Friday, July 21, 2006

50 years ago: Johnny Cash hit #1 on the country chart with "I Walk the Line"

First posted 7/15/2011; updated 3/19/2021.

I Walk the Line

Johnny Cash

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

Released: May 1, 1956

First Charted: June 9, 1956

Peak: 17 US, 23 CB, 21 HR, 16 CW, (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 2.0 US

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 1.0 radio, 12.2 video, -- streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

Johnny Cash ranks as one of the top 5 country artists of all-time according to Billboard magazine. However, in 1956, his career was barely underway. Signed to Sun Records, Cash had charted with “Cry! Cry! Cry!” (#14), “So Doggone Lonesome” (#4), and “Folsom Prison Blues” (#4). His fourth chart entry, “I Walk the Line,” Cash hit #1 on the Billboard country chart and #17 on the Billboard Hot 100. Over the next thirty years, he sent well over 100 songs to the country charts, fourteen which topped the chart.

The song’s unusual chord progression dated back to 1950. During Cash’s days in the Air Force in Germany, he wrote songs with the help of a tape machine. Five years later, he was fiddling around with it backstage while on tour with label mate Carl Perkins. Perkins said that Sam Phillips, the head of Sun, was looking for something different and that Cash should build a song around it. Cash didn’t come up with the idea for the song until he and Perkins talked later about guys running around on their wives while out on the road. Cash, who had a new baby and was newly married, said, “Not me buddy. I walk the line.” Perkins said, “there’s your song title.” CR

Interestingly, Cash had suggested the title to Perkins for his biggest hit, “Blue Suede Shoes”. Cash relayed the story to Perkins of a buddy in the Air Force who would get all dressed up to go out and warn people, “don’t step on my blue suede shoes, man.” CR

Cash recorded “I Walk the Line” with Perkins and his own regular Tennessee Two duo of guitarist Luther Perkins and bassist Marshall Grant. CR To get a more percussive sound from his guitar, Cash wound a piece of wax paper through the guitar strings. RS500 Cash has explained that he started each verse with an eerie hum to get his pitch since he had to change keys several times. SF He also sped the song up at Phillips suggestion. TB Bob Dylan said, “It was different than anything else you had ever heard…a voice from the middle of the earth.” RS500

Resources and Related Links:

  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for Johnny Cash
  • CR Toby Creswell (2005). 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time. Thunder’s Mouth Press: New York, NY. Page 626.
  • RS500 Rolling Stone (2004). “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time
  • SF Songfacts
  • TB Thunder Bay Press (2006). Singles: Six Decades of Hot Hits & Classic Cuts. Outline Press Ltd.: San Diego, CA. Page 20.

Friday, July 14, 2006

July 14, 1956: My Fair Lady cast album hit #1

Originally posted March 7, 2011. Last updated September 4, 2018.

My Fair Lady (cast/soundtrack)

Alan Jay Lerner/ Frederick Loewe (composers)

Opened on Broadway: March 15, 1956

Cast Album Charted: April 28, 1956

Soundtrack Charted: October 10, 1964

Sales (in millions):
US: 8.0 c, 1.5 s
IFPI: --
World (estimated): 8.0 c, 1.5 s

US: 115-C, 4 S
UK: 119-C, 9 S
Canada: --
Australia: --

Quotable: “The most perfect stage musical ever” – Colin Larkin, Virgin All-Time Top 1000 Albums

Genre: show tunes

Album Tracks:

  1. Overture: Orchestra/ Why Can’t the English?
  2. Wouldn’t It Be Loverly? *
  3. I’m an Ordinary Man
  4. With a Little Bit of Luck **
  5. Just You Wait
  6. The Rain in Spain
  7. I Could Have Danced All Night
  8. Ascot Gavotte
  9. On the Street Where You Live
  10. You Did It
  11. Show Me
  12. Get Me to the Church on Time
  13. A Hymn to Him
  14. Without You
  15. I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face

* 2 versions back-to-back on cast album
** appears only on soundtrack

Singles/Hit Songs:

On the Street Where You Live
- Vic Damone (1956) #4
- Eddie Fisher (1956) #18
- Lawrence Welk (1956) #96
- Andy Williams (1964) #28

I Could Have Danced All Night
- Sylvia Syms (1956) #20
- Rosemary Clooney (1956) #49
- Dinah Shore (1956) #93
- Ben E. King (1963) #72
- Biddu Orchestra (1976) #72

I’ve Grown Accustomed to Your Face
- Rosemary Clooney (1956) #70
- Gordon MacRae (1956) #96

With a Little Bit of Luck
- Percy Faith (1956) #82
- Jo Stafford (1956) #85

Get Me to the Church on Time
- Julius LaRosa (1956) #89

As was common in the pre-rock era, multiple versions of a single song from a Broadway show would become hits. All chart positions are from the U.S. Billboard pop charts.


