THE ROAD TO ROCK - Sample of possible next book

 

THE  ROAD TO ROCK

(Chronological look at the Last Days of "Good Music" and the first of Rock)

JANUARY 1950

 JAN 1ST   As the decade dawned, one of the most popular songs was undoubtedly 'Dear Hearts And Gentle People', which told about the folks who spent the weekends reading the good book in their white picket-fenced fronted houses. It was the week's biggest chart jumper. Bing Crosby's version entered the Top 10, Dinah Shore's treatment was also moving swiftly and radio play was growing for the version by Gordon Macrae (which incidentally also has the same 'b' side as Bing's rendering, 'Mule Train'). In addition, there was some interest in the versions by Dennis Day and Benny Strong, which was arguably the first one released. In the following month this homely hit also headed the sheet music charts in the UK. 

 The first advert for 21 year old Fats Domino's debut disc showed 'Detroit City Blues' as the A-side, with his groundbreaking hit 'The Fat Man' listed as the flip. The latter, which has been referred to "The turning point in R&B music", was Fats' re-write of Champion Jack Dupree's 1941 track 'Junko's Blues' - a song Fats often performed live at the time. In his recorded version, Fats changed Jack's drug related references to ones about his weight.

 

JAN 2ND   Big 1949 Christmas hits that were still seen on the first Top 10 of the new year included the season's top seller, 'Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer', by 42 year old western movie legend Gene Autry, the double sided novelty hit 'I Yust Go Nuts as Christmas' and 'Yingle Bells' by Swedish meatball Yogi Yorgesson and Bing Crosby's ''White Christmas'. Bing's million seller had been a chart regular since 1942, although since 1947 the version on sale had been a re-recording of the original.

 Sam Philips first opened the doors of the Memphis Recording Service. The company evolved into Sun Records - the label that gave the world Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins to name only a few.

 

 JAN 3rd   Despite the fact that the 1938 Broadway revue Right This Way, only survived for 15 performances, it not only included the standard 'I'll Be Seeing You' but also 'I Can Dream, Can't I' . The Andrews Sisters' revival of the latter, which had been a Top 5 hit for Tommy Dorsey & His Orchestra in 1938, was now the most played record on US radio. Incidentally, at the same time, their follow up, a revival of Eddie Cantor's 1924 favourite 'Charley My Boy' entered both the Juke Box and Best Sellers charts.

 

R&B shouter Eddie Mack's 'Hoot & Holler Saturday Night', which included a wild sax solo, was described in an advert as a "rocking rolling riffing rendition".

 

  JAN 4th  The much loved song 'Scarlet Ribbons' first appeared on the scene, and was released by several acts including Dick Haymes, Juanita Hall (Bloody Mary in South Pacific) and two of the leading female vocalists, Jo Stafford and Dinah Shore (of which Billboard said, "She's never made a better record"). To paraphrase the lyric, if I live to be a hundred, I will never know just why, Dinah's sank without a trace and despite plays Jo's said goodbye. 

  R&B Teen idols and later Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame members The Orioles' new ballad release 'Forgive & Forget' reportedly had initial sales of over 100,000. The pioneering doo-wop group's best known recording is arguably 'Crying In The Chapel', which Elvis later took to the top.

 
 JAN 5th A lot was expected of the song 'The Old Master Painter', which made its Top 20 debut. It had come from the pen of the writers of the recent chart topper 'That Lucky Old Sun', and it too was a semi-religious song that a long line of artists covered. Among the most successful versions were those by Peggy Lee & Mel Torme, Phil Harris, Snooky Lanson and newcomer Richard Hayes (one of the many hit artists spawned by Arthur Godfrey's Talent shows), who was just 19 when his Mitch Miller produced version made the Top 20. It also scored by both Dick Haymes and the vocalist he replaced in both the Harry James and Tommy Dorsey Bands, Frank Sinatra.

  The British sheet music chart was headed by an Anglo Italian ballad 'You're Breaking My Heart' and the top selling version of the song in that country was by the 1940s most successful vocal group, the Ink Spots. The group who laid the foundation stones of doo wop, were later inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame.

 

JAN 6th  The first album chart of the new decade showed that Christmas product sold very well in that medium with seven of the Top 10 records being of a seasonal nature, with Bing Crosby's 'Merry Christmas' leading the field - as it has done every Christmas since the chart started in 1945.

 C&W newcomers The Sons of Soil fronted by Don Gibson joined station WOHS in his hometown Shelby, North Carolina. The 21 year old singer/songwriter later wrote and recorded many successful songs included the oft-recorded 'I Can't Stop Loving You' and 'Oh, Lonesome Me'.

 

JAN 7th The most played record on US juke boxes was Frankie Laine's version of the whip cracking 'Mule Train', which was helped by his appearance on two successive Ed Sullivan TV shows (8th & 15th). It replaced that big voiced belter's 'That Lucky Old Sun' at the top of the best sellers. It goes almost without saying that Frankie was not the only person "clippetty clopping over hill and plain" with the song featured in Vaughn Monroe's film Singing Guns.   Bing Crosby's interpretation was close behind as was Vaughn's original recording and one by C&W DJ-now turned vocalist Tennessee Ernie (who only added the surname Ford, several singles down the line). In total, over 2.5 million recordings of 'Mule Train' were sold at the time. Interestingly, Laine's recording was not released in the UK until late 1952, when his label Mercury finally concluded a UK release deal. Therefore it was a three horse (or should that be mule) race to the top in the UK for Bing, Ernie and Vaughn.

 

Eleven year old pianist/vocalist Sugar Chile Robinson - a sort of forerunner to 1950 born Stevie Wonder - took 'Numbers Boogie'  into the R&B Top 10. The track closes with Robinson ready to boogie when "My mommy says it's time to take my nap"! Robinson, who sang for President Truman in 1946, was also popular in the UK, and even headlined at the London Palladium in 1951.

 

JAN8th It was reported that Lou Costello, of the world famous movie comedy team Abbott & Costello, was suing Dean Martin, the musical half of the currently most successful movie comedy team, Martin & Lewis, saying that they had a longstanding arrangement, where in exchange for helping him with his career, Lou would picked up 25% of Dean's dough.

 Influential Canadian country singer Hank Snow joined the Grand Ole Opry. It was as a part of Snow's road show that Elvis get his big break, and among Presley's top hits was Hank's 'A Fool Such As I'.

 

  JAN 9th  Blind multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter Leon Payne had the most played single on C&W radio with his composition 'I Love You Because'. Pop radio turned a blind eye to it in 1950 when Eddie Fisher recorded the romantic ballad as his first RCA release, and also a year later when it was cut by Patti Page. However, Elvis Presley sang it on his chart topping first album in 1956, and both Jim Reeves and Al Martino had huge hits with it in the 1960s. Interestingly, Payne also penned the noted Hank Williams track 'Lost Highway'.

 Louis Jordan's current R&B topper 'Saturday Nite Fish Fry' was among the Top 20 selling singles in the UK. Meanwhile, back in the US, Louis' latest was 'School Days' a nursery rhyme rocker that had no connection with Jordan fan Chuck Berry's later hit of the same name. Before the month was out Louis announced he was having to break up the Tympany Five, and have five months off due to very bad throat problems brought on by 5 or 6 shows a day at New York's famed Apollo Theatre.

 

JAN 10th  The combination of C&W star Jimmy Wakely and pop vocalist Margaret Whiting proved to be a masterstroke, as not only was their cover of Floyd Tillmon's classic country cheating song 'Slipping Around' topping the C&W Best Sellers, but their sequel, another song that composer Tillman had recorded first in 1949, 'I'll Never Slip Around Again', now joined it in the Top 10, easily outselling another cover by Doris Day. Simultaneously, it was reported that Doris' revival of the 1915 song 'Canadian Capers' was taking off in the UK, where it reportedly sold over 400,000 copies.

 Owen Bradley reached the US Top 20 pop singles with his rendition of the Delmore Brothers current C&W smash, 'Blues Stay Away From Me'. Bradley would go on to become one of the most successful C&W producers of the rock era producing acts like Brenda Lee and Buddy Holly.

 11th Billy Williams left the Charioteers after fronting the vocal group for 20 years to form the Billy Williams Quartet, who became regulars on the NBC TV show Saturday Night Revue. He later became the first act to be seen on Dick Clark's Bandstand TV show when it went national, and scored a million seller in 1958 with a revival of 'I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter'.

