite of her recordings, someone, maybe Spector, didn’t hear the needles in the meters when they slapped hard right while she belted the vocals. That would be why they also have visual cues that a microphone is about to explode. But evidently, no one looked at the meters.

And so, it sounds as if they put waxed paper between Timi and the microphone, especially in the bridge. That’s unfortunate, but she makes her musical point very well. Play it loud.

Born in Chicago in 1940, her real name is a bit up for grabs. Whitburn, 7th ed. says her name was Rosemarie Timothy Yuro. Wikipedia calls her Rosemary Timothy Yuro. Whitburn 8th says she was born Rosemarie Timotea Aurro, which sounds most likely for being so exotic. She was of Italian lineage, so I vote for option three. It’s an excellent name. But wait! An official website that stems from the Official Timi Yuro Association, which she co-founded in 1981, agrees with Wikipedia. Sigh.

I’m not the only music fan to appreciate her voice. Apart from me, and, most likely, you, there’s Elvis (Presley) and Willie Nelson, who facilitated her final album in 1982. At age 42, she was, of course, still in fine voice. Around the time of that recording, she was diagnosed with throat cancer, and she eventually had her larynx removed. She lived as a cancer survivor until March 30, 2004.

I’ll post the song, but if you simply want to hear it, and see a still of this lovely young woman, you can follow this link to a YouTube post. Rather than embed it here, I’m linking to it, because my link gives you the stereo track.

"What's a Matter Baby (Is It Hurting You)" (YouTube)

Timi Yuro, What's a Matter Baby (Is It Hurting You) (zShare)

Saturday, another 1950s chart summary, for Week Five. See you then!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Lovely Melodies and Fruity Tunes

For the background on this blog series, see this post.

January 22, 1955: Joan Weber’s “Let Me Go Lover” finally tops the sales chart, after being a television, radio and coin-op sensation since November. She still hasn’t consolidated her hold on the top spot, as she drops from #1 to #2 on the radio chart, where “Mr. Sandman” by the Chordettes regains the top spot.

The only sales debut is the third chart version of “Melody of Love,” this time a vocal version by the Four Aces. Billy Vaughn is at #7, and David Carroll at #21, a spot above the Four Aces. Three other songs re-enter the sales chart, but they are all retreads that had fallen a few notches out of the Top 30.

A Top Ten sales hit, “Sincerely” by the McGuire Sisters, finally cracks the coin-op Top 20. Nothing else moves there, but radio gets “Melody of Love” religion, adding three versions to join Billy Vaughn: David Carroll, the Four Aces, and Frank Sinatra with Ray Anthony and His Orchestra. The Sinatra/Anthony version will chart only on radio. This week, at least, “Melody of Love” makes up 20% of radio’s Top 20.

January 28, 1956: Dean Martin finally has a unanimous #1 with “Memories Are Made of This,” one of his most enduring hits. Popping onto the sales charts this week are several songs that will create trends. A second version of “Teen-Age Prayer,” this time a Gloria Mann recording that hopes to steal some sales from Gale Storm, debuts this week. The iconic Little Richard recording of “Tutti Frutti” debuts on the short sales chart, to be joined soon by a tepid Pat Boone version.

And, very quietly, the “Unforgettable” Sound of the Dick Hyman Trio (thus was he billed) climbs onto both the short and the long sales charts with “Moritat (A Theme from the ‘Three Penny Opera’).” This song will find itself on the long chart five times on March 3, under four different titles. Two other artists will resurrect the song in 1959-60. More details will follow.

January 26, 1957: It’s all Guy Mitchell, all the time, as “Singing the Blues” logs its 8th week atop three charts, and its 7th atop the coin-op chart. The Sonny James original of “Young Love” threatens at #2 on the short sales chart, but its #1 status will owe itself eventually to radio. Tab Hunter’s version is hot on its heels, and a third contender, by the Crew-Cuts, debuts on the long sales chart but won’t go far.

The sampling methodology for the coin-op chart means that just this week, the James/Hunter “Young Love” versions debut there. Fats Domino’s “Blue Monday,” which is headed for Top Ten sales, just now makes the coin-op and radio charts.

January 27, 1958: Though “At the Hop” by Danny and the Juniors is in its 4th week at #1, the Top Ten is shaking itself up, as the #6 through #10 songs are rising stars, cracking the Top Ten for the first time. The songs are “Get a Job” by the Silhouettes, “Sail Along Silvery Moon” (with “Raunchy” still showing strong B-side support) by Billy Vaughn and His Orchestra, “The Stroll” by the Diamonds, “Sugartime” by the McGuire Sisters, and “La Dee Dah” by Billy & Lillie. “Get a Job” and “Sugartime” will reach #1 on other charts, but none of the five will top the short sales chart.

A bit of a chart misnomer has occurred with the flip of Ricky Nelson’s “Be-Bop Baby.” That B-side, “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?” did make the long sales chart on its own, so its flip numbers were erased. Had the song stalled at #41 or lower, it would not appear in the Top 40 book at all. But the song spent 17 weeks on the short sales chart, listed as a flip, apart from its three Top 40 weeks on the long sales chart. I find that run worthy of note.

Another chart quirk is the debut of “Don’t” by Elvis Presley on both sales charts, whereas it’s a week away from hitting the radio chart. I don’t know if the song’s subject matter led to radio resistance, or if the jockeys thought it was too quiet, but they will catch on when sales go through the roof.