My Fair Lady is “the crowning achievement” AZ for lyricist Alan Jay Lerner and composer Frederick Loewe. In fact, some consider it to be “the most perfect stage musical ever.” CL “It boasts a magnificent score…witty, intelligent, beautiful, and romantic.” NRR This is “a collection of performances that long ago became a ubiquitous and indispensable fixture of American musical theater.” AZ

Frederick Loewe and Alan Jay Lerner

After several productions in the 1940s, Lerner and Loewe first tasted major Broadway success with 1947’s Brigadoon. They next worked together on 1951’s Paint Your Wagon before adapting George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion into My Fair Lady. It was a story about “the mythic Greek figure who falls in love with his sculpture.” TM In My Fair Lady, the story focuses on “the relationship between an elocutionist” R-C and “pre-World War I London flower girl Eliza Doolittle, who aspires to a better accent and the social advantages that will come with it.” R-S

The show opened on Broadway on March 15, 1956. It ran for 2717 performances, closing on September 29, 1962. It had what was then the longest run in history for a major musical. W-M The production has been called “the perfect musical.” W-M

Julie Andrews was a “twenty-year-old revelation” ZS as “the fairest of all ladies,” ZS making the “loverly…score soar” ZS with her “glorious voice and emotional range.” ZS Rex Harrison is “effortlessly charming” ZS in his recreation of the stage role as “Professor Henry Higgins (he had also appeared in the film adaptation of…Pygmalion.” R-S He “enjoys every wink of his ironies: When he describes himself, in I’m an Ordinary Man, his exaggerated demeanor suggests his character is anything but ordinary. That Harrison caught this specific dynamic so early in what became a historic extended run is remarkable.” TM

“The show yielded an astounding number of songs that became standards, including the luminous I Could Have Danced All Night and I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face.” TM Among the other gems in this “embarrassment of riches,” AZ including The Rain in Spain, Wouldn’t It Be Loverly, Why Can’t the English?, and On the Street Where You Live.

As was common in the 1950s, the cast album “was recorded in one marathon fourteen-hour session on March 25, 1956.” TM “Producers tried to schedule the sessions as close to the opening of the musical as possible, thinking that the nuances of the work would be fresh in the performers’ minds.” TM This sometimes backfired, but here Harrison and Andrews “are beyond lively… and the supporting cast – which, as was often the case with Lerner and Loewe, got the meatiest songs – positively sparkles.” TM

“The recording established a new relationship between Broadway productions and record companies; the album’s critical success and popularity with the public were unrivaled at the time of its release.” NRR The cast album spent fifteen weeks atop the Billboard album chart, making it one of the biggest #1 albums in U.S. chart history. What’s incredible, however, is that those chart-topping weeks were spread out over four years time. Billboard magazine named it album of the year – in 1957 and 1958.

The album stuck around on the charts for a total of 480 weeks. Only Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and Johnny Mathis’ Johnny’s Greatest Hits have logged more weeks.

For the film version, Harrison and Holloway were back, but since they were making their third recordings of the score, they didn’t have much to add…The result was an acceptable recording that did not surpass the Broadway or London cast albums.” R-S However, despite starring in the Broadway and London stage productions, Julie Andrews was deemed “not enough of a star to carry the movie. (Embarrassingly, by the time the movie opened, Mary Poppins had made her more than enough of a star to do so.) Instead, Audrey Hepburn stepped into the role.” R-S

Hepburn’s singing voice was dubbed by Marni Nixon, who “was an accomplished Hollywood voice ghost, having previously sung for Deborah Kerr in The King and I, Natalie Wood in West Side Story, and Rosalind Russell in Gypsy.” R-S She “was fine…lacked the flair that Andrews would have given it.” R-S

A “1965 Best Picture Oscar capped the show’s decade of prominence.” AZ

Review Sources/Related DMDB Links:
  • R-C All Music Guide review of cast album by William Ruhlmann
  • R-S All Music Guide review of soundtrack by William Ruhlmann
  • AZ review of the cast album by Jerry McCulley
  • CL Colin Larkin (1998). Virgin All-Time Top 1000 Albums. Virgin Books: London, England. Page 201.
  • TM Tom Moon (2008). 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die. Workman Publishing Company, Inc.: New York, NY.
  • NRR National Recording Registry
  • ZS Zagat Survey (2003). Music Guide: 1,000 Top Albums of All Time. Coordinator: Pat Blashill. Music Editor: Holly George-Warren. Editors: Betsy Andrews and Randi Gollin. Zagat Survey, LLC: New York, NY. Page 170.


Related DMDB Link(s):

Saturday, July 8, 2006

Nelly Furtado hit #1 with “Promiscuous”

First posted 2/7/2021.


Nelly Furtado with Timbaland

Writer(s): Tim “Attitude” Clayton/Nelly Furtado/Nate Hills/Tim “Timbaland” Mosley (see lyrics here)

Released: April 25, 2006

First Charted: May 5, 2006

Peak: 16 US, 17 RR, 27 A40, 22 RB, 3 UK, 11 CN, 2 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 2.82 US, 0.6 UK, 3.9 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 0.5 radio, 406.96 video, -- streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

Nelly Furtado first charted with the folkie, alternative-rock “I’m Like a Bird” in 2001. That song and its follow-up, “Turn Out the Light,” were top 10 U.S. hits, but her second album failed to land any songs on the Billboard Hot 100. It looked like Furtado had already peaked, but then she teamed with Timbaland, one of the hottest producers around, for her third album. Billboard called them “a surprisingly good match.” WK

On the song “Promiscuous,” the pair lyrically flirt with each other as she initially rejects his advances. She told Blender she saw the song as being about verbal foreplay, saying that she and co-writer Tim Clayton “called it ‘The Blackberry Song’ because everything we say in the song you could text-message to somebody.” SF

Because of a lyrical reference to basketball star Steve Nash (“Is that the truth or are talkin’ trash/ Is your game MVP like Steve Nash?”), some assumed they were romantically linked. Nash said that he was “flattered that she put me in her song, but I’m completely in love with my wife and two little baby girls.” WK Furtado also denied any tryst, saying that she included him because both were from Victoria, British Columbia. WK

The New Yorker called the song a “playful update” of Janet Jackson’s “Nasty” and All Music Guide’s Stephen Thomas Erlewine compared the song to “vintage Prince,” WK although he also said Furtado doesn’t “generate much carnal heat.” WK

The song won a Billboard Award for Best Pop Single of the Year and was nominated for a Grammy for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals.

Resources and Related Links: