the #1 hit records on the pop charts 1960

THIS IS THE FIRST in a se­ries of ten ar­ti­cles listing and ad­dressing the #1 records of the year as they ap­peared on Cash Box mag­a­zine’s Top 100 chart from 1960 through 1969. It was orig­i­nally pub­lished as “Save The Last Twist For Me” on my pub­li­ca­tion Tell It Like It Was on Medium on Jan­uary 1, 2019. The ar­ticle below is iden­tical to that one.

Please read “In­tro­duc­tion To The #1 Records On The Cash Box Pop Chart of the 1960sbe­fore reading this ar­ticle. It will ex­plain the na­ture of this project, in­tro­duce you to the writers whose opin­ions follow, and will make every­thing easier to un­der­stand.

The opin­ions ex­pressed below are those of John Ross, Lew Shiner, and me. John is the talent be­hind the Round Place In The Middle web­site where he opines about rock & roll, western movies, and de­tec­tive novels. John is my fa­vorite writer writing about rock & roll. He is cur­rently working on his first novel.

Lew is one of the finest nov­el­ists in America. Since you’re reading his name here, start with his novel Glimpses, which com­bines time-travel with fan­tasy and the mi­lieu of ’60s rock music. Follow that with De­serted Cities Of The Heart (time-travel and psy­che­delic mush­rooms!) and then his latest, Out­side The Gates Of Heaven, which also takes place in the ’60s.

If you want to skim through this ar­ticle and skip around from record to record or com­ment to com­ment, that works and you’ll have fun. But this ar­ticle will make more sense if you read it from be­gin­ning to end.

One of the first things you will no­tice is that each of the ar­ti­cles opens with a cal­endar of events that re­flect the zeit­geist of the era. Hope­fully, these will give you some back­ground and some con­text in which the #1 records of that were made.

 

Elvis Army 1960 4 1960 PressConference 1500

FEATURED ARTIST: In March 1960, Sgt. Elvis Presley was dis­charged from the US Army and was greeted by a press con­fer­ence (above). He headed straight into RCA’s stu­dios, where he cut three massive-selling sin­gles (Stuck On You, It’s Now Or Never, and Are You Lone­some To-night?) and one of the best rock & roll al­bums of all time, ELVIS IS BACK!

He also recorded three other hits in 1960: Sur­render would top charts all over the world in 1961 while Wooden Heart and Crying In The Chapel would top the charts in the UK and most of Eu­rope in 1961 and 1965, re­spec­tively. But by 1962, he was more an actor who starred in in­creas­ingly in­sipid movies than he was the King of Rock & Roll.

1960

Jan­uary
In the so-called “payola scandal,” the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Broad­casters threat­ened to levy fines against any disc-jockey who ac­cepted money from a record com­pany or their rep­re­sen­ta­tives for playing a par­tic­ular record.

Feb­ruary
In Greens­boro, North Car­olina, four black stu­dents began a sit-in at a seg­re­gated lunch counter at a Wool­worth’s store. This trig­gered protests throughout the South. Five months later, those four stu­dents were served lunch at that Wool­worth’s counter.

March
Elvis Presley re­ceived an hon­or­able dis­charge from the US Army and re­turned home from Ger­many after being away for al­most two years.

April
Bye Bye Birdie opened on Broadway in New York City and was the first big mu­sical to fea­ture any­thing re­sem­bling rock & roll music as part of its score.

May
Pres­i­dent Eisen­hower signed the Civil Rights Act of 1960 into law.

June
The first FDA-approved con­tra­cep­tive drug, En­ovid (“the pill”), be­came avail­able at phar­ma­cies throughout the United States.

July
The new 50-star flag of the United States ac­knowl­edging two new states, Alaska and Hawaii, was of­fi­cially flown for the first time at 12:01 AM (EDT) on July 4, 1960, at the US Capitol in Wash­ington, DC.

Au­gust
The Bea­tles began a 48-night res­i­dency at the Indra club in Ham­burg, West Ger­many.

Sep­tember
Pres­i­den­tial can­di­date John F. Kennedy spoke to a group of Protes­tant min­is­ters to ad­dress their con­cerns that a Roman Catholic Pres­i­dent might not be able to op­erate in­de­pen­dently of the Vat­ican. Kennedy told them, “I am not the Catholic can­di­date for Pres­i­dent. I am the De­mo­c­ratic Par­ty’s can­di­date for pres­i­dent who hap­pens also to be a Catholic.”

Oc­tober
In South Africa, white cit­i­zens voted 52-48% to make the country a re­public in­de­pen­dent of the Eng­lish throne.

No­vember
John Kennedy was elected Pres­i­dent of the United States, causing rightwingers na­tion­wide to begin plot­ting his po­lit­ical and per­sonal demise.

De­cember
In Boynton v. Vir­ginia, the US Supreme Court de­clared seg­re­ga­tion in public trans­porta­tion to be il­legal in the United States.

 

ConnieFrancis chin 600 crop

From 1957 through 1962, Connie Francis was the top fe­male rock & roll and pop artist on the sin­gles charts. With a slew of al­bums and sev­eral star­ring roles in Hol­ly­wood movies, she may have been the first fe­male rock “su­per­star,” a term that didn’t exist in the ’60s. While she should have been one of the first women in­ducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, she hasn’t even been nom­i­nated!

Felina, fantods, fame, and fortune

De­spite what pop cul­ture his­to­rians would have you be­lieve, rock & roll did not dom­i­nate the top of the Cash Box or Bill­board charts in the second half of the ’50s. In fact, take away Elvis and you need a very flex­ible de­f­i­n­i­tion of rock & roll to count more than a handful of gen­uine rock & roll records that made it to #1 on those charts.

While it was cer­tainly a pres­ence that had to be rec­og­nized, many of the best-selling records were the kind of pop music that could have ex­isted prior to the rock & roll rev­o­lu­tion of 1955-1956. The records that were chart-topping hits in the first few years of the ’60s echo the records that were hits in the last few years of the ’50s: a com­bi­na­tion of adult-oriented easy-listening music and teen-oriented pop music with some rock & roll and rhythm & blues.

The biggest hit record of 1958 was Domenico Mod­ug­no’s Volare while the biggest hit of 1959 was Johnny Hor­ton’s The Battle Of New Or­leans. And then there were the silly nov­elty hits with witch doc­tors, purple people eaters, and chip­munks all over the place! There was still plenty of music at the top of the chart that was safe to play for your par­ents.

As 1960 began, the major record com­pa­nies were filling the air­waves with bland pop music and er­satz rock & roll. In a com­ment below, Lew Shiner refers to 1960 as “the height of the re­ac­tionary re­sponse to rock & roll.”

There was lots of rock & roll being recorded, it just wasn’t top­ping the charts. Many of the best-selling records were the kind of pop music that could have ex­isted prior to the rock & roll rev­o­lu­tion of 1956.

The con­tinued pop­u­larity of adult-oriented in­stru­men­tals and light­weight pop vo­cals in the first few years of the ’60s meant that our par­ents were prob­ably still buying a lot of 45s.

So when you hear the hokey cha-cha-cha rhythm of Elvis Pres­ley’s It’s Now Or Never or the al­most sur­real roller-rink organ that opens Connie Fran­cis’s Every­body’s Some­body’s Fool, re­member that they were trying to sell records to par­ents as well as to teenagers!