 

Tony Martin entered the US Top 20 with 'There's No Tomorrow', a song that was penned with Vic Damone in mind, and was featured in Martin's movie Two Tickets To Broadway. The song was recorded by Elvis Presley in 1959, and gave him one of his biggest world-wide hits when he re-recorded it a year later with a new lyric as 'It's Now Or Never'.

 

12th Columbia Records lost the services of ex Larry Clinton sideman, and now noted musical director, Hugo Winterhalter, who joined RCA, where he was responsible for numerous hits by acts like Eddie Fisher, Perry Como, Ames Brothers and Tony Martin. However, they signed "wonder boy" composer/conductor and pianist Leonard Bernstein, who the New York Times called "One of the most prodigiously talented musicians in American history". Among his later works was the multi-award winning musical West Side Story,  which gave Columbia hit Original Cast and Soundtrack albums - with the latter being the biggest selling album of the 1960s in the US.                                                                                              

 

Tiny Bradshaw released the rockin' 'Gravy Train' on King Records, which owed a little to 'Good Rockin' Tonight'. The 44 year old singer/pianist and drummer's track came complete with a wild screaming sax solo.

 
                                                                                   

13th American compositions naturally far outsold songs from any other nation in the US, and in second place, albeit a long way behind, were songs from Britain. On this day, one of the UK's favourite American entertainers Danny Kaye entered the US best sellers with his interpretation of the British Music Hall styled number 'I've Got A Lovely Bunch Of Coconuts', which was already popular Stateside by Freddy Martin & His Orchestra with Merv Griffin handling vocal chores in an OTT English accent. Those who preferred more authentic UK accents could go for version by Primo Scala or Billy Cotton. Interestingly, composer Fred Heatherton reportedly sold the rights to this song outright for just $100 (£25).

 

R&B idol Wynonie Harris too was having trouble with radio sensors with his new release, which was an ode to a 63 year old lady who had never had any fun because she was "Sitting On It All The Time".

 

 14th There was undoubtedly a traditional jazz band sound revival in the US in the early 1950s, and one of the records that helped launch it was the Jack Teter Trio's revival of the small 1940 Larry Clinton hit 'The Johnson Rag'. Jack's track, which had originally been released on the Sharp S label in 1949, took off when it was picked up by the UK owned London label, and outsold covers by the Jimmy Dorsey, Russ Morgan, Claude Thornhill and vocalists Pearl Bailey and Amos Milburn. The song got little attention in the UK, possibly due to the fact that according to the lyric "It's the latest shag"!

   L.A. vocal group The Flames (name inspired by Charles Brown's Three Blazes) released their debut disc 'Please Tell Me Now' on the Selective label. It was a Cash Box Top 10 R&B hit in L.A. for the act that featured Bobby 'Rockin' Robin' Day, and who evolved into the Hollywood Flames

 

  15th Tex Ritter's 1945 C&W best seller, 'Jealous Heart', entered the UK Top 10 sheet music chart, thanks to a "citified" revival by Chicago based singer/pianist Al Morgan. The performer, known as "Mr. Flying Fingers", recorded it  on the small Universal label in 1949, and it gave him his only hit after it was picked up for $3,500 by the UK owned London Records. At the same time, in the US, Morgan released his update of another old favourite by a western movie star, Gene Autry's 1940 favourite 'Tears On My Pillow'.

 

 Rock& Roll Hall of Fame member Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys, with vocalist Tiny Moore, made the C&W lists with 'Ida Red Likes To Boogie', the Wills and Moore penned update of Bob's earlier winner 'Ida Red'. It was 'Ida' that Chuck Berry says he based 'Maybelline' on.

 

16th Trinidad born, Venezuela bred and British based bandleader Edmundo Ros & his Latin American orchestra were rare UK visitors to the US best sellers thanks to their recording of 'The Wedding Samba', which outsold versions by chart regulars Guy Lombardo and The Andrews Sisters(with the fruity Carmen Miranda). The song, which bears musical some similarities to 'Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend', is based on a Jewish melody called 'Die Nayem Sher'.

 

Joe Liggins joined his brother Jimmy at Specialty Records. The singer/pianist and bandleader, who had topped the R&B chart in 1945 with the groundbreaking 'The Honeydripper', soon returned to the top with the rockin' 'Pink Champagne'.

 

17th Tony Matin was now enjoying three separate singles in the Top 20 with 'There's No Tomorrow' being joined by his revival of Arthur "The Street Singer" Tracy 's 1932 hit 'Marta (Rambling Rose of the Wildwood)' and the novelty hit 'I Said My Pajamas (And Put On My Prayers)', on which he was joined by Fran Warren. The latter easily outsold other versions including those of Doris Day, Margaret Whiting and Ethel Merman (with Ray Bolger).

 

 Distinctive 21-year old performer Larry Darnell had the top two singles in the R&B Juke Box charts with 'For You, My Love' and 'I'll Get Along Somehow (Parts 1 &2). The later part featured a heartfelt monologue that Kay Starr borrowed in 1952 for her hit 'Three Letters', and which The Velvetones added to their version of 'Glory Of Love' in 1957.

 

18th American record companies were getting in a dither about the zither - the stringed instrument that, thanks to Austrian zither player and composer Anton Karas' recording of 'Harry Lime Theme', had taken the UK by storm selling over 900,000 copies! No version of the movie theme (which would be re-titled 'The Third Man Theme' in the US) were allowed to be released yet in the US, but MGM tried to jump the gun by rush releasing Art Mooney's 'Zither Serenade' (on a newly invented metrolite unbreakable 78 rpm single).However, after heavy industry pressure the record had to be withdrawn.

 

 Roy Brown's 'Boogie At Midnight'- which owed a little to both his groundbreaking 1948 hit 'Good Rocking Tonight' and his 1949 favourite 'Rockin' At Midnight', was selling well enough to be in the R&B Top 10. The track included a great sax solo and lyrics like "Let's get together, gonna rock this joint".

 

 19th   Although it had been 14 months since Columbia Records launched the microgroove 33rpm single record LP (long playing) record, it still only accounted for a small percentage of sales. People still preferred their "albums" to be just that, albums containing several different records, with the No.1 of the day being the Soundtrack to South Pacific (which would spend a staggering 69 weeks at the top), which comprised seven separate 78 singles in a photo album type package.

 

 Phil Chess owner of the Aristocrat label announced that the label had record advanced orders for tenor saxophonist Gene Ammons' new release 'Rockin' Rocker'. Gene, incidentally was the son of noted boogie woogie jazz pianist Albert Ammons.

 

20th A poll of the nations radio editors was published and it showed that the Most Popular Male Singers of 1949 were Bing Crosby, Perry Como and Dennis Day and the Most Popular Females were Dinah Shore, Jo Stafford and Margaret Whiting. The Top Bands were those of Guy Lombardo, Vaughn Monroe and Tex Beneke (who had taken over the old Glenn Miller outfit).

 

Wynonie Harris' 1949 chart topper 'All She Wants To Do Is Rock' was still a Top 20 R&B Juke Box hit. As the title suggests, all Wynonie's woman wanted was to "rock and roll all night long".

  

21st As expected, the latest Walt Disney film Cinderella was a huge box office success and the most popular song heard in the animated movie was 'Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo (The Magic Song)' and the top-selling version, which teamed Jo Stafford and Gordon MacRae, entered the nation's Top 10 most-played records on juke boxes.

 

Relatively veteran R&B singer/songwriter and pianist Ivory Joe Hunter had three singles in the R&B Top 10. Two of them, 'I Quit My Pretty Baby' and 'Guess Who' were on King, while the new entry 'I Almost Lost My Mind' was his first release since former bandleader Dootsie Williams had signed him to MGM. Several Hunter songs were later recorded by Elvis, and Dootsie went on to form Dooto Records - one of the great doo wop labels.

 

22nd  Balladeer Buddy Clark, who amassed ten Top 10 hits since 1947, died in an air crash in October 1949 at the age of 37. He now spent his last week on the charts with his posthumous version of 'A Dreamer's Holiday', a song that Perry Como was enjoying a Top 3 hit with. At the time of the crash, the singer who was a regular on radio's Your Hit Parade in the late 30s, was voted America's 7th most Popular Male Vocalist in Billboard's annual DJ Poll.

