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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
Mentioned this yesterday, that this was one of the two songs that kept “Young Girl” out of the top spot on the Hot 100. Otis wrote this song with guitarist Steve Cropper in 1967, and it seemed no one liked it: his wife Zelma didn’t like the melody, Jim Stewart (one of the co-founders of Stax Records) didn’t think it was R&B, and bassist Donald “Duck” Dunn thought it might damage Stax’s reputation. However, Otis wanted to expand his style, and they recorded the song with backing by Booker T. & The MG’s, Isaac Hayes, and The Memphis Horns (Wayne Jackson and Andrew Love) in November, completing the overdubs in early December, right before his untimely death in a plane crash. Stax released it on its Volt label in 1968, and it became the first posthumous release to reach #1 on the Hot 100. It also reached #1 on the R&B chart.
Years ago I was sent to Bogotá, Colombia to help a client. I was originally supposed to be there for a week, but due to problems we encountered I ended up spending a weekend and a couple more days there. I would have been there longer, except my manager called me and told me to get my ass home so I could go to Midyear (our semiannual meeting, usually held somewhere “fun” and during which we did “fun” things). Turns out that there had been an incident elsewhere in Colombia where an American official was shot and killed by a member of one of the drug cartels, and they were worried about me.
Anyway, I came home that Wednesday so that I could have “fun” with my co-workers on Thursday and Friday, spent Saturday at home, then left for a week in Minneapolis on Sunday. I got to my hotel, ordered dinner, and was watching ESPN (which was actually worth watching at the time) when I fell asleep.
When I woke up, it was 1 AM and I was really confused: I didn’t know where I was, I didn’t know why I was there, and most importantly, I didn’t know why they were speaking English on TV. I remember actually saying, “I’m in the Twilight Zone!” and panicking because I knew I wasn’t home. I finally relaxed and told myself, “you’re overtired. Go to bed, go to sleep, it’ll all work itself out in the morning.” And it did: when my wakeup call came, everything was there.
The rest of the trip was uneventful, and nothing like that has ever happened to me again. But I still remember that trip and shudder…
Gary Puckett & The Union Gap (named for Union Gap, Washington, from whence they came) is a band that was only active in the late ’60’s, but in that short amount of time they released seven singles, five of which reached the Top 10. “Young Girl” was probably their most popular song, reaching #2 for three weeks on the Hot 100 and topping the chart in the UK. The songs that kept it out of the #1 spot in the US were Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” the first week and Bobby Goldsboro’s “Honey” the next two. (It did reach #1 in Canada and on the Cash Box survey.) Gary and The Gap recorded a version of “Honey” themselves but never issued it as a single.