The 1954 #1 rhythm and blues hits

Guitar Slim

What was the top #1 1954 rhythm and blues hit? It depends on how you measure it.

Like in pop and country, there were charts for Best Sellers (BS), beginning in May  1948; JukeBox (JB), starting in January 1944; and Jockeys (JY- radio play) starting in December 1949. This is how one ended up with 71 weeks of #1 hits in 1954.

The record that spent the most time on one of these charts is The Things I Used To Do by Guitar Slim and his Band, with Ray Charles on the piano, at 14 weeks. But that’s 14 weeks JB but only 6 as BS, which arguably is more significant.

Hearts of Stone by The Charms spent nine weeks atop the BS list, more than any other recording but only two weeks each on JB and JY.

Honey Love by The Drifters featuring Clyde McPhatter was #1 for eight weeks on both BS and JB. It was co-written by McPhatter. I’m sure I have this track on some Atlantic Records compilation. Per Wikipedia:  “According to Rolling Stone, the Drifters were the least stable of the great vocal groups, as they were low-paid musicians hired by George Treadwell, who owned the Drifters’ name from 1955, after McPhatter left. The Treadwell Drifters line has had 60 musicians, including several splinter groups by former Drifters members (not under Treadwell’s management). These groups are usually identified with a possessive credit such as ‘Bill Pinkney’s Original Drifters,’ ‘Charlie Thomas’ Drifters.'”

You’ll Never Walk Alone by Roy Hamilton was #1 for eight weeks BS, five weeks JB. Yes, this is the Rodgers and Hammerstein song from Carousel. 

Oh What A Dream by Ruth Brown And Her Rhythmakers was #1 for eight weeks JB and four weeks BS.

More of ’54

Work With Me Annie by The Midnighters was #1 for seven weeks BS, four weeks JB.  Group member Hank Ballard wrote it. The record notes “Formerly known as The Royals.” They changed from the Four Falcons to the Royals and later to The Midnighters to avoid confusion with other groups’ names. You should read the Wikipedia page about the group, specifically about Dick Clark and the Twist, written by Ballard (and perhaps others).

The Charms, The Drifters, Hamilton, and The Midnighters might have outsold Guitar Slim.

Hurts Me To My Heart by Faye Adams was #1 for five weeks BS and JB.

Shake, Rattle, And Roll by Joe Turner and his Blues King was #1 for three weeks JB. This I have on multiple compilations.

Annie Had A Baby by The Midnighters was #1 for two weeks BS. Interestingly, it was NOT written by Hank Ballard.

You Upset Me Baby by B.B. “Blues Boy” King and His Orchestra was #1 for two weeks JB, written by King.

Mambo Baby by Ruth Brown And Her Rhythmakers was #1 for a single week in both BS and JB

I’ll Be True by Faye Adams with the Joe Morris Orchestra was #1 BS for a week

When these charts consolidated into one in October 1958, fans were much less confused.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

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