Saturday, December 31, 2016

America’s Pop Music Hall of Fame

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America’s Pop Music Hall of Fame launched in 2012 with a list of 40 nominees for potential induction. To be eligible for the Hall, an act must have charted between 1946 and 1975. There’s no indication of what chart – the site simply says “national charts.” An actual structure for the Hall was supposed to open in a modest 3000-square foot space in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania (just outside Pittsburgh) in time for the first ceremony, but as of this post, that had yet to happen. The city, which boasts native sons Perry Como and Bobby Vinton, calls itself the country’s “small town musical capital.” Here are the inductees from 2013 to 2017:


50 Years Ago Today: The Monkees’ hit #1 with “I’m a Believer”

First posted 3/1/2012; updated 12/24/2019.

I’m a Believer

The Monkees

Writer(s): Neil Diamond (see lyrics here)

Released: November 12, 1966

First Charted: December 3, 1966

Peak: 17 US, 18 CB, 15 HR, 14 UK, 12 CN, 11 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales *: 1.0 US, 0.4 UK, 10.0 world (includes US + UK)

Radio Airplay *: --

Video Airplay *: 21.28

Streaming *: --

* in millions


Jeff Barry discovered Neil Diamond singing in a coffee house in Greenwich Village. BR1-216 They became two of the biggest talents for the hit-making machine known as the Brill Building. Diamond has become one of the most successful singer/songwriters, ranking #3 all-time on the adult contemporary charts and in the top 25 for the pop charts. However, his biggest success came via a made-for-television group.

That group, the Monkees, were modeled after the playful spirit of the Beatles’ movies. JA-95 While they fought to play their own songs, producers limited the Monkees to singing and brought in session musicians for the instruments. SF The show, which aired from 1966 to 1968, propelled the Monkees to the top of the charts with debut single “Last Train to Clarksville.”

When publisher Don Kirshner was seeking a million-selling follow-up, he turned to Barry and Elle Greenwich, Diamond’s producers, after hearing Diamond’s top 10 hit “Cherry Cherry” on the radio. BR1-216 Kirshner picked out several songs Diamond was prepping for his next album, among them “I’m a Believer.” The head of Diamond’s record company couldn’t believe he’d give away potential number ones, but, as Diamond says, “I couldn’t have cared less because I had to pay the rent.” SF After all, Diamond intended to give the song to country artist Eddy Arnold. KL-129

In the Monkees’ hands, the song became the biggest hit of 1966 WHC-91 and “one of the Hot 100’s finest specimens of pure pop genius.” BB100 The song went to #1 for 7 weeks in the U.S. and sold 10 million copies worldwide, making it one of the world’s all-time best-selling songs. Diamond still recorded the song, releasing it on his 1967 album Just for You and as a single in 1971, peaking at #51. The song resurfaced in 2001 when the alternative rock group Smash Mouth recorded it for the movie Shrek and took it to #25 on the pop charts.

Resources and Related Links:


Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Top 100 Songs of the Pre-Rock Era (1890-1953)

cover for Top 100 Songs of the Pre-Rock Era book

This is a companion book to The Top 100 Songs of the Rock Era, 1954-1999, available at as a standard book or ebook!

When I was in the beginning stages of The Top 100 Songs of the Rock Era, 1954-1999, the intent was to write a “top 100 songs of all time” book. As I quickly discovered, most lists which proclaimed to offer the best of all time are really focused on the latter half of the second century. I decided to retool my project to focus on those years with the idea that I would later roll out another book focused on the pre-rock era.

That book is still in the works, but I thought I’d roll out the list as it stands now as a teaser. As always with DMDB lists, the rankings are determined by aggregating multiple best-of lists and factoring in songs’ sales, chart stats, and awards. It should be noted that in the pre-rock era there were often multiple versions of a song. In fact, some best-of lists did not list a specific version. When the latter occurred, all versions of a song were given points. Once all points were compiled, only the top version of a song was included in this list.

