Saturday, November 6, 1993

On This Day (1943): The Mills Brothers’ “Paper Doll” hit #1 for 1st of 12 weeks

Paper Doll

The Mills Brothers

Writer(s): Johnny S. Black (see lyrics here)

First Charted: October 24, 1942

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

Sales (in millions): 6.0 US, -- UK, 11.0 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 4.16 video, 5.81 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

It has been said that this song “signaled the demise of the big band era.” TY1 However, it also marked a revival for the group who had been suffering from declining sales for years. WK

This vocal group, originally comprised of four brothers, first charted in 1931 with the #1 “Tiger Rag” and went on to chart 17 top ten hits over the next three years. In 1935, however, the fortunes of the group turned when oldest brother John died. The group soldiered on with Dad stepping in for his namesake son, PM but it looked like their days of chart glory were over. They didn’t chart again until 1937. Then, over the next five years they sent nine more songs up the charts, but only “Sixty Seconds Got Together” achieved top ten status. PM

In 1942, the Mills Brothers charted with “Paper Doll”, a song about preferring a paper doll to the far more fickle real-life versions, TY1 It hit the charts for a solitary week, coming in at #20. PM The song had taken awhile to come to fruition. It was written in 1915 and wasn’t published until 1930. WK The songwriter, Johnny S. Black, died six years before the song finally charted.

However, the 1942 peak was only the beginning. It recharted in July of 1943. This time, it went to #1 on its way to becoming one of the biggest songs of all time. With sales over six million, “Paper Doll” was the biggest non-holiday hit of the ‘40s PM and one of the ten best sellers of the first half of the century. PM The song also bears the distinction of being one of fewer than thirty songs to have sold more than 10 million copies worldwide. WK


First posted 11/20/2011; last updated 9/6/2023.

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