 


 

Medium 45 1960 FrankieAvalon Why 600 1

January 2–January 16

Frankie Avalon
Why
Chan­cellor C-1045
(3 weeks)

Frankie Avalon first recorded as a middle-of-the-road trumpet player be­fore recording as a pop singer in the new field of rock & roll. It’s doubtful that Frankie could have pulled off a be­liev­able rock & roll per­for­mance if he tried. For­tu­nately, he didn’t try, but he did put Venus at the top of the charts for five weeks in 1959.

Ap­par­ently aimed at pre-adolescent girls, Venus bore no re­sem­blance to any­thing Elvis or Fats or Little Richard would have recorded, yet it was a damn near per­fect pop record and al­most ir­re­sistibly catchy!

Which brings us to Why, the first #1 record of the new decade: It bore even less re­sem­blance to rock & roll than Frankie’s first chart-topper and while Venus was charming, Why was rather nox­ious.

Nonethe­less, it was Frankie’s sixth Top 10 record in three years, but he never came close to that part of the chart again. This de­spite the fact that be be­came a better singer with better ma­te­rial.

Lew: 1960 was the height of the re­ac­tionary re­sponse to rock & roll. Starting in 1955 with the re­lease of the movies Rebel Without A Cause and Black­board Jungle (the latter fea­turing Rock Around The Clock in the opening credits), rural America was reeling in fear of ju­ve­nile delin­quency, hot rods, and music with a beat.

Whether by co­in­ci­dence or con­spiracy, at the end of 1959 Elvis was in the Army, Little Richard was in a sem­i­nary, and Chuck Berry was in jail under the Mann Act. Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper were dead. Into this pop cul­ture vacuum poured the white-bread, harm­less likes of Frankie Avalon.

I hon­estly don’t re­member if I’d heard this be­fore or not. I just lis­tened to it on YouTube, and I’m not sure I’ll re­member it to­morrow.

Neal: As Lew said, the decision-makers at such major record com­pa­nies as Co­lumbia, RCA Victor, and Decca (who never liked rock & roll) had taken back con­trol of Top 40 radio from the hordes of bar­barian rockers from in­de­pen­dent com­pa­nies like Chess, RPM, and Sun.

They’d keep it for a few more years until a horde of bar­barian rockers from the other side of the At­lantic in­vaded and changed everything—at least for a while.

John: I’m gen­er­ally a fierce de­fender of this pe­riod but I con­fess the charm of this one es­capes me. Bill­board started the decade with Marty Rob­bins’ El Paso at #1. That seems more ap­pro­priate, es­pe­cially since the next record was a western as well.

Neal: Un­like John, I was never a fan of Marty Rob­bins or his western sagas. Given a choice be­tween El Paso and Why, I will (gasp!) go with the latter. (On the Bill­board Hot 100, Why had been the last #1 record of the ’50s.)

Lew: I stand with John on this one. El Paso is a classic story song, full of strong emo­tions and vivid char­ac­ters. As just one ex­ample, even though the nar­rator is ob­sessed with Fe­lina, we the au­di­ence re­alize that she’s a faith­less gold-digger, un­worthy of his love.

When I listen to the song now, the final verse, as the posse closes in on the nar­rator, has the dark in­evitability of Greek tragedy, and the line where he sings, “I feel the bullet go deep in my chest,” gives me the screaming fan­tods.

Neal: I had to learn a new word here: fan­tods is a height­ened state of ir­ri­tability and ten­sion. “It seems one can’t have just the one fantod—they al­ways ar­rive in mul­ti­ples. Modern writers may speak of some­body having a case of the fan­tods, or hy­per­bol­i­cally the flaming fan­tods or the swiveling fan­tods.” (World Wide Words)

To link each of the en­tries in this ar­ticle to the ap­pro­priate record on YouTube, I had to listen to each record. So I just lis­tened to El Paso for the first time in a long time and re­al­ized how much its faux western sound and feel in­flu­enced the faux Mex­ican sound and feel of Elvis Pres­ley’s FUN IN ACAPULCO sound­track album from 1963!

Fi­nally, I have three ob­ser­va­tions about this first entry in our se­ries of ar­ti­cles on the #1 records of the ’60s:

1. Lis­tening to the demo ver­sions of El Paso that were avail­able on YouTube did not give me a case of the hunka hunka burnin’ fan­tods.

2. If I was in my car and ei­ther Why or El Paso came on the radio, I’d prob­ably change sta­tions.

3. It’s hard to be­lieve we found this much to say about a Frankie Avalon record.

• Bill­board Hot 100 #1: Yes (1 week)
• Million-seller: No
• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Ac­cu­mu­lated sales: Un­known
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No

But do you like it?

John:
Lew:
Neal:

 

Medium 45 1960 JohnnyPreston RunningBear 600

Jan­uary 23–February 6

Johnny Pre­ston
Run­ning Bear
Mer­cury 71474×45
(3 weeks)

Run­ning Bear is ba­si­cally a country record with a chorus that nods to­ward rock & roll. It retells the story of Romeo and Juliet with the young In­dian brave Run­ning Bear in love with the In­dian maid Little White Dove. “But their tribes fought with each other so their love could never be.”

As the song ends with the two star-crossed lovers drowning to­gether (“Now they’ll al­ways be to­gether in that happy hunting ground”) it’s also a teen tragedy record, al­though I have never seen it listed as such.

While tech­ni­cally not a nov­elty record, a young lis­tener in the 21st cen­tury hearing this for the first time might think it was a satir­ical take on silly teen records of the ’50s, if not an out­right joke of some sort. Nonethe­less, the people who bought 45 rpm records in 1959-1960 liked it enough to make it #1.

Lew: In those days, out­side of the big cities, kids gen­er­ally had one AM radio sta­tion to listen to on their tran­sistor ra­dios. That one sta­tion played pop, doo-wop, easy-listening, rhythm & blues—and country music like this. If you ate at the diner or the soda foun­tain, you’d hear the same mix­ture on the jukebox.

As a re­sult, we got great cross-pollination like Ray Charles’s MODERN SOUNDS IN COUNTRY & WESTERN MUSIC album (1962). I know if I had to live with the in­cred­ibly tight playlists today, I would go out of my mind, but I ad­mire the idea of that di­ver­sity of music that every­body lis­tened to back then.

John: I first heard this on one of those K-Tel type tele­vi­sion com­mer­cials for oldies pack­ages in the late ’70s. (Me first hearing things in the late ’70s will be a run­ning theme here.) They would typ­i­cally play a line or two from each song so what I heard was “Run­ning Bear, loves a little white girl.” By the late ’70s, I didn’t even think that was odd. It was years be­fore I heard the ac­tual record.

Frankly, it was kind of a let­down … be­cause I had been con­vinced this story record had a much more in­ter­esting story than a two-and-a-half-minute re­make of The Song Of Hi­awatha. I do, how­ever, ad­mire its con­ci­sion. Longfellow did tend to go on a bit.

Neal: While Johnny Pre­ston is only re­mem­bered for this one big hit, he was not a one-hit-wonder. In 1960, he had two more Top 20 hits, the pop-flavored rock & roll Cradle Of Love, and Feel So Fine, a re­working of Shirley & Lee’s 1955 R&B hit Feel So Good. After this amaz­ingly promising start, he was ig­nored by Top 40 radio.

• Bill­board Hot 100 #1: Yes (3 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Ac­cu­mu­lated sales: Un­known
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No

But do you like it?
John: ✯ ✯
Lew: ✯ ✯

Neal: ✯

 

Medium 45 1960 MarkDinning TeenAngel 600

Feb­ruary 13–February 20

Mark Din­ning
Teen Angel
MGM K-12845
(2 weeks)

Teen Angel is pop music for the then rel­a­tively new teenager-market with nary a nod in the di­rec­tion of rock & roll. It is per­haps the quin­tes­sen­tial teen tragedy record, a genre that we prob­ably could have lived com­fort­ably without. Like Run­ning Bear above, this is tech­ni­cally not a nov­elty record, but it cer­tainly has a novelty-like sound and feel and a young lis­tener in the 21st cen­tury might think it was a satir­ical take on silly teen records of the ’50s.

