One of the more arcane things I remember growing up is that 1961 looked the same flipped over or right-side-up if you used the correct font. Roger Maris hit 61 home runs for the Yankees in ’61.
I was watching that Hemingway series on PBS by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. The disastrous Bay of Pigs incursion meant that the author would never be able to return to his beloved home in Cuba. He died that very year.
By 1961, we’re up to the #1 songs I mostly can recall.
Tossin’ and Turnin’ – Bobby Lewis, seven weeks at #1. It’s one of those songs on every other compilation of songs of the late Fifties and early Sixties.
Big Bad John – Jimmy Dean, five weeks at #1, gold record. I loved this song as a kid, more a spoken word recording. But is anyone weirded out by him still plugging his sausages on television commercials when he died in 2010?
Runaway – Del Shannon, four weeks at #1, gold record. Bonnie Raitt did a great cover version.
Wonderland by Night – Bert Kaempfert and His Orchestra, three weeks at #1, gold record. Instrumental.
Pony Time – Chubby Checker, three weeks at #1. His previous #1 was The Twist in 1960. His subsequent #1 was The Twist in 1962.
The Lion Sleeps Tonight – The Tokens, three weeks at #1, gold record. A song with a complicated history.
Blue Moon – the Marcels, three weeks at #1. Probably my favorite song from that year, written in the 1930s by Rodgers and Hart.
Take Good Care Of My Baby – Bobby Vee, three weeks at #1. I KNOW this song, but not from this version, or Bobby Vinton’s. (For a while I thought Bobby Vee and Bobby Vinton were the same person.) Or the Beatles’. Hmm.
Two Weeks at #1
Calcutta – Lawrence Welk and his orchestra, gold record. Instrumental. I watched Welk a LOT growing up.
Runaround Sue – Dion, gold record. Dion seemed somehow cooler than the other ’59-’62 artists.
Michael – the Highwaymen, gold record. This a song – “Michael Row the Boat Ashore” – that my father used to sing, then my sister Leslie and I would sing with him in concert. BTW, the singers were the 1960s “collegiate folk” group, not the ’80s supergroup of Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson.
Travelin’ Man – Ricky Nelson. I wonder if he performed this on the TV show The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (1952-1966)?
Quarter To Three – Gary U.S. Bonds, gold record. I love this song.
Hit the Road, Jack – Ray Charles. One of the great call-and-response songs ever.
Surrender– Elvis Presley, platinum record. I hear the intro and think of some spy movie.
Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow – the Shirelles. My favorite song, as performed by Carole King.
A single week at #1
Mother-in-Law – Ernie K-Doe. I first heard this song on a Herman’s Hermits album; this is much better. I should note I love my MIL.
Please Mr. Postman – The Marvelettes, gold record. I heard this first by The Beatles. I’m fond of both.
Wooden Heart – Joe Dowell. I remember this song, but I couldn’t have named the artist. In fact, ask me in six months, and I probably still couldn’t.
Moody River – Pat Boone. No recollection of this song, thank goodness.
Running Scared – Roy Orbison. I appreciated him more in retrospect.