January 26, 1959: The Platters hold steady at #1 with “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.” Even with “La Bamba” making some chart headway, “Donna” by Ritchie Valens climbs from #4 to #3. Mitch Miller has jumped on the “Children’s Marching Song” bandwagon to compete with Cyril Stapleton, doubling the pain on the Top 40.

A couple of eventually hard-to-find songs debut, both by One-Hit-Wonders: Jesse Lee Turner charts with “The Little Space Girl,” his only Top 40 hit, and Philadelphia’s Quaker City Boys prove to be a True One-Week Wonder, as “Teasin’” spends a week at #39, then sinks immediately.

For your listening pleasure, here are the two 1959 One-Hit Wonders. The Quaker City Boys, a string band in the finest Philadelphia tradition, was led by Tommy Reilly. The song appeared on Swan 4023. Jesse Lee Turner was a Texan, a purveyor of rockabilly who took his lone hit to #20 on Carlton 496.

For Wednesday, I’ll explore spoken-word comedy from the early days of music, after a one-week detour. See you then!

Quaker City Boys, Teasin’

Jesse Lee Turner, The Little Space Girl

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Move Over, Patti, Connie, Madonna & Britney!

First, my only political comment, ever: I have never seen the nation come together this way. I am grateful that it is happening.

Oh, and I must ask: Did anyone besides me and Veto Corleone notice that Keith Olbermann said that, from a distance, “Obama will look like a raisin?” How do some people get away with unfortunate comments more easily than others? In case you’re wondering, I don’t know who Veto Corleone is; I just searched for Obama and raisin. But good for Veto; he kept me from suspecting that I had hallucinated.

Now, the post:

It should be obvious that the concept of phenomenally successful female vocalists did not originate with Madonna and Britney Spears. If you assume it did, Patti Page and Connie Francis might want to have a word with you. And if you believe Patti was the first woman to dominate the record stores, consider Ella Fitzgerald’s tenure with Chick Webb’s orchestra.

Surely, if we go back that far, logic would indicate to you that, even in the very early days of recorded music, there had to be some female vocalist who sold tons of cylinders to adoring listeners.

That woman was Ada Jones.

Ada’s credentials are impressive. On her own or in duets with occasional partners, she scored 64 hits between 1905 and 1919. With one frequent duet partner, the likewise popular Billy Murray, she logged another 44 hits between 1907 and 1922. Between 1905 and 1910, she reached the charts 20 times with Len Spencer. Her #1 hits total 13.

There’s not a lot of biographic information available about Ada, but I can tell you a few things. English by birth (June 1, 1973, Lancashire), she moved to the United States when she was five or six. Living in Philadelphia, she did stage work until she discovered the recording medium. Beginning in 1904, she recorded cylinders for Edison Records, and she scored her first hit in May of 1905.

Soon thereafter, a huge star, Billy Murray, met Ada. At the time, Billy was scheduled to record the female parts of some vaudeville comedy routines with Len Spencer. Just as in Shakespeare’s time, men did that sort of thing. But Ada came in very handy, and she recorded a string of hits with Len in Billy’s stead.

Ada then became Billy’s vocal partner, and they recorded successfully until shortly before Ada’s death in 1922, at age 49.

Ada was 31 when she started recording, and while she could not have started recording before her 17th birthday or so, one has to wonder how many more hits than her 128 she would have amassed if she had been guided into recording from the beginning.

Ada, like many singers of her time, was adept at dialect. While she favored an Irish tinge to her singing, one example below shows her and Len Spencer in a Jewish vaudeville sketch. Such recordings show how fragile many forms of comedy are, and how short-lived they are, or should be.

I have learned that an exceptional source for acoustic-era music is the Internet Archive. Check it out. The third recording below is from their collection. Since it was available for download, I believe I can repost it.

Saturday, I’ll bring you another week of the 1950s charts, and next Wednesday, the biggest male performer of the pre-1920 era. See you Saturday!

Ada Jones & Len Spencer, The Original Cohens (1906)

Ada Jones & Len Spencer, Bashful Henry and His Lovin’ Lucy (1906)

Ada Jones, Waitin’ at the Church (My Wife Won’t Let Me) (1906)

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Great Chart Meltdown: Week 3

For the background on this blog series, see this post.

Bananas abound, and La Bamba comes aboard, in this third week of the 1950s chart years.

January 15, 1955: A quiet week on the charts, “Mr. Sandman” by the Chordettes holds the #1 spot for the 7th week on the sales chart. On the coin-op and radio charts, it has been overtaken by Joan Weber’s “Let Me Go Lover.” The sales debuts are, on the surface, of mild interest: The Four Coins log a One-Week Wonder with “Love You Madly”; the Charms debut with a version of “Ling, Ting, Tong” to compete with the Five Keys’ version that debuted on December 25, 1954. The song, which deals with a rockin’ Chinaman, shows that racial stereotyping isn’t limited to Mexicans.

LaVern Baker, billed with the Gliders on her first Top 40 single, “Tweedlee Dee,” will soon learn the frustration of having a white performer cover her song, with the arrangement of the cover matching hers almost note for note. The anger will lead to a lawsuit, and the courts will decide that identical covers are legal. The ramifications for LaVern Baker and other artists is huge, whereas the songwriters and publishers may even benefit from having a song on both the R&B and the Pop charts.

