Saturday, March 14, 2009

1950s Chart Meltdown, Weeks 10-11: Halloween in March?

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 here to make this post work. Some good things have been happening in the charts, so here we go.

March 5-12, 1955: On all three charts for both weeks, “Sincerely” by the McGuire Sisters has a lock on #1. Fess Parker’s version of “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” comes aboard on March 12, and two versions still wait in the wings.

The Sarah Vaughan version of “How Important Can It Be?” jumped up 9 spots on March 5, and it seemed to be giving the Joni James cut some serious competition. However, a drop of 7 spots for March 12, with an uptick for Joni James, shows that Joni’s eventual Top Ten recording is the stronger of the two sides.

March 10-17, 1956: An epic moment in pop music chart history arrives this week. I don’t believe I can overstate the significance of the March 10 arrival on the Best Sellers chart (#19) and the Top 40 (#28 after its Top 100 debut at #68 the previous week) of “Heartbreak Hotel” by E. Presley. This is the first of 153 chart singles, 114 of which will teach the Top 40, with 18 reaching #1 and 6 more stopping at #2. But although “Heartbreak Hotel” is destined to peak high, on March 17 it climbs only to 15 on the Best Sellers, from 14 to 12 on the Jockey chart, and to 21 on the Top 100. It still doesn’t register on the Juke Box list.

March 10 is also the debut week for an iconic Perry Como tune, “Hot Diggity (Dog Ziggity Boom).” Perry was reportedly not fond of doing novelty numbers, but they were his bread and butter in the 1950s. The flip, another uptempo number called “Juke Box Baby,” is strong enough to peak at #10 on the Top 100, though it is relegated to Best Seller Flip status on that chart.

On March 17, a real blast from the past takes a one-week peek at the Top 40 charts when the Benny Goodman Trio with Rosemary Clooney reaches #20 on the Joke Box chart with “Memories of You.” The song stalled at #52 on the Top 100 and did not show up on the airplay or Best Sellers charts. Benny charted 164 times between 1931 and 1953, and when the film that chronicled his life came out in 1956, Benny was still valid enough to get the recording gig that led to this final hit.

March 9-16, 1957: Perry Como comes up with another big debut on March 9, as “Round and Round” opens at #13 on the Best Seller chart. The jockeys had moved on the record the previous week, and now it shoots from 24 to 12. The radio play helps boost the Top 100 performance from 32 to 19.

Elsewhere, March 9 is Fats Domino’s first Best Seller week with “I’m Walkin’,” whose #4 performance will be matched in May by a kid who gets a boost from his family’s TV show, Ozzie and Harriet.

March 16 brings us a Diamonds smash, “Little Darlin’.” Competition arrives for “Party Doll” by Buddy Knox with the Rhythm Orchids . . . in the guise of Steve Lawrence. You can imagine the disparity between those versions. Even so, Steve jumps onto the Juke Box chart at the same time as Buddy’s version, and Steve’s version will peak at #5.

March 10-17, 1958: This is the debut week for “Tequila” . . . by Eddie Platt. It won’t go as far as the Champs version, which jumps from #23 to #12 on March 10. And in a huge leap for a Best Seller in those days, the Champs go all the way to #1 for March 17.

March 10 is the Best Seller debut for “Maybe Baby” by the Crickets, at #27, and the Top 40 entry date for “Rock and Roll Is Here to Stay” by Danny and the Juniors. In her second and third Top 40 weeks ever, a newcomer named Connie Francis jumps from 19 to 7 on the March 10 Top 100 chart. The song has quite a chart history: Five artists charted with it in 1923, and Harry James did so in 1946. Still to come is Marie Osmond in 1975.

The Best Sellers chart for March 17 shows how eclectic the Top 40 was in the 1950s. Debuts include a song in gutter Italian, Lou Monte’s “Lazy Mary (Luna Mezzo Mare),” John Zacherle’s “Dinner with Drac,” and “Lollipop” by the Chordettes. I think I’m going to have to put “Dinner with Drac” on the blog so you can tell me if you find it amusing, considering its novelty status.

March 9-16, 1959: The Hot 100 serves up a bittersweet Top 40 debut on March 9, as a posthumous Buddy Holly single, “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore,” climbs from #45 to #36. There are some other recognizable debuts: Frankie Ford’s “Sea Cruise,” Dodie Stevens’s “Pink Shoelaces,” and, way up at #19, “Never Be Anyone Else but You” by the kid from the Ozzie and Harriet show. The flip, “It’s Late,” enters the Top 40 on its own merit on March 16, shooting 91-44-21 at the same time that the A side scrambles from #19 to #9 on the 16th. Ricky Nelson was pretty big then, eh?

“La Bamba” by Ritchie Valens, which had dropped out of the Top 40 on February 23, got a boost from the events of February 3rd, moving back to #37 on March 2, and #28 on March 9. That’s all it can do, as it drops back to #41 on March 16. No, wait: it will get one more push back to #30 on March 23, and then it will really go away, ending Ritchie’s presence in the Top 40, but not the Hot 100.

The really huge debut of the week takes a #55 debut into the Top 40 at #16. The song is “Come Softly to Me” by the Fleetwoods, the debut single for the trip from Washington state, and soon their first of two #1 singles. They show the softer side of the chart; Ricky Nelson and Ritchie Valens have had two-sided records, a rock side and a ballad side, get a lot of airplay. Soon, the loud stuff will back off, and the early 1960s will be very mushy, until the kids get tired of that and embrace the Beatles.

For your listening pleasure, I would like your opinion of the concoction of John “the Cool Ghoul” Zacherle, who hosted horror movies in Philadelphia as an ersatz Bela Lugosi, which enabled the local Cameo label to sign him and make him a national star . . . for a few weeks. Again, is his recording funny? Note that the sax is pretty hot; it’s the Applejacks backing his song.

Here he is (with lettering spelling his name “Zacherley”) on vintage TV. This medium seems to suit him better:

And how can I bypass the one Rock Era week that Benny Goodman spent in top Top 40? And with Rosemary Clooney singing, you can’t go wrong. Frankly, his clarinet sounds as sweet as it ever did.

For Wednesday, expect Really Old Music from Benny, as well as a bio. But you should consider stopping by on Tuesday, March 17, considering that I’m Irish and such. See you Tuesday and Wednesday!

John “the Cool Ghoul” Zacherle, Dinner with Drac, Part 1

Benny Goodman Trio with Rosemary Clooney, Memories of You

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