Sunday, May 31, 2009

People Don’t Eat People; Purple People Eat People

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

I’m done teaching for the 2008-2009 school year! You might think that would give me a lot of time to write a music blog, or sleep, or things like that. I’m not to that point in the wrap-up process yet, and this will be a very busy summer regardless of how quickly I sort out everything at school.

A quick note: Sometimes I think about how cool it is that people come here from very far away. So, hello to my reader in Skopje! (Everyone else will get his or her turn later.)

Given how busy I’ve been, I’m hoping you won’t mind if I focus on the lighter side of 1950s pop in this installment of my perusal of the charts.

May 28, 1955: It’s week five at #1 on the Best Sellers chart for “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White” by Pérez Prado and His Orchestra. The King of the Mambo also is getting the most airplay, but Georgia Gibbs still rules the Juke Box chart with “Dance with Me Henry (Wallflower).”

Tunes new to the Best Sellers are “Blue Star” by a One-Hit Wonder, Felicia Sanders, a cover of “Heart” by the Four Aces, and “Love Me or Leave Me” by S. Davis Jr. This would be Sammy, debuting his fourth-biggest Top 40 hit of eight. The biggest won’t come until 1972, when he scores a chart-topper with “The Candy Man.”

Bill Haley’s current hit is now a Top Ten single, climbing from #14 to #10 on the Best Sellers. He finally registers on the Jockey chart, at #20. Airplay is likely to fuel sales and really get this song moving.

June 2, 1956: There is finally a chink in the armor of “Heartbreak Hotel.” The Jockeys have turned their attention to “Moonglow and Theme from Picnic,” Morris Stoloff’s smooth instrumental. Elvis will not be completely done at #1 for a few weeks.

Some hot numbers just entering the charts will have lasting legacies. “It Only Hurts for a Little While” by the Ames Brothers is not one of them, but “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You” by Elvis is. Apart from being a hard title to type, this song has jumped from #90 to #31 on the Top 100, and it enters the Best Sellers at #19.

June 3, 1957: “All Shook Up” is no longer the Best Seller #1, but it remains the favorite on the other three charts. Pat Boone has dislodged Elvis on the Best Sellers with “Love Letters in the Sand.”

There is an odd and not very resonant group of debuts this week. “Goin’ Steady” by Tommy Sands, “Freight Train” by Rusty Draper, and “Four Walls” by Jim Lowe make their first Best Seller appearances. Showing her street cred with the Jockeys, Patti Page debuts a two-sided hit on that chart, with “Old Cape Cod” leading the way, and “Wondering” following. Lieutenant Buddy Knox with the Rhythm Orchids debuts “Rock Your Little Baby to Sleep” on the Top 40 and the radio chart.

June 2, 1958: The Everly Brothers maintain the consensus #1 song, “All I Have to Do Is Dream.” Someone is sneaking up on them, but the Jockeys will give the Brothers the nod for a couple more weeks.

The Champs hope their latest debut single, “El Rancho Rock,” will maintain the magic of “Tequila.” Of course, it won’t, just as 1960’s “Too Much Tequila” will also stall at #30. Jerry Lee Lewis is hoping that “High School Confidential” will be his fourth consecutive Top Ten hit. The Jockeys won’t play the song, though, because they have been made aware that Jerry Lee’s wife is thirteen (13) (XIII) years old, and she is also the daughter of his bass player, his first cousin J.W. Brown. Sigh.

There are a couple of Spanish-themed tunes debuting on the Best Sellers: “Zorro” by the Chordettes and “Padre” by Toni Arden, the only Rock Era Top 40 hit for a singer whose hits go back to the 1940s. And that about wraps up the debuts for this week . . . oh, except for the #7 song on both the Best Sellers and toe Top 100, which even the Jockeys have catapulted to #10: “The Purple People Eater” by Sheb Wooley. And yes, it will be a huge #1 hit shortly.

June 1, 1959: We have a new #1 song, the history lesson I mentioned last week. Though the story is told in the first person, I do not believe Johnny Horton was old enough to witness the events of 1814, but he sings successfully about “The Battle of New Orleans.”

What’s new? A song for beatniks, “Bongo Rock” by Preston Epps. This One-Hit Wonder is joined by another, the Wailers, who are really hard to find via search engines unless you mention the name of their hit, “Tall Cool One.” For some reason, the song will rechart in 1964, but that doesn’t make them a Two-Hit Wonder in my book.

Also jumping into the Top 40 are “Crossfire” by Johnny and the Hurricanes, “Bobby Sox to Stockings” by Frankie Avalon, “I Waited Too Long” by LaVern Baker, “My Heart Is an Open Book” by Carl Dobkins Jr., “Along Came Jones” by the Coasters, and both “Lipstick on Your Collar” and “Frankie” by Connie Francis. Now, that’s a week chock-full of debuts.

For your listening pleasure, I can’t resist the obvious: here’s the huge 1958 debut by Sheb Wooley, a future 6-week #1, and a pop One-Hit Wonder nevertheless. If you check your country chart book, though, you’ll find that Sheb has 8 Top 40 Country hits to his credit. This novelty tune is not one of them.

For Wednesday, I’ll bring you the thrice-postponed discussion of a piano player many of us know by name—only. I’ve been delayed by work responsibilities and a desire to get this post just right. See you Wednesday!

Sheb Wooley, The Purple People Eater

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