January 21, 1956: Dean Martin rules on three of the four charts with “Memories Are Made of This,” while “Sixteen Tons” by “Tennessee” Ernie Ford is in its 8th week atop the coin-op chart. Otherwise, nothing remarkable is happening this week. Bobby Scott debuts his only Top 40 hit, “Chain Gang,” on both sales charts. This is not the same song as the Sam Cooke “Chain Gang” from 1960.

One surprising chart discrepancy does appear this week. Eddie Fisher, a very radio-friendly singer, just now debuts on the radio chart with “Dungaree Doll.” The song debuted on the sales charts on December 24, 1955, and it’s a Top Ten hit on the short sales chart. Everything will balance out in the end, but the radio delay is puzzling.

January 19, 1957: Guy Mitchell reigns on all four charts, in some cases for the 8th week, with “Singing the Blues,” which he’s not doing. His future competition looms, with “Young Love” by Sonny James at #4 on the short sales chart, and an even stronger version by Tab Hunter debuting there at #12. Rushed out by Dot Records to compete with James, the Hunter version will outrank James, though both will reach #1 at some point.

A much-anthologized song, “Love Is Strange” by Mickey & Sylvia, debuts on the long sales chart this week. This is their only Top 40 hit together, but Sylvia Vanderpool will come back in 1973 with the sensuous “Pillow Talk.”

Finally, all of the “Banana Boat” covers are on the long sales chart, with Steve Lawrence, the Fontane Sisters and Sarah Vaughan joining the Tarriers and Harry Belafonte this week.

January 20, 1958: “At the Hop” is the #1 “dance sensation that’s sweeping the nation,” except on radio, where the DJs are propping up Pat Boone’s “April Love.” Even they will give Danny and the Juniors a #1 hit soon.

A pair of One-Hit Wonders debut on the sales charts, with the Crescendos “Oh Julie” seeing less long-term fame than “Get a Job” by the Silhouettes. Radio is making a hit of “Magic Moments” by Perry Como, the B-side of “Catch a Falling Star.” Both are prominent radio hits, but they won’t see the sales charts until February 3.

January 19, 1959: This week’s #1 song almost was not recorded. The Platters’ version of “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” was challenged by the publishing owners, as the song would then be associated with a black artist. When the money started pouring in, presumably the R&B association became less problematic.

Among the debuts, it’s time to push a Ritchie Valens song, “La Bamba,” to coincide with his national tour as part of the Winter Dance Party. Being matched up on this tour with the likes of Dion and Buddy Holly and the Crickets is quite the career boost for this young Mexican-American singer.

A future school-band favorite debuts this week as well: Ray Anthony’s “Peter Gunn” theme. It’s one of just two instrumentals on this chart, along with Reg Owens’s “Manhattan Spiritual, but the instrumentals are doing better here than they were in 1957, when, as of next week, none will be on the sales charts.

For your listening pleasure, I am including three versions of the “Banana Boat Song.” I would give you all five, but the Lawrence and Fontane versions didn’t make it here in time. The Tarriers version is scratchy. To make up for that, here are Sylvia’s two forays into the Top 40. Yes, it’s the same girl.

For Wednesday, I’ll explore spoken-word comedy from the early days of music. See you then!

Tarriers, Banana Boat Song

Harry Belafonte, Banana Boat (Day-O)

Sarah Vaughan, Banana Boat Song

Mickey and Sylvia, Love Is Strange

Sylvia, Pillow Talk

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Moon Memories

In my three-tiered approach to music blogging for 2009, I have brought you two Saturdays of the 1950s charts, in summary. On Wednesdays, I am alternating between Really Old Music (ROM) and Really Interesting Female Artists (RIFA). Today, we look at our first RIFA.

But first, I want to let you know about a six-day music event that will be taking place beginning January 28, 2009 in a little town called Clear Lake, Iowa. Like many of us, I became aware of the deaths of Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens in late 1971 via the epic single “American Pie.” I finally was able to visit the crash site in August, 2007, and I made a mental note to see what would be done to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the tragedy. As it turns out, there will be a number of significant events at the Surf Ballroom, including a February 2 concert featuring Bobby Vee and an incredible array of artists. There are exhibits and symposia available during the day, concerts at night (some sold out, sorry), and the big show on the 50th anniversary of Buddy’s last concert. The event, run by Bobby Vee’s sons Jeff and Tommy, will be as fitting a tribute as can be imagined. Check out the details of 50 Winters Later. Go to Iowa.

I am a bit honked off that you won’t see me there. I planned 17 months ahead of time to show up, and I was planning to take the time off work and write up the event for a magazine, when I was asked (sort of told) that I was needed to chaperone a school trip to Spain beginning January 30. If you’re a casual music fan, it probably will strike you as smug that I claim to prefer Iowa over Spain that week, especially since Spain comes free to chaperones. But the serious music people here will get it, and, you know what? Spain will be here on February 3 and beyond, but this event will be history. Oh, I am steamed.

Now, the post:

Music journalists have, or used to have before the industry tanked, promo CDs tossed their way when an artist is coming to town. In my role as preview writer for the Lotus World Music and Arts Festival in Bloomington, Indiana, I got Christmas in September each year for ten years, as all thirty or so acts sent me CDs. Some are great, some are good, some bring Festival memories to life.

The beauty of the Lotus Festival is its willingness to continue to book artists with a medium-sized following. Sometimes an artist catches on with the crowd, and by the end of the Festival, all of Bloomington is abuzz with that artist’s music and persona.