 

Atlantic Records' singer/guitarist Tiny Grimes released 'Rock The House' coupled with 'See See Rider'. Tiny led the Rocking Highlanders the only kilt wearing R&B band. The group featured honking sax great Red Prysock, and later gave a recording debut to Screamin' Jay Hawkins.

 

 

23rd Multi-track vocals were still something new and revolutionary and 22-year-old Patti Page, who had been at the forefront of the new sound (she had first used them on her first hit 'Confess' in 1948), cracked the Top 20 with her revival of the 1934 movie song 'With My Eyes Wide Open I'm Dreaming'. Adverts for the track acclaimed "Spectacular and novel presentation in which Miss Page sings all four parts in a smooth and sultry quartet". Thanks to Patti, and soon afterwards Les Paul & Mary Ford, this "gimmick" soon became a normal part of pop music recording. 

 

New Orleans native Jewel King's version of Dave Bartholomew's composition '3X7 = 21' was a break out record in her home town. Jewel, who was married to noted R&B bandleader Paul Gayten, was backed on the track by Bartholomew's band. The up-tempo number was also recorded later by the Crescent City's best known vocal group, The Spiders.

 

24th  A survey showed that over 12 million record players had been sold in the US between January 1946 and January 1950. As a comparison 296,579 were sold in 1940, 120,640 in 1942, the first year of the war, and it goes without saying that during World War II relatively few were bought.

 

The 4 Robins (backed by the Johnny Otis Orchestra) made their R&B chart debut with 'If It's So Baby' , which featured 24-year-old bass singer Bobby Nunn. The group later evolved into The Coasters, and Otis was successful enough to become a member of the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. Both acts were featured in the "Savoy Barrelhouse Caravan" tour which hit the road a couple of weeks later.

 

25th  Several acts were sitting in the charts with 'Sitting By The Window' as the first month of the new decade drew to a close. These included Ray Anthony & His Orchestra (with vocal assist from Dick Noel & The Skyliners), Billy Eckstine and 21-year-old teen heartthrob Vic Damone, who appeared on this week's Ed Sullivan TV Show (29th). Damone was a one-time usher at New York's famed Paramount Theater, who went on to top the bill there in 1948.

 

Aristocrat Records' group The Blues Rockers' single 'Times Are Getting Hard' was breaking in Chicago. The group, who had released 'Two O'Clock Rock' in late 1949 on Plaza, included Willie Mabon, who would have a couple of chart-topping solo R&B hits in the early 50s after Aristocrat changed their name to Chess.

 

26th  After he had lost the sales race with Frankie Laine over both 'Mule Train' and 'That Lucky Old Sun', his label RCA decided to keep big-voiced baritone Vaughn Monroe's new release 'Bamboo' a top secret, and they pressed 250,000 discs ready for the rush. Despite saturation air play and no instant competition 'Bambo', which was making its chart debit, did not dent the Top 10 sellers list, although RCA did claim sales of 350,000 in its first four weeks.

 

 Veteran artist Red Foley was the first C&W artist to have a major pop hit in the 1950s, thanks to his toe tapping 'Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy', which made its debut this week. You may be interested to note that there is no "corner of Fourth and Grand" (where the shoe shine stand was in the song) in that city. Red, who became Pat Boone's father-in-law, could be called "One of the Forefathers of Rockabilly". 

 

27th  The battle between Columbia Records, inventors of the 33 rpm record and RCA, the label behind the 45 rpm record, became even more interesting when RCA announced that they would be the first label to press records in all three speeds, when they released their first batch of 33 rpm albums (albeit initially only in the classical music field) in March.

 

Hank Williams had a Top 3 C&W Juke Box hit with 'My Bucket's Got A Hole In It' , a song penned by one-time shoe shine boy Clarence Williams, which was later recorded by numerous rockabilly acts and was taken into the Pop Top 10 in 1958 by Ricky Nelson. At the time, relatively little notice was taken of Hank's flip side, 'I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry', his often-recorded composition that is now regarded as one of his best works.

 

28th In an attempt to really break their new signing 21-year-old Rosemary Clooney, Columbia Records released her version of the recent Wayne Raney C&W No.1 'Why Don't You Haul Off And Love Me?'. It did not do the trick for the singer who had come to the label's attention when she was singing with her sister Betty with the Tony Pastor Orchestra. Nonetheless, similar "corn-free" recordings of country songs would soon prove very successful for Columbia.


Alan Lomax put on a Tribute to Leadbelly show at the Town Hall in New York. The legendary folk/blues performer born Huddie Leadbetter, whose compositions were later turned into hits by acts like Lonnie Donegan and The Weavers, had died the previous month. It was his song 'Goodnight Irene' that launched the US folk music craze of the 1950s, and his 'Rock Island Line' that kick-started skiffle in the UK in 1956. Incidentally, Leadbelly, who had made his first European appearance in Paris shortly before his death, had no records released before 1950 in the UK.                                                                                

 

29th The most successful new chart artist of 1950 was 18-year-old Teresa Brewer, who had been in show business since she was five. The record that turned her into an international star was 'Music! Music! Music!' which today made a high chart debut. This ode to juke boxes, which also featured the trad jazz sounds of The Dixieland All Stars, soon took her to the top and sold over 350,000 sheet music copies. In the UK, it became the biggest selling single since the war with over 600,000 copies sold. It broke wide open after actor-cum-BBC Radio DJ Richard Attenborough played it twice. Despite her age, Teresa was already married and pregnant when her first hit arrived.

 

Short-lived new label Parkway Records (not the later Cameo subsidiary) was formed in Chicago. The first signings were 19-year-old local blues harp player Little Walter (who would later find fame with tracks like 'Juke' and 'My Babe') and the Baby Face Leroy Trio, which consisted of Leroy Foster, Walter and Aristocrat label act Muddy Waters.The latter recorded an arrangement of a 1927 Hambone Willie Newbern track 'Roll And Tumble', which they re-named 'Rollin' And Tumblin'.  When Aristocrat heard it, they insisted that the "moonlighting" Muddy cut it as a solo for them , and their rushed out recording outsold the Parkway platter.

                                                           

30th  The sentimental song 'Daddy's Little Girl' was first seen on the charts by Dick Todd. The version by that Canadian vocalist was soon overtaken by the Mills Brothers rendition, and a few weeks later it would be covered by burgeoning C&W act, Ferlin Husky (under the name Terry Preston). The song would prove equally successful over the Atlantic, with recordings by top acts like Donald Peers, Billy Cotton, Steve Conway and it introduced the public to one of the UK's top acts of the 50s, Frankie Vaughan. Interestingly, later in 1950, both Todd and The Mills Brothers released the similar sounding 'Daddy's Little Boy'.

                                               

'Rag Mop' (or, as they spell it on the actual records, 'Ragg Mopp') was arguably the hottest new jump song of  the month. Based on Henry 'Red' Allen's 1946 composition 'Get The Mop', it was first recorded in the country field by Bob Wills' brother Johnnie Lee Wills, The Ames Brothers cut it for the pop market and now newly-released renditions by Joe Liggins, Lionel Hampton (whose recording featured later jazz star Wes Montgomery on guitar) and Doc Sausage & His Mad Lads fought for honours on the R&B chart. 'Rag Mop' would clean up on all the charts for several months to come.

 

31st  You could say that it isn't fair that noted 1930s bandleader and composer Richard Himber was not one of the four acts that charted with his composition 'It Isn't Fair'. You could also say that it isn't fair that the best-selling version, which was making its chart debut (it went on to top the Cash Box lists), was credited to band leader Sammy Kaye and not to its vocalist, later chart-topping solo star, Don Cornell.

 

Mississippi blues man, and later Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winner and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame member John Lee Hooker, who had surprised many by topping the R&B lists with his basic 'Boogie Chillen' a year earlier, found himself with one of the hottest records in Miami, 'Huckle Up Baby'. As you probably assumed, the song was concerned with the big dance craze of 1949, 'The Hucklebuck'.

 

 

FEBRUARY 1950

 1st   The story behind the UK's No. 1 sheet music hit, 'Hop-Scotch Polka', is unique. It was written as 'Scotch-Hot' in 1924 by Billy Whitlock, who had been a top vaudeville star in the early 1900s (making $12,000 a year). The song went unnoticed until 1949 when a US DJ started playing Billy's recording. This interest inspired covers by Guy Lombardo and Art Mooney, both of which were US Top 20 hits. A search for Whitlock found him working as an $11 a week night watchman in Brixton, London. It's said the song's revival earned him over $5,600. Incidentally, you may think that Andy Stewart's 'Donald Where's Your Troosers' owes a little something to Whitlock's work.