The Top 100 Songs of the Pre-Rock Era (1890-1953)

1. White Christmas… Bing Crosby (1942)
2. Over the Rainbow… Judy Garland (1939)
3. Night and Day…Fred Astaire (1932)
4. Alexander’s Ragtime Band…Arthur Collins with Byron Harlan (1911)
5. In the Mood…Glenn Miller (1939)
6. Star Dust…Artie Shaw (1941)
7. Cheek to Cheek…Fred Astaire (1935)
8. St. Louis Blues…Bessie Smith with Louis Armstrong (1925)
9. My Blue Heaven…Gene Austin (1927)
10. Begin the Beguine…Artie Shaw (1938)

11. Over There…American Quartet (1917)
12. Whispering…Paul Whiteman (1920)
13. Swanee…Al Jolson (1920)
14. April Showers…Al Jolson (1922)
15. Stormy Weather (Keeps Rainin' All the Time)…Ethel Waters (1933)
16. You’re a Grand Old Flag (aka “The Grand Old Rag”)…Billy Murray (1906)
17. Let Me Call You Sweetheart…Peerless Quartet (1911)
18. All the Things You Are…Tommy Dorsey with Jack Leonard (1939)
19. The Way You Look Tonight…Fred Astaire (1936)
20. Sweet Adeline (You’re the Flower of My Heart)…Haydn Quartet (1904)

21. Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer…Gene Autry (1949)
22. Tennessee Waltz…Patti Page (1950)
23. Pennies from Heaven…Bing Crosby (1936)
24. Peg O’ My Heart…The Harmonicats (1947)
25. As Time Goes By…Dooley Wilson (1942)
26. Paper Doll…The Mills Brothers (1942)
27. Ol’ Man River…Paul Robeson (1928)
28. You Made Me Love You (I Didn't Want to Do It)…Al Jolson (1913)
29. Take Me Out to the Ball Game…Billy Murray with the Haydn Quartet (1908)
30. Body and Soul…Coleman Hawkins (1940)

31. Moonlight Bay…American Quartet (1912)
32. Dardanella…Ben Selvin (1920)
33. Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis…Billy Murray (1904)
34. Give My Regards to Broadway…Billy Murray (1905)
35. You Belong to Me…Jo Stafford (1952)
36. By the Light of the Silvery Moon…Billy Murray with Haydn Quartet (1910)
37. Ain’t Misbehavin’…Thomas “Fats” Waller (1929)
38. Goodnight Irene…The Weavers (1950)
39. Tea for Two…Marion Harris (1925)
40. A-Tisket, A-Tasket…Ella Ftizgerald with Chick Webb (1938)

41. Mood Indigo…Duke Ellington (1931)
42. The Prisoner’s Song…Vernon Dalhart (1925)
43. Riders in the Sky (A Cowboy Legend)…Vaughn Monroe (1949)
44. In the Good Old Summertime…Haydn Quartet (1903)
45. Sentimental Journey…Les Brown with Doris Day (1945)
46. I’ll Never Smile Again…Tommy Dorsey with Frank Sinatra (1940)
47. Near You…Francis Craig with Bob Lamm (1947)
48. I Can’t Give You Anything But Love…Cliff Edwards (1928)
49. Shine on, Harvest Moon…Harry MacDonough with Miss Walton (1909)
50. School Days (When We Were a Couple of Kids)…Byron Harlan (1907)

51. Chattanooga Choo Choo…Glenn Miller (1941)
52. The Christmas Song…Nat “King” Cole (1946)
53. It Had to Be You…Isham Jones (1924)
54. When You Wish Upon a Star…Cliff Edwards (1940)
55. Happy Days Are Here Again…Ben Selvin (1930)
56. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes…Paul Whiteman with Bob Lawrence (1933)
57. Tiger Rag…Original Dixieland Jazz Band (1918)
58. God Bless America…Kate Smith (1939)
59. How High the Moon…Les Paul with Mary Ford (1951)
60. Blue Moon…Glen Gray with Kenny Sargent (1935)

