Saturday, March 28, 2009

1950s Chart Meltdown, Week 13: Lucky for Some

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

I’m back on track for my discussion of the 1950s charts. There’s nothing pulling me away from St. Cloud for an extended period of time, so I have my references books to make this post work. Some good things have been happening in the charts, so here we go.

March 26, 1955: The Davy Crockett craze is full upon us. The Bill Hayes version of “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” spends its first week at #1 on the Best Sellers. Fes Parker is in the Top Ten, and Tennessee Ernie Ford is at #17. Hayes jumped from 31 to 1, bypassing another craze: the Crazy Otto craze. Johnny Maddox stays at #2 with his medley of songs by Crazy Otto, while the German pianist himself is bouncing on and off the Best Sellers chart with the two-sided hit “Glad Rag Doll”/“Smiles,” which is turning out to be very hard to document in book form. When the dust settles, I’ll tell you about all of the variations of this single’s chart tour.

The big debut is “Dance with Me Henry (Wallflower)” by Georgia Gibbs. It will spend three weeks atop the Juke Box chart. I suspect that it was fueled by teen girls who are trying to entice boys to dance with them. I hope it worked.

March 31, 1956: Les Baxter leads a considerable number of instrumental hits on the Best Sellers with “The Poor People of Paris,” at #1 for the third week. “Heartbreak Hotel” is still just #8, up from #11. At some point this song is going to begin to perform abnormally well. The Jockeys are helping a bit, as the song has reached #6 on their chart, up from #7.

This week marks the start of the ultra-small skiffle craze. Lonnie Donegan and His Skiffle Group jump onto the Best Sellers chart with “Rock Island Line.” It’s probably more significant to recall that two guys named Lennon & McCartney were putting together a skiffle group before it evolved into whatever you want to call their later work.

March 30, 1957: Buddy Knox with the Rhythm Orchids take over #1 on the Best Sellers for a week, though they won’t reach the summit on the Top 100 at all. The rush of #1 “Young Love” versions is giving way to competing “Butterfly” versions: Charlie Gracie is poised to top the Juke Box chart in a couple of weeks, and Andy Williams begins a #1 run this week on the Top 100 and the Jockey chart. Debuts this week are fairly nondescript, even the ones by iconic names: Eddie Cochran (“Sittin’ in the Balcony”) and the Platters (“I’m Sorry.”)

March 31, 1958: “Tequila” rules the Best Sellers again. A couple of big debuts show up as well: the previously mentioned Laurie London phenomenon, “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands,” and a song that enters the Best Sellers at #26 and the Top 40 at #27, “Don’t You Just Know It” by Huey (Piano) Smith and the Clowns. The Smith single will climb to #9 on the Top 100, but given its initial sales reception, I would expect more. The possible culprit? No pop airplay. None.

March 30, 1959: A lot of girls were happy to see Frankie Avalon atop the Hot 100 for the 4th week, but I’m guessing that a lot of DJs and hard-core guys would prefer to have it fade out. But what could take its place? “Alvin’s Harmonica?” “Pink Shoelaces?” “Hawaiian Wedding Song?” We’re starting to hit the pre-1964 doldrums that will make the Beatles so welcome.

The biggest Top 40 debut is “Where Were You (On Our Wedding Day)?” by Lloyd Price, but its Top 40 entry position is also its peak. Long-term bigger debuts are “(Now and Then There’s) A Fool Such As I” at #26, which will peak at #2, and “I Need Your Love Tonight” at #33, a future #4 hit. They happen to appear on opposite sides of RCA Victor 7506, and the artist happens to be Elvis (Presley).

After spending two weeks at #20, Buddy Holly’s hit, “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore,” climbs to #13. The flip, “Raining in My Heart,” enters the Hot 100 at #95, but it will peak next week at #88 and fade away.

For your listening pleasure, here are the Juke Box smash designed to get guys onto the floor, “Dance with Me, Henry” by Georgia Gibbs, and the song you never heard unless you bought it, “Don’t You Just Know It” by Huey (Piano) Smith and the Clowns. The lead singer of the Clowns was Bobby Marchan, who will have a solo hit in 1960.

For Wednesday, I’ll bring you some female vocalists whose skills made it easy for the rest to succeed. Remember, Wednesday is April 1. See you then!

Georgia Gibbs, Dance with Me Henry (Wallflower)

Huey (Piano) Smith, Don’t You Just Know It

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

CHARLIE GRACIE-Phlly's Philadelphia's first rock n roll star (first hits on the Cameo-Parkday label) is still quite active all over the world. Saw Andy Williams speaking highly of Charlie in the PBS documentary: Charlie Gracie: Fabulous! which aried on tv two years ago. My cousin plays bass for Charlie who has a new cd coming out later this year--with guest artists he helped to inspire: Graham Nash, Peter Noone, Al Kooper and others. Charlie was the first U.S. solo rocker to tour the U.K. and his guitar-playing was called "brilliant" by the late George Harrison in the March 9th 1996 issue of Billboard. Charlie and his band continue to play Englnd and in Europe every year. Check out Charile's site WWW.CHARILEGRACIE.COM