 

 Twenty-six-year-old blues vocal stylist Jimmy Witherspoon had two tracks in the R&B Top 10, 'No Rollin' Blues' and 'Big Fine Girl'. They were both on the West Coast indie label Modern, who now announced that they planned to be the first R&B label to also press 45 rpm singles. However, their next few releases, including singer/guitarist Pee Wee Crayton's 'Rockin' The Blues' and singer/pianist Roy Hawkins' big R&B hit 'Why Do Things Happen To Me?' appear to have only been released on 78s.

 

2nd  The pairing of Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters had proved extremely popular in the 1940s and the quartet continued to chart together in the fabulous 50s. They made their first entry of the new decade with 'Quicksilver', a catchy song that also sold well by Doris Day, and which repeated its success over the Atlantic.

 

 Fourteen-year-old Little Esther made her R&B chart debut with the future No.1 'Double Crossing Blues' on which she and The Robins were credited as vocalists on a Johnny Otis Quintette track. A reviewer noted "The teen-age thrush cries an insinuating blues with shrill unpolished fervour. Her very crudity makes this a potent job - rough, sincere and vital". The youngest female to top the R&B charts had several big sellers in the early 50s, and in later life was a popular performer under the name Esther Phillips.

 

3rd  Johnny Long & His Orchestra, who had been frequent visitors to the US hit parade since 1943, were now enjoying their last minor hit with the sing-a-long song 'We'll Build A Bungalow', which featured vocalists Janet Brace & The Glee Club. "The Man Who's Long on Music", as he was known, is best remembered for his million-selling composition 'In A Shanty In Old Shanty Town'.

 

 Early electric guitar playing blues singer T-Bone Walker, whose playing influenced B.B. King and Eric Clapton amongst others, had his last R&B chart entry with 'Go Back To The One You Love'. Walker's best known recording is his 1948 version of 'Call It Stormy Monday' aka 'Stormy Monday Blues'.

 

4th Bandleader/vocalist and currently 'Bamboo' hitmaker Vaughn Monroe & His Orchestra started their longest ever, and most lucrative, tour on this day in Ithaca, New York. It lasted until June 1 and grossed $800,000 for the Monroe team that included 24 musicians and seven singers. His 60-day tour in 1949 had grossed the band $400,000.

 

The unrelated Bill Monroe & His Blue Grass Boys recorded his composition 'Blue Moon Of Kentucky' at their first session for Decca in Nashville. The song, which in 1955 would be recorded by Elvis Presley on his first-ever single, would later be recorded by scores of rock acts.

 

5th A superb lyrical idea" is how a Billboard reviewer described the song 'The Cry Of The Wild Goose' which flew into all the US charts this week by Frankie Laine. Like his previous chart-topping single, it was also available by Tennessee Ernie and was not released in the UK at the time. Frankie's rendering of the song, which was also recorded by its composer Terry Gilkyson, cleverly combined the actual sound of wild geese with French horns and featured Frankie doing a vocal overdub (which was very unusual at the time). In the UK, the song was the first single released by the decade's most successful local vocal group, The Stargazers.

 

 In the nine months since 'Lovesick Blues' had given 26-year-old Hank Williams his first C&W No.1, he had amassed another six Top 10 entries, the latest being 'I Just Don't Like This Kind Of Livin'. Hank's role in the rise of rock resulted in his being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in 1987.

 

6th  Nat 'King' Cole had two new releases - a single, 'It Was So Good While It Lasted', which was selected by US retailers as one of the week's most likely hits, and a daughter Natalie who, like her father, would become a leading R&B and pop star - and would even have big hits singing on electronically re-recorded tracks with her dad.

 

Tennessee-based Dot Records released their first single. The label was owned by Randy Wood, the founder of Randy's Record Shop, which was one of the nations top record mail order companies. The label, that was later responsible for scores of 50s and 60s pop and rock hits, kicked off with 'Boogie Beat Rag' by the Tennessee Drifters.

 

7th RCA Records proudly announced that their 45s were the fastest-selling records and that they had sold an average 500 45 rpm players every day for the last few months. Their auto changer players were selling for just $12.95.

 

 Sixty one-year-old blues legend Lonnie Johnson, who influenced many later guitarists and soon afterwards lent his Christian name to a fan, the later skiffle king Anthony Donegan, had his last R&B chart success with 'Confused' coupled with his take on the current country hit 'Blues Stay Away From Me'.

 

8th One of the most talked about new vocal discoveries of the time was undoubtedly 29-year-old Mario Lanza, who was proving to be the most popular operatic tenor since Enrico Caruso. Arguably the first 'pop' artist targeted at the album rather than singles market, who only had his press launch the previous September, peaked at No.2 with the soundtrack album to his first film That Midnight Kiss. You might be interested to note that this opera idol died in 1959 on the day that Simon Cowell was born!

 

Among the interesting new R&B releases were 'Back Biting Woman' by Billy Wright  - who was a favourite of, and admitted influence on Little Richard, and 'Screaming And Crying' by one of the most influential R&B acts of all time, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame member Muddy Waters. 

 

9th The success that Decca Records had teaming pop star Margaret Whiting and western movie hero Jimmy Wakely (who had sold 2.5 million singles in 1949 alone) , inspired their rivals Mercury to follow suit, and they put Patti Page alongside Rex Allen for a revival of a 1930s song 'Broken Down Merry-Go-Round'. The same song was also released by Jon & Sondra Steele (who had the million-seller 'My Happiness' in 1948). However, it was a version by the aforementioned Whiting and Wakely that outsold the others.

 

 A week before his songwriting partner Fats Domino made his chart debut, 29-year-old Dave Barthlomew had his only R&B hit as an artist with 'Country Boy'. Over the coming years Dave's work with Fats and other New Orleans acts, resulted in some of the best loved early R&R and R&B records, and it was no surprise when he was elected into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. Incidentally, he stuck to the song's theme for his follow-up, 'Country Boy Goes Home' , and also recorded a female version, 'Country Gal'. Incidentally, was a different 'Country Boy' to the one that Fats himself hit with in 1960.

 

10th  It seemed that almost everyone was singing or whistling 'Enjoy Yourself (It's Later Than You Think)' in 1950. The song, which would go on to sell nearly half a million by Guy Lombardo's Orchestra featuring vocalist Kenny Gardner, was also popular by Doris Day, while in the UK, Donald Peers' version accounted for most sales. The song must have made an impression on eight-year-old Paul McCartney, as he later bought the publishing rights to it. It was co-written by Songwriters Hall of Fame member Carl Sigman, who was simultaneously scoring with the aforementioned 'Hop Scotch Polka'.

 

 Roy 'Good Rockin' Tonight' Brown was having trouble with some radio stations getting radio play of his new release 'Butcher Pete',  which warned ladies' man Pete that his meat was "going to be the death of him". Shortly afterwards it was reported that the exciting 24-year-old performer had offered free singing lessons to President Truman's daughter, Margaret.   

 

11th Mitch Miller, whose productions had proved so successful at Mercury, joined Columbia Records on a three-year deal, as the label announced that that from now on "More emphasis will be placed on selecting the right artist for the right tune". He quickly bought in Percy Faith as a musical director. It was an astute move by the label as Miller went on to become the most successful producer of the decade.

 

Ask New Orleans piano legends like Fats Domino and Allen Toussaint about their influences, and they are certain to mention Roy Byrd (known as Professor Longhair) who released one of his best known tracks, 'Mardi Gras In New Orleans', on the burgeoning Atlantic Records label.

 

12th Twenty-three-year-old Liverpool vocalist Lita Roza, who had on occasion sung with the Edmundo Ros Band, made her live debut with The Ted Heath Band - which was arguably the only jazz-based UK big band to receive acclaim in the US. She would later become the first local lady to top the UK chart.


Ivory Joe Hunter's 'I Almost Lost My Mind' topped the R&B chart. At the time it attracted covers by Lionel Hampton (with vocals by Sonny Parker) and Nat 'King' Cole, and six years later clean-cut Pat Boone took Joe's lost love ballad to the very top of the pop chart.

