YOUR HIT PARADE sponsored by American Tobacco's Lucky Strike Cigarettes was broadcast from 1935 to 1955 on radio and 1950 to 1959 on television. During this 24 year run, the show had 19 orchestra leaders and 52 various singers or groups. Many listeners and viewers casually referred to the show with the incorrect title of "The Hit Parade".
Each Saturday evening, the program offered the most popular and best selling songs of the week. The earliest format involved a presentation of the Top 15 Songs. Later, a countdown with fanfares led to the top three finalists, with the Number One Song as a finale. Occasional performances of standards and other favorite songs from the past were known as "Lucky Strike Extras". This was also a time when some of the stars of the show were able to promote their latest recordings.
Many popular singers of the 40's and 50's appeared on the weekly radio show, the most popular of which included Frank Sinatra, Doris Day, Dick Haymes and Dinah Shore, the longest term belonging to Sinatra & Day. When the show premiered on tv, the weekly stars from the then current radio program who traveled on to tv were: Dorothy Collins, Snooky Lanson, Giselle Mckenzie and Russell Arms. From 1950-1955, the show continued on both radio and television, but the weekly survey remained the same on both mediums.
Listeners were informed that the "Your Hit Parade" survey "checked the best sellers on sheet music and phonograph records, the songs most heard on the air, and the most played on jukeboxes...an accurate, authentic tabulation of America's taste in popular music." However, the exact procedure for this "authentic tabulation" remained a secret. Some believe that some song choices were often arbitrary due to various performance and production factors (although the biggest 3 or 4 sellers in the nation were always among them). The show's ad agencies (Lord and Thomas, Batten, Barton, Durstine and Osborne) never revealed the specific sources or methods that were used to determine top hits. They made a general statement that was based mainly on "radio requests, sheet music sales, dance hall favorites and jukebox tabulations". Radio Guide claimed it as "an endless popularity poll on a nationwide scale."
1950 was certainly the year of the brother and sister acts, especially for the Mills Brothers,the Ames Brothers and,the Andrews Sisters . Add in the Fontane Sisters who appeared on Perry Como's big hits in 1950 -- and the brother/sister groups have a monopoly of the top hits. Argument could be made for some other minor 1950 songs by the Brothers Ames and Mills, a couple of which have had nice staying power on greatest hits collections through the years. Quite a few of the songs listed had "competing" versions that scored on the charts, as cover songs continued to be a trend that lasted throughout the 1950's, and we have grouped them together. Whenever a song took off, competing record companies rushed to put copies on the shelves.
Two songs stand out on this list for later re-recordings that became bigger hits than the original. The most obvious is Al Jolson's Are You Lonesome Tonight, which years later became a number one million selling single for Elvis Presley. The other is Frankie Laine's Dream a Little Dream of Me. Although it was recorded by a number of artists before and since, Laine was the first to make any real impact on the charts. Doris Day was the first to sing it at a slow tempo, scoring a hit in 1957. In 1968, the tune soared to new heights with a rendition by Mama Cass Elliott with a version that hit number one and sold over 7 million copies.
The Mills Brothers recording of Daddy's Little Girl was the top song for the father/bride dance at wedding parties for over 30 years. Although other songs have become more in vogue, it is still something of a wedding standard after more than half a century.As was almost always the case in the 50's, songs from popular Broadway Musicals and Movies are part of the list.
1950 marked the swan song for the "post-war" sound. A look at the charts for 1950 does not reveal any huge differences, but they are there. Vocal stars like Frank Sinatra, Dinah Shore, Bing Crosby, Perry Como and the Andrews Sisters would give way to Tony Bennett, Johnny Ray and Eddie Fisher. Sinatra and Crosby fell more into movie work to maintain their stardom, while Dinah Shore moved into our living rooms on television. The only ones to rebound back to the top in the next few years were Perry Como and Doris Day. It took till the late 50's for Sinatra to make a big return. Orchestras like Sammy Kaye and Guy Lombardo would never again enjoy such stellar success. Yes, the Fabulous Fifties had arrived.
