The Beatles were a dominant force in the American pop charts in early 1964 like no other artists before or since. Starting on February 1, I Want to Hold Your Hand was #1 for seven weeks. It was replaced at the top of the charts by She Loves You, with Hand moving down to #2 and Please Please Me at #3. Then, the extraordinary week of April 4, when the Beatles had the top five songs on the charts: Can’t Buy Me Love (#1 for five weeks), Twist and Shout, She Loves You, Hand, and Please Please Me. The week before, the group had 10 singles on the Top 100, and on April 11, 14 positions on the charts were by the Beatles.
So when this string of 14 weeks at number one ended on May 9, who WAS #1?
Was it Bobby Vinton or Roy Orbison, American artists popular in the pre-Beatles era? No, though Vinton’s There! I’ve said It Again was #1 for the four weeks prior to the Beatles’ ascension. And The Beatles had toured with Orbison.
How about another British Invasion group, such as Peter and Gordon, the Animals, or Manfred Mann? No, though P&G did chart later in the year with a Lennon-McCartney tune, World Without Love.
Perhaps a Motown artist, such as the Supremes or Mary Wells, or a “girl group” such as the Shangra-las or the Dixie Cups or a resurgent American band such as the Beach Boys or the Four Tops? All of those groups had a #1 hit in 1964, as did Dean Martin and Lorne Greene(?!)
But the artist who first displaced the Beatles was a 63-year old trumpeter who hadn’t had a Top 10 hit in eight years, a guy who was named “satchel-mouth” as a kid, and who started recording in 1923. Of course, I’m talking about Louis Armstrong, and his hit rendition of Hello, Dolly! For years, he said his birthday was July 4, 1900, but later research suggested that his birth was actually on August 4, 1901, which would have made him 105 today had he not died back in 1971.
One of the things I discovered listening to children’s music in the last couple years is how his hit song What a Wonderful World steals from Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star/the Alphabet Song. Play What A Wonderful World and sing the Alphabet Song at the same time, and I believe you’ll hear what I mean.