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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

11/29/1941: Glenn Miller hits #1 with “Chattanooga Choo Choo”

image from barnesandnoble.com


Glenn Miller with Tex Beneke & the Four Modernaires “Chattanooga Choo Choo”


Writer(s): Mack Gordon/ Harry Warren (see lyrics here)

First charted: 9/13/1941

Peak: 19 US, 12 HP, 12 GA (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.2 US

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


Review: The team of Mack Gordon and Harry Warren wrote the song while travelling on the Southern Railway. “Chattanooga Choo Choo” didn’t refer to a particular train, but Chattanooga, Tennessee, had been on the route for most trains passing through the American South since 1880. WK The song was used in the film Sun Valley Serenade, a story about a train travelling south from New York. SS-603 Tex Beneke and Paul Kelly from Glenn Miller’s band sang the song in the film with the Modernaires – but actress Dorothy Dandridge lent her pipes to the song in the film as well. SS-603 It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song from a movie in 1941.

A week after finishing work on the movie, the band went into the studio to record “Chattanooga Choo Choo.” SS-603 It became Miller’s biggest hit after “In the Mood.” In Recorded Music in American Life, William Howland Kenney notes how the song resonated with GI’s coming home. It reminded them “of the excitement of entering Penn Station, ticket in hand for a trip home, getting a shine, hopping board and…eat[ing] and drink[ing] while watching the Carolina countryside flash by.” SS-603

“Chattanooga” achieved the distinction of being the first record to be formally certified as a million seller. PM-311 although Gene Austin’s “My Blue Heaven” had accomplished the feat a dozen years earlier. SS-603 To celebrate the event, RCA Victor presented a gold-laquered facsimile disc to Miller on February 10, 1942. TY-105 Years later the Recording Industry Association of America picked up on the idea and awarded gold records to million-sellers. SS-603

In addition to Miller’s #1 version of the song in 1941, it found success in 1962 with Floyd Cramer’s #36 version and again in 1978 when the female disco quartet Tuxedo Junction took the song to #32. JA-35 Others who rcorded the song include the Andrews Sisters, George Benson, Cab Calloway, Ray Charles, Harry Connick Jr., Ray Conniff, John Denver, Bill Haley & the Coments, the Muppets, Oscar Peterson, Elvis Presley, and Hank Snow. WK “It remains a vocal-group standard.” JA-35


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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.


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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

11/23/1946: Nat “King” Cole charted with “The Christmas Song”

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Nat “King” Cole “The Christmas Song (Chesnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)”


Writer(s): Mel Torme/Robert Wells (see lyrics here)

First charted: 11/23/1946

Peak: 3 US, 16 AC, 3 RB, 45 HR (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US

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


Review: A Two-time Grammy winner Mel Tormé had a career spanning more than 50 years. Because of “his smooth and caressing crooning style” SHOF he was nicknamed “The Velvet Fog.” When he wrote “The Christmas Song,” however, he was at the beginning of his career. He was 19 and his friend Robert Wells was 22 when they wrote what BMI says is the most-performed Christmas song of all time. SB According to Tormé, they penned the song in the heart of summer, trying to “stay cool by thinking cool.” SB

Tormé and Nat “King” Cole were both managed by Carlos Gastel. Tormé and Wells presented the song to Cole, who was used to recording with the King Cole Trio, which he’d established in 1937. Cole served as pianist alongside guitarist Oscar Moore and bassist Wesley Prince. Gastel and the executives at Capitol Records insisted Cole should record with strings and a studio orchestra – and suggested Cole stand and sing instead of taking up his usual position behind the keyboard. SS-66

Despite the objections of Capitol Records, Cole made two recordings – the first with the Trio in June 1946 and the second, in August, WK with a small section of strings. It was the latter which became the “seasonal classic,” AMP peaking at #3, but returning every season. In 1953, Cole recorded the song again with the same arrangement, but this time with a full orchestra arranged and conducted by Nelson Riddle. JA-37 He recorded it again in 1961 with an orchestra conducted by Ralph Carmichael. SB

“The Christmas Song” ranks as the fifth most-recorded song of the rock era. SS-66 Other artists who recorded the song include Christina Aguilera, Julie Andrews, Tony Bennett, Justin Bieber, Michael Bolton, Garth Brooks, James Brown, Chicago, Natalie Cole, Bing Crosby, Doris Day, John Denver, Celine Dion, Bob Dylan, Gloria Estefan, Aretha Franklin, Judy Garland, Whitney Houston, Etta James, Peggy Lee, Demi Lovato, Barry Manilow, Paul McCartney, The Miracles, New Kids on the Block, Kenny Rogers, Linda Ronstadt, Frank Sinatra, Rod Stewart, Barbra Streisand, The Supremes, James Taylor, The Temptations, Luther Vandross, and Stevie Wonder. WK Cole’s version was one of the first eight inductees into the Grammy Hall of Fame.


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Saturday, November 19, 2016

11/19/1932: “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” hits the charts

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Rudy Vallee “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?”