The woman who strolled into town on the strength of her sophomore album was unassuming, and she remains so. However, she had the courage to write personal songs of nostalgia that held a flavor so strongly regional that, if the stories didn’t resonate on a universal level, only Alabama and Georgia residents would have listened to them.

This acoustic guitarist/singer/songwriter was named Kate Campbell. She was born in 1961 in New Orleans, and you can hear it in her voice. Her vowels have more nuance to them than snowflakes have shapes, and she gives her final r’s a healthy dose of Southern grrrrit. She writes about women who want to escape the life the South has imposed on them, about musicians who make it sort of big and then pay through the nose for it, and about the moon.

The album she was promoting in 1997 was Moonpie Dreams (Compass 4238), and its fascination with cars, Southern tourist meccas and deeply Southern individuals served to expand the region’s cachet into the rest of the country, rather than shrink its listener base. It helped that her producer was Johnny Pierce, who has since been collecting Grammy nominations for his production work. The album earned some love: at the 1997 Nashville Music Awards, it was nominated for Folk Album of the Year. Mojo Magazine called it the Country Album of the Year.

In October, 2008, Kate released her twelfth album, Save the Day. Her songs here show a career-long theme of literary references, and she has earned the vocal and instrumental participation of the likes of Spooner Oldham, Nanci Griffith, John Prine and Mac McAnally.

As much as she has grown as a songwriter over the years, I don’t think any of her work will, for me, overshadow Moonpie Dreams, on which she worked a reference to the moon into every song. The cohesive view of life in the everyday South is one of the few façade-free looks into that part of the world that I have ever come across. Instead of singing about a girl who thinks some guy’s tractor is sexy, Kate sings about a woman who wants to see Rock City and Lookout Mountain.

I’m choosing for you two of the songs that typify Kate’s worldview on Moonpie Dreams. I hope you enjoy them, despite your lack of memories to transport you back to warm September evenings in 1997, when Kate came to town to play these songs for us.

Saturday, it’s more 1950s chart action, and a week from now, I’ll go back to the pioneer days of music. See you Saturday!

Kate Campbell, See Rock City

Kate Campbell, Bascom’s Blues

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Great Chart Meltdown: Week 2

For the background on this blog series, see this post.

This week’s 1950s charts bring us the first four-version hit of the year, in the guise of a song that was written as “Let Me Go Devil” but became a hit when the “Devil” was dropped, sort of like the Tampa Bay [Devil] Rays. Maybe there’s something to that devil business.

January 8, 1955: This is the week that “Let Me Go, Lover!” shows up in four different versions, including a one-week appearance on the radio chart by Sunny Gale. “Mr. Sandman” still rules the sales chart, for the 6th week, and it is in fact the unanimous three-chart #1 song. Joan Weber’s “Let Me Go Lover” drops temporarily from #1 on radio. A second version of “Melody of Love” joins Billy Vaughn’s hit; David Carroll is responsible for this one. A future mammoth #1 hit, “Sincerely” by the McGuire Sisters, debuts this week on the sales chart.

January 14, 1956: Dean Martin dethrones “Sixteen Tons” by “Tennessee” Ernie Ford on both sales charts and the radio chart with a Terry Gilkyson tune, “Memories Are Made of This.” Ernie will hang on for two more weeks on the juke boxes. The Turbans show themselves to be the truest form of One-Week Wonder, as they spend just one week on the Top 100, and never hit any other Top 40 pop chart again. Their hit, “When You Dance,” spent 21 weeks in the Top 100 and jumped to #33 for one magical week. Then they were gone.

This week, a true low point of 1950s pop makes its debut: “Go On with the Wedding” by Patti Page rears its ugly head. The song tells the tale of a young lady who was in love with Jim. Jim went missing and was declared dead. So, the young lady fell in love with Fred, whose name conveniently rhymes with dead. She is about to marry Fred when someone enters the church: Jim. He says they should go on with the wedding and forget about him. But Fred, sensing the strength of a love that could make Jim return from the grave, tells Jim to marry the girl. This is so wrong. First of all, Jim had no business showing up and then claiming he didn’t want to mess up Fred’s good thing. And there was no way in the 1950s that Jim would be allowed to marry this girl without blood tests and some sort of waiting period. Years of being dead don’t count as a waiting period. Conclusion: this is one of the lamest story songs of the 1950s. This Gabler-Korb-Purvis-Yakus composition even found a second taker, Kitty Kallen and Georgie Shaw. And the public made them both hits, of a sort.

January 5, 1957: The “Banana Boat” craze begins today, though it seems to be a radio-perpetrated phenomenon, to start with. The Tarriers (Erik Darling, Bob Carey and the actor Alan Arkin) are in the Top Ten on both the sales chart and radio, but radio has added three other versions, including Harry Belafonte’s. There’s more to come on the Top 100 next week, if you can believe that. “Banana Boat” is part of an ongoing larger Calypso surge, as shown by Harry Belafonte’s “Jamaica Farewell.” Where will it end?

Fats Domino’s two-sided hit “Blue Monday”/“What’s the Reason I’m not Pleasing You” hits the sales chart, and “Blue Monday” debuts on the Top 100, but “Blueberry Hill” is the blue song still getting the airplay and the nickels. When it comes to blues songs, Guy Mitchell is still #1 with “Singing the Blues,” and Marty Robbins’s version is still charting, at a much lower level.

