Saturday, May 23, 2009

1950s Chart Meltdown, Week 21: Summer Songs, Beaches and Barbeque

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

Lots has gone on this week. On Monday, the initiative to remove parking meters in St. Cloud, Minnesota, passed the City Council unanimously. Since I was the guy who got the ball rolling, I was busy both before and after that meeting, and I spoke to the City Council that night. That had a lot to do with the lack of a Wednesday post, but it wasn’t my only task.

On my web site I have a page I devote to Famous Dave’s, my favorite barbeque restaurant. The company’s ad agency found my page recently. As a result, I am in the running with a few other “Famous Fans” to see who can come up with the best mini-promotion this summer. I figure that, to assure myself of victory (which would earn me free barbeque for a year), I pretty much need to conquer the barbeque-eating world, and the rest of the world as well. You can help!

It’s not hard: if you have a Facebook account, please join my group: BarbeQuest. You don’t even have to become my friend to do it. If you aren’t on Facebook, you can find the BarbeQuest on MySpace, Twitter and YouTube, though I haven’t gotten any video up there yet. I have put some details about my fascination with Famous Dave’s in a blog called BarbeQuest, which you can find via a link to the right.

What is the BarbeQuest? I have plans to travel to every Famous Dave’s location, which means I’ll be visiting 177 restaurants in 38 states. My count is at 32 right now. You can see the list here.

You can win prizes through my group as well. The ad agency, John Roach Productions of Madison, Wisconsin, also has weekly challenges, which I transmit via my networking pages. Weekly Challenge #1 is to write a haiku about the ’Que for Two Platter, one of three summer menu items. But the promotional push is available to you at Facebook or Blogger, so now, let’s get to the charts!

All winter, any contact with summery songs seemed like torture to me. Now that winter seems to have ended here, it’s appropriate that one of the premiere surf/car acts of the 1960s would make its inaugural chart appearance this week—in 1958.

May 21, 1955: In its fourth week atop the Best Sellers, “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White” by Pérez Prado and His Orchestra has finally overtaken the competition to top the Jockey chart, but Georgia Gibbs still reigns on the Juke Box chart with “Dance with Me Henry (Wallflower).”

After starting its chart run on the Jockey chart, Eddie Fisher’s “Heart,” an eventual Top Ten hit, tiptoes onto the Best Sellers this week. Eddie is joined by the Sunnysiders, whose one Top 40 hit, “Hey, Mr. Banjo,” enters as the biggest Best Seller debut of the week. Despite their status as a One-Hit Wonder, the Sunnysiders include two former members of Spike Jones & His City Slickers, and another, Margie Rayburn, will have a solo hit in 1957.

In the Big Mover department, we have Bill Haley’s new hit climbing from #22 to #14 on the Best Sellers. There is neither Jockey nor Juke Box action yet, but this record could be as big as "Shake, Rattle and Roll," which reached #7 and spent half a year on the charts.

May 26, 1956: “Heartbreak Hotel” is still on top of everything. I get the impression that, had anyone had the foresight to rename a hotel as the single was released, it would have had a pretty good occupancy wake for a chunk of 1956.

Whereas there were no Best Seller debuts last week, this week there are three: “Picnic” by the McGuire Sisters, “Ivory Tower” by Gale Storm, and “Walk Hand in Hand” by Tony Martin. As insignificant as these titles may sound from an historic perspective, two of them are future Top Tens, and “Picnic” will reach #13.

May 27, 1957: Once again, “All Shook Up” is the consensus #1 song.

Some very recognizable debuts arrive on the Best Sellers: “Bye Bye Love” by the Everly Brothers and “It’s Not for Me to Say” by Johnny Mathis, for example. A dual Top Ten arrives, as Fats Domino’s Valley of Tears” checks in. Its flip, “It’s You I Love,” will get legs in a couple of weeks and start to compete with the A-side. A One-Hit Wonder, Johnnie & Joe, will reach the Top Ten with “Over the Mountain, Across the Sea,” which also joins the ranks this week.

May 26, 1958: Once again, the Everly Brothers have the consensus #1 song, “All I Have to Do Is Dream.” They should appreciate the moment, as they will soon be eaten alive by a huge novelty phenomenon.

Debuting on both the Best Sellers Top 40 and the Top 100 Top 40 is a couple of minutes of creepiness by Jody Reynolds, “Endless Sleep.” It’s not quite the “teen death song” that we will see surge around 1960, but it’s depressing enough as a precursor to the craze. It will be Jody’s sole Top 40 hit.

Another Best Seller/Top 100 debut marks the start of a huge career: “I Wonder Why” by Dion and the Belmonts. In the same vein, Jan & Arnie garner their first Top 40 hit, Jennie Lee. The song includes the voices of Jan Berry, Arnie Ginsburg, and Dean Torrence, but Dean was in the Army when Jan signed with a label. When Dean got out, Arnie joined the Navy, and Jan & Dean went on to become surf-rock pioneers.

Over at the Top 100, one huge debut is Bobby Freeman’s debut pop hit, “Do You Want to Dance,” which jumps into the Top 40 at #19. It’s also new to the Best Sellers Top 40, moving from #48 to #21 there.

May 25, 1959: Wilbert Harrison remains at #1, though he will give way to a history lesson next week. Among the debuts is a song with an iconic title, “Tallahassee Lassie,” Freddy Cannon’s first hit single. Fats Domino gets off to a good start with “I’m Ready,” which enters as the highest-charting debut at #29.

For your listening pleasure, I’m thinking you might not have heard the Jan & Dean prototype single before. Enjoy its faint resemblance to what is to come a few years later.

For Wednesday, I’ll bring you the twice-postponed discussion of a piano player many of us know by name—only. See you then!

Jan & Arnie, Jennie Lee

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