If you do enough re­search on the In­ternet, you will even­tu­ally come upon one of its great maxims, Poe’s Law. Coined by Nathan Poe in re­sponse to readers who took his bla­tantly satir­ical poke at Cre­ationism as a sin­cere ex­pres­sion of be­lief, he con­cluded, “Without a clear in­di­ca­tion of the author’s in­tent, it is dif­fi­cult or im­pos­sible to tell the dif­fer­ence be­tween an ex­pres­sion of sin­cere ex­tremism and a parody of ex­tremism.”

Per­haps we need some­thing along this line to ad­dress the fact that when ap­par­ently sin­cere ex­pres­sions of emo­tion such as those found in teen tragedy records (or in movies, novels, humor, etc.) are re­moved from the con­text of their time and cul­ture, they ap­pear in­sin­cere and satir­ical.

Lew: I used to be in a band that did this song, and when the lead singer got to the line that says, “Just sweet six­teen, and now you’re gone. They’ve taken you away,” the backup singer would somberly in­tone, “Five sep­a­rate am­bu­lances.” Sick, I know, but it al­ways cracked me up and pro­vided a nice an­ti­dote to the syrupy sen­ti­ment of the song.

John: I like what Lew’s band did with Teen Angel, and Teen Angel was pretty lame. But if it took a lame record to create the space where Leader Of The Pack and a bunch of lesser-known Shangri-Las records could be made, then I’m not gonna rag too much on it (see No­vember 28, 1964, entry).

As to why teen tragedies—or “death discs,” as I call them—were so pop­ular in the early ’60s, and with teenagers no less, that’s prob­ably a book. (There have ac­tu­ally been some books, but I never saw one that looked good enough to buy.)

Neal: If we think of these records not as a sub-genre of teen-pop but simply as nov­elty records, then they fit in with all the other types of nov­el­ties that were making it big at the time. That may be a more ac­cu­rate in­ter­pre­ta­tion of these records than seeing them as some ado­les­cent in­fat­u­a­tion with Bal­lardesque, automobile-related tragedies.

Of course, there was a con­cur­rent fas­ci­na­tion with death in the re­newal of in­terest in old mon­ster movies among teens at this time that lasted through the decade. In 1956, Uni­versal Pic­tures re­leased its classic mon­ster movies from the 1930s and ’40s to local tele­vi­sion sta­tions, al­lowing mil­lions of kids to see movies that had been sit­ting on ware­house shelves for decades.

In 1959, For­rest J. Ack­erman pub­lished the first issue of the Fa­mous Mon­sters Of Film­land mag­a­zine, which found a very prof­itable and long-running place on the news­stands.

In the early ’60s, those old mon­ster movies and the more re­cent Hammer horror films from Eng­land were sta­ples of the Sat­urday mati­nees we were brought up on.

These in­tro­duced us to Franken­stein, Dracula, the Wolf Man, the Mummy, etc., making many of us life­long fans of a then de­funct genre. So maybe those kids were the first of a long line that most re­cently man­i­fested it­self among teens with an ob­ses­sion about sexy vam­pires.

John: This is the year I was born. Ap­par­ently, tragedy was every­where.

Neal: Mark Din­ning recorded and re­leased records through the end of the decade but never came close to the Top 40 again. This would seem to qualify him as a one-hit-wonder.

• Bill­board Hot 100 #1: Yes (2 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Ac­cu­mu­lated sales: Un­known
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No

But do you like it?
John: ✯
Lew: ✯ ✯

Neal: ✯

 

Medium 45 1960 PercyFaith ThemeFromASummerPlace PS 600

Medium 45 1960 PercyFaith ThemeFromASummerPlace 600

Feb­ruary 27–April 16

Percy Faith & Or­chestra
The Theme From “A Summer Place”
Co­lumbia 4-41490
(8 weeks)

Every time I hear this theme song from the 1959 movie A Summer Place, I see June Cleaver in a dress and make-up, preparing dinner for Ward and the boys, Wally and the Beaver. They are in the living room watching the Old Ranger hawk Borax soap on Death Valley Days. And all is right with the world.

Which is ironic as that is far from the na­ture of the story that was told in the movie. Nonethe­less, just hearing the melody while pre­viewing ver­sions of this record on YouTube for this entry made me feel Cleaverish all over.

Lew: This song was so ubiq­ui­tous that it func­tions for me as one of those time-travel records that Neal talks about on one of his blogs. The melody is sac­cha­rine, but boy does it get the job done.

John: The more things changed, the more they stayed the same, even in the ’60s. The only way I can ex­plain the im­mense pop­u­larity of this song is that it must have made a good sound­track for people who had their minds on other things.

If it was the spe­cific “other thing” I’m thinking of, this cer­tainly wouldn’t have caused any un­wanted dis­trac­tions. The only danger would be going to sleep in the middle of a smooch.

Neal: Song­writer Mack Dis­cant added lyrics to Max Stein­er’s music and a vocal ver­sion of Theme From “A Summer Place” was recorded by many singers. In 1965, the Let­termen (who had in­flu­enced the sound of the Beach Boys’ har­monies) recorded Theme From “A Summer Place” that sounded rather Beach Boys-ish, es­pe­cially the Brian Wilson-like high part. This may have helped it into the Top 20.

John: And how did Percy Faith not end up being the name of a gospel-drenched soul singer? The Cosmos was asleep at the wheel on that one.

Neal: While Percy Faith never came close to having an­other hit the size of Theme From “A Summer Place,” he was one of the most suc­cessful easy-listening in­stru­mental artists of the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s. He re­leased over a hun­dred al­bums, selling tens of mil­lions of records. Nonethe­less, as a Top 40 artist, he can be ar­gued to be a one-hit-wonder.

• Bill­board Hot 100 #1: Yes (9 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (Au­gust 31, 1962)
• Ac­cu­mu­lated sales: 2,000,000
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No
• Grammy Award: Record of the Year 1960

But do you like it?
John: ✯
Lew: ✯ ✯ ✯

Neal: ✯ ✯

 

Medium 45 1960 ElvisPresley StuckOnYou PS 600

Medium 45 1960 ElvisPresley StuckOnYou 600

April 23–May 14

Elvis Presley
Stuck On You
RCA Victor 47-7740
(4 weeks)

On March 5, Sgt. Elvis Presley was dis­charged from the US Army.

On March 20, singer ex­tra­or­di­naire Elvis Presley en­tered RCA’s Studio B in Nashville and cut both sides of his first “new” single in al­most two years, Stuck On You / Fame And For­tune.

On March 23, RCA Victor shipped 1,300,000 copies of the record to whole­salers and re­tailers around the country.

On April 9, Stuck On You de­buted on the Cash Box Top 100 at #53 while Fame And For­tune en­tered at #67.

On April 23, Stuck On You was the #1 record in the country. While critics often point out that it didn’t rock out like his ’50s hits, it is nonethe­less a great rock & roll record!

Fame And For­tune was one of Pres­ley’s best beat-ballads of the decade, and one of my all-time fa­vorite Presley plat­ters. It reached #40 on Cash Box but was a much bigger hit on Bill­board, where it reached #17 due to air­play and the mil­lions of nickels dropped into juke­boxes to play that side.

