Those wartime #1 hits of 1940

Glenn MillerThe United States Census of 1940 determined the resident population of the United States to be 132,164,569, an increase of 7.3 percent over the 1930 population of 122,775,046 people.

Europe and Asia were embroiled in World War II by 1940. The United States was allegedly staying out of it. But as my daughter’s European history class reminded me, the US was providing significant military supplies and other assistance to the Allies by September 1940. The Germans had taken Paris and were bombing London.

“On September 2, 1940, President Roosevelt signed a ‘Destroyers for Bases’ agreement. Under the terms of the agreement, the United States gave the British more than 50 obsolete destroyers, in exchange for 99-year leases to territory in Newfoundland and the Caribbean, which would be used as U.S. air and naval bases.”

America needed music

In the Mood – Glenn Miller, 13 weeks at #1 and a gold record. It was re-released in 1943 and went to #20.
Frenesi – Artie Shaw, 13 weeks at #1. Both Woody Herman and Glenn Miller recorded the song in 1941 and got to #16.
I’ll Never Smile Again – Tommy Dorsey, featuring Frank Sinatra and the Pied Pipers, 12 weeks at #1. The Glenn Miller cover went to #16 in the same year.

Only Forever – Bing Crosby with John Scott Trotter and his orchestra, 9 weeks at #1. Tommy Dorsey’s version reached #7 the same year.
Tuxedo Junction – Glenn Miller and his orchestra, 9 weeks at #1 and a gold record
Scatter-Brain – Frankie Masters, 6 weeks at #1. Benny Goodman and Freddy Martin also recorded this.

The Woodpecker Song – Glenn Miller, featuring Marion Hutton, 5 weeks at #1. Andrews Sisters and Kate Smith were among the artists recording this. It’s based on Reginella Campagnola.
South of the Border (Down in Mexico Way) – Shep Fields, featuring Hal Derwin, 5 weeks at #1. Guy Lombardo and Frank Sinatra (#18 in 1953) had hits with this tune.
Sierra Sue – Bing Crosby, with John Scott Trotter and his orchestra, 4 weeks at #1

Make-Believe Island – Mitchell Ayres, featuring Mary Ann Mercer, 2 weeks at #1 . At least four other recordings charted that year.
Where Was I? – Charlie Barnet, featuring Mary Ann McCall, 2 weeks at #1
The Breeze and I – Jimmy Dorsey, featuring Bob Eberle, 1 week at #1. That year Jimmy Dorsey celebrated his ninth birthday. He was born on February 29, 1904. In 1954, Vic Damone got to #21 with the song.

There were relatively few major record labels in those days. Of the songs above, Shaw and Tommy Dorsey were on Victor, Crosby and Jimmy Dorsey were on Decca, and Masters was on Vocalion. The others were on Bluebird. Columbia was the only other label with songs that got into the Top 4.