1932 #1: Depression music

ten cents in 1932 is about two dollars today

Cole porter
Cole Porter

Here are the songs that reached #1 in 1932 in the United States. From A Century of Pop Music by Joel Whitburn: “The record industry underwent an almost total collapse to the point of selling only six million discs in 1932 – compared to the peak of 140 million just five years earlier.”

The growth of radio, in addition to the economic woes, contributed to this phenomenon. Some of the songs reflect the difficulties of the era.

Night and Day– Leo Reisman with Fred Astaire. 10 weeks at #1. A song by Cole Porter from the musical The Gay Divorcee. I became much more familiar with the works of Porter after I bought the original Red Hot + Blue album in 1991. This song was also covered by Peter Sprague and Rebecca Jade on Planet Cole Porter
In A Shanty In Old Shanty Town – Ted Lewis and his band, 10 weeks at #1

Please – Bing Crosby with Anson Weeks and his orchestra, 6 weeks at #1
Paradise – Leo Reisman and his orchestra with Frances Maddux, vocals, 6 weeks at #1. From the film, A Woman Commands

We Just Couldn’t Say Goodbye – Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians with Carmen Lombardo, vocal, 5 weeks at #1

Paradise – Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians with Carmen Lombardo, vocals, 3 weeks at #1
All Of Me – Paul Whiteman and his orchestra, with Mildred Bailey, vocals, 3 weeks at #1. The song was written by Gerald Marks and Seymour Simons. It was given the Towering Song Award by the Songwriters Hall of Fame as a result of the countless covers, including by Frank Sinatra and Willie Nelson


All Of Me – Louis Armstrong, 2 weeks at #1
Dinah – Bing Crosby with the Mills Brothers, 2 weeks at #1
Say It Isn’t So – George Olsen with Paul Small, vocals 2 weeks at #1. Written by Irving Berlin
Lullabye of the Leaves – George Olsen, 2 weeks at #1

Too Many Tears – Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians with Carmen Lombardo, vocal, 2 weeks at #1
River, Stay Away From My Door – Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians with Kate Smith, 2 weeks at #1
Brother, Can You Spare A Dime? – Rudy Vallee, 2 weeks at #1. From  Wikipedia: “Written by lyricist Yip Harburg and composer Jay Gorney,… [it] was part of the 1932 musical revue Americana; the melody is based on a Russian-Jewish lullaby. The song tells the story of the universal everyman, whose honest work towards achieving the American dream has been foiled by the economic collapse.”
Brother, Can You Spare A Dime? – Bing Crosby, 2 weeks at #1

Reisman, Whiteman, Olsen were on Victor
Lewis, Armstrong, and Vallee were on Columbia, though I also found the Armstrong recording on Okeh
Crosby and Lombardo were on Brunswick, except the Kate Smith cut, on Columbia

1922: King Tut’s tomb; these #1 hits

Fanny Brice

Fanny BriceAs the book says, “The discovery of King Tut’s tomb in 1922 opened up new realms of the ancient world.” More relevant to music, “radio swiftly evolved from a novelty into a nationwide phenomenon, with 500 stations established by 1922 and over 1,000 three years later.”

April Showers – Al Jolson, eleven weeks at #1, gold record. He was on Columbia Records. The song was written for the Broadway musical “Bombo.” It has also been covered by Cab Calloway, Bing Crosby, and Judy Garland.

Three O’Clock in the Morning – Paul Whiteman, eight weeks at #1, gold record. A waltz. All of the Whiteman hits were instrumentals.  I wrote about him last year. Almost all of the remaining hits on this list were on Victor.

Hot Lips (He’s Got Hot Lips When He Plays Jazz) – Paul Whiteman, six weeks at #1. This is labeled a blues foxtrot. Foxtrot is always spelled fox trot on the labels. 
Stumbling – Paul Whiteman, six weeks at #1. A foxtrot.
Mister Gallagher and Mister Shean  “Positively, Mr. Gallagher?” – Ed Gallager/Al Shean, six weeks at #1, gold record. This is a “comedy” record. Shean was an uncle of the Marx Brothers. The dialogue is transcribed and contains…problematic references to blacks and especially women.

Angel Child – Al Jolson, five weeks at #1

In The Alamo – Isham Jones, four weeks at #1. An instrumental on Brunswick Records. A foxtrot.


Do It Again! – Paul Whiteman, two weeks at #1. The George Gershwin-Buddy DeSylva song was introduced on-stage by Irene Bordoni in the 1922 Broadway comedy “The French Doll.”
Mr. Gallagher and Mr. Shean – Billy Jones/Ernest Hare, two weeks at #1. A comedy record on Okeh Records

My Man (Mon Homme) – Fanny Brice  (pictured). Originally the French-language song “Mon Homme,” Fanny performed it with the new English lyrics in “Ziegfeld Follies Of 1921”. Music-Maurice Yvain, English lyric by Channing Pollock. Orchestra conducted by Rosario Bourdon. “Thirteen years after her death, she was portrayed on the Broadway stage by Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl.”
My Buddy – Henry Burr. Gus Kahn and Walter Donaldson wrote this melancholy post-WWI ballad. This is the song I best recollect of this bunch.

