Five For Friday: Top Instrumentals From the 1940’s

Since I decided to do instrumentals for a while here, I went out this week in search of lists of instrumentals. And I hit the jackpot: a website called The Top 100 Songs of All Time that had a whole section on instrumentals. There were some interesting facts there:

  • There were 2,513 instrumentals in the period from 1890 to 2011 which reached the national charts. There’s a list of the Top 1000 from that period on the site. No idea where I can get a list of the other 1,513; I’ll have to do a little more digging there.
  • The 1960’s were the decade with the greatest number of instrumentals that charted, with 544, followed very closely by the 1920’s, with 542. Both years were followed by huge drop-offs: there were fewer charted instrumentals in the 1930’s and 1940’s than in the 1920’s, and there were only 184 in the 1970’s. Since 1979, there have only been 58 instrumentals that have charted.

Today, I want to look at the Top Five instrumentals from the ’40’s.

#5 – The Harmonicats, "Peg O’ My Heart": Also called Jerry Murad’s Harmonicats, they formed in 1947 and were no longer performing by 2009. "Peg O’ My Heart" was their most popular record, selling a million copies and reaching #1 in 1947.

#4 – Pee Wee Hunt, "Twelfth Street Rag": His biggest hit, reaching #1 in 1948 and selling ovewr three million copies.

#3 – Glenn Miller, "Tuxedo Junction": Originally done by Erskine Hawkins & His Orchestra in 1939, when it reached #7. Miller had the big hit with it in 1940, when it reached #1.

#2 – Glenn Miller, "In The Mood": First recorded by Edgar Hayes & His Orchestra in 1938, Miller took this to #1 as well. It’s based on Wingy Manone’s "Tar Paper Stomp" from 1930.

#1 – Artie Shaw, "Frenesi": This was composed by Alberto Dominguez for the marimba and done by several other orchestras. Shaw’s cover reached #1 at the end of 1940 and spent 13 weeks on the chart.

That’s Five For Friday, May 14, 2021.

11 thoughts on “Five For Friday: Top Instrumentals From the 1940’s

  1. Oddly enough, I can name that tune for at least three of these, John. My parents must have been playing them while I was in my grip.


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