The Friday 5×2 (+1): Billboard’s 1961 Year End Hot 100

Moving right along through the Billboard Year-End Hot 100’s, we arrive at 1961. I decided to go with the top eleven songs because I liked #11 too much.

  1. Lawrence Welk, “Calcutta” There are some songs that just stay with you, and this is one of them. Lawrence Welk had only one big hit on the Hot 100, and this is it.
  2. Joe Dowell, “Wooden Heart” This was a song that Elvis did the year before in G. I. Blues. It was written using the melody from an old German folk song, “Muss I Denn,” which both Joe and Elvis did portions of in their singing of the song.
  3. Dee Clark, “Raindrops” I’ve always liked this song, I think because of the sudden change from major to minor at the end of the verses. It starts so cheery, then wham!, that mode change hits.
  4. The String-Alongs, “Wheels” A simple melody at an easy pace was the charm of this instrumental. Sometimes it’s the simple songs like this that people like the best.
  5. Chubby Checker, “Pony Time” The kind of song Chubby does best, the kind that goes along with a dance that allows him to show off his dance moves. If you listen, you’ll hear he uses the terms “gee” and “how,” which a friend of mine told me were traditional commands to plowhorses.
  6. The Jive Five, “My True Story” Doo-wop was reaching the peak of its popularity in the early ’60’s, and groups like Brooklyn’s The Jive Five demonstrate why it was such a great genre.
  7. Del Shannon, “Runaway” Del’s better songs all feature that electronic organ (I think the brand was Farfisa) and him singing in a much higher register during critical points of the song.
  8. Roy Orbison, “Crying” Roy Orbison might have had the greatest voice in rock ‘n’ roll, and could he put some emotion behind his songs. This song just builds and builds until he busts out in full voice.
  9. The Highwaymen, “Michael (Row The Boat Ashore)” An old African-American spiritual that became a folk music staple. The Highwaymen’s version is one of the better-known ones.
  10. Patsy Cline, “I Fall To Pieces” What a voice Patsy Cline had, for which she can thank a bout of rheumatic fever when she was 14. A tremendous crossover success, this was a hit on the Country and Adult Contemporary charts as well.
  11. Bobby Lewis, “Tossin’ And Turnin'” Normally, when you hear this song, it starts with him singing “I couldn’t sleep at all last night,” but on this he has a short introduction that really sounds like it doesn’t belong there…

And that’s the Friday 5×2 for November 15, 2019.

15 thoughts on “The Friday 5×2 (+1): Billboard’s 1961 Year End Hot 100

  1. Somewhere there is old movie film of my brother as a baby dancing to this song. My mom loved this and I know it well..Oops…the song is Wheels! Lawrence Welk was always on in my house too and i used to watch it especially when the dancers cam on


  2. What a great list, John. The only one I did not know was “Wheels”. Roy Orbison’s “Crying” had to be every teen girl’s favorite song to pantomime in front of their mirror. (I did some impressive ‘chair dancing’ for a few of these selections this morning.) Nice addition to my Friday.


  3. I was a little young, but I still remember hearing the opening to “Runaway” and, because I hung out with my Dad a lot, I’ll never forget “I Fall To Pieces” or any other Patsy Cline song.

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