Sunday, April 19, 2009

1950s Chart Meltdown, Weeks 14-16: All Comfy

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

A few historic events are taking place in the April music charts of the 1950s, so let’s catch them up.

April 2/9/16, 1955: The Bill Hayes version of “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” rules the Best Sellers chart for all three weeks. Not so with the Juke Boxes and Jockeys—the McGuire Sisters top both charts for all three weeks with “Sincerely.” Hayes will eventually make his chart-topper unanimous, but the sisters are holding on for now.

Among the April 2 debuts is one that puts the song in question into a select group. This is the third version of “Make Yourself Comfortable” to chart in the Best Sellers. While the Sarah Vaughan version, which debuted on 11/27/1954, reached #6 on the Jockey chart and #8 on the Best Sellers and Juke Box charts, the Peggy King version and this one, by a guy named Andy Griffith, each spent one week in the Top 40 on the charts, and for both artists, it was their only week in the Top 40 in the Rock Era. So, the song spawned not one, but two One-Week Wonders.

How did the song accomplish this feat? Well, though it is not as creepy as “Go On with the Wedding” or as stalky/murderous as “The Little Blue Man,” this tale of a woman who is using all of her feminine wiles to seduce a seemingly naïve young man is not truly compelling drama. Andy Griffith takes advantage of that slight tackiness, as his is a comedy version where he deconstructs the sexual tension. It is, for that reason, the best version of this song, which should have made even 1955 audiences snicker, even in its most serious versions. For the record, the vocalist on the Andy Griffith cover is Jean Wilson.

April 2 also brings complexity to the singles charts, as this is the last week of individual chart positions for flips on the Best Sellers and Juke Box charts. The Top 100 will continue to show individual chart action for double-sided hits, but from now on, when a Best Seller wanes, labels will try to push the flip in order to buoy a record’s chart performance.

In contrast to the cover weakness of “Make Yourself Comfortable,” April 9 brings us the first two versions of a 4-song 1955 smash, “Unchained Melody.” Les Baxter, His Chorus and Orchestra enter the Best Sellers one spot behind Al Hibbler, but Baxter will take the song to #1, with Hibbler stalling at #3. Once all four versions have charted, I’ll feature them here.

April 16 produces yet another One-Week Wonder, the Laurie Sisters, with the unforgettable “Dixie Danny.” Yay for the Laurie Sisters!

April 7/14/21, 1956: Les Baxter dominates the #1 slot, owning three of them with “Poor People of Paris” and leaving one to Kay Starr’s “Rock and Roll Waltz” on April 7. Kay’s 6-week run atop the Juke Box chart ends on April 7, but the kids still waltz at the soda shop for several more weeks.

A significant April 7 Best Sellers debut is Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally,” an eventual #6 hit that will spend 8 weeks at #1 on the R&B chart. This is Little Richard’s breakthrough hit.

Three versions of “Ivory Tower” are on the way, with the Cathy Carr version debuting on April 7 and climbing eventually to #2, a major coup for a 1-hit artist on a Cincinnati indie label (Fraternity). Her big competition, from Gale Storm, is also a Top Ten hit, on Dot. The Charms (listed on the charts as Otis Williams) round out the artists charting this song.

This is also the week that Dean Martin climbs to #31 on the Top 100 with “Innamorata.” He featured the song in a Martin Lewis film, Artists and Models. A Jerry Vale cover pales by comparison, of course.

One of the older One-Hit Wonders of the Rock Era debuts on April 21, with “Moonglow and Theme from Picnic.” It’s Morris Stoloff, in his 20th year at the helm of Columbia Pictures music, who decided in an inspired moment to resurrect the 1934 #1 Benny Goodman hit “Moon Glow” and merge it into the theme from the recent Holden/Novak hit film Picnic. Stoloff will take his instrumental to #1.

April 6/13/20, 1957: The four #1 spots are a mess during April, 1957, as Perry Como’s “Round and Round,” Tab Hunter’s “Young Love,” and “Butterfly” by both Andy Williams and Charlie Gracie, claim a slot atop at least one chart. Coming along soon to consolidate the charts is “All Shook Up” by Elvis (Presley), which debuts at #9 on the Best Sellers on April 6 and jumps to #1 there on April 13.

April 13 marks the end of an era, as the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, now recording for Fraternity Records, charts Jimmy’s final hit. “So Rare” will reach #2 on the Jockey and Top 100 charts on June 17 and 24, respectively, just days after Jimmy’s death from throat cancer. He recorded the sax part in November, 1956 and died on June 12.

April 7/14/21, 1958: With “Tequila” at #1 to start the month, seeing that song replaced by a gospel tune “He’s Got the Whole World (In His Hands)” by Laurie London), is sort of like reinstating Prohibition, I think. But the Platters balance it out on April 21 when they climb to #1 with “Twilight Time.”

Ricky Nelson leads the way on the April 7 debuts with “My Bucket’s Got a Hole in It.” If this doesn’t sound like one of Ricky’s brighter moments, maybe it’s not. It was the intended A-side, it seems, but the Whitburn books’ rule is to list as the A-side the song that charts higher between two songs that debut on the same date. Thus, the eventual bigger hit was “Believe What You Say.” Does that work better?

Showing his radio power, Dean Martin debuts on the Jockey chart at #20 with “Return to Me.” He is tied for #50 on the Best Sellers and tied for #53 on the Top 100. Clearly, radio was ready for another Dino tune.

An iconic R&B tune hits the Top 40 (#27) and the Best Sellers (#29): “Book of Love” by the Monotones. Despite the song’s inclusion in bunches of anthologies and the reference to it in “American Pie,” the Monotones did not hit the pop Top 40 again.

Moving on to April 14, an odd juxtaposition of debuts occurs on the Best Sellers. Frank Sinatra re-enters the Top 40 with “Witchcraft,” while David Seville debuts one notch higher with “Witch Doctor,” the precursor to the Chipmunks franchise.

The highest debut on this date, though, is at #7: “Twilight Time” by the Platters. It’s no surprise, then, that April 21 will find “Twilight Time” atop the Best Sellers.

Another huge debut comes aboard on April 21, and it’s one of the Elvis (Presley) songs that sound far too contrived for my tastes. I don’t know anyone who is a big fan of “Wear My Ring Around Your Neck,” but evidently it seemed to be a good idea at the time, as it debuted at #9.

A lesser April 21 debut but a still-recognizable tune is “Chanson d’amour,” by Art & Dotty Todd. This was their only U.S. Top 40 hit, but they had a thriving Las Vegas career, and they owned a supper club in Hawaii for a number of years, so they probably didn’t notice the lack of ongoing hits.

April 6/13/20, 1959: Frankie Avalon gives way to the Fleetwoods’ “Come Softly to Me” atop the Hot 100, but “Venus” will hang in the Top Ten for several more weeks.

The Fabian Era is truly underway now, with “Turn Me Loose” earning its Top 40 debut at #39 after entering the Hot 100 at #79 on March 30. The song will be his first Top Ten hit.

The big debut for April 13 is a song with a sad provenance: “Three Stars” by Tommy Dee (Donaldson), with singing by Carol Kay, written by Eddie Cochran, is a tribute to the victims of the Clear Lake, Iowa plane crash on February 3, 1959. The song enters the Top 40 at #21 in its third week in the Hot 100.

While April 20 provides us with several mildly recognizable Top 40 debuts, I think it’s more important to note the Hot 100 entry of “Wang Dang Taffy Apple Tango” at #62. The artist? Could it be anyone other than Pat Boone?

Nope.

For your listening pleasure, make yourself comfortable and enjoy three hit versions of “Make Yourself Comfortable.”

For Wednesday, I am considering bringing you the oldest recording I own, a #1 hit from 1891. I may decide against it, as there’s not a lot of biographical information on this artist, but I’ll see what I can do.

Sarah Vaughan, Make Yourself Comfortable

Peggy King, Make Yourself Comfortable

Andy Griffith, Make Yourself Comfortable

3 comments:

Robby Vale said...

Thx for the Jerry Vale(R) slam,
At least I've gotten to laugh allthe way to the bank.
EIther way, thx for keeping older music alive. You really should rag on him for his Beatles covers- but McCartnety thanks me for the royalties-odd world, nice guy.
RObert Vale

caithiseach said...

Mr. Vale, thanks for the comment. My remark was less of a slam than a nod at a contingent of Dean Martin fans who take note of Dean's appearances here. Jerry is one of the classy crooners, and his version of "Innamorata" isn't one I would call pale when you take it as an individual entity.

I appreciate the nod toward my efforts on behalf of the 1950s artists, and I see considerable value in featuring Jerry and his contemporaries in a post about just them. Drop me an email: caithiseach @ gmail.com, and we can talk about it.

dino martin peters said...

Hey pallie, thanks for the "nod at a contingent of Dean Martin fans...." Indeed I am always so happy to read of our Dino's accomplishments at your cool blog....when I gets a few tomorrow, I will be sharin' this Dinoinfo with all the ilovedinomartin pallies with grateful thanks to you....and no disrespect meant to Mr. Vale, but truly only Dino matters.....