Let’s take a look at the Top Five instrumentals from the 1950’s. Actually, there are six here, which I’ll explain as we talk about them.
#5 – The Champs, "Tequila" (1958, #5): The one actual rock & roll song on the list. It was originally the B side for "Train To Nowhere," but when a Cleveland DJ played it one day, demand took off.
#4 – Leroy Anderson, "Blue Tango" (1951, #1): This was the #1 record for 1952, but it first charted in December 1951. Mitchell Parish added lyrics later.
#3 – Les Baxter, "The Poor People Of Paris" (1956, #1): #1 on the day I was born. It was written in France as "La goualante du pauvre Jean" ("The Ballad of Poor John") by Marguerite Monnot with lyrics by René Rouzaud. Baxter’s version spent four weeks at #1 and was the last #1 before Elvis Presley’s "Heartbreak Hotel."
#2 – Perez Prado, "Cherry Pink & Apple Blossom White" (1955, #1): The original was "Cerisiers Roses et Pommiers Blancs" By the French songwriter Louiguy with French lyrics by Jacques Larue and English ones by Mac David. The distinctive trumpet in Prado’s version was played by Billy Regis, and spent ten weeks atop the chart.
#1 (tie) – Guy Lombardo, "The Third Man Theme" (1950, #1): This is the version most familiar to American audiences. It was recorded in late 1949 and spent eleven weeks at #1.
#1 (tie) – Anton Karas, "The Third Man Theme" (1950, #1): This is the original version of the song, with Karas playing it on the zither. It also spent eleven weeks at #1 beginning in April 1949. It was a common practice to group all versions of a song together in a single position on the chart, because it was also common to have several versions of the song on the chart at the same time.
And that’s Five For Friday for May 21, 2021.