THEN I come across the article about recorded music from 1922 and earlier, which touts pieces now in the public domain, with many of the same songs. 

The titanic #1 hits of 1912

It’s A Wonderful Life

Among the titanic #1 hits of 1912 are tunes I have actually sung.

Before that, A Century of Pop Music by Joel Whitburn notes that in July of 1912, “Columbia stopped all production of [wax] cylinders.” This left “Edison as the only major company still producing the recording format that had ruled the industry only decade earlier.” All of these songs were on the Victor label, except the Burr/Campbell track on Columbia.

Moonlight Bay – American Quartet, 8 weeks at #1. Billy Murray, John Bieling, Steve Porter, and William F. Hooley. Those of you who own The Beatles Anthology 1 will recognize the song, performed on the British TV series Two of a Kind by the band and the show’s hosts, comedy duo Morecambe and Wise.

Down By the Old Mill Stream – Harry MacDonough, 7 weeks at #1. “Not the new, but the old.” It is so embedded in the culture, it’s been used by the Marx Brothers, the Chipmunks, and All In The Family. I feel I’ve always known the song.

Ragtime Cowboy Joe – Bob Roberts, 6 weeks at #1
Waiting For The Robert E. Lee – Heidelberg Quintet, 6 weeks at #1. Apparently, this was actually Billy Murray and the American Quartet, supplemented by countertenor Will Oakland. When I was growing up in Binghamton in the 1960s, we had this ancient songbook at the school, probably from the 1930s. That song must have been in the text because I remember the lyrics, specifically “There’s Ephraim and Sammy.”

Be My Little Baby Bumble Bee – Ada Jones and Billy Murray, 5 weeks at #1
Ragging My Baby To Sleep – Al Jolson, 5 weeks at #1, gold record

When I Was Twenty-One and You Were Sweet Sixteen – Henry Burr and Albert Campbell, 4 weeks at #1

My star turn

Love Is Mine – Enrico Caruso, 3 weeks at #1

That Haunting Melody -Al Jolson, 2 weeks at #1. I couldn’t find this on YouTube. So I used the Discography of American Historical Recordings, which I described here
I Love You Truly – Elsie Baker, 2 weeks at #1. When I was a boy soprano at Trinity AME Zion Church in Binghamton, I sang this song at weddings at least twice. The song appeared on various TV shows and movies. Notably, Bert and Ernie serenaded George and Mary Bailey on their wedding night in It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). The song was recorded several times after its initial release.

Everybody Two-Step – American Quartet
Oh, You Beautiful Doll – Billy Murray and the American Quartet. I know this song quite well, and it’s not from its various usages in movies and even cartoons. Did my mom sing this around the house?

1971 #1s: my first year in college

overly Osmond

Three Dog Night.1972
Three Dog Night.1972

The year 1971 was hugely significant in my musical listening development. For one thing, it was my first year in college, my initial time away from home, meeting new people my age and a little older.

There is a book entitled Never A Dull Moment about that year in music, and I wrote at least ten posts about that tome. Some of these songs are great! And then…

Joy To The World – Three Dog Night. #1 for six weeks, gold record. Was Jeremiah REALLY a bullfrog?

Maggie May Maggie May – Rod Stewart. #1 for five weeks., gold record. From the popular album, Every Picture Tells A Story.
It’s Too Late – Carole King. #1 for five weeks, gold record. From the absurdly popular Tapestry album. If you didn’t own this, then your roommate had to.
One Bad Apple – the Osmonds. #1 for five weeks, gold record. Trying to sound like the Jackson Five.

How Can You Mend a Broken Heart – the BeeGees. #1 for four weeks, gold record. Part of that brief resurgence, along with Lonely Days, before falling on commercial hard times. They’d be back.

Knock Three Times – Dawn. #1 for three weeks. Not the dishwashing detergent but the trio fronted by Tony Orlando.
Brand New Key – Melanie. #1 for three weeks, gold record. “Don’t go too fast, but I go pretty far.”
Go Away, Little Girl  – Donny Osmond. #1 for three weeks, gold record. Steve Lawrence went to #1 with this in 1963.
Family Affair – Sly and the Family Stone. #1 for three weeks, gold record. I feel stoned every time I hear this.

The #1s for two weeks

Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves – Cher. Gold record. Would the first word now be Roma or the Romani?
Just My Imagination – the Temptations. The third #1 for the group, as Eddie Kendrick is going out the door.
Theme from Shaft – Isaac Hayes. Gold record. We can dig it.
Me and Bobby McGee – Janis Joplin. The second posthumous #1 pop song.
Brown Sugar – the Rolling Stones. I bought Sticky Fingers and Tapestry on the same day in July 1971. The zipper really worked!

#1s for a single week

Indian Reservation – the Raiders. Platinum record. A very earnest record by the artists formerly known as Paul Revere and… 
The Want Ads – the Honey Cone. Gold record. “Extra, extra!”
You’ve Got a Friend – James Taylor. Gold record. Of course, a Carole King song.
Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey – Paul and Linda McCartney. Gold record. From the Ram album. With the Beatles gone, I was always happy to see the solo artist chart.

Parade magazine’s best songs of 1971.

1961 looks the same flipped (I96I)

two instrumentals

bobby lewisOne 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.

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