Had Fame And For­tune been is­sued as an A-side, it prob­ably would have made #1 on its own. I wish that he had done an en­tire album in this vein, but the sound and feel of this recording would be gone by the next year.

Lew: Elvis is back—but he’s not the same. As Neal said, he’s now mostly singing pop songs and not rock & roll.

John: Stuck On You was an im­por­tant record since it laid to rest any doubts that Elvis’s stint in the Army had eroded his pop­u­larity. It’s the kind of record nei­ther Little Richard or Pat Boone could have pulled off. That’s why he was Elvis and no­body else came close.

Neal: RCA Victor did not seek im­me­diate RIAA cer­ti­fi­ca­tion for an of­fi­cial Gold Record Award for Stuck On You. This was rec­ti­fied on March 27, 1992, when it re­ceived a Gold Record Award for 500,000 sales and a Plat­inum Record Award for 1,000,000 sales.

Elvis kicked back into high gear as a hit-maker in 1960 with three sin­gles spending four­teen weeks at the top­per­most of the pop­per­most. Pres­ley’s other two #1 hits in 1960 were plainly not rock & roll but both were huge #1 records, as you will see as you keep reading on.

• Bill­board Hot 100 #1: Yes (4 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Ac­cu­mu­lated sales: Un­known
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Yes

But do you like it?
John: ✯ ✯ ✯
Lew: ✯ ✯ ✯
Neal: ✯ ✯ ✯

 

Medium 45 1960 EverlyBrothers CathysClown PS red 600

Medium 45 1960 EverlyBrothers CathysClown 600

May 21–June 18

The Everly Brothers
Cathy’s Clown
Warner Brothers 5151
(5 weeks)

As much pop as rock & roll, Cathy’s Clown may be the Everly Brothers’ best single—and a damn near per­fect record it is! Listen and hear the gen­esis of the har­mo­nizing that such great Eng­lish two­somes as John Lennon and Paul Mc­Cartney (you know, the Bea­tles) or Alan Clarke and Graham Nash (you should know the Hol­lies) would re­peat­edly take to the top of the UK and US charts a few years down the line.

Lew: When I first heard this, it seemed too much—those piercing har­monies, like lemon juice on an open wound. But soon enough I was se­duced by the great melody and rhythm changes. The Everlys have held up amaz­ingly well over the years due to great song­writing (in this case by the brothers them­selves), great backup mu­si­cians (in­cluding Floyd Cramer), and those in­cred­ible har­monies.

John: A few hun­dred years of Ap­palachian har­mony fil­tered through a high school melodrama—and that was the Everly Brothers.

• Bill­board Hot 100 #1: Yes (5 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Ac­cu­mu­lated sales: Un­known
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Yes

But do you like it?
John: ✯ ✯ ✯
Lew: ✯ ✯ ✯

Neal: ✯ ✯ ✯

 

Medium 45 1960 ConnieFrancis EverybodysSomebodysFool PS 600 1

Medium 45 1960 ConnieFrancis EverybodysSomebodysFool 600 10.07.44 PM

June 25–July 9

Connie Francis
Every­body’s Some­body’s Fool
MGM K-12899
(3 weeks)

Only one of Connie Fran­cis’s first ten sin­gles made the Top 40, but MGM stuck with her! Then she broke through in 1957 with Who’s Sorry Now? which al­most topped the charts. Four more Top 10 hits fol­lowed be­fore she fi­nally reached #1 with Every­body’s Some­body’s Fool.

It may be old age, but I think I re­member that every­body liked Connie Francis back then, in­cluding other singers.

Lew: I al­ways loved Connie Francis. She some­times gets lumped in with the Italian-American male pur­veyors of puerile pop like Fabian and Frankie Avalon, but to me, she had a warmth and feeling in her voice that tran­scended the ma­te­rial.

Neal: From this pe­riod, there were three white fe­male pop singers who had unique voices and en­joyed years of suc­cess on the charts: Patsy Cline was the most country of the three and has been the most li­on­ized by fans and his­to­rians. Brenda Lee was also coun­tryish but the one that rocked the most; while nowhere near as de­i­fied as Cline, she en­joys some level of crit­ical pop­u­larity.

Then there’s Con­cetta Rosa Maria Fran­conero, easily the most ver­sa­tile of the three: Who’s Sorry Now? is worthy of Patsy or Brenda and while Stupid Cupid may be kind of, you know, stupid, Connie sang it like one of the ob­scure rock­a­billy queens that col­lec­tors love to ramble on about. Hell, she sang it like Jerry Lee!

She also sang folk and big band and country and shlock and she sang them in Eng­lish, in Spanish, in German, she sang them in Yid­dish even! Un­for­tu­nately, Connie doesn’t get much re­spect these days. As Lew men­tions, his­to­rians tend to in­clude her among the slew of mod­estly tal­ented male teen idols of the era, and she is just so much more than that.

During her heyday (1957−1964), Connie had more hit records than any other fe­male artist and more than most male singers. To give that some per­spec­tive, let’s look at an­other top hit-maker whose heyday was during the same eight-year pe­riod:

                             Top 40    Top 10     #1
Connie Francis      32          14           2
Ricky Nelson         30          13            1

For this com­par­ison, I used the Bill­board chart as it gives each of these artists more sides in the Top 40. Connie placed thirty-two sides in the Top 40, of which four­teen reached the Top 10, and of those, two made it to #1.

Most his­to­rians know that Ricky had more sig­nif­i­cant hits in that pe­riod than any male singer but Elvis, but do those same his­to­rians re­alize that Connie had more hits than Ricky?

John: While I don’t rate Connie quite as highly as Patsy Cline or Brenda Lee (that’s some very tall cotton), all the nice things Neal and Lew say are true and she cer­tainly de­serves more re­spect than she’s re­ceived.

Neal: From 1957 through 1962, Connie Francis was the top fe­male rock & roll and pop artist on the sin­gles charts. With a slew of al­bums and sev­eral star­ring roles in Hol­ly­wood movies, she may have been the first fe­male rock “su­per­star,” a term that didn’t exist in the ’60s. While she should have been one of the first women in­ducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, she hasn’t even been nom­i­nated!

• Bill­board Hot 100 #1: Yes (2 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Ac­cu­mu­lated sales: Un­known
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No

But do you like it?
John: ✯ ✯
Lew: ✯ ✯ ✯

Neal: ✯ ✯ ✯

 

Medium 45 1960 HollywoodArgyles AlleyOop 600

Medium 45 1960 Dante AlleyOop 600

July 16

The Hol­ly­wood Ar­gyles
Lute L-5905
Alley-Oop

Dante & the Ever­greens
Alley Oop
Madison M-301
(1 week)

No ar­guing with Alley Oop as a nov­elty record as it’s a comic song about a comic strip, here a bril­liant, so­phis­ti­cated pre­his­toric man. Per­haps the fun­niest part for a modern lis­tener is that it’s better than any theme song as­so­ci­ated with a Marvel su­per­hero:

He rides through the jungle tearing limbs off trees,
knocking great big mon­sters dead on their knees.
The cats don’t bug him be­cause they know better,
be­cause he’s a mean motor scooter and a bad go-getter.

And as much as I’d like to put an ex­cla­ma­tion mark at the end of that line, the drawling de­livery of the singers on both records is the an­tithesis of ex­clam­a­tory. Still, it easily trumps the in­sipid “Spider-Man, Spider-Man does what­ever a spider can.”

‘Nuff said?