January 13, 1958: There are still three versions of “Raunchy” on the charts (Bill Justis, Ernie Freeman, and Billy Vaughn), but technically there are now two, as the nation has flipped Billy Vaughn’s version and made a hit of “Sail Along Silvery Moon.” While his “Raunchy” made it to #10, the other side will climb to #5 and spend 21 weeks in the Top 40.

The McGuire sisters are debuting yet another song that will peak at #1, “Sugartime.” Radio has made a hit of Perry Como’s “Catch a Falling Star,” which won’t show strong sales until February. But it’s Perry, so radio is all over a sure thing.

January 12, 1959: The Chipmunks are still at #1 with a Christmas-themed hit. How much money was that franchise worth after this song? The three little guys are keeping “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” by the Platters out of the #1 spot, but not for long.

You would have thought that the 1955 hit, “Alabama Jubilee” by the Ferko String Band, would be the final Philadelphia-based string-band hit. But no, “Philadelphia USA” by the Nu Tornados is hanging on to its position in the lower third of the chart, almost four years after Ferko wore out its welcome. This is the last week of preaching by Anka, Hamilton & Nash, as “The Teen Commandments” finally goes away.

For your listening pleasure, I am including all four of the “Let Me Go, Lover!” hits. For two of the artists, New Jersey-born Joan Weber (1935-1981) and Sunny Gale (born Selma Segal in New Jersey in 1927), this would be their only hit, and Sunny’s version made her a One-Week Wonder, as only the radio got her into the Top 40 book. The other two versions come from 1950s vocal heavyweights who jumped into the fray. The varying punctuation is a result of the labels’ attempt to differentiate their recordings.

Since I mentioned “Go On with the Wedding,” I really have to include it as well. It’s quite the song.

For Wednesday, I’m bringing you a female singer-songwriter who came up with one of my favorite albums of the late 1990s. See you then!

Joan Weber, Let Me Go Lover

Patti Page, Let Me Go, Lover!

Teresa Brewer with the Lancers, Let Me Go, Lover!

Sunny Gale, Let Me Go, Lover!

Patti Page, Go On with the Wedding

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Define Prolific

In my three-tiered approach to music blogging for 2009, I have brought you Week One of the 1950s charts, in summary. On Wednesdays, I will alternate between Really Old Music (ROM) and Really Interesting Female Artists (RIFA). Today, we look at our first ROM.

First, I want to give you a glimpse into the difficulties the pioneers of music faced. At the very beginning in the late 1880s (once people realized recording devices would be a great way to capture music), the entire process was acoustic—no microphones, no second track for overdubs. If you were going to record a duet, you waited until both artists were available. The recording pickup was either a small horn or a large, long one. Depending on the strength of an artist’s voice, he or she had to stand a specified distance from the horn. One of these weeks, I’ll bring you a distance test, in which a singer sang at varying distances from the horn so the recording’s producer could create the most appealing recording possible.

Again, at the very beginning, one take equaled one cylinder for sale. If twenty orders came in for a particular song, the singer made twenty takes. The cylinder was recorded by hand for both the recording and playback process, though battery-operated players came along quickly, as hand-cranking could be a bit tedious.

So could all those recording takes, so in short order (1890) Edison’s company figured out a way to duplicate a handful, and then more than one hundred, copies of a recording. But one hundred copies still meant a lot of takes for songs that sold well.

Another issue with early music was the inability of acoustic recording equipment to record string instruments acceptably. Thus, the accompaniment for most pioneer singers consisted of horn ensembles or solo piano. Until 1925, this was the way things were done. After that, electricity powered voices and allowed the recording of quiet instruments. Bass and treble recording and playback improved greatly at that point.

But in 1903, the world of recorded music was still very young when a man named Henry Burr released his first significant recording, “The Rosary.”

Henry Burr was one of multiple pseudonyms for Harry McClaskey, born in 1882 in New Brunswick. Harry’s other principal pseudonym was Irving Gillette, used for Edison recordings, but he used a different name for nearly every label. On Columbia, Henry Burr rose quickly to stardom, and his listeners seem to have figured out that Irving Gillette was Harry in disguise.

Henry formed part of the first big wave of popular music, the tenors and quartets. The tenors were often Irish, and they all sang in a classical style. Henry himself received serious training in New York, and the proximity to the recording industry allowed him to become Columbia’s new tenor, to replace the fading George J. Gaskin.

Apart from his solo work, Henry formed part of the Columbia Male Quartet, which renamed itself the Peerless Quartet before 1910. He also recorded duets with a number of artists, most notably Frank Stanley and Albert Campbell. Though the charts of the time were haphazard and subject to interpretation, Henry logged 116 solo chart hits, as well as 48 with Campbell and 12 with Stanley. The Peerless Quartet scored 108 hits. Thus, looking at just these combinations, Henry Burr hit the charts, which generally allowed for ten songs per chart, 284 times.

Henry cornered a prestigious market when he became the primary voice for George M. Cohan’s songs. Henry devoted much of 1916-1918 to recordings that would comfort and invigorate American music fans during the Great War. In his 25-year recording career, he hit the #1 spot at least 31 times with his various collaborations and solo work. He was also one of the first artists to sing on the radio, and he got into the radio business when his recording career ended.

But all of this pales when you consider the following: Harry McClaskey recorded at least 5,000 releases, and with the need for multiple takes, he made more than 12,000 actual recordings. No one has come close to that total for prolific recording.

