Friday, February 6, 2009

1950s Chart Meltdown, Week 6, and a Couple of Guys

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

February 5, 1955: Sister acts start a long run at #1 on the Best Sellers this week, as the Fontane Sisters, whose last name is actually Rosse, reach the top with “Hearts of Stone.” Joan Weber still rules the Juke Box and Disc Jockey charts. More cover competition emerges for some hits: the Crew-Cuts version of “Earth Angel” charts this week to challenge the Penguins, and the somewhat creepy “Make Yourself Comfortable,” a hit for the completely not creepy Sarah Vaughan, is met by a true One-Week Wonder, Peggy King. Peggy’s version scrapes into the bottom slot (#30) of the Best Sellers.

Note: the more recent chart books state that the King version reached #30 on both the Best Sellers and the Top 100, but the Top 100 won’t exist until November 2, 1955 (chart date November 12, 1955), and a careful perusal of Top 100 charts into early 1957 shows no re-emergence of this side.

Yet another version of “Make Yourself Comfortable” will appear for a One Week Wonder, and when that happens, I’ll bring you audio of all three hits in every speck of their splendor.

A sort of backwards cover debuts this week on the Best Sellers. Boogie pianist Johnny Maddox teams with the Rhythmasters on an instrumental medley called “The Crazy Otto,” inspired by a German pianist by that name. Crazy Otto himself will chart soon with the two-sided single “Glad Rag Doll”/“Smiles”; I don’t know if the Maddox release inspired an importation of Crazy Otto’s music, or if it was already on the way.

The Jockeys are still spinning four versions of “Melody of Love” in their Top 20, and the least popular version continues to be the Frank Sinatra recording, an unusual turn of events. Not much else is going on with the short charts.

February 11, 1956: Dean Martin’s monster “Memories Are Made of This” is still the unanimous #1. Since Gale Storm had the foresight to record this song as the flip to “Teen-Age Prayer,” her take on “Memories” has been listed as a Best Seller flip for most of the single’s chart run. This week, it is re-added after dropping off for a week.

Pat Boone’s “Tutti Frutti” comes across in the books as a respectable Best Sellers hit at #15. In fact, it is part of a two-sided hit with “I’ll Be Home,” and on the Best Sellers, “Tutti Frutti” is listed as the A-side for just this debut week; the rest of the time, “I’ll Be Home” is the bigger record. The Top 100 confirms it; after entering the chart a week late, “I’ll Be Home” will need just two weeks to pass “Tutti Frutti.”

Error alert: “I’ll Be Home” is listed as having entered the Top 40 on February 4, 1956. It did enter the Top 100 at #72 that week, but its Top 40 debuts occur this week on the Top 100 and the Disc Jockey charts, and later on the other two charts.

On the Tasteless Music front, the terrible “Go On with the Wedding” resurfaces at the hands of Kitty Kallen and Georgie Shaw. This, after the Patti Page version has climbed to #11 on the Top 100 this week. Fortunately, Kitty and Georgie will get just this week to bask in their glory, tying for the bottom spot at #39.

February 9, 1957: In the collapse of the long Guy Mitchell stranglehold on the top spot, we find ourselves with four #1s this week: Elvis Presley on the Best Sellers with “Too Much”; Pat Boone’s “Don’t Forbid Me” on the Top 100; Sonny James on the DJ chart with “Young Love,” and Guy Mitchell in his ninth week atop the Juke Box chart with “Singing the Blues.”

For some reason, with Tab Hunter’s “Young Love” dropping from 3 to 4 on the Best Sellers, its flip, “Red Sails in the Sunset,” is co-listed for one week. This listing is ignored in the Top 40 books because the song reaches #57 on the Top 100 eventually. In a similar situation, “Playing for Keeps” by Elvis (Presley) reaches the Top 40 of the Top 100 chart this week, negating for the Top 40 book the song’s emergence as a Best Seller flip on February 2, 1957.