Once again, we do not list the songs in any particular order of importance as the various sources do not agree. While they do not agree on the order, all agree that these are the hits of 1950 and on what constituted the biggest songs for the year. For each song listed, we have provided a link to the most popular versions only; in most cases, the version shown in larger type is the one that charted highest.
1951 was the year in which the charts and radio airplay were primarily ruled by female recording artists, and the bulk of the hits were primarily by Patti Page and Doris Day ( in some instances they even had competing versions of the same song.) Patti had a gigantic hit with "Tennessee Waltz" at the end of 1950, and it continued to get such strong sales in 1951 that it made the lists in that year as well. Other female artists who put a dent in the charts this year were: Rosemary Clooney, Mary Ford, Debbie Reynolds and Dinah Shore, with what amounted to her last big-time effort.
Speaking of Dinah, Sweet Violets was sort of a cultural phenomenon at the time, as the twists and turns in the lyrics were quite attention-getting. It ultimately inspired many imitators and alternate versions, including one by the aptly named "Sweet Violet Boys". Although originally written in 1882, the melody was obviously timeless. It's surprising that the song has not been successfully re-recorded over the years.
Another successful but different style recording was Come On-A My House, the top effort from Rosemary Clooney. Although better known today for her legacy of soulful vocals like Tenderly, it really was the quirky, catchy songs like this and Botcha Me that best captured her straightforward style. Sadly, some historians try to pigeonhole these gigantic artists...Clooney as a "torch" singer, Page as a "country" singer, Doris as a "jazz" singer. The fact is evident in all their music...they were so much more than a simple label, and proved again and again that they could sing absolutely anything.
A couple of artists were at the peak of their careers in 1951, including The Weavers and Les Paul and Mary Ford. Two artists that were on the rise at the time were Tony Bennett and Vic Damone, both of whom would carry the banner for "crooners" through the next few decades. The Weavers would drop from the charts and be labeled as "subversives". You'll be pleased to know they they continued to sing simple folk songs and songs of freedom long after the persecuting politicians all died off.
Other than its obvious country/western undertones, Mockingbird Hill is a typical song of the 40's and early 50's in that it spent time on the charts in multiple versions. There were numerous versions of the tune. Les Paul & Mary Ford's version is today regarded as "better" than Patti Page's; however, the styles are so different that any comparison is inaccurate. Guy Mitchell and Vic Damone were both on the charts with My Heart Cries For You, but that was simply par for the course. Artists had a mild competition between one another, but it was seldom acrimonious. Imagine the gangsta rap stars of today having to share the top ten with competing versions of their own songs. Page, Day, and the others took it in stride, and they often sang together on radio or television and in special appearances. One wonders how a Mariah Carey or Celine Dion might react.
And so, as we list the songs for 1951, not in any particular order because the various sources do not agree, they all agree on what the biggest songs were. For each song listed, we have provided a link to the most popular versions only. If there were two or more, both songs have a provided link. Others may be listed because as a "cover", they may have reached the Top 30 Hits, but they were not a sales threat to the ones up front.
Without question, this was a big year for male and female vocalists, and many of them had top chart and jukebox sellers more than just one time. Johnnie Ray commanded the charts for months with Cry, but it was really Eddie Fisher's year as top male vocalist. His hits either topped the charts or lurked near the top throughout 1952, as was the case with perennial favorites like Doris Day, Jo Stafford, Patti Page and the Mills Brothers.
Buddy Morrow's cover recording of Night Train only enjoyed modest success on the pop charts, while Jimmy Forest's ruled the r & b charts. Interestingly enough, it is Morrow's cover version that has endured through the years -- definitely not the norm for cover records.