Henry Burr popularized a large number of songs we consider to be the kind you learn to play when you are at the midpoint of your piano lessons, songs you hear on old TV: “In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree” (#1, 1905), “Peg O’ My Heart” (#2, 1913), “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles” (with Albert Campbell, #1, 1919), “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” (Peerless Quartet, #1, 1911), “Shine On, Harvest Moon” (with Frank Stanley, #2, 1909), and the like.

Today, I’ll give you a listen to several hits, including a #10 hit from 1927 that was revived on his label, Victor, in the hands of another artist, who took it to #1 in 1960.

Online fact sources include Wikipedia, the amazing Henry Burr website, Archeophone Records and Joel Whitburn’s Pop Memories, 1890-1954 includes considerable information on the early era. Some recordings (marked UCSB) are available to you free at the UC Santa Barbara Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project.

Saturday, I’m back to the 1950s charts. And for next Wednesday, I’ll feature a female singer-songwriter from south of my home state of Indiana, which means she lives pretty far from here. See you Saturday!

In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree, 1905

Shine On, Harvest Moon, 1909

Are You Lonesome To-night?, 1927

Softly and Tenderly, 1909

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Great Chart Meltdown: Week One

For the background on this blog series, see this post.

Today I embark on what I hope will be a year-long exploration of the 1950s Rock Era music charts. There is a lot of information available that cannot be translated into mere numbers, and since many people do not have easy access to the charts used to produce those books, I want to shed some light on the formative years of rock and roll. Follow the charts with me; this week, I’m looking at the first week of the year for each year, 1955 to 1959.

January 1, 1955: The Rock and Roll Era begins, though the symbolic first rock-and-roll song won’t show up until May. Right away, we are faced with a subtle misnomer. Joan Weber’s “Let Me Go Lover” is widely proclaimed as the first #1 hit of the Rock Era, but a look at the charts may make you see things differently.

“Mr. Sandman” is a holdover #1 from December, 1954, but it’s not fading on January 1. It’s #1 on the sales chart, and it will stay there for two more weeks. It’s #1 on coin-ops, and it has another week of life left at #1. Only the radio chart has “Let Me Go Lover” at #1, thanks to listener demand, but “Mr. Sandman” will displace it at the top on both January 8 and January 22. So it’s more accurate to say that “Mr. Sandman” and “Let Me Go Lover” were the first #1 songs of the Rock and Roll Era.

There’s a bit of evidence that rock and roll is on the way. Bill Haley and His Comets are on the sales chart with both “Shake, Rattle and Roll” and “Dim, Dim the Lights.” Both sport the upbeat shuffle of “Rock Around the Clock”; it’s just the explosion of popularity and the rebel-movie tie-in that makes “Rock” so iconic.

A point to make about the industry in the 1950s is that competing versions of pop songs often charted at the same time. At one point, it was common practice for white artists to cover songs by R&B artists that would not have made it to pop radio. The same practice happened in reverse, though less frequently and more quietly. Splitting an audience (and income) between two artists often made a song seem less successful on the charts than it was from a songwriters’ standpoint. If the sales of all the charting versions of “Unchained Melody” were combined, for example, the song would have stayed at #1 far longer than it did with buyers and listeners being pulled four ways.

One odd novelty tune debuts this week: “Open Up Your Heart (And Let the Sun Shine In)” by the Cowboy Church Sunday School. The singers are the wife and daughters of Stuart Hamblen, who wrote “This Ole House,” along with a couple of other teen girls. Hamblen sped up the record to make the girls sound younger, but he didn’t go to Chipmunks lengths.

January 7, 1956: The monster #1 is “Sixteen Tons” by “Tennessee” Ernie Ford, in its seventh and final week on top. The final Christmas song, “Nuttin’ for Christmas” by Barry Gordon with Art Mooney’s Orchestra, suffers a precipitous drop after this week. Both Sisters and Fours are big, with the Fontanes, the McGuires, the Lads and the Aces. Songs appearing twice include “Only You” (Platters, Hilltoppers) “Memories Are Made of This” (Dean Martin, Gale Storm), “Teen Age Prayer” (Gale Storm, Gloria Mann) and “He” (Al Hibbler, McGuire Sisters).

Songs with lasting resonance include Gale Storm’s “I Hear You Knocking.” Dave Edmunds seems to have listened to her version a lot before recording his 1971 hit. Frank Sinatra’s “Love and Marriage” will come back to haunt us as a TV theme, but thankfully Dinah Shore’s version, which made the radio chart for one week in December 1955, will not.

January 5, 1957: The year starts with one of the longest-running #1 songs still atop the sales heap: Guy Mitchell’s “Singing the Blues,” in its fifth week of 9. Right behind it is “The Green Door” by erstwhile DJ Jim Lowe. This song counts as a #1 hit, but it never topped the main sales chart. Look at its amazing run, though. On the sales chart since September 29, 1956, it reached #3 in its fourth week. It sat there, behind “Hound Dog”/“Don’t Be Cruel” at #1 and “Love Me Tender” at #2, for three weeks. Then it moved to #2, sitting behind “Love Me Tender” for three weeks. “Singing the Blues” jumped it, sending it to #3 for five weeks. When “Love Me Tender” faded, “The Green Door” still had three weeks at #2 left in it. All told, It was #3 or higher for 14 straight weeks, and its competition was some of the toughest ever. Not bad for a ditty recorded in a New York City hotel room. “The Green Door” spent three weeks at #1 on the long chart and the coin-op chart, but radio stalled it at #2 for six weeks, with several more at #3.