61. I Got Rhythm...Red Nichols (1930)
62. Mona Lisa… Nat “King” Cole (1950)
63. Buttons and Bows…Dinah Shore & Her Harper Valley Boys (1948)
64. Yankee Doodle Boy…Billy Murray (1905)
65. Till We Meet Again…Henry Burr with Albert Campbell (1919)
66. I’ll Be Seeing You…Bing Crosby (1944)
67. When Irish Eyes Are Smiling…Chauncey Olcott (1913)
68. Bill Bailey, Won’t You Please Come Home…Arthur Collins (1902)
69. It’s a Long, Long Way to Tipperary…John McCormack (1915)
70. Always…George Olsen with Fran Frey, Bob Rice, & Edward Joye (1926)

71. Deep Purple…Larry Clinton with Bea Wain (1939)
72. The Gypsy…The Ink Spots (1946)
73. Strange Fruit…Billie Holiday (1939)
74. Rock-a-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody…Al Jolson (1918)
75. My Gal Sal…Byron Harlan (1907)
76. Swinging on a Star…Bing Crosby (1944)
77. Sonny Boy…Al Jolson (1928)
78. Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie…Byron Harlan (1906)
79. Ain’t We Got Fun?...Van & Schenck (1921)
80. I’ve Heard That Song Before…Harry James with Helen Forrest (1943)

81. Frenesi…Artie Shaw (1940)
82. Casey Jones… American Quartet with Billy Murray (1910)
83. On the Sunny Side of the Street…Ted Lewis (1930)
84. I’m in the Mood for Love...Little Jack Little (1935)
85. Someone to Watch Over Me...Gertrude Lawrence (1927)
86. Twelfth Street Rag...Pee Wee Hunt (1948)
87. After You’ve Gone…Marion Harris (1919)
88. Some Enchanted Evening...Perry Como (1949)
89. For Me and My Gal…Judy Garland with Gene Kelly (1942)
90. Darktown Strutters’ Ball...Arthur Collins & Byron Harlan (1918)

91. My Melancholy Baby... Gene Austin (1928)
92. Blues in the Night (My Mama Done Tol’ Me)...Woody Herman (1941)
93. I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now…Henry Burr (1909)
94. Silent Night…Bing Crosby (1935)
95. Put on Your Old Grey Bonnet…Haydn Quartet (1909)
96. In My Merry Oldsmobile…Billy Murray (1905)
97. Down by the Old Mill Stream…Harry MacDonough (1911)
98. Blue Skies...Ben Selvin (1927)
99. Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?...Rudy Vallee (1932)
100. Take the “A” Train…Duke Ellington (1941)

Monday, December 19, 2016

Grammy Lifetime Achievement and Trustees Awards

  • First posted December 12, 2012. Updated December 19, 2016.

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    Lifetime Achievement Award

    As stated at, the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award is selected by a vote of the Recording Academy’s National Trustees. It is given to those “who, during their lifetimes, have made creative contributions of outstanding artistic significance to the field of recording.” The first recipient was Bing Crosby in 1962.

    The Grammys also give out a The Trustees Award. Click for more details. All Lifetime Achievement honorees are listed below.