Rosemary Clooney has three tunes ranked, and fans will agree that Tenderly was her biggest and most lasting. Oddly enough it was only a modest seller by Clooney standards in '52. The almost embarrassing Botch-A-Me was her biggest chart and sales success of the year. Hmmm...how'd this happen? Just a few years later Tenderly was selected to be the theme song for her TV show...and has had a lasting presence as a signature Rosemary Clooney song.
For sheer numbers, check out how many times Doris Day hit the charts in 1952, either alone (with one of her biggest career hits, A Guy is a Guy) or in duets with various other artists in the 1952 Columbia stable including: Johnnie Ray, Guy Mitchell, Donald O'Connor and Frankie Laine.
Because research shows, once again, that most musicologists and chart listers disagree on the order of the top songs, we list them purely alphabetically. Most agree, however, that the biggest song of the year was probably Johnnie Ray's, Cry, recorded with the Four Lads as backup.
THE TOP HITS OF 1952
Note: Artists listed in parentheses also had minor hit "cover" versions. If more than one artist had a hit version, click on the artist's name to listen.
America was in a good mood in '53, or at least wanted to be. Along with Stan Freberg's comedy success, novelty tunes such as Eh! Cumpari and Istanbul (Not Constantinople) were huge hits and are still known today via movie soundtracks. Even Patti Page's How Much is that Doggie in the Window put a lighthearted spin on a somewhat wistful subject. Another popular novelty tune was The Typewriter by Leroy Anderson & His Orchestra, which was still played well into the 1970s. Today it would probably have to be renamed "the keyboard."
The top hit lists offer some confusion when it comes to Doris Day’s monster hit, Secret Love, from the film Calamity Jane. The film was released at the end of the year in 1953, and the song began what is known in the music business as a long, slow climb to the top. It began that climb right through the end of the year and by February of 1954, it hit the top of the charts, and thus it is listed for both 1953 (at the end) and 1954 (at the beginning). Point of fact, Ms. Day started and ended the year of 1954 with super hits, the other one being If I Give My Heart To You. With that confusion set aside, Doris actually charted in 53 with 6 songs before Secret Love: Mister Tap Toe;When the Red Red Robbin Comes Bob Bob Bobbin Along; Candy Lips (with Johnny Ray); Kiss Me Again, Stranger; A Purple Cow, and Choo Choo Train.
Other perennial stars took their bite out of the charts including Jo Stafford with You Belong To Me, Dean Martin with That’s Amore and Perry Como with Don’t Let The Stars Get in Your Eyes. In fact, it was Como’s first #1 song to feature an extremely rapid tempo. What's important about that, you ask? By 1953 Como was much older than the other top crooners of the day, such as Eddie Fisher and Tony Bennett. Como also had a few years on Dean Martin and Nat King Cole. Like today, pop music was a young man's game in the early 1950s; even Sinatra found hits harder and harder to come by. Now age 42, Como wanted very much to appeal to a young audience, even recording a minor hit duet with Fisher the year prior. He knew that a younger, more energetic sound was on the horizon, and the success of Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes proved it.
Cover records were also still in vogue, and one of the prime examples for ‘53 was Joni James’ hit version of Your Cheatin’ Heart, which outsold the original by Hank Williams. Over time, of course, the original has taken on a life of its own, and James version is virtually unremembered. But the lesson to be learned in this is a lesson in the music of the 1940s and 50s. It is well-documented that white deejays and white record companies promoted white "covers" over original recordings by black artists. A few years later, Pat Boone is oft-mentioned in this regard; his recordings of Long Tall Sally and Tutti-Frutti left Little Richard wondering what went wrong. In years since, of course, Boone's versions have become novelties while Penniman's originals receive the most airplay. The point, as the Joni James/Hank Williams parallel proves, is that it wasn't so much a "racial" prejudice as it was a "sound" prejudice. Country songs and r & b songs were simply too raw for mainstream white audiences -- or so they thought.