This is the week that “Marianne” hits radio, as both the Terry Gilkyson and the Hilltoppers versions make the Disc Jockey chart. A year ago, Gilkyson was riding high as a songwriter, with “Memories Are Made of This.” Now, he earns his only Top 40 single, though his Easy Riders will appear on a number of other hit singles.

February 10, 1958: “Don’t" by Elvis Presley is the new Best Sellers chart-topper, but “At the Hop” by Danny and the Juniors is still #1 everywhere else. A couple of big instrumentals join the Best Sellers, “The Swingin’ Shepherd Blues” by One-Hit Wonder Moe Koffman, and the iconic whistling of “March from the River Kwai and Col. Bogey” by the ubiquitous Mitch Miller and his cast of dozens.

Sixteen months after his first Top 40 hit, Johnny Cash proves he can still make the charts when “Ballad of a Teenage Queen” debuts this week. We all know “I Walk the Line” would not be his only pop hit, but after he reached just #99 and #88 in 1957, this success has to come as a relief to Johnny, and to Sun Records.

In one of the oddest chart movements ever, Buddy Holly’s “Peggy Sue” is #3 on the DJ chart this week—and it will not appear among the 25 DJ songs next week. On February 24, 1958, it will reappear at #21, showing that it had not been on the chart the previous week, so it wasn’t a clerical error. I have no idea how the DJs could have decided not to play the song for a week when it had moved from #5 to #3 the previous week.

One song by a One-Hit Wonder makes its debut on the Disc Jockey chart this week, and it will never reach the sales charts Top 40. The artist is Nick Todd, and his hit is a cover of “At the Hop.” “Todd” is just his label, Dot, spelled backwards; his real name, according to the Top 40 books, is Nicholas Boone. Wikipedia lists his name as Cecil Altman Boone. Either way, he’s another Boone on Dot, which makes him Pat’s younger brother. And, you know how Pat took songs by Fats Domino, Little Richard, the El Dorados and others and made the songs sound whiter? Well, Nick makes the Danny and the Juniors classic sound even whiter than the original. Amazing.

February 9, 1959: One classic replaces another at #1: Lloyd Price jumps to the top spot with “Stagger Lee,” while “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” by the Platters slips to #4.

This is probably the first reporting week that could show a chart effect from the previous week’s plane crash that killed Ritchie Valens, but his death did not push “Donna” to #1. He stays steady at #3, and “La Bamba” drops 8 spots to #30.

A classic in the making debuts in the form of “Charlie Brown” by the Coasters. The other debut that will show some longevity is Brook Benton’s sophisticated reading of “It’s Just a Matter of Time.” Apart from “Rainy Night in Georgia,” Brook probably never sounded better.

For your listening pleasure, here are two very different singing styles. 1957 brought us “Marianne” by Terry Gilkyson. Terry (1916-1999) was a Pennsylvania boy who went out West to become a folk singer. He wrote “The Cry of the Wild Goose” for Frankie Laine, and he was nominated for an Academy Award for writing ‘Bare Necessities” for Disney’s The Jungle Book. His son, Tony, was a guitarist for Lone Justice and X, and one of his daughters, Eliza, will be featured on this blog soon.

Brook Benton (1931-1988) was born Benjamin Franklin Peay in South Carolina. He wrote “A Lover’s Question” for Clyde McPhatter, and his reputation as a songwriter (for the likes of Nat “King” Cole) got him a recording contract with Mercury Records. Nat was going to record Brook’s composition “It’s Just a Matter of Time,” but Clyde Otis of Mercury (who himself co-wrote “The Stroll”) asked Nat to hold off. Brook took the song, his Mercury debut, to #3.

Here’s Brook Benton performing this classic on television. The vocals are not lip-synched from the 45 version, at least.

Terry Gilkyson and the Easy Riders, Marianne (Columbia 40817)

Brook Benton, It’s Just a Matter of Time (Mercury 71394)

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