    • Charlie Haden (2013)
    • Merle Haggard (2006)
    • Herbie Hancock (2016)
    • George Harrison (2015)
    • Roy Haynes (2011)
    • Jascha Heifetz (1989)
    • Jimi Hendrix (1992)
    • Woody Herman (1987)
    • Billie Holiday (1987)
    • Buddy Holly (1997)
    • John Lee Hooker (2000)
    • Lightnin’ Hopkins (2013)
    • Lena Horne (1989)
    • Vladimir Horowitz (1990)
    • The Isley Brothers (2014)





    • Willie Nelson (2000)
    • Jessye Norman (2006)
    • Roy Orbison (1998)
    • Patti Page (2013)
    • Charlie Parker (1984)
    • Dolly Parton (2011)
    • Tom Paxton (2009)
    • Pinetop Perkins (2005)
    • Itzhak Perlman (2008)
    • Oscar Peterson (1997)
    • Maud Powell (2014)
    • Elvis Presley (1971)
    • André Previn (2010)
    • Leontyne Price (1989)
    • Charley Pride (2017)
    • Richard Pryor (2006)
    • Tito Puente (2003)


    • The Ramones (2011)
    • Otis Redding (1999)
    • Max Roach (2008)
    • Paul Robeson (1998)
    • Smokey Robinson (1999)
    • Jimmie Rodgers (2017)
    • The Rolling Stones (1986)
    • Sonny Rollins (2004)
    • Linda Ronstadt (2016)
    • Diana Ross (2012)
    • Artur Rubinstein (1994)
    • Run-D.M.C. (2016)


    • Gil Scott-Heron (2012)
    • Earl Scruggs (2008)
    • Pete Seeger (1993)
    • Andrés Segovia (1986)
    • Ravi Shankar (2013)
    • Artie Shaw (2004)
    • George Beverly Shea (2011)
    • Wayne Shorter (2015)
    • Simon & Garfunkel (2003)
    • Nina Simone (2017)
    • Frank Sinatra (1965)
    • Bessie Smith (1989)
    • Georg Solti (1996)
    • The Staple Singers (2005)
    • Isaac Stern (1987)
    • Sylvester “Sly Stone” Stewart (2017)
    • Igor Stravinksy (1987)
    • Barbra Streisand (1995)


    • Art Tatum (1989)
    • The Temptations (2013)
    • Clark Terry (2010)
    • Mel Tormé (1999)
    • Arturo Toscanini (1987)
    • Sarah Vaughan (1989)
    • Velvet Underground (2017)


    Trustees Award

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    The Grammys also give a Trustees Award to individuals who have significantly contributed to music in ways other than performance. This would imply that the Lifetime Achievement Award is a performers-only award and that no performers have won the Trustees Award, but the line is not that clearly defined. In fact, a handful of people have received both awards (Burt Bacharach, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Carole King, Frank Sinatra, Georg Solti). Here is a list of recipients of the Trustees Award from its inception in 1967:


    • Chris Albertson (1971)
    • Herb Alpert (1997)
    • Harold Arlen (1987)
    • George Avakian (2009)
    • Clarence Avant (2008)
    • Estelle Axton (2007)


    • Burt Bacharach (1997)
    • Dave Bartholomew (2012)
    • Béla Bartok (1984)
    • Count Basie (1981)
    • The Beatles (1972)
    • Al Bell (2011)
    • Alan Bergman (2013)
    • Marilyn Bergman (2013)
    • Emile Berliner (1987)
    • Chris Blackwell (2006)
    • Harold Bradley (2010)
    • Owen Bradley (2006)


    • John Cage (2016)
    • Hoagy Carmichael (2005)
    • Elliott Carter (2009)
    • Leonard Chess (2013)
    • Phil Chess (2013)
    • Dick Clark (1990)
    • Aaron Copland (1981)
    • Don Cornelius (2005)
    • Pierre Cossette (1995)
    • John Culshaw (1967)


    • Hal David (1997)
    • Clive Davis (2000)
    • Walt Disney (1989)
    • Thomas A. Dorsey (1992)
    • Tom Dowd (2002)
    • Lamont Dozier (1998)
    • Thomas A. Edison (1977)
    • Duke Ellington (1968)
    • Ahmet Ertegun (1993)
    • Nesuhi Ertegun (1995)