Lew: In­spired, of course, by the comic strip Alley Oop, the song was written by Dallas Fra­zier, who would have a hit with Elvira in 1966. There were no Hol­ly­wood Ar­gyles, just studio mu­si­cians with pro­ducer Kim Fowley and lead singer-producer Gary Paxton. Cash Box shows the Dante & the Ever­greens ver­sion tied with the Ar­gyles for #1, but on Bill­board, the Ever­greens record only made it to #15.

Neal: As much as I re­spect Cash Box and prefer their charts to Bill­board’s, I don’t know how they could have kept the Dante & the Ever­greens record (with the title cor­rectly lacking a hy­phen) paired with the Hol­ly­wood Ar­gyles record (with the title in­cor­rectly in­cluding a hy­phen) for so long when it was ob­vious the latter was the bigger seller and the bigger hit.

John: I con­fess I never heard of Dante & the Ever­greens. You learn some­thing every day.

Neal: I don’t in­tend this plat­form to be a place where we pro­vide back­ground in­for­ma­tion on ob­scure groups, but Dante & the Ever­greens de­serve a little at­ten­tion. Putting their bi­og­raphy to­gether using the few sources on the In­ternet that ad­dress them wasn’t easy and what I have is sketchy.

The mem­bers were Donald “Dante” Drowty with Tony Moon, Frank Rosen­thal, and Bill Young, none a house­hold name in rock & roll. In 1960, they signed with Madison Records, who rushed them into the studio to cover Alley Oop, which was then rush-released to com­pete with the Hol­ly­wood Ar­gyles’ orig­inal ver­sion.

Re­put­edly, the Ever­greens’ ver­sion out­sold the orig­inal on the East Coast, then the biggest market in the country. It’s pos­sible that the Ever­greens’ record out­sold the Ar­gyles’ record but with two com­pa­nies as tiny as itsy-bitsy Lute and teenie weenie Madison, ac­cu­rate ac­counting was prob­ably some­thing only the owners, their ac­coun­tants, and the Devil were privy to! Hence their record charting high on both Bill­board and Cash Box.

The cur­rent ob­scu­rity of the Ever­greens rel­a­tive to the Ar­gyles is no doubt due to just about every writer under the sun—including just about every blogger on the In­ternet (ex­cept, of course, Tell It Like It Was)—referencing Bill­board in­stead of Cash Box.

Dante & the Ever­greens were one of the first all-white vocal groups to play such high-profile black venues as the Apollo in Harlem, the Para­mount in Brooklyn, and the Up­town in Philadel­phia. They man­aged a few more flop sin­gles and Madison even sprung for an LP but they were des­tined to be a one-hit-wonder and broke up in 1961.

Donald Drowty went on to write songs and pro­duce records for artists such as the Isley Brothers, the Mc­Coys, and Herb Alpert. After that, he de­voted his life to working with dis­ad­van­taged youths, un­der­priv­i­leged chil­dren, and South­western Na­tive Amer­ican tribes.

Tony Moon moved to Nashville and hired on as the guitar player and con­ductor for Brenda Lee’s road band. He be­came known as a suc­cessful song­writer and music pub­lisher. He wasn’t as well-known as a pro­ducer, de­spite being re­spon­sible for the killer in­stru­mental track to 5 O’ Clock World by the Vogues, an under-appreciated gem from 1965 (and an­other one of my time-travel records).

There are count­less sto­ries like this in the his­tory of rock & roll and I chose this one simply to il­lus­trate the point that writing artists off as one-hit-wonders often leaves in­ter­esting sto­ries on the shelf. One last thing, Moon was the first Nashville pro­ducer to use Duane Allman as a sideman!

Lew, has anyone pointed out that Fra­zier’s Elvira sounds like a Coasters record by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller?

Lew: Not that I know of, but I to­tally agree.

Neal: There are two other ver­sions of this song that need our at­ten­tion: Within days of the re­lease of the Hol­ly­wood Ar­gyles and Dante & the Ever­greens’ records, the Dyna-Sores also re­leased the same song on Ren­dezvous Records. They were an ad hoc group of black singers under the di­rec­tion of Los An­geles ses­sion musician-singer Rene Hall.

The Dyna-Sores’ ver­sion of Alley Oop is a little funkier, some­thing you could ac­tu­ally dance to! Un­for­tu­nately, it re­ceived far less at­ten­tion than the other two and failed to make the Cash Box Top 100, al­though it reached #59 on the Bill­board Hot 100, no doubt due to air­play and jukebox play.

In 1965, the Beach Boys did a won-won-wonderfully goofy ver­sion of Alley Oop on their album THE BEACH BOYS PARTY! As I loathed the Hawthorne Hot­shots at the time, I may over-compensate these days by calling anyone and every­one’s at­ten­tion to this and other great records by them.

Note that the claim for million-seller status ap­plies to the Hol­ly­wood Ar­gyles record, which Mur­rells lists in his book—not the Ever­greens ver­sion, which is not listed.

Nei­ther the Hol­ly­wood Ar­gyles nor Dante & the Ever­greens ever came close to the Top 40 again, making them both one-hit-wonders.

Fi­nally, I think it’s only fair to point out to younger readers that Lew and I are so old we used to ride di­nosaurs to school back in the day. And no, we didn’t ride ve­loci­rap­tors! Be serious—we rode slow but re­li­able her­bi­vores, the kind that makes for un­in­ter­esting watching on movie screens.

• Bill­board Hot 100 #1: Yes (1 week)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Ac­cu­mu­lated sales: Un­known
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No

But do you like it?
John: ✯ ✯ ✯
Lew: ✯ ✯ ✯

Neal: ✯ ✯

 

Medium 45 1960 BrendaLee ImSorry PS 600

Medium 45 1960 BrendaLee ImSorry 600

July 23–July 30

Brenda Lee
I’m Sorry
Decca 9-31093
(2 weeks)

As I men­tioned above, Brenda Lee is one of three out­standing fe­male pop singers from this pe­riod. During 1960-1963, she placed eleven sides in the na­tional Top 10 but by 1967 was a has-been on Top 40 radio. Here’s the com­par­ison chart be­tween Connie Francis and Ricky Nelson from above with Brenda Lee added for those years:

                             Top 40    Top 10     #1
Connie Francis      35          16           3
Ricky Nelson         30          13            1
Brenda Lee             25          11            1

Little Bren­da’s per­for­mance on the charts was, as they say, none too shabby.

Lew: Four foot nine and 15 years old when she recorded this, yet what a voice.

John: I’m holding my powder on this one a little be­cause I have strong feel­ings about what I call the “Ballad Rev­o­lu­tion” that stretched back to the Plat­ters’ Tony Williams and Elvis in the mid-’50s, but kicked into high gear in 1960 with this record playing a promi­nent role.

I hope to do an ar­ticle on it soon. Suf­fice it to say this was both huge and mag­nif­i­cent in 1960, but five or six years ear­lier it would have been rev­o­lu­tionary. That’s how much rock & roll had changed the mu­sical land­scape.

• Bill­board Hot 100 #1: Yes (3 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Ac­cu­mu­lated sales: Un­known
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Yes

But do you like it?
John: ✯ ✯ ✯
Lew: ✯ ✯ ✯

Neal: ✯ ✯ ✯

 

Medium 45 1960 BrianHyland ItsyBitsy PS2 600 1

Medium 45 1960 BrianHyland ItsyBitsy 600

Au­gust 6

Brian Hy­land
Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polkadot Bikini
Kapp K-342X
(1 week)

In 1960, the bikini was just making its way from the beaches of the Old World to the beaches of the New. On this side of the At­lantic, 2-piece suits were scan­dalous to many people and young ladies who opted to wear them at At­lantic City or Jones Beach would draw what used to be called “baleful glares” from older women. Hence the opening lines:

She was afraid to come out of the locker,
she was as ner­vous as she could be.
She was afraid to come out of the locker,
she was afraid that some­body would see.

Brian Hy­land was 16 years old when he recorded Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polkadot Bikini for Leader Records, a sub­sidiary of Kapp Records. It im­me­di­ately started at­tracting at­ten­tion and was picked up by the parent com­pany for na­tional ex­po­sure.

Like Run­ning Bear and Teen Angel above, this is tech­ni­cally not a nov­elty record. But it cer­tainly has a novelty-like sound and feel and a young lis­tener in the 21st cen­tury might think it was a satir­ical take on silly teen records of the ’50s.

Hy­land wasn’t a one-hit-wonder, reaching the Top 10 with two fine record­ings: Sealed With A Kiss was a kind of Beach Boys-lite (1962) while Gypsy Woman was a kind of Virtis Mayfield-lite (1970). Both of these state­ments are com­pli­ments.

Fi­nally, I want to apol­o­gize for the two stars below but I loved this record when it came out! Of course, I was not quite nine years old then. I’ll betcha a lot of not-quite-9-year-olds would still love it today! Has anyone con­sid­ered a hip-hop ver­sion?

• Bill­board Hot 100 #1: Yes (1 week)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Ac­cu­mu­lated sales: Un­known
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No

But do you like it?
John: ✯ ✯
Lew: ✯

Neal: ✯ ✯

 

Medium 45 1960 ElvisPresley ItsNowOrNever PS 600 1

Medium 45 1960 ElvisPresley ItsNowOrNever 600

Au­gust 13–September 3

Elvis Presley
It’s Now Or Never
RCA Victor 47-7777
(4 weeks)

Yes, It’s Now Or Never is not rock & roll of any cat­e­gory or stripe, and yet it bears little re­sem­blance to any kind of middle-of-the-road pop that came be­fore it. Like every­thing else he did up to this point, Presley tossed aside irony, ab­sur­dity, what­ever, and sang it like there was no to­morrow and nailing this song was all that mat­tered. In some re­spects, he never sounded better, nor did the Jor­danaires.

The flip-side, A Mess Of Blues, was the op­po­site of the A-side: a bouncing, bluesy rocker. But like its A-side, the song ends with Elvis re­peating the title four times, each rep­e­ti­tion more dra­matic than the pre­vious.

Lew: This, of course, is the classic Neapolitan song O Sole Mio, but what I didn’t know is that (ac­cording to Wikipedia), Elvis got the idea of doing it not from the orig­inal, but from the 1949 adap­ta­tion by US singer Tony Martin. Also no­table here is the cha-cha-cha rhythm, which was hugely pop­ular in the US throughout the 1950s.

John: An­other key entry in the Ballad Rev­o­lu­tion, as is Are You Lone­some To-night? (see No­vember 26, 1960, entry). Both were recorded within days of I’m Sorry (see July 23, 1960, entry) as was Roy Orbison’s first big hit, Only The Lonely (Know How I Feel).

All in Nashville.

Neal: I love a good co­in­ci­dence: I wrote the line “sang it like there was no to­morrow” above be­fore I looked up the Tony Martin song which Lew men­tioned. And Mar­t­in’s 1949 adap­ta­tion of O Sole Mio was ti­tled There’s No To­morrow.

John: And there’s a good story with this one: Elvis had a little trouble nailing the whole song (es­pe­cially the high notes at the climax) in a single take. After a while, someone came over and as­sured him that it was al­right. They had a full recording, they would just splice a few takes to­gether.

E’s re­sponse was: Hoss, I’m gonna do it one take or not at all. As the story goes, he nailed it on the next take. That’s an­other reason why he was Elvis.

Neal: Due to copy­right is­sues, the re­lease of It’s Now Or Never was held up in the UK so RCA is­sued A Mess Of Blues as Pres­ley’s new single. It sold 600,000 copies, making it one of the biggest selling records of the year in the UK.

RCA Victor did not seek im­me­diate RIAA cer­ti­fi­ca­tion for an of­fi­cial Gold Record Award for It’s Now Or Never. This was rec­ti­fied on March 27, 1992, when it re­ceived a Gold Record Award for 500,000 sales and a Plat­inum Record Award for 1,000,000 sales.

• Bill­board Hot 100 #1: Yes (5 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Ac­cu­mu­lated sales: 20,000,000
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Yes

But do you like it?
John: ✯ ✯ ✯
Lew: ✯ ✯ ✯

Neal: ✯ ✯ ✯

 

Medium 45 1960 ChubbyChecker TheTwist 1960 600

Sep­tember 10–October 1

Chubby Checker
The Twist
Parkway P-811
(4 weeks)

Chubby Check­er’s The Twist was more than the first of the re­ally BIG dance craze records of the ’60s—it was a cul­tural phe­nom­enon that went global. Its ef­fects should not be un­der­es­ti­mated in that dancers were freed from the need to hold on to a partner and follow a pat­tern of steps while dancing. Once you learned how to twist, with a little tweaking you had your own dance!

And sud­denly a whole gen­er­a­tion was “ex­pressing them­selves” through dance.

Even wall­flowers like me!

(I know—nobody who knows me now be­lieves I was ever re­motely shy, but it’s true. Hell, I fell for a girl in 1967 and didn’t work up the courage to ask her out until 1997. But that’s an­other story.)

The Twist may be the most pop­ular dance song of all time: After spending four weeks at #1 in 1960, it dropped off the charts as all hit records do. A slew of twist-like dance records and fads came and went (the Mashed Potato, the Pony, the Wa­tusi, etc.) and then, eigh­teen months later, The Twist re­turned to the top and spent four more weeks at #1 (see Jan­uary 6, 1962, entry).

John: And all be­cause Dick Clark re­put­edly couldn’t get hold of Hank Ballard—who was spending his 9,000th con­sec­u­tive week on the road—for a gig on Amer­ican Band­stand. Clark needed some­body to do it.

The dance was taking off.

Had to have a record a singer could lip-synch to on the show.

Found Chubby.

To be fair, Hank was a great band­leader, but Chubby could out-sing him any day of the week.

Neal: As John noted above, the record and the dance have an in­ter­esting his­tory. In early 1959, King Records re­leased Hank Bal­lard & the Mid­nighters’ new single, the ballad Teardrops On Your Letter backed with the dance number The Twist. The A-side was a Top 10 hit on the R&B chart while the B-side made the Top 20. Nei­ther side made much of an im­pres­sion on the pop charts.

A year later, The Twist started get­ting a lot of at­ten­tion so King re-released the single in July 1960, this time pro­moting the B-side. Ex­actly what hap­pened next varies from source to source (and some­times varies a lot) but the gist of the story re­mains rea­son­ably con­stant:

Bal­lard got the idea for the song by ei­ther 1) watching Mid­nighters moving on stage or 2) watching kids dancing an un­named step on the floor while they played. Bal­lard and the Mid­nighters started doing the song with the dance at their shows as they toured America.

Ap­par­ently, the dance caught on in parts of the East Coast and came to the at­ten­tion of Dick Clark. He loved the song and the dance but ei­ther 1) couldn’t get Bal­lard onto his show due to the singer’s busy schedule, or 2) was wary of Bal­lard’s his­tory of sug­ges­tive songs like Sexy Ways and Work With Me Annie.

Clark had a good re­la­tion­ship with Philadel­phia’s Cameo-Parkway Records who had a young singer named Ernest Evans who recorded as Chubby Checker. He could do rea­son­able im­per­son­ations of such pop­ular stars of the time as Fats Domino, Elvis, and the Coasters.

Evans and a group of local studio mu­si­cians du­pli­cated the Bal­lard record, using the same key and the same tempo. Parkway rush-released the record and Evans sounded so much like Bal­lard that when Hank heard it on the radio he thought it was his own record!

Both the Bal­lard record and the Checker record de­buted at #82 on the Cash Box Top 100 on July 23, 1960, the same week that Bal­lard’s latest single Finger Poppin’ Time en­tered the Top 40. The next week, both records moved up to #42.

At this point, most his­to­rians credit Check­er’s Au­gust 6 ap­pear­ance on Amer­ican Band­stand as cat­a­pulting the song and the dance to the fore­front of teen’s at­ten­tion. But by the time Chubby ap­peared on Clark’s show, his ver­sion of The Twist had al­ready shot from #42 to #22 on the Cash Box Au­gust 6 chart (which had been com­piled the week be­fore the pub­li­ca­tion date) while Bal­lard’s ver­sion had dropped off the survey!

Sup­pos­edly, Bal­lard was not bitter to­ward Checker or Clark: as the song’s writer, he re­ceived mas­sive roy­alty checks from the use of the Checker ver­sion on count­less com­pi­la­tion al­bums.

For an even more de­tailed look at the Twist and every­thing that fol­lowed, check out “The Twist: Bal­lard’s Brain­child, Check­er’s Change of For­tune” on the Way Back At­tack web­site.

• Bill­board Hot 100 #1: Yes (4 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Ac­cu­mu­lated sales: Un­known
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: Yes
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No

But do you like it?
John: ✯ ✯ ✯
Lew: ✯ ✯

Neal: ✯ ✯ ✯

 

Medium 45 1960 ConnieFrancis MyHeartHasAMind PS 600 1

Medium 45 1960 ConnieFrancis MyHeartHasAMind 600

Oc­tober 8

Connie Francis
My Heart Has A Mind Of Its Own
MGM K-12923
(1 week)

My Heart Has A Mind Of Its Own is a nice pop record with a slight rock & roll beat that has Connie dou­bling up on her vocal to sing lead and har­mony. Hardly one of her best, yet it con­nected with a mil­lion record buyers in 1960.

John: I was luke­warm on Connie until very re­cently. I re­ally dis­cov­ered her (if that’s the right word) in my local diner where the con­sump­tion of the world’s best cheeseburger—two blocks away, how lucky am I?—is ac­com­pa­nied by a good mix of oldies from this very pe­riod.

She fits in with Elvis and Fats and Chuck way better than I would have as­sumed. And I al­ways knew she was a fine pop singer. Agree with Neal’s ar­gu­ment that Connie Francis should be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which is why they need to heed my long-standing call for a Veteran’s Com­mittee!

Neal: The Base­ball Hall of Fame has a time lim­i­ta­tion to the el­i­gi­bility of newly re­tired players (a mere ten years), after which they can no longer be elected by the gen­eral body of voters (the Base­ball Writers As­so­ci­a­tion of America, or BBWAA). The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame does not have such a re­stric­tion on el­i­gi­bility, so the nom­i­nating com­mittee and gen­eral body of voters func­tion pretty much the same as the var­ious vet­er­an’s com­mit­tees that Base­ball has used in the past.

For the many (seem­ingly) de­serving rhythm & blues, rock & roll, and pop artists, song­writers, and pro­ducers of the ’50s and ’60s, who have not been in­ducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, our best bet is to ei­ther:

1) con­vince the cur­rent nom­i­na­tors to re­con­sider their opin­ions, or
2) con­vince the Hall to re­place the cur­rent nom­i­na­tors.

I’m not holding my breath waiting for ei­ther to occur.

John: It’s true the Nom­i­nating Com­mittee does not have a time limit. Re­al­is­ti­cally, though, it has be­come harder and harder to get any hearing for de­serving artists from the ’50s and ’60s who slipped through the cracks. A Vet­erans’ Com­mittee could ad­dress this without these for­gotten artists having to go through a voting process that in­cludes an in­creasing number of younger voters who may not even know who they are!

Fi­nally, when it comes to Halls of Fame, I’d rather have some un­de­serving in than leave any de­serving out!

Neal: Amen.

• Bill­board Hot 100 #1: Yes (2 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Ac­cu­mu­lated sales: Un­known
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No

But do you like it?
John: ✯ ✯
Lew: ✯ ✯ ✯

Neal: ✯ ✯

 

Medium 45 1960 Drifters SaveTheLastDance 600

Oc­tober 15–November 19

The Drifters
Save The Last Dance For Me
At­lantic 45-2071
(6 weeks)

In 1958, the man­ager of the Drifters owned the rights to the group’s name and all the con­tracts upon which it ap­peared. He fired the en­tire group and then hired an­other quintet, the Five Crowns, and made them the new Drifters! This was a bril­liant move, as new lead singer Ben E. King was the best thing to happen to the Drifters since Clyde McPhatter formed the group in 1953.

King stayed with the group long enough to re­lease sev­eral classic sin­gles, no­tably There Goes My Baby (1959) and This Magic Mo­ment (1960). He then left the group for solo stardom and im­me­di­ately struck gold with Spanish Harlem (1960) and Stand By Me (1961).

Like many early rhythm & blues and rock & roll singers, he pur­sued “le­git­i­macy” by recording Tin Pan Alley chest­nuts, easy-listening pop, and even supper club songs. While this may seem crazy in hind­sight, at the time, the ca­reer of a Top 40 pop artist did not have a long lifespan.

Like many early rhythm & blues and rock & roll singers who pur­sued this course, his ca­reer fal­tered. By the middle of the decade, he could barely get his records played on the radio, in­cluding black radio.

He en­joyed a brief res­ur­rec­tion during the Disco Era of the ’70s. In 1986, Stand By Me was a hit for the second time when it was fea­tured on the sound­track to the movie Stand By Me.

John: I’m not fa­miliar with Ben’s easy-listening phase, though I imagine he was good at what­ever he did. He re­leased a lot of fine soul sides through the last half of the ’60s which, for what­ever reason, didn’t do much, even though he had helped in­vent the form on records like this one. Life and the record charts aren’t al­ways fair. This was one of the Drifters’ best from any phase and it doesn’t get any better than that.

• Bill­board Hot 100 #1: Yes (3 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Ac­cu­mu­lated sales: Un­known
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Yes

But do you like it?
John: ✯ ✯ ✯
Lew: ✯ ✯ ✯

Neal: ✯ ✯ ✯

 

Medium 45 1960 ElvisPresley Are YouLonesomeTonight PS 600 1

Medium 45 1960 ElvisPresley Are YouLonesomeTonight 600

No­vember 26–December 31

Elvis Presley
Are You Lone­some To-night?
RCA Victor 47-7810
(6 weeks)

Are You Lone­some To-night? was a 30-year-old chestnut re­put­edly done as a favor to Colonel Parker. Elvis sings it so con­vinc­ingly, so ten­derly, it could make a punk rocker weep. The spoken bridge (“I wonder if you’re lone­some tonight. You know, someone said that the world’s a stage and each of us must play a part”) would be out­landishly hokey coming from most singers but here, by Elvis, it is ac­tu­ally be­liev­able!

Pres­ley’s biggest selling single of the ’60s was It’s Now Or Never: Ac­cording to Joseph Mur­rells, it sold 20,000,000 copies, 5,000,000 in the US alone! Are You Lone­some To-night? sold 2,000,000 in the US yet it was a much bigger hit on both Cash Box and Bill­board. Which is why you can’t trust the charts to tell you any­thing mean­ingful about total sales, only rel­a­tive sales.