 

13th  The Wurlitzer juke box company today unveiled their most sophisticated model yet, the top of the range 1250 which played 48 selections (24 78 rpm singles) and cost $759.50. Also, for just an extra $10, buyers could purchase an adapter which meant they could also play 33 rpm or 45 rpm records. The first 45 rpm juke boxes were to be tested on April Fools Day.

 

Pioneering R&B vocal group The Ravens, who were also the first of numerous "bird groups" (doo-wop vocal teams named after birds) charted with 'I Don't Have To Ride No More', which was coupled with their version of The Shadows' (obviously not the later UK group) charter 'I've Been A Fool'. It was The Ravens who in 1948 first rocked 'White Christmas' and gave The Drifters and Elvis the blueprint for their later versions.

 

14th In total seven versions of 'Rag Mop' made the US pop charts, and on this day five of them were among the Top 25 most-played records on US radio, with the Ames Brothers' rendering heading the list. Surprisingly, 'Sentimental Me' the B-side of the family quartet's version, now also reached the best sellers, but more about that later. The family quartet, who first recorded in 1947 as the Amory Brothers, went on to become the top vocal group of the early 50s and had at least one hit in every year of the decade.

 

Before the terms "rocking" and "rolling" were forever associated with music they had sexual connotations on the hip R&B scene. If you are in any doubt, give a listen to new releases 'Rocking Jenny Jones' by Big John Greer & His Rhythm Rockers or Connie Jordan's single entendre single 'I'm Gonna Rock (Till My Rocker Breaks)', which was released on Coral. Male vocalist Jordan, incidentally, had been a member of the Hollywood Four Blazes in the late 40s.

 

15th At long last, 'The Third Man Theme' became available in the US and instantly the original European hit version, from the acclaimed Orson Welles movie, by its composer, Austrian zither virtuosos Anton Karas charted. Recordings of the song, which is roughly based on a practice piece in a zither tutor book, are said to have sold approximately 40 million copies around the world. It certainly earned Karas enough to buy his own wine bar in Vienna, which not surprisingly he named 'The Third Man'.

 

As a DJ on arguably the first radio station with an all black team of record spinners, WDIA in Memphis, Rufus Thomas is given credit for helping launch the careers of several acts, including B.B. King, Ike Turner, Bobby 'Blue' Bland and Roscoe Gordon. As a vocalist Rufus gave Sun Records their first hit in 1953 and helped make Stax a household name in the 1960s. However, this day saw his first release, 'I'll Be A Good Boy' on Star Talent records get its first mention in the trade papers.

 

16th  The title song from the Susan Hayward and Dana Andrews movie My Foolish Heart proved to be one of the biggest hits of 1950. On this day the first version to hit, by the orchestra of Gordon Jenkins (featuring vocalist Sandy Evans), made its debut at the bottom of the Airplay chart.

 

45 rpm singles were already making their mark in the pop music market, but Billboard pointed out that there was "still little demand for them in the R&B field". The all 78 rpm R&B juke box Top 10 that week was the first of countless charts to include the name Fats Domino as 'The Fat Man' made a grand entry at No. 4.

 

17th In an almost unique event, a genuine C&W performer stood at the top of the pop best sellers list. It was Red Foley with 'Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy' - a song that listed two C&W radio station owners as composers - although in a later out-of-court settlement $7,500 was paid to the wife of the recently diseased one-time minstrel and songwriter David 'Bunny' Biggs composer of 'Shoe Shine Boogie', which according to his spouse shared identical rhythm and music, although the words were different. Incidentally the song can be heard in the Gene Autry western movie Indian Territory which was released later that year. For the record, Red's flip side 'Sugarfoot Rag' (which included a guitar solo by its composer Hank Garland) was now in the 10 most-played C&W records on juke boxes.

 

Alton and Rabon, the Delmore Brothers are always included in lists of early hillbilly artists whose music influenced rock'n'roll. The duo from Alabama were not only still riding high with their 'Blues Stay Away From Me', but now also saw the follow-up, another self-penned song 'Pan American Boogie' in the C&W Top 10.

 

18th Within a record time of just a handful of days, Decca recorded and rushed out Bing Crosby covers of two current hits, 'Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo' and 'Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy'. In the 1940s it was almost the norm for Bing to release late versions of current hit songs and to then outsell the other recordings. This time though he was not as successful as label-mate Red Foley, and oft-times rival, Perry Como, respectively, took the lion's share of sales.

 

Among the rock-related R&B releases was 'Adam Bit The Apple' by Joe Turner (which came off the same tree as 'Shake, Rattle & Roll'), Creole cracker 'Bon Ton Roula' (which translates to "Good Times Roll") by Clarence Garlow and Wynonie Harris double entendre delight 'I Like My Baby's Pudding'.

 

19th  RCA Records felt there was still a lot of life left in big bands and launched a special promotion for 15 newly-released albums from such bands as those of Tommy Dorsey, Tex Beneke, Freddy Martin and Wayne King. All the albums were available in the label's own 45 rpm album sets (as opposed to the standard much bulkier and heavier 78s album sets).


One of the decade's most successful and influential C&W artists, Webb Pierce released his debut disc on 4 Star Records, 'Heebie Jeebie Blues' and 'Sweetheart, I Love You So' on which he was backed by his Southern Valley Boys. Webb, who was a member of the prestigious Louisiana Hayride show, notched up 13 C&W No.1s in the 1950s, and his music influenced many later rockabilly and rock'n'roll acts.

 

20th  Due to the amazing success of the two films about his life, veteran entertainer Al Jolson was enjoying one of the most spectacular comebacks of all time. His three album releases since 1947 had all topped the chart (spending a total of 49 weeks at the summit) and his latest album release, Jolson Sings Again, was in the Top 3. In the UK, where albums were very scarce, he had a string of late 40s hit singles and 'Is It True What They Say About Dixie' - which he had a top-selling version of - entered the sheet music charts. 

 

Nine-year-old Sugar Chile Robinson entered the R&B Juke Box Top 15 with his late 1949 revival of 'Caldonia (What Makes Your Big Head So Hard)', the classic Louis Jordan chart-topper from 1945, that has been recorded since by many rock'n'roll and R&B acts.

 

21st  The Children's Records chart of the day contained records by actors Shirley Temple, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Frank Morgan and Basil Rathbone, as well as three by Mel Blanc, including the No.1, 'Woody Woodpecker And His Talent Show'. In those days, such records sold surprisingly well.

 

 

Akron, Ohio's Top DJ, Alan Freed got his first mention in Billboard when he left WAKR to join the station across the street, WADC. He had initially joined the former in 1945 at a wage of $60.50, and in his last year there made over $10,000. Freed is of course the person who would be credited a few years later with "inventing" the term "Rock & Roll".

 

22nd 'Have I Told You Lately That I Love You' had been one of the most successful C&W songs of 1946, with Top 5 versions by Red Foley, Gene Autry, Tex Ritter and Foy Willing. It now cracked the pop Juke Box listing by Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters (where it joined its coupling, 'Quicksilver'). In the UK, their recording proved even more successful and the song reached No. 2 on the sheet music chart.

 

Up and coming A&R man Joe Carlton replaced Mitch Miller at Mercury Records. He would later have success with RCA before forming his own label, Carlton Records, where he had hits with acts like Jack Scott, The Chantels, Paul Evans, Anita Bryant and Gary Stites.

 

23rd  One of the new big bands to sell a lot of records in the 1950s was that fronted by pianist and arranger Ralph Flanagan, who had previously worked with the bands of Sammy Kaye, Charlie Barnett and Blue Barron. His Glenn Miller styled workout of the very popular 'Rag Mop' now joined the five most-played records on US radio. Flanagan's outfit (which then included later hitmakers Dick Hyman and Moe 'Swingin' Shepherd Blues' Koffman) would not only be named Most Promising New Band of 1950, but also Top Band of the Year in the Billboard DJ poll.

 

Elvis' 1960 chart-topper 'Are You Lonesome Tonight' was released by Blue Barron and His Orchestra, who had headed all the charts a year earlier with 'Crusing Down The River'. On his version of the song first made famous in 1927 by Vaughn DeLeath, vocal chores were handled by Bobby Beers and the memorable "The whole world's a stage" narration came from DJ John McCormic.

 

24th   It was unusual in those days that the US and UK markets had simultaneous chart-toppers, but 'Dear Hearts And Gentle People' was now the No.1 selling sheet music song on both sides of the Atlantic. On the record front Bing had Britain's favourite version, and shared the honours in his homeland with Dinah Shore.

 

Among the most interesting new R&B releases were 'Howlin' Wolf' by John Lee Hooker (which was not a tribute to his fellow R&B/blues man) and the rockin' instrumental 'Wam-A-Lam' from Joe Thomas, a saxophonist from Pennsylvannia who had had previously worked in the bands of Jimmie Lunceford and Eddie Wilcox.

 

25th The highest new entry on the US radio airplay list was Frank Sinatra's late-in-the-day rendition of 'Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy', the B-side of which, 'God's Country' also made its debut in that chart. Over on the Best Sellers chart the highest placed new track was Johnnie Lee Wills' original C&W version of his song 'Rag Mop', which also debuted in the pop Juke Box Top 10.

 

Alabama singer/songwriter and banjo player Hank Penny returned to the C&W lists after an absence of four years with his own composition 'Bloodshot Eyes', a foot-tapper that was successfully recorded a year later in the R&B field by Wynonie Harris. In the UK, where Hank's version did not surface until 1956, the song launched the career of Jimmy Justice and was also Millie's follow-up to 'My Boy Lollipop'. It was also recorded by such diverse acts as Pat Benatar, Acker Bilk and cockney rockers Chas & Dave.

 

26th Sir Harry Lauder died. He was one of the most successful British artists in the US in the early 20th century. The Scottish entertainer had toured the US 22 times and amassed over a dozen top-selling singles there. At the time of his death, a bio pic was being discussed with Danny Kaye being considered for the lead part. In case the name means little to you, he is probably best remembered for 'Roamin' In The Gloamin'', 'I Love A Lassie' and 'Stop Your Ticklin', Jock'.

 

An overlooked C&W B-side at the time was 'Release Me' sung by its composer Eddie Miller and his group The Oklahomans on Four Star. The divorce ditty would be turned into a country hit by Ray Price, Jimmy Heap and Kitty Wells in 1954, an R&B million-seller for (Little) Esther Phillips in 1962 and a pop multi-million-seller for Engelbert Humperdinck in 1967.

 

27th Cash Box magazine only launched its US single chart at the beginning of 1950, and so far most of its entries coincided with those of Billboard. However, on this day both sides of Bing Crosby's latest single, 'The Yodel Blues' and 'Big Movie In the Sky', were on the CB listing but neither was ever seen on the rival chart. The former, like Bing's other current hit, 'Quicksilver', had also been recorded for the C&W market by Elton Britt & Rosalie Allen.

 

The nation's Juke Box operators named influential boogie pianist and vocal stylist Amos Milburn the No.1 money-making R&B artist of the last year. He also had four singles in the most-played R&B records of 1949 list: 'Hold Me Baby', 'In The Middle Of The Night', the Jessie Mae Robinson song 'Roomin' House Boogie' and 'Empty Arms Blues'.

 

28th Gene Autry's previous kiddie-targeted single 'Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer' had sold well over a million copies (and went on to sell over six million), and so a lot was expected of his new 78 rpm and 33 rpm single, the Easter rabbit ditty 'Peter Cottontail', which adverts claimed was "Greater than Rudolph". Despite a handful of cover versions (including Johnnie Lee 'Rag Mop' Wills), it sold 400,000 copies and hopped into the Top 20 on two successive years, but overall the bunny made far less money than high flying Rudolph. It came from the pen of Steve Nelson, the writer of 1948's top-selling country song 'Bouquet Of Roses'.

 

Twenty-four-year-old DJ Bill Haley, who played C&W records three times daily on WPWA in Chester, Pennsylvania, signed with Keystone Record, who said that he would be cutting four tracks with his group The Saddle Men.

 

MARCH 

 

1st Other show business news included the fact that Bob Hope was reportedly going to earn $1.64 million in 1950 - a record for any entertainer ever! Also, the radio show The Lone Ranger (now in its 19th series) reportedly earned $2.5 million from merchandising and novelties in 1949 - proving there's gold in "Hi Ho Silver', and long-time TV and radio ratings company Hooper were bought out by Nielsen with The Jack Benny Program being their last reported No.1 TV show.

 

The latest R&B child protégé to get the headlines was 13-year-old singer/pianist Pee Wee Barnum (they said he was 12). He had already appeared on several top radio and TV shows (for two years he played the young Kingfisher on Amos 'n' Andy) and had been seen in a couple of movies. Later in life (as H.B. Barnum) he recorded the original 'Nut Rocker' (under the name Jack B. Nimble & The Quicks  and made a name as an arranger, working with acts like Aretha Franklin, The Supremes, Little Richard, Gladys Knight, Lou Rawls and Frank Sinatra.

 

2nd New to the Top 10 album chart was a story book album adapted from the Walt Disney movie Cinderella. It contained a colourful 24 page read-along booklet and four songs from the animated film. These included the hit 'Bibbidi-Bobbidi Boo' and the song that gave Perry Como his new chart entry, 'A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes'.

 

"Teenage piano sensation" 18-year-old Little Willie Littlefield released 'The Moon Is Rising', and one week later put out the double entendre rock song, 'Rocking Chair Mama' . Eighteen months later Willie, who first recorded in 1946 at the age of 15, released the original recording of the 1959 chart-topper 'Kansas City' as 'K.C. Loving'.

 

3rd Columbia Records claimed that they had sold over 500,000 of their new 7" 33 rpm singles in one week alone - despite this good start, it was, of course, RCA's 45 rpm singles that would become the industry norm. Simultaneously, the earliest music on tapes appeared - with the first ones being hour long 71/2 ips Scotch tapes containing 16-26 tracks of pop and semi-classical material.

 

Twenty-five-year-old Clarence 'Gatemouth' Brown was named 'King of the Blues Guitar' after a head-to-head "battle of the axes" with Goree Carter (whom Chuck Berry may owe a little something to) at the City Auditorium in Houston, Texas. Pioneering and influential musician Brown, who Frank Zappa named as his all-time favourite guitarist, also had a new single just out, 'It Can Never Be That Way'.

 

4th Critically acclaimed ex-big band vocalist Rosemary Clooney had signed to Columbia after her 21st birthday in 1949, and they originally recorded her solely for the kiddie's market. She made her first of many chart appearances in the early 1950s on the Cash Box Top 40 with 'The Kid's A Dreamer'. It would be another year before she cracked the Billboard  best sellers.

 

Top 5 R&B act Larry Darnell opened at New York's famed Birdland Club, and Dinah Washington, whose new single 'I Only Know' entered the R&B Juke Box Top 10, shared top of the bill spot with The Ravens at Chicago's famous Royal Theater. Distinctive song stylist Dinah, who was known as "The Queen Of The Juke Boxes', was later inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame.

 

 5th   Newly-released figures show that over one million TVs were sold in the US in the last quarter of 1949 and it was estimated that 5.37 million would be sold in 1950. One of the new medium's most popular shows was the Ed Sullivan hosted Toast Of The Town, which today included Vic Damone performing his latest single 'God's Country' - a song that Frank Sinatra, veteran Al Jolson and MGM's new balladeer Bill Farrell were also promoting at the time.

 

On the subject of God and country, Margaret Whiting & Jimmy Wakely's revival of Eddie Kirk's 1948 C&W hit 'The Gods Were Angry With Me' joined two other aforementioned duets by them in the Country Top 10: 'Broken Down Merry-Go-Round' and 'Slipping Around', which had been slipping around that chart for over six months.

 

6th   You wait years for a "Cake" hit, and two come along at once. Mindy Carson and top rated TV show host Arthur Godfrey (backed by future hit act The Chordettes) were both clicking with 'Candy And Cake', while one-time child protégé 20-year-old Eileen Barton , who had appeared on the cover of Billboard exactly five years ago this week, became the first act to chart with one of the biggest songs of the year on both sides of the Atlantic, 'If I Knew You Were Comin' (I'd've Baked A Cake)'. Composer Bob Merrill had a hand in both songs - so you could say he had his cake and ate it too! 

 

Despite what later rock stars may claim, some earlier white acts also proved very popular at the famed Apollo Theater in New York's Harlem. One of these was Louis Prima and his band, who at this time were headlining there alongside Johnny Moore's Three Blazers. It was reported that the audience liked his novelty numbers and that his interpretation of Louis Jordan's 'Caldonia' brought down the house.

 

7th It was a time when labels were finding that it made financial sense to team their top solo artists on record. Such was the rush that an advert for RCA listed 16 different records by duos (most of whom only came together on wax). The latest song that had companies combining acts was the cleverly written 'Dearie', a throwback to the music of the turn of the century, that initially charted by both Jo Stafford and Gordon MacRae and Ray Bolger (yes, the Scarecrow from The Wizard Of Oz) and Ethel Merman.

 

Columbia Records unveiled their "Great new singing Star" Alan Dale with not one new single but four; 'This Is Heaven To Me', 'You're My Treasure', 'More Than I Should' and 'I'll Believe In You'. Despite a big promotional push, the quartet of releases by the latest Italian-American heart-throb (born Aldo Sigismondi) failed to make any impression. Alan (who renamed himself after Robin Hood's merry man Alan A-Dale) later starred alongside Bill Haley in the movie Don't Knock The Rock.

 

8th  'Music! Music! Music!' made a spectacular jump from No. 9 to No.1 on the UK Sheet Music chart. The song not only made Teresa Brewer an overnight sensation there too, but also sold well in Britain by top local acts like Donald Peers and Anne Shelton. Interestingly, at the end of the decade Miss Brewer recorded a rock'n'roll version of the song (as did Bill Haley, who had a hit with it in Italy) and in the 1970s cut a 6-minute disco rendition, but neither attracted many nickels.

 

New releases included two sax fronted honkin' boogie rockers 'Block Buster Boogie' recorded in New York by Cecil Payne and his sextet (which featured Billy Taylor on piano) and 'Hop N'Twist' by Atlantic Records' artist Frank Culley, whose 'Cole Slaw' and 'After Hour Session' had proved successful the previous year.

 

9TH  'Sentimental Me', the flip side of their No.1 'Rag Mop', was now selling so well that the Ames Brothers released in its own right (with a new coupling). The song, was also covered by a string of other acts including Ray Anthony, Russ Morgan (whom the brothers had recorded with in the past), keyboard king Ken Griffin and R&B group The Ray-O-Vacs . You may recall the song best by Elvis who included it on the 1960 album Something For Everybody.

 

On this day, legendary trumpeter Miles Davis completed recording one of the all-time greatest jazz albums, 'Birth of The Cool', at Capitol's Studios in New York. The 23-year-old, who had previously played with Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, was joined by such noted musicians as Gerry Mulligan, J.J. Johnson and Max Roach. The album is regarded as one of the true milestones of "cool jazz", and it influenced many later rock musicans.

 

10th Over in the UK, Bing Crosby had four singles in the unofficial Top 10 including 'Mule Train' (which was one of three American versions of that song in that listing) and the Irish melody 'How Can You Buy Killarney?', which had failed to follow his similarly themed 'Galway Bay' up the US charts.

 

Independent label Imperial, whose successful R&B acts included Fats Domino, announced that like fellow R&B indie giants King Records, that they too would be releasing C&W records. Interestingly, nine months after Billboard had come up with the genre names Rhythm & Blues and Country & Western, cutting-edge label King were still referring to them as Sepia-Blues and Hillbilly-Western.

 

11th  RCA Records announced that 21-year-old crooner Eddie Fisher, who had previously charted on Columbia in 1948 singing with the Marlin Sisters on 'You Can't Be True, Dear', would be moved from their budget label Bluebird to their full price label and would get the full weight of the company behind his future releases.

 

The Johnny Otis Show topped the R&B charts with the first of their many US hits with 'Double Crossing Blues'. There is an old adage in the music business "Wherever there's a hit there's a writ", and such was the case here too, with composer Jessie Mae Robinson winning an out-of-court settlement over Otis when she claimed he had simply re-named an earlier song of hers.

 

12th   You couldn't turn your radio on without hearing 'Music! Music! Music!'. Among the other artists' versions that people were spending their nickels on were Freddy Martin, Ames Brothers, Carmen Cavallero, Hugo Winterhalter and former Spike Jones band member Mickey Katz with a comic take on it. 

 

Piano-playing country vocalist Moon Mullican, who was known as "The King Of The Hillbilly Piano Players" debuted in the C&W Top 10 with his biggest hit of all time, 'I'll Sail My Ship Alone'. Moon's playing influenced several later musicians including fellow C&W piano pounder Jerry Lee Lewis, who successfully revived this song in 1959. Amusingly, one of Moon's last recordings in 1966 was entitled 'I Ain't No Beatle (But I Want To Hold Your Hand)

 

 

13th Jo Stafford & Gordon MacRae had five duet tracks on the Cash Box Top 40, with their rendition of the religious country ballad 'Beyond The Sunset' joining 'Dearie', 'Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo', 'Echoes' and 'Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday (I Love You)'.

 

After 15 years with the label, 'Lady Day', Billie Holiday left Decca to sign a 12-tracks-a-year deal with the successful R&B indie label Aladdin Records, while Decca brought another noted jazz vocalist into its stable, Mildred Bailey. Billie was, of course, the subject of the 1972 bio-pic Lady Sang The Blues, which starred Diana Ross.

 

14th Veteran bandleader and composer Al Trace, who had topped the pop chart two years earlier with his own song 'You Call Everybody Darling', took out big ads to tell the world that it was he who had written and first recorded the fastest moving song in the land, 'If I Knew You Were Comin' (I'd've Baked A Cake)' but his version vanished without trace (sorry about that!) and was not among the five that charted.

 

Among the more interesting new releases were Webb Pierce's 'Groovie Boogie Woogie Boy' , 'Let Your Daddy Ride' John Lee Hooker, 'Cecil Payne's meaty 'Ham Hocks' and 'T-Town Blues' by Ernie Fields (who earned a gold disc in 1959 with his rockin' rendition of Glenn Miller's 'In The Mood').

 

15th  In the 18 months since Columbia Records launched the 33 rpm microgroove Long Playing Record they announced that they had sold 5.5 million of them (the equivalent to 27.5 million individual 78 rpm records in album sets). Simultaneously, their main rivals RCA announced that they too would finally follow suit and released their first batch of 33 rpm LPs today.

 

16th  As the sound of the zither began to take hold in the US, over in the UK this unusual stringed instrument was the subject of a couple of best-selling singles; 'The Zither Melody', which was a vocal version of 'The Third Man Theme', by Reggie Goff (a vocalist often called "The British Vaughn Monroe") and 'Come Hither With Your Zither', which was popular by both controversial comedian Max Miller and the legendary George Formby.

 

"Hillbilly Fever" was starting to go around, and recordings by the 4' 11" bundle of energy Little Jimmy Dickens and '40s yodelling favorite Kenny Roberts were both picking up a lot of early interest. The foot stomping, early rockabilly feeling, song tells of the spread of C&W music and name dropped several recent big country hits. Interestingly, at the end of the war, Bill Haley had replaced Roberts in The Downhomers group while Kenny was in the services.

17th   Ever since Danny Kaye (see photo) topped the bill in January 1948, and become an overnight sensation in Europe, the London Palladium had been regarded as the most important and prestigious venue outside of the USA. The famed theater made news today by offering Frank Sinatra $25,000 for two weeks work this coming summer.

 

As Fats Domino's first hit 'The Fat Man' was finally reported to be "breaking out" in New York, way down yonder in his home town of New Orleans he was proving he was no one-hit-wonder, as his follow-up 'Little Bee' was also getting the crescent city buzzing.

 

18th Teresa Brewer not only had the No.1 hit with her fourth single on London, but an earlier release, the movie theme 'Copper Canyon', which she recorded with fellow newcomer Bobby Wayne, also entered the Cash Box Top 40.

 Much of the music industry was talking about the new music craze, "levee" music, that is Dixieland jazz, and publishers of old trad jazz songs were rushing around trying to get their old catalogue favourites re-recorded - one of these was 'Does Your Spearmint Lose Its Flavour' which was released by the one-time "Milky Way Candy Boy" Benny Strong and his band. The song didn't happen then, but was a transatlantic hit later by one-time trad jazz band member Lonnie Donegan.

 19th

  Columbia said they were now producing one million 78 rpm singles per month and 600,000 albums, whereas RCA claimed to manufacture 600,000 singles and estimated that this figure would double by the year's end.