As is the usual case with our “Hit Parade of the Year”, the varied sources do not agree and, whenever possible, we stick with the actual songs that were used on the show itself. Therefore, it becomes more practical for us to list the songs that topped the charts for the year in alphabetical order with links to hear them whenever possible. So…here we go:
THE MAJOR HITS OF 1953
Note: Artists listed in parantheses also had minor hit "cover" versions If more than one artist had a hit version, click on the artist's name to listen
Most musicologists will say that rock and roll had its popular beginnings this year. The fact that Elvis Presley made a mark (albeit a small one and primarily in the deep South) on the charts is one indicator; the other is the song by The Crew Cuts, Sh-boom, which most authorities say is one of the first true rock and roll recordings, even though their recording was a cover of an r&b hit by The Chords, the original helped along by the cover version. Speaking of covers of r&b songs, the big burst in that direction was to come in 1955 with artists like Pat Boone and Georgia Gibbs. But in 1954, prime covers connected to rock and roll beginnings were evidenced in top songs by The Fontane Sisters, The McGuire Sisters , Bill Haley & The Comets and Johnny Ray.
Anyone who remembers 1954 does a sudden "oh yeah" whenever they hear the song, Little Things Mean A Lot. Former big band vocalist Kitty Kallen (who had performed with Harry James) positively grabbed the #1 spot on the pop charts from the end of May to the beginning of August. And another former big band vocalist, Doris Day, also ruled the '54 charts with Secret Love early on and then followed up with If I Give My Heart To You.
It was kind of a tough year for Patti Page, who ruled the early 1950s, no question. No number ones; nevertheless ,she did make the chart. Two other female vocalists did a back-and-forth at number one early in the year; Doris Day's Secret Love was simply terrific, yo-yo-ing with Jo Stafford's Make Love To Me until Mr. C's Wanted started its seven week run at the top spot. Other perennial favorites made their mark on the '54 charts besides Day, Como and Page. Eddie Fisher continued his run on the hit lists along with artists like Rosemary Clooney, Kay Starr, Nat King Cole, Peggy Lee, Perry Como, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Ray, Dean Martin and The Mills Brothers.
Less we forget, several "newcomers" started their claim to fame this year. Three of the most popular female groups of all time each had their biggest career hits in 1954: The Chordettes with Mr. Sandman, The Fontane Sisters with Hearts of Stone and The McGuire Sisters who began their reign as the top female vocal group of the 50's with Sincerely.
One oddball inclusion on the charts was What it Was, Was Football, a comedy routine by Andy Griffith. If you ever questioned Griffith's stature as an all-around entertainer, don't. Success on stage, in film and on television were preceded by massive success as a comedian. This corn-pone interpretation of a football game recorded in late 1953, sold over 900,000 records.
Because various sources constantly disagree on which order to place the songs of the year, we once again present them in alphabetical order, with this stipulation. There is no question that these songs were definitely among the MOST popular in 1954: SECRET LOVE, WANTED, LITTLE THINGS MEAN A LOT, MAKE LOVE TO ME, HEY THERE and SH'BOOM.
THE TOP SONGS OF 1954 (alphabetical order) Note: Artists listed in parentheses also had minor hit "cover" versions If more than one artist had a hit version, click on the artist's name to listen
This year in music is almost reserved for Elvis Presley and Pat Boone, both of whom dominated the pop charts. It was a toss-up as to which one had the greater control over the hit records, but it was decidedly Presley who had the biggest impact on the #1 position with his double-barrelled two sided hit, “Hound Dog” and “Don’t Be Cruel”. Boone, as indicated earlier, was “cleaning up” the raw soul and rhythm and blues recordings by artists such as Little Richard and Fats Domino, turning them into pop hits, while Elvis was ushering in a wave of black artists also ruling the charts. Both Elvis and Pat, however, are credited by artists such as Domino who says that “without them, black music would have remained off the pop charts; they both opened the door.”