    • Christine M. Farnon (1992)
    • Wilma Cozart Fine (2011)
    • Fred Foster (2016)
    • Alan Freed (2002)
    • Milt Gabler (1991)
    • Kenneth Gamble (1999)
    • George Gershwin (1986)
    • Ira Gershwin (1986)
    • Gerry Goffin (2004)
    • Berry Gordy Jr. (1991)
    • Norman Granz (1994)
    • Florence Greenberg (2010)


    • Rick Hall (2014)
    • Oscar Hammerstein II (1992)
    • John Hammond (1971)
    • W.C. Handy (1993)
    • Lorenz Hart (1992)
    • Larry Hiller (1971)
    • Brian Holland (1998)
    • Eddie Holland (1998)
    • Jac Holzman (2008)
    • Leon Huff (1999)


    • Steve Jobs (2012)
    • Eldridge R. Johnson (1985)
    • Quincy Jones (1989)
    • Orrin Keepnews (2004)
    • Jerome Kern (1987)
    • Carole King (2004)


    • Jerry Leiber (1999)
    • Alan Jay Lerner (1999)
    • Goddard Lieberson (1979)
    • Alfred Lion (2005)
    • Alan Livingston (2013)
    • Frederick Loewe (1999)
    • Alan Lomax (2003)
    • Bruce Lundvall (2011)


    • Barry Mann (2015)
    • Arif Mardin (2001)
    • Jim Marshall (2014)
    • George Martin (1996)
    • Cosimo Matassa (2007)
    • Marian McPartland (2004)
    • Johnny Mercer (1987)
    • Walter C. Miller (2010)
    • Willie Mitchell (2008)
    • Robert Moog (1970)
    • Ennio Morricone (2014)
    • Jerry Moss (1997)
    • New York Philharmonic (2003)


    • Les Paul (1983)
    • Krzysztof Penderecki (1968)
    • Richard Perry (2015)
    • Sam Phillips (1991)
    • Cole Porter (1989)
    • Frances Preston (1998)
    • Phil Ramone (2001)
    • Richard Rodgers (1998)


    • Al Schmitt (2006)
    • George T. Simon (1993)
    • Frank Sinatra (1979)
    • Georg Solti (1967)
    • Stephen Sondheim (2007)
    • Phil Spector (2000)
    • Leopold Stokowski (1977)
    • Mike Stoller (1999)
    • Chris Strachwitz (2016)
    • Billy Strayhorn (1968)


    • Dr. Billy Taylor (2005)
    • Allen Toussaint (2009)
    • Rudy Van Gelder (2012)
    • Cynthia Weil (2015)
    • George Wein (2015)
    • Paul Weston (1971)

  • Sunday, December 18, 2016

    12/18/1909: “Put on Your Old Grey Bonnet” becomes Haydn Quartet’s 11th #1

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    Haydn Quartet “Put on Your Old Grey Bonnet”

    Writer(s): Stanley Murphy/ Percy Weinrich (see lyrics here)

    First charted: 12/11/1909

    Peak: 111 US, 13 GA (Click for codes to singles charts.)

    Sales (in millions): 1.0 (sheet music sales)

    Radio Airplay (in millions): -- Video Airplay (in millions): --

    Review: The song which was originally rejected for having “no popular appeal” PS became the biggest song of 1909 WHC-16 and “a favorite of barbershop quartets and community sings.” JA-161 It was also the longest-running #1 for the Haydn Quartet, which included big names like Billy Murray and Harry MacDonough. They charted more than 60 hits from 1898 to 1914, including twelve trips to the top of the charts. However, their version of “Bonnet” was the biggest of their #1 hits.

    Arthur Clough and Byron Harlan each took the song to the top ten in 1910. Over a quarter century later, Jimmie Lunceford took the song back to the charts, peaking at #11 in 1937. The song was also covered by Pearl Bailey, Tommy Dorsey, Coleman Hawkins, Ethel Merman, the Mills Brothers, and Hank Snow.

    The memorable lyrics were scribed by Stanley Murphy, who would have success penning words for a variety of composers. Amongst his hits were “Be My Little Baby Bumble Bee” (1912), “Oh How She Could Yacki, Hacki, Wicki, Wacki, Woo” (1916), and “Sugar Moon” (1910).

    Ragtime/tin pan alley composer Percy Weinrich worked with Murphy on “Sugar Moon” as well as “Bonnet.” PS He also composed “Wabash Avenue After Dark” (1909), “When You Wore a Tulip and I Wore a Big Red Rose” (1914), and “Minnetonka” (1921). Revenue from the hit allowed Weinrich to focus on composition and supporting the vaudevillian career of his wife, Dolly Connolly. PS

    Resources and Related Links:

    Note: Footnotes (raised letter codes) refer to sources frequently cited on the blog. Numbers following the letter code indicate page numbers. If the raised letter code is a link, it will go directly to the correct page instead of the home page of a website. You can find the sources and corresponding footnotes on the “Lists” page in the “Song Resources” section.


    Sunday, December 11, 2016

    12/11/1911: Harry MacDonough charts with “Down by the Old Mill Stream”

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    Harry MacDonough “Down by the Old Mill Stream”

    Writer(s): Tell Taylor (see lyrics here)

    First charted: 12/11/1911

    Peak: 17 US, 13 GA (Click for codes to singles charts.)

    Sales (in millions): 6.0 (sheet music sales)

    Radio Airplay (in millions): -- Video Airplay (in millions): --

    Review: With hundreds of songs under his belt, Tell Taylor was “one of the powerhouses in musical composition during the early 20th century,” PS but of all his songs, probably none is more familiar than “Down by the Old Mill Stream.” He wrote it in 1908 while sitting on the banks of the Blanchard River in Ohio, WK although it has been reported that it was modeled on “Down by the Old Stream,” a Joseph P. Skelly song from 1874. SS-436 The lyrical focus is on someone older looking back on a lifelong romance, but true to form for post-1900 songs, it focuses more on reality than sentiment. SS-436

    Musically, MacDonough’s version was unique in that he sang the first half with an orchestra, but then the orchestra is replaced by a quartet – most likely the Haydn Quartet, of which MacDonough was a member. The rest of the song is then handled a cappella by the quartet. SS-436 That combination of four-part harmony alongside the “beautifully flowing melody with romantic lyrics” PS made the song a barbershop quartet favorite RCG and arguably the song that defines that genre. PS

    The song was one of only four from 1890-1954 to sell 5 million in sheet music. PM-634 One of those, “Let Me Call You Sweetheart,” shares other traits with “Stream.” Both songs were published in 1910 and first charted in 1911. The first chart versions of each were by Arthur Clough. Usually the first charted version of a song was the biggest, but the Peerless Quartet and Harry MacDonough each topped the chart for seven weeks with, respectively, their recordings of “Sweetheart” and “Old Mill Stream,” leaving poor Arthur Clough the dubious distinction of also-ran status – twice.

    “The song was originally published with not only the piano version but also with an arrangement for male vocal quartet.” PS The song resurfaced in the 1936 film Her Master’s Voice JA-51 and the Mills Brothers revived the song in the 1940s “with a more swinging style to it.” RCG In 1965, Alvin and the Chipmunks recorded the song and Snoopy played the song in the 2000 animated special It’s the Pied Piper, Charlie Brown. WK

    Resources and Related Links:

    Note: Footnotes (raised letter codes) refer to sources frequently cited on the blog. Numbers following the letter code indicate page numbers. If the raised letter code is a link, it will go directly to the correct page instead of the home page of a website. You can find the sources and corresponding footnotes on the “Lists” page in the “Song Resources” section.


    Tuesday, December 6, 2016

    12/6/1930: Red Nichols charts with “I Got Rhythm”

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    Red Nichols “I Got Rhythm”

    Writer(s): George Gershwin/ Ira Gershwin (see lyrics here)

    First charted: 12/6/1930

    Peak: 5 US, 16 GA (Click for codes to singles charts.)

    Sales (in millions): -- US, -- UK, -- world (includes US and UK)

    Radio Airplay (in millions): -- Video Airplay (in millions): --

    Review: “I Got Rhythm” was originally written for 1928’s Treasure Girl, but didn’t get used. SB George Gershwin took the initial slower melody and upped the tempo. TY-55 The song surfaced again in the 1930 show Girl Crazy, featuring a 21-year-old Ethel Merman TM in her Broadway debut. MM-164 “With a clarion contralto that could shatter glass and shoo away the blues,” TM she made the song into a “perky spirit rouser in the first year of the Great Depression.” TM

    Merman also reportedly stole the limelight from Ginger Rogers, who was featured in her first leading role singing two of the show’s other classics, “Embraceable You” and “But Not for Me.” SB Merman would serve as the “sassy muse” in Cole Porter’s Anything Goes, Irving Berlin’s Annie Get Your Gun, and Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim’s Gypsy. TM

    Red Nichols, who led the show’s all-star orchestra including Jimmy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Gene Krupa, and Glenn Miller, SB also charted with the song, taking it to #5. Ethel Waters and Louis Armstrong each took the song to #17. The Happenings revived it in 1967 with their #3 JA-84 million-selling version. SB Others to tackle it include Bobby Darin, Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland, Erroll Garner, Lena Horne, Django Reinhadt, Sarah Vaughn, Fats Waller, Roger Williams, and Teddy Wilson. MM-164

    The song is “probably the most widely heard Gershwin song and the one most commonly recorded by instrumentalists.” SB It is “a standout for jazz performers” JA-84 who “must know intuitively its changes and its plain AABA architecture, a matrix for improvisation as essential as the twelve-bar blues.” MM-164 Jazz artists Sidney Bechet, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, and Charlie Parker all used variations of the song’s rhythm changes for improvisation. SB Will Friedwald, author of Stardust Melodies, says, “It would be impossible to name a melody or set of chord sequences that has withstood more interpretations and variations.” SB

    Resources and Related Links:

    Note: Footnotes (raised letter codes) refer to sources frequently cited on the blog. Numbers following the letter code indicate page numbers. If the raised letter code is a link, it will go directly to the correct page instead of the home page of a website. You can find the sources and corresponding footnotes on the “Lists” page in the “Song Resources” section.


    Saturday, December 3, 2016

    12/3/1949: Gene Autry charts with “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”

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    Gene Autry with the Pinafores “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”

    Writer(s): Johnny Marks (see lyrics here)

    First charted: 12/3/1949

    Peak: 11 US, #12 HP, 6 GA, 43 HR, 24 AC, 11 CW, 16 UK (Click for codes to singles charts.)

    Sales (in millions): 10.0 US, -- UK, 18.0 world (includes US and UK)

    Radio Airplay (in millions): -- Video Airplay (in millions): --

    Review: The inescapable Christmas classic about Rudolph and his once-mocked red nose saving the day started life as a story Robert L. May conceived to help his daughter cope with her mother’s terminal cancer. The character took the form of a reindeer after May visited the Lincoln Park Zoo and saw how cute the animal was. He had been tasked by Sewill Avery, the owner of the Montgomery Wards in Chicago, to develop a marketing idea to attract customers. May wrote up the story and company artist Denver Gillen illustrated it. At Christmas, children received a booklet at the store when they visited Santa. More than 2.5 million were given away in 1939. In 1946, 3.5 million copies were printed. LW-92

    In 1949, May’s brother-in-law, Johnny Marks (who’d previously written songs like the Ink Spots’ “Address Unknown”), turned the story into a song. It was repeatedly rejected until Gene Autry agreed to record it because his wife liked it. LW-92 He’d launched his career in the 1920s as a cowboy in Hollywood westerns, but had also became well known as “The Singing Cowboy” for his country hits in the 1930s and ‘40s with songs like “That Silver-Haired Daddy of Mine.”

    The song was launched with a “vigorous multi-media promotion” SS-762 which included a Max Fleischer animated short. By the end of the holiday season, the song had sold 1.3 million copies in the U.S. plus another 400,000 of the plastic “kid-disc” version. SS-762

    In the pre-rock era, the song is second only to Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” in terms of sales. PM-40 With no official sales tallies, the song has been reported to have sold as many as 60 million copies by 1970, AMP a figure which would actually eclipse “White Christmas.” It may be that the number reflects all versions of the song. Certainly it has been recorded multiple times – Bing Crosby and Spike Jones both had hits with it in 1950. PM-631 The Chipmunks had a #21 hit with it in 1960 and the Melodeers, Paul Anka, and The Temptations have also charted with the song. HT-1232

    Resources and Related Links:

    Note: Footnotes (raised letter codes) refer to sources frequently cited on the blog. Numbers following the letter code indicate page numbers. If the raised letter code is a link, it will go directly to the correct page instead of the home page of a website. You can find the sources and corresponding footnotes on the “Lists” page in the “Song Resources” section.


    Friday, December 2, 2016

    12/2/1911: Peerless Quartet hit #1 for the first time with “Let Me Call You Sweetheart”

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    Peerless Quartet “Let Me Call You Sweetheart”

    Writer(s): Leo Friedman, Beth Slater Whitson (see lyrics here)

    First charted: 11/4/1911

    Peak: 17 US, 12 GA (Click for codes to singles charts.)

    Sales (in millions): 6.0 US (sheet music sales)

    Radio Airplay (in millions): -- Video Airplay (in millions): --

    Review: As a group and individual members, the Peerless Quartet landed over fifty number one songs. “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” was the first of six trips to the top for the Peerless Quartet, which grew out of the Columbia Male Quartet. Henry Burr hit #1 sixteen times on his own and another eight times with Peerless mate Albert Campbell, who also had a trio of chart toppers on his own. Steve Porter, who had four solo #1 songs, was replaced by Arthur Collins in 1909, who’d already landed twelve solo #1’s. He also reached the summit another dozen times with duet partner Byron Harlan. Frank Stanley, who had three solo excursions to the pinnacle, died in 1910.

    “Sweetheart” was “a tremendous hit in vaudeville” JA-117 which “became a favourite around player pianos and community sings.” RCG It “is a straightforward declaration of love that came to be more of a sing-a-long than a ballad. Lou Friedman wrote the music in a waltzing tone while Beth Slater Whitson wrote the lyrics, [in] which he proclaims his love and asks the other to ‘whisper that you love me too.’” RCG

    With over 6 million sales of the sheet music, it is one of the top ten best selling sheet music songs of the first half of the century. PM-634 Among its “thousands of mainstream appearances” WK are versions by Les Baxter, Pat Boone, Arthur Clough (#2, 1911) Bing Crosby, The Four Lads, Mantovani, Gordon MacRae, The Mills Brothers, Patti Page, Nat Shilkret, Tiny Tim, Slim Whitman, Bob Wills, and Neil Young.

    Big screen performances include Victor Moore in Make Way for Tomorrow (1937), Oliver Hardy in Swiss Miss (1938), Betty Grable in Coney Island (1943), Bette Midler in The Rose (1979), and George Hearn in Barney’s Great Adventure (1998).

    Resources and Related Links:

    Note: Footnotes (raised letter codes) refer to sources frequently cited on the blog. Numbers following the letter code indicate page numbers. If the raised letter code is a link, it will go directly to the correct page instead of the home page of a website. You can find the sources and corresponding footnotes on the “Lists” page in the “Song Resources” section.