Sunday, May 3, 2009

1950s Chart Meltdown, Week 18: Dark Moons

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

Long-running #1 hits and seasonal songs mark this week’s charts..

April 30, 1955: An historic run begins atop the Best Sellers chart. “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White” by Dámaso Pérez Prado and His Orchestra, from the film Underwater!, climbs from #2 to #1 there. The song is still stuck at #9 on the Juke Box chart, which has a slower reporting cycle, but it’s at #2 on the Jockey chart. It will be an eventual consensus #1, and even after a huge hit knocks it down to #2 on the Best Sellers in July, it will hold that spot for two weeks. Bill Hayes hangs in at #1 the other charts.

One song debuts twice this week, with the Crew-Cuts besting Nappy Brown in the race up the charts of “Don’t Be Angry.” The Crew-Cuts also have the advantage of a Best Sellers flip, “Chop Chop Boom,” which aids the overall sales of the single.

Riding on the Pérez Prado coattails is Alan Dale, who has persuaded the Jockeys to play his vocal version of this week’s #1 Best Seller.

May 5, 1956: “Heartbreak Hotel” still is not a consensus #1, as “Hot Diggity” moves from #2 to #1 on the Jockey chart. Radio will put Elvis over the top next week.

Among the debuts is “The Wayward Wind” by Gogi Grant, which begins its Best Sellers run at an inauspicious tie for #23. The romanticism of cowboys and other free spirits is still a recipe for success on the charts, and this tune’s destiny is to spend 8 weeks at #1.

Fats Domino comes aboard with a solid two-sided single, “I’m in Love Again” and “My Blue Heaven.” “I’m in Love Again” is destined to be Fats’s second-highest charting Pop single behind “Blueberry Hill,” reaching #3. “My Blue Heaven” is a revival of a 1927 Paul Whiteman hit.

The biggest debut is “The Happy Whistler” by Don Robertson, which climbs from #51 to #25 on the Top 100. Classified as an instrumental despite the pervasive human sounds, the song is one of the few Top 40 hits scored by an artist born in Beijing. Robertson will whistle his way up to #6.

April 29/May 6, 1957: The dating on the charts changes this week. Prior to the April 29, 1957 issue of Billboard, there was a ten-day gap between the end of a chart survey period and the issue date. As late as April 27, 1957, the magazine came out on Saturdays. They then produced an issue for Monday, April 29, which created a five-day turnaround on chart data. Billboard will be issued on Mondays until Saturday, January 6, 1962. The magazine will remain a Saturday magazine from that point on. This shift accounts for the fact that, in Whitburn, some songs debut on April 27, 1957 and others on April 29.

For both issues, “All Shook Up” sits atop all four charts. That will be the case into June, so there’s not much else to say about contenders.

The 1957 debuts are fun this time. Rolling around in various stages of debutness are four versions of a ditty called “Pledge of Love.” Johnny Janis will take this, his only Top 100 hit, to #63. Dick Contino, an accordion whiz who appeared with Horace Heidt in the 1940s, will almost break through, but he stalls at #42. Far more interesting to me is the Mitchell Torok version. His agreeable voice made a hit of “Caribbean” twice, and I featured him last year, thanks to a single of his called “(The Land of) Bobby Beeble,” which is still one of the creepiest songs I have ever heard. Torok takes “Pledge of Love” to #25.

And then we have the winner, the #12 version by a 20-year-old One-Hit Wonder named Ken Copeland. If you channel-surf thoroughly and pause for a few seconds on each channel, you will have run into a very intense televangelist named Kenneth Copeland. And yes, you would be listening to the same guy.

A competing version of a really good song, “Dark Moon,” has crept into the Top 40 of the Top 100. Gale Storm, of that successful cover label, Dot, will eventually take the song to #4, while Bonnie Guitar, née Buckingham, hangs in there with a peak at #6. I suspect that, free of the Storm cover, Bonnie Guitar’s version would have been a cinch to go to #1.

Beginning the road to a #2 peak is the Marty Robbins tune “A White Sport Coat (And a Pink Carnation).” After some frustration at having Guy Mitchell cover two of his country hits, including “Singing the Blues,” which spent 10 weeks atop various charts in 1956-57 and undercut the Robbins version, Robbins hired Ray Conniff to produce “A White Sport Coat” for him. Eventually, this song would be iconic enough to merit mention in “American Pie.”

On May 6, we find the debut of a cover of a Fats Domino hit that is past its peak at #4: Ricky Nelson’s version of “I’m Walking” is his debut single, and it will equal the performance of the Domino version. Even better for Ricky is the upcoming emergence of the flip, “A Teenager’s Romance,” which will reach #2.

May 5, 1958: Sped-up vocal mania continues as “Witch Doctor” maintains its hold on the #1 Best Sellers and Top 100 spots. It won’t reach #1 on the Jockey chart, but it stays at #2 there for a solid amount of time.

The big 1958 debut is nothing less than Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode.” It leaps onto the Best Sellers at #22 and jumps 47 spots to #20 on the Top 100. This song will earn Chuck his fourth straight Top Ten hit, and it will be his last Top Ten peak for six years.

May 4, 1959: “Come Softly to Me” gives the Fleetwoods a four-week run at #1. They will be back in late 1959 with “Mr. Blue.”

The debuts run from the classy “Endlessly” by Brook Benton to the educational “Battle of New Orleans” by Johnny Horton. Somewhere in the middle lies a typical pop number by one of the most versatile artists ever to hit the charts, Bobby Darin, whose “Dream Lover” will reach #2 as a precursor to a huge hit later this year.

For your listening pleasure, two looks at the Dark Moon, by Bonnie Guitar and Gale Storm, sound good. And for the quirkiness of the experience, let’s listen to future televangelist Ken Copeland’s take on “Pledge of Love,” which shows his voice to good advantage.

For Wednesday, look for the postponed musical book review that honors the Sunshine Pop era. See you then!

Bonnie Guitar, Dark Moon

Gale Storm, Dark Moon

Ken Copeland, Pledge of Love

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your mention of "All Shook Up" reminds me of something I read a long time ago. The article said Elvis was fined five hundred dollars for changing the lyric to "When I'm "IN" A Girl" instead of "With" Is my memory faulty or did that actually happen?
Oh teah..I also remember when "Drak Moon" came out by Gale Storm, people said, "Margie can sing."