1956 was the year for The Million Dollar Quartet, a now famous jam session among Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash. All but Jerry had pop hits by the time this impromptu session hit at the end of 1956, one of which is considered a prime forerunner of r&r music, Carl’s Blue Suede Shoes.
Lest there is any doubt about the rock and roll influence on the charts for 56, consider these names besides Elvis and Pat who had top rock chart records: Frankie Lyman & the Teenagers, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Gene Vincent and the Bluecaps, Jesse Belvins, Bill Haley & the Comets.
That does not mean standard artists suffered without hits. Doris Day managed two songs that were nominated for an Oscar, and the winner Que Sera, Sera went on to become one of the most popular records of the decade and one of her biggest hits. Other traditional artists also made a mark on the 56 charts including: Patti Page, The Chordettes, Perry Como, The McGuire Sisters, Dean Martin, Jo Stafford, Johnnie Ray and even Bing Crosby.
Newcomers like dj Jim Lowe, tv star Gale Storm and Gogi Grant also made a name for themselves. Even novelty records were represented with The Flying Saucer. An artist who started his career rise in the early 50’s, Guy Mitchell, took a country song by Marty Robbins to the top of the chart this year with his cover version of Singing The Blues. It became the biggest song of his career. One year later, he would usher in the rockabilly trend with a song called Rockabilly, and it is for that he is best known in music circles today.
In the midst of the surge of rock and roll was another movement that began this year and lasted throughout most of the 60's, running concurrent with the rock movement...the revival of the American Folk Song, which led to the popularity of tv shows like Hootennany. The primary initiates of this trend were Harry Belafonte (Day O/The Banana Boat Song) and, not long after, The Kingston Trio (which spawned hundreds of other groups of similar stature). Harry Belafonte's Calypso album was the first LP to sell a million copies and the Kingston Trio were the first to have 4 top ten albums concurrently. Not surprisingly, traditional artists like Eddie Fisher and Frankie Laine had some of the biggest hits of their careers with folk-inspired tunes.
Once again, we present what most musicologists list as the top songs of 1956, with heavy emphasis on those which appeared on the weekly show of YOUR HIT PARADE. Our order is again alphabetical because the only agreement that can be reached as concensus is that Elvis'double-barrelled hit was definitely #1 for the year.
THE TOP HITS OF 1956 (ALPHABETICAL ORDER)
Note: Artists listed in parentheses also had minor hit "cover" versions. If more than one artist had a hit version, click on the artist's name to listen Otherwise, click on the title of the song to hear the 1956 hit version.
1957 IS IT POP OR ROCK OR WHAT? An astute person can easily see why the popular show of YOUR HIT PARADE was winding down when checking out the charts in 57 and 58. The infusion of rock and roll challenged the performances of artists like Dorothy Collins, Giselle Mckenzie, Snooky Lanson and Russell Arms, who were the stars of the popular show. Simply stated, they were used to singing what would today be classified as Adult Contemporary Music. The charts of 57 and 58 are decidely not in that groove. Although songs by traditional artists like Frank Sinatra, Patti Page, Perry Como and Doris Day still had their places on the pop charts, a song like "Witchcraft" or "Old Cape Cod" had a difficult time keeping up with something like Presley's "All Shook Up" or Fats Domino's "I'm Walkin". To say the very least, musical tastes in 1957 were a bit confused. Or were the folks back then just very eclectic...liking it all. Good question/ no response here because your writer is every bit eclectic in his music tastes and always has been.
Some of the great artists of the popular song era (1940-1953) were hanging on gamely in 1957, none more so than Jimmy Dorsey, who had a big hit with So Rare recorded just prior to his passing. Although performed by the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, history tells us that he didn't actually play his saxophone on the recording. Either way, it is the last great gasp from the Big Band era. Perry Como was still at the top of his game; he had a gigantic hit with Round and Round and would, incredibly, go on to even bigger hits in 1958. Frank Sinatra, now a major movie star, was back on top of the charts with a more polished sound. He was now the "Chairman of the Board." With hits like Witchcraft, he would move from teen idol crooner-turned movie star to superstar.