Calypso is riding high in early 1957, with “Mary’s Boy Child” by Harry Belafonte serving as the Calypso Christmas tune. Belafonte also is still doing well with his debut hit, “Jamaica Farewell.” But the very scary Banana Boat craze is just getting its oars wet, as the Tarriers have the lone hit version, in its third week. By January 19, there will be five versions in the Top 40 of the long chart. Details later!

This is, notably, the final sales chart week for “Don’t Be Cruel”/“Hound Dog,” the biggest two-sided #1 in history. Since Elvis Presley succeeded that pair at #1 with “Love Me Tender,” you can see that late 1956 was a good quarter for Elvis. By contrast, another entertainer known for goofy films, Jerry Lewis, is enjoying the only singing hit of his career, “Rock-a-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody,” peaking at #10 this week. He also charted for one week with a Martin-Lewis comedy sketch in 1948.

Speaking of entertainment legends, Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly team up for a Top Ten Best Seller, “True Love.” Apart from “White Christmas,” this is Bing’s only foray into the Rock Era Top Ten. Grace Kelly didn’t chart again, but she didn’t have to, being a princess and all.

R&B artists account for seven of the Top 40 on the long chart, four of the 21 coin-op hits, and just two of the 25 radio hits. Fats Domino is in good shape with “Blueberry Hill” (Top Ten on sales, the long chart and the coin-op chart), but radio resistance has him at just #15 there, which probably contributed to his failure to achieve the only #1 of his storied career. He spent three weeks at #2 on the coin-op chart, so someone was playing that song . . .

This is the debut week for another phenomenon, “Young Love.” The Sonny James original shows up on all but the coin-op chart, and it may be so hot and new that it’s not on many boxes yet. Competition looms from Dot Records. Which leads to another interesting point. Little Dot, from Nashville, boasts three sales hits this week, and the label tends to stay in that range for much of the late 1950s. Using a mix of white covers of R&B tunes, most notoriously those of Pat Boone, and some nicely chosen originals and licensed material, Randy Wood, the label’s owner, turned his appliance-repair shop/record store into quite the big deal. The interesting thing is that he was known for fairness, so his artists stayed put once they became huge successes.

January 6, 1958: We seem finally to have shed the smooshy slow numbers of the 1955-57 charts, at least as far as sales go. This is one energetic group of sales hits: “At the Hop” by Danny & the Juniors leads the way, followed by Jerry Lee Lewis’s “Great Balls of Fire,” Elvis Presley’s “Jailhouse Rock,” the Everly Brothers’ “Wake Up Little Susie,” and Chuck Berry’s “Rock & Roll Music,” among others, and not in 1-5 order. The slower material doesn’t sound so early 1950s now, with Sam Cooke’s “You Send Me” being a prime example.

The radio chart still leans toward the mellow side of pop music. “April Love” by Pat Boone is at #1 for the fourth week, while Frank Sinatra’s “All the Way” is at #2, “You Send Me” is at #3, and “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine” by Jimmie Rodgers holds down #4. “At the Hop” is meeting radio resistance at #5. There is no such drag on “Sugartime” by the McGuire Sisters, which debuts on the radio chart at #14 before it hits the Top 40 in either sales chart.

You may notice that I have not mentioned the coin-op chart; its final chart came on June 17, 1957, as the first step toward simplifying the calculation of chart rankings. The juke box operators’ data still figure in the Top 100 calculations, but there is one fewer song listing to peruse.

The voice of Buddy Holly is in heavy selling rotation, both under his own name (“Peggy Sue” in the Top Ten) and with the Crickets (“Oh, Boy!” at #14). Radio is playing both hits, though at lower chart levels than sales would indicate. These two records will give Buddy three straight Top Ten hits to start his chart career.

Although the song entered both sales charts this week, no one is likely to suspect right now the eventual chart success, or the enduring legacy, of “The Stroll” by the Diamonds. Next week, it hits the radio, though the teens have been matching the steps to songs on American Bandstand for a little while.

Despite this week’s preference for rock and roll, one solid mid-twenties performer on the sales charts is Will Glahé’s “Liechtensteiner Polka.” The song is still selling well enough to merit a one-week return to the radio chart as well.

Sales B-sides this week not mentioned in the Top 40 books: “You Bug Me, Baby” by Larry Williams (“Bony Moronie”), “Chicago” by Frank Sinatra (“All the Way”), and three Sam Cooke tunes: “Desire Me” (“(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons”), “Summertime” (“You Send Me”) and “Forever” (“I’ll Come Running Back to You”). Each of these songs charted on the long chart but did not reach the Top 40, thus prompting their exclusion from the Top 40 book.

January 5, 1959: The time lag in chart-release dates often means that Christmas-themed music debuts now, but “The Chipmunk Song” by David Seville and the Chipmunks debuted on December 8, 1958 and is now in its third week at #1 on the consolidated chart. This is, surely, a song no one would expect to find on the radio fifty years hence, but here it is!