Writer(s): E.Y. “Yip” Harburg/ Jay Gorney (see lyrics here)

First charted: 11/26/1932

Peak: 12 US, 8 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: “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” is “probably the song most associated with the Great Depression.” JA-28 When it was released, thirteen million Americans – a quarter of the working population – were out of work, a ripple effect created by the 1929 stock market crash. LW-66 Mainstream pop songs largely steered clear of the uncomfortable subject area, but when E.Y. “Yip” Harburg was penning tunes for Broadway revue New Americana, the topic was unavoidable. SS-37-8

The “deeply political” SS-38 Harburg, who also wrote the classic Wizard of Oz tune “Over the Rainbow,” crafted lyrics which were simultaneously tongue-in-cheek and illustrative of his social consciousness. TY-63 Along with Ira Gershwin, Oscar Hammerstein, and Lorenz Hart, he was a gifted lyricist born around the turn of the century who was inspired by Gilbert and Sullivan’s light operettas. LW-66 Unlike most of his contemporaries, though, Harburg wrote songs which spoke to the underprivledged who hadn’t benefited from the American dream. LW-66

Harburg knew he wanted to write about the bread lines he’d seen throughout New York City. SS-38 Composer Jay Gorney said that he and Harburg were walking in Central Park and were approached by a well-dressed man who said, “Buddy, can you spare a dime?” SS-38 The idea for the song was born. Harburg tapped President Roosevelt’s campaign imagery of the Forgotten Man as the focal point for the song. SS-38

Rex Weber performed the song in the revue while standing in a bread line. TY-63 The show opened on October 5, 1932, and three weeks later, Bing Crosby recorded it. SS-39 A week after his version charted, Vallee followed suit. Both songs topped the charts for two weeks, with Rudy’s version unseating Bing’s. Rudy’s is the higher-ranked version according to Dave’s Music Database.


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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.


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Sunday, November 6, 2016

11/6/1948: Dinah Shore hit #1 with “Buttons and Bows”

image from music100.info


Dinah Shore & Her Harper Valley Boys “Buttons and Bows”


Writer(s): Jay Livingston/ Ray Evans (see lyrics here)

First charted: 9/18/1948

Peak: 110 US, 110 HP, 13 GA, 112 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US

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


Review: The biggest hit of 1948 WHC-67 was also an Academy Award winner for Best Song. Bob Hope and Jane Russell introduced the song in the movie The Paleface. The song had a distinct western flavor and referenced Hope’s character in the film – a dentist from the east. TY-135 It was initially written with an Indian theme, but the director determined that wouldn’t work. WK

The song charted six times in 1948 – the Dinning Sisters million-selling version with the Art Van Damme orchestra TY-135 (#5), Betty Garrett (#8), Betty Jane Rhodes (#9), Evelyn Knight (#14), and Gene Autry (#17). PM-481 However, Dinah Shore’s version was the most successful. It went to #1, was a million-seller, and was “long associated with Shore, who continued to perform it for decades.” JA-29

Born Frances Rose Shore, Dinah was one of the most popular singers in the 1940s. She had a brief stay wit the Xavier Cugat band before striking out as a solo star. She charted 83 hits from 1940-1957, hitting #1 with “I’ll Walk Alone” (1944), “They Gypsy” (1946), “Anniversary Song” (1947), and “Buttons and Bows” (1948). The latter, however, was her last and longest time at the top. PM-388 From 1951-62, she hosted a popular TV variety series and was a talk show host in the 1970s. PM-388

The song was used as a theme for one of the characters on F Troop, a 1960s TV sitcom. WK It surfaced again on The Jack Benny Program in 1962 when Gisele MacKenzie performed it as a saloon singer (“Ghost Town: Western Sketch”). WK It was used again in 1996 in an episode of Frasier (“Look Before You Leap”) in which the lead character attempts a performance of the song but forgets most of the lyrics. WK


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Tuesday, November 1, 2016

11/1/1929: Fats Waller releases “Ain’t Misbehavin’”

image from lyricstage.com


Fats Waller “Ain’t Misbehavin’”


Writer(s): Fats Waller, Harry Brooks, Andy Razaf (see lyrics here)

Released: 11/1/1929, First charted: 11/9/1929

Peak: 17 US, 11 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: “Waller, a New York City-born pianist and organ accompanist during the ‘20s, collaborated on several Broadway musical scores…[and] broke through as one of the country’s most popular entertainers due to his playful, high-spirited vocals, and distinctive stride piano style, and jazz accompaniment. PM-435

“Ain’t Misbehavin’” was written for the 1929 all-black revue Hot Chocolates and debuted by Louis Armstrong, who credited the revue with launching his career. TY-46 It was so popular it moved to Broadway, RCG where Armstrong made his bring-the-house-down debut. JA-5 It ran “for a very respectable 219 performances, seventh best out of the thirty-four musicals that opened in 1929.” SS-449

Armstrong also recorded the song JA-5 and charted with it (#7) in 1929, as did Leo Reisman (#2), Bill Robinson with Irving Mills (#8), Gene Austin (#9), and Ruth Etting (#16). However, it was Waller’s own piano solo version (#17) which became the classic. JA-5 Waller would sing the song with Ada Brown in the film Stormy Weather (1943) JA-5 and it was featured in 1951’s The Strip (1951). MM-149

In 1937, Teddy Wilson took the song back to the top 10. Ray Charles, Nat “King” Cole, Billie Holiday, Earth Kitt, Kay Starr, Dinah Washington, and Hank Williams Jr. also recorded the song. RCG Comedian George Burns made it his signature song, announcing to his partner Gracie Allen that he “could sing a million songs” to which she’d reply, “Yeah, but you only know one.” Then George would start singing the jingle for whoever was sponsoring his radio show, but it would turn into “Ain’t Misbehavin’.” RCG


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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.


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