And some of the now great vocalists of the 50's and 60's had their basic beginnings this year...think Pat Boone (who went neck and neck with Elvis in the Hit Department) and others like Johnny Mathis, The Ames Brothers, Andy Williams certainly stood the test of time. Then there were also two new groups from 1957 who made a gigantic mark not only on this year, but the future of music: The Everly Brothers and Buddy Holly with the Crickets. Some would say it is hard to classify them as adult contemporary or rock because they were immensely popular in both genres.
Once again, we present the top songs for this year in alphabetical order; no one agrees in any way on the top songs of the year or their order. Most musicologists will say, however, that the biggest song of the year was either ALL SHOOK UP by Elvis or YOUNG LOVE by Tab Hunter. Funny thing: back then both would be considered rock. Today, more like "middle of the road". Just adds to the confusion.
THE TOP HITS OF 1957 (ALPHABETICAL ORDER) Note: Artists listed in parentheses also had minor hit "cover" versions. If more than one artist had a hit version, click on the artist's name to listen. Otherwise, click on the title of the song to hear the 1957 hit version.
Perry Como, Doris Day, Frankie Laine, consistent top record sellers that they were; all managed to hit the top of the charts during 1958, but for all charting purposes, it was the last time. They may have had future single hits, but none of these ever again broke into the Top Ten lists. (Albums were a different story, but it is singles that we are examining here.) Other top stars of the past few years fared somewhat better, but only by comparison. It took Patti Page 7 years to hit the Top 10 again, in 1965, with the title tune from Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte. And while Frank Sinatra’s lp’s continued to sell well, it also took 7 years for him to hit the top of the charts again with Strangers in the Night and That’s Life in 1966 and Something Stupid (with daughter Nancy) in 1967. And then, even they were relegated to the bottom of the charts, if at all, with any future singles.
1958 belonged, once again, to mega rock stars like Elvis Presley, Pat Boone and The Everly Brothers (who controlled the charts in ’58, along with Buddy Holly, who would die in a plane crash not long after in early 1959.) Novelty records took a big chunk of the hits as well…perhaps a break from the driving rock and roll. The Chipmunks started their now yearly massive Christmas hit, and The Purple People Eater and Short Shorts were both in vogue, along with The Witch Doctor.
Thus, we list those songs that were a part of YOUR HIT PARADE in its final year.
TOP RECORDS/SONGS OF 1958 (ALPHABETICAL ORDER) Note: Artists listed in parentheses also had minor hit "cover" versions. If more than one artist had a hit version, click on the artist's name to listen. Otherwise, click on the title of the song to hear the 1958 hit version.
The YOUR HIT PARADE show faded with the rise of rock and roll, when the performance became more important than the song. It is said that big band singer Snooky Lanson's weekly attempts to perform Elvis Presley’s "Hound Dog" hit in 1956 hastened the end of the series. The series went from NBC (where it became the first TV show to contain the living color peacock) to CBS in 1958 and expired the following year. While Your Hit Parade was unable to deal with the rock revolution, the show's imaginative production concepts had an obvious influence on the wave of music videos and the popularity of MTV that began in the decade that followed. And lest we forget, this show in its earliest form, from the late 40's, helped to further expose and popularize singers like Frank and Doris, and their fans are forever greatful.
And so ends our HIT PARADE SERIES as it ended with the actual television show in 1959. Check our navigation menu, and you will see that we have carried the hit parade (in the form of Top Ten Lists) for another ten years before we stop…too many categories, too much disagreement, far too many songs in various genres to chart. So enjoy The Hit Parade years (1935-1959), what had been the biggest records of those years, and the Top Ten, as we were able to work it out for the next ten years. After that, it is anyone’s guess. We hope you have enjoyed this excursion down musical memory lane.
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