Saturday, July 30, 2005

50 years ago: The Platters chart with “Only You”

Only You (And You Alone)

The Platters

Writer(s): Ande Rand, Buck Ram (see lyrics here)

First Charted: July 30, 1955

Peak: 5 US, 3 CB, 4 HR, 17 RB, 5 UK, 19 AU, 2 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, -- UK, 1.0 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 6.0 radio, 90.18 video, 122.62 streaming


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About the Song:

Buck Ram signed the Platters and managed them, but was primarily a songwriter. His first big success was with “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” which was a hit for Bing Crosby. AH He wrote “Only You” originally with the Ink Spots in mind, but they never recorded it. He stuck the sheet music in a box where his assistant, Jean Bennett, later discovered it. Ram said the song was rubbish, but she put it on top of his piano where the Platters’ lead singer Tony Williams found it and insisted they record it. AH

They recorded this song in 1954 for Federal Records, but it wasn’t released. When the doo-wop group moved to Mercury Records in 1955, they re-recorded it and scored a hit when it was released in May. It went to #1 on the Billboard R&B chart and hit #5 on the pop chart. Their “deliciously smooth, rich vocal textures on ‘Only You’ owed something to swing-era outfits like the Mills Brothers and the Ink Spots but it made them the first black combo of the rhythm & blues years to earn mainstream success” TB with a song that “was neither a jump tune or some kind of novelty.” DM

Herb Reed, the bass singer, said the group “tried it so many times, and it was terrible. One time we were rehearsing in the car…and the car jerked. Tony went ‘O-oHHHH-nly you.’ We laughed at first, but when he sang that song—that was the sign we had hit on something.” WK Ram, however, had a different take. He said Williams’ voice broke in rehearsal but they kept the effect on the recording. WK

The Hilltoppers also recorded the song in 1955, reaching #8 on the U.S. charts and #3 in the UK. In 1959, Franck Pourcel took an instrumental version of the song to #9 on the Billboard Hot 100. Ringo Starr recorded it in 1974 and took it to #6. Harry Connick Jr., Brenda Lee, Little Richard, Reba McEntire, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, and the Statler Brothers also recorded versions. WK


First posted 3/13/2021; last updated 3/24/2023.

Friday, July 15, 2005

100 years ago: “Give My Regards to Broadway” went to #1

Give My Regards to Broadway

Billy Murray

Writer(s): George M. Cohan (see lyrics here)

First Charted: June 17, 1905

Peak: 15 US, 3 GA (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 0.11 video, -- streaming


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About the Song:

George M. Cohan was an untrained musician who “professed to write only simple songs with simple harmonies and limited ranges” PS “and a melody line that rarely exceeded four beats.” LW “His brilliance was in making them attractive and memorable.” LW He became one of the most multi-talented men in musical theater. In nearly all his productions, he was “composer, lyricist, librettist, playwright, actor, director, and producer.” TY2

After two flops on Broadway, Cohan found success with Little Johnny Jones, which was inspired by real-life jockey Tod Sloan. Johnny Jones travels to Britain to ride his horse in the English Debry and is accused of throwing the race. It turns out he was framed by an American gambler and his name is cleared. Johnny sings “Give My Regards to Broadway” in a mournful tone as he watches his family leaving by boat but he has to stay behind to clear his name. Once his name has been cleared, Johnny performs it in “an exuberant song-and-dance style.” TY2 It “could only have been sung by an opinionated, cocky young man with a very high opinion of his own worth.” LW Cohan was a natural.

With “music and melody [that] seem to fit any era and transcend fads and styles” PS “Regards” is “arguably…the most memorable and greatest hit from the 1900 – 1910 decade.” PS It has proved to be “one of those enduring favorites that never gets old or outdated.” PS It “has become one of the unofficial anthems of the American theatrical industry.” TY2 Billy Murray and S.H. Dudley both charted with the song in 1905, taking it to #1 and 4 respectively.