With all of the charts peeled away from the consolidated chart, the Top 40 is easier to examine for trends. The Top Ten is a quiet place, with only “Whole Lotta Loving” by Fats Domino and “Problems” by the Everly Brothers displaying a fast tempo. There are a lot of threes and sixes in the other tempos, with the Chipmunks, “To Know Him, Is to Love Him” by the Teddy Bears, “One Night” by Elvis Presley, and “My Happiness” by Connie Francis avoiding 4/4 beats.

Most of the rock songs are relegated to the lower end of the chart, at least for now. Duane Eddy’s “Cannonball,” Eddie Cochran’s “C’mon Everybody” (a One-Week Wonder) and “Stagger Lee” by Lloyd Price, a future monster smash debuting low, fit the template. But only one song discusses rock, and that’s “All-American Boy” by Bill Parsons, who was at first billed on the chart as Billy Parson. The artist is really Bobby Bare, eventually to add a Senior to his name when his son grows up and starts his own recording career.

In the “what were they thinking” category is “Don’t Pity Me,” a One-Week Wonder for Dion and the Belmonts at #40. Their string of revived really old standards (“When You Wish Upon a Star?”) goes nowhere, and when Dion breaks up with the Belmonts, both he and the boys go back to uptempo numbers, and both acts thrive to varying degrees.

Whereas earlier years find R&B artists scarce on the pop charts, they have achieved 25% participation as 1959 begins: the Platters, Fats Domino, Sam Cooke, Tommy Edwards, Clyde McPhatter, LaVern Baker and Lloyd Price are some of the artists taking part. Debuting their second and final Top 40 hit are Billy & Lillie with the charming “Lucky Ladybug.”

Apart from the Chipmunks, Christmas is represented by “The Little Drummer Boy” by the Harry Simeone Chorale, another perennial track that premieres this year. Teen Morality is represented by “The Teen Commandments,” an amazing ABC-Paramount infomercial foisted onto the backs of Paul Anka, George Hamilton IV and Johnny Nash.

Error alert: Speaking of Mr. Anka, his new hit “(All of a Sudden) My Heart Sings” is listed in the Top 40 books as having debuted on January 5, 1959. The full chart book shows that the song debuted on December 22, 1958, but it doesn’t clarify the situation: The song debuted at #39 on that date, dropped to #43 for December 29, and re-entered the Top 40 at #37 on January 5. Don’t let this correction change your life, but you may want to adjust your book.

That, my friends, is my attempt to cram a bunch of chart info into one blog post. There’s a lot of detail here, and that requires some selectivity as to what I mention. If you want to comment about something I didn’t point out, or ask questions, the comment box is all yours.

Tunes? How about a rare One-Hit Wonder debut from 1955 and a look into what the studio sounded like when the Chipmunks came to life? Next Saturday, again I’ll bring you all the chart data you can digest at one sitting! (And I hope to be able to use more precise chart terminology by then.)

For Wednesday, I’ll profile the most prolific recording artist of all time. See you then!

Cowboy Church Sunday School, Open Up Your Heart (And Let the Sun Shine In)

The Chipmunk Song, excerpts slowed to normal voice speed

The Great Chart Meltdown: Guidelines

This year, my Saturday posts will focus on the music charts of the 1950s. I’ll combine a “This week in 195X” approach with a glance at odd trends and, on rare occasion, discrepancies between the charts (which I have before me as I write) and the books that summarize the charts, some of which you may own.

The principal music-industry publication used several different charts during the 1950s. One (25-30 songs) measured sales alone, another (20 songs) showed what coin-operated machines played, a third (20 songs) did radio surveys, and by mid-1955 there was a chart that tried to give a combined ranking of 100 songs.

The problem for anyone trying to compile data from the various charts would be one of space; it is impossible to confine a song’s chart performance to one line without making some compromises. In the chart books we own, a song that is pushed into the Top Ten by radio people is considered as valid a hit as a Top Ten single that was propelled by sales. My suggestion is that, should you want to know how strong a particular single really was, you look at the tiny chart peaks listed by each 1950s single from 1955 to late 1958.

Apart from such discrepancies as songs that never hit the radio chart but sell very well (a phenomenon I can’t discuss in great detail until I receive permission to quote the actual charts), there is one type of compilation decision I will want to address each week.

If you own a book about Top 40 hits, you will note that some songs are listed as having been flip sides to hits. The sales chart, and to some extent the radio and coin-op charts, listed B-sides that seemed to drive some of the sales or plays. All of these songs appear in the books that compile the entire chart of 100 hits.

However, a procedural decision was made regarding Top 40 B-sides. If a song was listed as a B-side on a chart, it appears in the book as long as it did not chart elsewhere. If it climbed onto a chart as an independent song but failed to reach #40, the B-side disappears from the Top 40 book.

For example, “High School Dance” by Larry Williams is listed in the Top 40 book as the sales B-side of “Short Fat Fannie.” By the same token, “You Bug Me, Baby” appeared on the sales chart as the non-charting flip of “Bony Moronie,” so it should appear in the Top 40 book in some fashion.

However, “You Bug Me, Baby” charted independently. It fell short of #40 in several weeks on the combined chart of 100 songs. That means it was probably more significant as a B-side than was “High School Dance,” but its failure to reach the Top 40 on any chart means that it is left out of the Top 40 books altogether. Those who own just the Top 40 book will have no record of the record. I will, therefore, note B-sides that aren’t mentioned in the Top 40 books.

Seeing the 1950s charts up close is a fascinating exercise in historical interpretation. Thanks for coming along for the ride.