By 1931, in the midst of the Depression, the music business plummeted. According to A Century of Pop Music by Joel Whitburn, record sales hit only six million in 1932 compared “to the peak of 140 million only five years earlier. The opportunity to hear all the popular songs on the radio for free… also contributed to the desperate slump.”
Into that market came Harry Lillis “Bing” Crosby. Bing Crosby was “the king of popular records during the 1930s following his departure from the Paul Whiteman band, with nearly 150 charted hits from 1931-1939 alone.”
Meanwhile, “the mellow sweet-band sounds of Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians were top sellers throughout the decade.” Jazz purists might have preferred the sounds such as the ensemble led by Duke Ellington, whose Mood Indigo got up to #3 in 1931.
The Peanut Vendor (El Manicero) – Don Azpiazu with Antonio Machin (Victor), seven weeks at #1. An early foreign language hit.
Good-night, Sweetheart – Wayne King with Ernie Birchill (Victor), seven weeks at #1.
Sweet and Lovely– Gus Amheim with Donald Novis (Victor), six weeks at #1.
Dream A Little Dream of Me – Wayne King with Ernie Birchill (Victor), four weeks at #1. You may know the cover by Mama Cass Elliot 37 years later.
Tiger Rag – the Mills Brothers, (Brunswick), four weeks at #1. I have this on a collection called 100 Years of Black Music. This a consequential track. See this Fleischer cartoon.
By the River St. Marie – Guy Lombardo with Carmen Lombardo (Columbia), three weeks at #1. Later covered by Frankie Laine.
Out of Nowhere – Bing Crosby (Brunswick), three weeks at #1.
At Your Command – Bing Crosby (Brunswick), three weeks at #1.
(There Ought To Be A) Moonlight Saving Time – Guy Lombardo with Carmen Lombardo (Columbia), three weeks at #1.
I Found A Million Dollar Baby (In A Five and Ten Cent Store) – Fred Waring with Claire Hanlon, three weeks at #1. Waring was the arranger of a lot of the songs I sang in my high school choir and especially glee club.
Just a Gigolo – Ted Lewis (Columbia), two weeks at #1. From Songfacts: “In 1931, ‘Just A Gigolo’ became Bing Crosby’s first-ever hit song as a solo artist (#12 Pop.) It was originally adapted from an Austrian hit ‘Schoner Gigolo,’ written in 1928 and was first sung in America by the French star Irene Bordoni.
‘It was restyled by trumpeter-singer Louis Prima in 1956 with an uptempo arrangement combining ‘Just a Gigolo’ with another song, ‘I Ain’t Got Nobody.’ While still a member of Van Halen, David Lee Roth released a solo EP of standards in 1984, including his interpretation of Louis Prima’s version of this track.”
When The Moon Comes Over The Mountains – Kate Smith (Columbia), two weeks at #1.