The flip-side was I Gotta Know, which been recorded in a more rock­a­billy manner by Eng­lish Elvis em­u­lator Cliff Richard on his 1959 album CLIFF SINGS. Had Pres­ley’s ver­sion been is­sued as an A-side, it prob­ably would have made #1 on its own. It is my go-to song to sing to myself—often out loud—when the world re­quires that I smile.

John: All three Elvis #1’s in this year were recorded in a span of a few weeks, right after he got out of the Army. At the same time, he also made two classic LPs, ELVIS IS BACK! and HIS HAND IN MINE, the latter recorded in a single night which might be the most re­mark­able vocal ses­sion in Amer­ican music.

The gospel album was so good, RCA Victor didn’t let one of its key tracks, Crying In The Chapel, out of the vault for five years. When they did re­lease it in 1965, it promptly went Top 5 on every chart and be­came his biggest hit be­tween 1963 and 1969. Elvis just out of the Army was some­thing to be­hold.

Neal: While it might seem like sac­ri­lege to some, I have to turn you on to co­me­dian Sam Kin­ison’s ren­di­tion of Are You Lone­some To-night? I am not a fan of Kin­ison and his ilk, but here he reaches below the con­trolled, po­lite sur­face of Pres­ley’s recording and finds the true pain of having your heart ripped out of your chest and stomped on by someone you thought you were going to spend the rest of your life with. A must-see!

RCA Victor did not seek im­me­diate RIAA cer­ti­fi­ca­tion for an of­fi­cial Gold Record Award for Are You Lone­some To-night? This was rec­ti­fied on April 15, 1983, when it re­ceived a Gold Record Award for 1,000,000 sales.

Fi­nally, I haven’t a clue as to why “Tonight” is spelled with a hy­phen as “To-night.”

• Bill­board Hot 100 #1: Yes (6 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Ac­cu­mu­lated sales: 4,000,000
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Yes

But do you like it?
John: ✯ ✯ ✯
Lew: ✯ ✯ ✯

Neal: ✯ ✯ ✯

Percy Faith’s ‘Theme from a Summer Place’ was the biggest hit of 1960 on the Cash Box Top 100. Find the other big hits of the year here! Click To Tweet

BrendaLee 1960 piano Billboard 1000

FEATURED ARTIST: The photo at the top of this page is Brenda Lee re­laxing (posing?) at the piano back­stage during one of her many con­certs in 1960. In the first four years of the ’60s, she would have ten Top 10 hits on the Cash Box Top 100. Then struggle to make it any­where near the top­per­most of the pop­per­most on the pop charts.

Brenda Lee was at the fore­front of what John Ross refers to as the “Ballad Rev­o­lu­tion,” a phe­nom­enon that has been ig­nored by most his­to­rians. John traces its origin back to the mid-’50s to the record­ings of Tony Williams of the Plat­ters and Elvis. He ar­gues that it kicked into high gear in 1960 with Brenda’s I’m Sorry and Presley’s Are You Lone­some To-Night? playing promi­nent roles.

Year-end observations

Fif­teen records reached #1 on the Cash Box Top 100 chart in 1960. (I counted the tie be­tween the Hol­ly­wood Ar­gyles and Dante & the Ever­greens’ ver­sions of Alley Oop as one record.) There had been four­teen #1 records in 1956 and fif­teen in ’57, the years when Elvis dom­i­nated the top of the charts.

In 1958, there had been nine­teen #1 records and but in ’59, only fif­teen again.

Here is the break­down of those chart-topping records based on how many weeks they spent at the top:

8 weeks: 1
7 weeks: 0
6 weeks: 2
5 weeks: 1
4 weeks: 3
3 weeks: 3
2 weeks: 2
1 week:   3

The Number One Record of the Year 1960 was The Theme From “A Summer Place” by Percy Faith with eight weeks at the top spot. Tied for second place with six weeks each at #1 were the Drifters’ Save The Last Dance For Me and Elvis Pres­ley’s Are You Lone­some To-night? While the Drifters record is pop in­fused with rhythm & blues, none of these big hits were ac­tu­ally rock & roll.

This mix of adult-oriented easy-listening, teen-oriented pop, and out-and-out nov­elty records ac­counted for eleven of the fif­teen chart-toppers) with some rock & roll and some rhythm & blues (two each) was the norm until the so-called British In­va­sion of 1964.

As men­tioned sev­eral times above, record buyers were still in­fat­u­ated with nov­elty records in the early ’60s. A working de­f­i­n­i­tion of that form might be com­ical record­ings that poked fun (satir­ical, ironic, or oth­er­wise) at cur­rent events, in­cluding pol­i­tics, fads, movies, celebri­ties, and even other hit records.

In 1960, Alley Oop was a nov­elty record while Run­ning Bear, Teen Angel, and Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini are so dated that they sound like nov­elty records fifty-odd years later. If we count trendy dance records as a kind of nov­elty record, then we can add The Twist to those four and we can see that one-third of the chart-topping hit records of 1960 were nov­elty records of some sort!

Gold Record Awards

Of the fif­teen records that reached #1, Joseph Mur­rells lists four­teen of them as million-sellers. Yet the artists, their man­age­ment, and their record com­pa­nies thought so little of the RIAA Gold Record Award that only one com­pany sought “of­fi­cial” cer­ti­fi­ca­tion for one record: Co­lumbia made sure that Percy Faith re­ceived his first of­fi­cial Gold Record for Theme From “A Summer Place.”

RIAA cer­ti­fi­ca­tion rate: 1%

 

Medium 45 1960 RoyOrbison OnlyTheLonely 600

After five years in the recording in­dustry with little suc­cess, in 1960 Roy Or­bison wrote and recorded  Only the Lonely (Know How I Feel) at RCA’s Studio B in Nashville, Ten­nessee. It was a huge hit and helped es­tab­lish the so-called Nashville Sound. Roy would have two #1 records on Cash Box in 1961 using the same studio, along the way con­tributing to what John calls the “Ballad Rev­o­lu­tion.”

Nashville on the Pop Charts

by John Ross

We should prob­ably men­tion that Nashville had a hu-u-u-ge year on the pop charts in 1960. Elvis, Brenda Lee, and the Everly Brothers had five #1 hits on Cash Box be­tween them, spending a total of twenty-one weeks at the top. It was even better on Bill­board, where seven #1 hits were pro­duced in Nashville and they spent twenty-five weeks at the top.

None of these big pop hits (ex­cept El Paso) was a big hit on country radio, al­though Stuck On You and Are You Lone­some To-night? made it into the Top 30. That was be­cause in 1958—coincidentally or not, just when Elvis en­tered the Army—Nashville had cracked down on “cross-over hits” from the pop charts to the country.

If you ran a country sta­tion and in­sisted on playing records that were also being pro­moted to pop (or, God forbid, rhythm & blues) sta­tions, then the record com­pa­nies would not de­liver their country product to your sta­tion. The im­pli­ca­tions for Amer­ican music and cul­ture were not in­signif­i­cant.

Like a lot of bad things, it had nothing to do with what the public wanted—country fans didn’t stop liking Brenda Lee and the Everly Brothers overnight—and every­thing to do with cramped souls in cor­po­rate board­rooms de­ciding it was okay to lose money.

The im­por­tant thing was to re­tain con­trol. So they did and so they have, down to this very day.

1960 was a very in­ter­esting year in­deed.

 

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