Eddie Buzzell sang the song in its first screen appearance for the 1929 film version of Little Johnny Jones. It was also used in Yankee Doodle Dandy (1941), Give My Regards to Broadway (1948), Jolson Sings Again (1948) and With a Song in My Heart (1952). The 1968 play George M! featured Joel Grey singing it in his portrayal of Cohan.


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First posted 7/15/2014; last updated 12/13/2022.

Saturday, July 9, 2005

50 years ago: “Rock Around the Clock” launched the rock era

We’re Gonna Rock Around the Clock

Bill Haley & His Comets

Writer(s): Max Freedman, James E. Myers (aka (Jimmy DeKnight) (see lyrics here)

First Charted: May 10, 1954

Peak: 18 US, 12 HP, 18 CB, 32 GR, 14 HR, 3 RB, 15 UK, 16, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 20.0 US, 1.44 UK, 25.0 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 72.33 video, 69.83 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

In 1955, “the music business…had no…inkling that a new music was about to change the world.” TB It showed that “despite the collective wisdom of the men in suits, despite their vast marketing budgets and their intensive audience research, the music belongs not to them but the fans.” TB The signs were there. “The electric guitar had been around since the 1930s, the term ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ was widely used…by the end of the ‘40s, and the spread of radio meant that white kids were increasingly exposed to black music.” TB

While there are many contenders for the title of “first rock and roll song” (check out the DMDB list of the top 100 rock-n-roll origins songs), the song that most emerges as the place keeper separating the pre-rock era from the rock era is “Rock Around the Clock.” In fact, that division can be tied to the specific date of July 9, 1955, when Bill Haley & the Comets took the song to the top of the Billboard singles chart. It became the best selling rock record of all time. KL Author Dave Thompson called it “rock ‘n’ roll Year Zero.” DT

Although he started as a yodeler (!), Haley converted to rock when he saw its effect on audiences RS500 doing covers of “Rocket 88” and “Rock the Joint” in 1951 and 1952. TC In 1953, Max Freedman, a 63-year-old Tin Pan Alley writer, and James E. Myers, Haley’s agent, reworked the blues number “My Daddy Rocks Me with a Steady Roll” for Haley. SJ Dave Miller, who signed Haley to Holiday Records, wouldn’t let him record it because he disliked Myers. FB Sonny Dae & His Nights tackled it in October 1953, SF recording it as a “jump jazz item” TB but it flopped. Haley got another shot when he jumped to Decca and “Clock” landed on the B-side of novelty song “Thirteen Women.” SF

Haley “brought a country and western swing flavour to the R&B changes so that it sounded like sophisticated hillbilly music (admittedly and oxymoron).” TC His version focused more on the bass and drums than the melody, KL making for a song with youth appeal in an era dominated by adult contemporary fare.

Haley was plump, balding, and over thirty, so his teen idol appeal was limited, but as Haley said, “‘I started it all. They can’t take that away from me.’” HL He explained, “We premiered this music…We put country and western together with rhythm and blues.” TC

Initially, the record company didn’t know what to do with the song, calling it a “novelty foxtrot.” SF It flopped on its initial release, but earned iconic status when featured in the movie The Blackboard Jungle, “a film about juvenile delinquency, although not very delinquent by today’s standards.” LW At the time, however, the movie caused rioting amongst its teen audience who trumpeted “Rock Around the Clock” as their theme for alienation and hostility. SJ The timing was ideal. “Dance bands had had their day and the new, young record-buying public” LW wanted music to call their own. “Clock” “wasn’t country, it wasn’t rhythm and blues, and it hovered on the edge of parody, but it did the business and it got the kids on their feet and jiving.” LW Billboard’s Top 40 chart was only a few months old SF when this went #1. The song was revived in 1974 as TV series Happy Days’ opening theme.


First posted 7/9/2010; last updated 4/1/2023.