 Two later top C&W artists and pop crossover hitmakers Red 'Teddy Bear' Sovine and 26-year-old Slim Whitman joined radio station KWKH in Shreveport, Louisiana. Slim took the 6-6.30 am slot while Red could be heard between 7-7.30 pm.

 

20th   Ex-big band vocalist Georgia Gibbs achieved the first of many 1950s hits with the much-recorded pop/dixieland novelty 'If I Knew You Were Comin' (I'd've Baked A Cake)', but it would not stop Eillen Barton's 'Cake' rising to the top. Eileen incidentally was the daughter of Frank Sinatra's music publisher Ben Barton, and continuing the family theme, unusually, her version was available on two labels, National and Mercury - the later label being run by the son of the owner of the former!

 "Let's rock this house tonight" was the hook line of The Treniers' new release, the hand-clapping stomper 'Everybody Get Together'. This record by the group who inspired Bill Haley to "rock", contained shouts of "rock", "rock" over a wild sax break - years before it became almost the norm.

 

21st    As expected Anton Karas' original recording of '"The Third Man" Theme' made a high debut in the best sellers chart, joining the cover version by Lawrence Welk (whose single also had the same B-side as Karas, 'The Café Mozart Waltz', which could be heard in the same movie). Incidentally, Karas' future chart-topper was one of the first batch of London Records 45 rpm singles.

 Van "Piano Man" Walls, the keyboard player in the Atlantic Records house band, released his first solo single, a cover of Smiley Lewis' debut disc on Imperial, 'Tee Nah Nah', which featured a vocal by Brownie McGhee (under the name Spider Sam). According to Atlantic's Jerry Wexler the title refers to reefers. Walls can be heard on scores of influential early 50s Atlantic R&B hits by acts like Joe Turner, The Clovers and Ruth Brown.

 

22nd  At the same time that she was headlining on Broadway in South Pacific, Mary Martin found time to record with top TV talent show host Arthur Godfrey and they sang and talked their way through the Sammy Fain song 'Go To Sleep, Go To Sleep', a novelty that owed a little to 'Baby, It's Cold Outside'. Among the other versions of the song that CBS Radio banned for being a little suggestive, was one by Larry Parks (who had played Al Jolson in his two recent and very successful bio-pics) and his wife Betty Garrett, who you may recall from the later TV series All In The Family or Laverne & Shirley.

 It was rare that a country singer's face adorned the front of Billboard magazine, but today that honor went to singer/songwriter Hank Williams - who was now, arguably, the most talked about C&W act in the business.

 

23rd It was already the norm for a handful of versions of every hit song to be on the market, and to add to the ever-increasing amount of records released, RCA Records now announced that, like Decca, they planned to cover every disc on another label as soon as it looked like taking off.  

 Sammy Kaye's adaptation of the old folk song 'Wonderin' was heavily promoted as the "hobo song" of the age. Nonetheless, the wistful record, which featured vocalist Tony Alamo, was only a mid-table hit. In 1962, Lonnie Donegan, who knew it from skiffle rivals The Vipers' version, added a new lyric and released it as 'I'll Never Fall In Love Again' but it failed to chart. However a late 1960s revival of Lonnie's song by Tom Jones was a big transatlantic hit.

 

 

24th    Twenty-nine-year-old Johnny Desmond, who had previously sung in the bands of Glenn Miller, Bob Crosby and Gene Krupa, was the first act to click with catchy bi-lingual song "C'est Si Bon (It's So Good)', on which he received vocal support from The Quintones. Despite his head start, later versions by Danny Kaye and Eartha Kitt are probably better remembered. C'est La Vie!

 Interesting new releases included 'Rock With It' by Johnny Moore's Three Blazers (featuring vocalist Billy Valentine), "The boogie rhythm gal" Camille Howard's 'O Sole Mio Boogie' (the song Elvis' 'It's Now Or Never' was based on) and Muddy Waters rendition of 'Rollin' And Tumblin'' - a song that is now regarded as a blues/R&B classic, which has since been recorded by numerous acts.

 25th It was not unusual for an artist to have two singles selling simultaneously, but it was rare for an act to have three, as Frankie Laine currently did, with 'The Cry Of the Wild Goose', 'Satin Wears A Satin Gown' and the unusual 'Swamp Girl' all getting interest.

 Paul Williams released the exciting hand-clapper 'What's Happening?'. Paul, who fronted the house band at the fame Apollo Theater in Harlem in the early 50s, wrote and originally recorded 'The Hucklebuck', the No.1 R&B hit in 1949. The latter was a composition that was much recorded by early rock'n'roll acts and which Chubby Checker recorded as a follow-up to 'The Twist'. Co-incidentally, Williams had scored in 1948 with a track called 'The Twister'.

 26th  Future chart regulars Bea, Marge and Geri, The Fontane Sisters, who had built up a following by singing on record and radio with Perry Como, released their version of Eileen Barton's No.1 on RCA. Over in the UK, where Barton's version was not released, "Cake" entered the Sheet Music chart -it was US vocalist Eve Young who had the top-selling version, beating local renderings by such acts as Gracie Fields and Donald Peers. Also today, Eileen sang her chart-topper on the top rated Ed Sullivan TV show.

 The very influential C&W radio show The Louisiana Hayride was now heard on 21 different stations across the nation. The show would be the radio launching pad for Elvis and many other country and rock'n'roll acts, and in 2008 its home, the Shreveport Municipal Auditorium, would be officially named a National Historic Landmark.

 27th Bethlehem (Pennsylvania, that is) born Murv Shiner briefly hopped ahead of Gene Autry with his rendering of the Easter bunny ditty 'Peter Cottontail' on both the pop and country chart. Nonetheless, Western movie hero Autry's version soon outshone Shiner's. It was to be Murv's last C&W chart entry for 17 years.

 In the month that Jubilee Records released their first 45 rpm singles, they issued La Verne Ray's 'Rock And Roll'. On this stomper, vocalist ArleneTalley told us all about a real gone sax-playing friend of hers who "liked to rock and roll all night" - there were sexual suggestions, but basically she, the call and response vocal group, Mr. Ray and the sax man were rocking & rolling in the true musical sense.

 28th TV was also becoming popular in the UK, with newly-released sales figures showing that 205,500 sets were sold in 1949, which compared very favourably to the 90,050 in 1948 and the 28,200 in 1947. Meanwhile, in the US, it was prophesied that within two years rectangle tubes would replace the usual round ones.

 

Months after it was first released (see Jan 1), Fats Domino's groundbreaking 'The Fat Man', peaked at No. 2 on the R&B Juke Box listing and finally made its debut on the R&B Best Sellers Top 10 chart.

 29th Red Foley received a gold record for 'Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy' on stage at the Grand Ole Opry watched by an audience that included the Mayor of Chattanooga and the Governor of Tennessee. At the time, Red's record was still heading both the pop and C&W Juke Box charts.

 Hank Williams, described this week by his label MGM as "The greatest folk singer on records", saw his latest release 'Long Gone Lonesome Blues' leap into the C&W Top 10 Best Sellers chart at No. 2. The song would become a country standard and would also be recorded by numerous rock'n'roll acts.

 30th Columbia Records signed two 23-year-olds, Tony Bari and Al Grant. Bari would be re-named Tony Bennett and Al, who had been starting to build a name for himself at King Records. was re-christened Guy Mitchell by producer Mitch Miller - who thought he was such a nice guy that he gave him his first name.

 The Rhythm Rockers (featuring Willie Mabon) moved from Chess to Parkway Records, 1940s R&B pioneer Lucky Millender & His Orchestra moved from RCA to King, the"Queen of the Boogie" Hadda Brooks and her trio changed from the Modern to the London label and The Blenders (who included later hit writer Ollie Jones) moved from National to Coral.

 31st    Broadway's Strand Theater played host to the Count Basie Orchestra, Billie Holiday and the Will Mastin Trio. The later act featured Will's talented 24-year-old nephew Sammy Davis, Jr - who had just released a solo single 'Inka Dinka Doo', which included his acclaimed impressions of James Cagney, James Stuart and the song's originator, Jimmy Durante.

 Stick McGhee, whose original version of his much-recorded composition 'Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee' (recorded on Valentine's Day in 1949) is regarded as a definite forerunner of rock'n'roll, started to pick up sales in Charlotte, N. Carolina, with his sequel, which was also on Atlantic, 'Drank Up All The Wine Last Night'. It was penned by one the decade's most successful R&B writers, Rudy Toombs.

 

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