Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Category: 1950s

Jim Dandy

First recorded by Lavern Baker (US #17/R&B #1 1956).
Other hit version by Black Oak Arkansas (US #25 1973).

From the wiki: “‘Jim Dandy’ (sometimes known as ‘Jim Dandy to the Rescue’) was written by Lincoln Chase (‘The Name Game’, ‘The Clapping Song‘), and was first recorded by American R&B singer LaVern Baker (‘Tweedle-Dee‘) in 1956. It reached the top of the R&B chart and #17 on the pop charts in the United States, and has since been named one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll. Rolling Stone magazine ranked ‘Jim Dandy’ #352 on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Ballad of a Teenage Queen

Written and first recorded by Jack Clement (1957).
Hit version by Johnny Cash (US #14/C&W #1 1958).
Also recorded by Johnny Cash, Rosanne Cash & the Everly Brothers (1987).

From the wiki: “‘Ballad of a Teenage Queen’ was written in 1957 by Jack Clement. Clement was, at the time, a producer and engineer for Sam Phillips at Sun Records. Subsequently, Clement worked with future stars such as Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash. (Most notably, he discovered and recorded Jerry Lee Lewis while Phillips was away on a trip to Florida.)

“The song of ‘… Teenage Queen’ is that of a ‘small town girl’ (the prettiest the townsfolk have ever seen) who loved the boy next door, who is employed at the candy store. She was taken to Hollywood by a movie scout where she became famous, leaving the boy. Eventually she sold all her fame to go back to the boy from the candy store because amid it all she was unhappy without him.

“First recorded by Clement, ‘Ballad of a Teenage Queen’ would be covered by Johnny Cash for his 1958 album, Sings the Songs That Made Him Famous, with background vocals by The Tennessee Two. Cash’s recording hit #1 on the US Country charts and peaked at #14 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Hot Rod Lincoln

Based on “Hot Rod Race” by Arkie Shibley & His Mountain Dew Boys (C&W #5 1951).
Also recorded (as “Hot Rod Race”) by Tiny Hill (US #29/C&W #7 1951).
First recorded as “Hot Rod Lincoln” by Charlie Ryan & the Livingston Brothers (1955).
Also recorded by Charlie Ryan & the Timberline Riders (1960).
Hit versions (as “Hot Rod Lincoln”) by Johnny Bond (US #26 1960), Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen (US #9/MORE #28/CAN #7 1972), Asleep at the Wheel (C&W #65 1988).

From the wiki: “‘Hot Rod Lincoln’ was written by singer-songwriter Charlie Ryan in 1955 as an answer song to the 1951 hit ‘Hot Rod Race’ which describes a race in San Pedro, Los Angeles between two hot rod cars, a Ford and a Mercury, which stay neck-and-neck until both are overtaken by ‘a kid in a hopped-up Model A.’ The importance of ‘Hot Rod Race’, according to Jim Dawson and Steve Propes (in What Was the First Rock ‘n’ Roll Record?), lies in the fact that ‘it introduced automobile racing into popular music and underscored the car’s relevance to American culture.’

“Written by George Wilson, ‘Hot Rod Race’ became a major hit for Arkie Shibley and his Mountain Dew Boys, staying on the Country & Western chart for seven weeks, peaking at #5 in 1951. Tiny Hill also released a cover version in 1951 that not only charted C&W but crossed over to the Billboard pop music chart where it peaked at #29.

“The song ‘Hot Rod Race’ ends with:

When it flew by us, I turned the other way.
The guy in Mercury had nothing to say,
For it was a kid, in a hopped-up Model A.

“These lyrics set the stage for ‘Hot Rod Lincoln’, the ‘answer song’ written in 1955 by Charlie Ryan. ‘Hot Rod Lincoln’ is sung from the perspective of this third driver, whose own hot rod is a Ford Model A with ‘… eight cylinders; uses them all [and] overdrive, just won’t stall / With a 4-barrel carb and a dual exhaust, with 4.11 gears you can really get lost / It’s got safety tubes, but I ain’t scared / The brakes are good, tires fair.’

“Ryan’s original rockabilly version of the song was released in 1955 by Charley Ryan & the Livingston Bros. Ryan recorded a second version in 1959, credited to Charlie Ryan & the Timberline Riders. Ryan based the description of the eponymous car on his own hot rod, built on a 1948 12-cylinder Lincoln chassis with a 1930 Ford Model A body fitted to it, which he had raced against a Cadillac sedan in Lewiston, ID, driven by a friend but changing the locale to Grapevine Hill to fit it within the narrative of ‘Hot Rod Race’.

“Another cover of ‘Hot Rod Lincoln’, recorded by country musician Johnny Bond in 1960, was the first charting version of the song. The 1971 version by country-rock band Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen, released as the second promotional single from the album Lost in the Ozone, became the most successful version of ‘Hot Rod Lincoln’, peaking at #9 on the Billboard Hot 100, #28 Adult Contemporary, #7 in Canada, and was ranked #69 on the U.S. Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1972.”

Tiny Hill, “Hot Rod Race” (1951):

Charlie Ryan & the Livingston Brothers, “Hot Rod Lincoln” (1955):

Charlie Ryan & the Timberline Riders, “Hot Rod Lincoln” (1960):

Johnny Bond, “Hot Rod Lincoln” (1960):

Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen, “Hot Rod Lincoln” (1972):

Too Much

First recorded by Bernard Hardison (1954).
Also recorded by Frankie Castro (1956).
Hit version by Elvis Presley (US #1/C&W #3/R&B #3 1957).

From the wiki: “Written by Lee Rosenberg and Bernard Weinman, ‘Too Much’ was built around a teen catchphrase (‘Aw, man, that’s too much!’). First recorded by Bernard Hardison (‘with band’) in 1954, it had no chart impact – possibly due to its lyrics being considered ‘too suggestive’. Recorded again two years later by Frankie Castro for Mercury Records, it again failed to chart – but did garner a ‘rave’ review in Billboard:

‘A personality-packed side with a subtle r&r back-up. For junior hipsters.’ – Billboard, May 19, 1956

“But, covered (with lyrics ‘sanitized’) by Elvis Presley, in 1957, ‘Too Much’ topped the Billboard Hot 100. It also went Top-5 on both the Country and R&B music charts.”

Over and Over

First recorded (as a B-side) by Bobby Day (US #41/R&B #1 1958).
Also recorded by Thurston Harris (US #96 1958).
Other hit version by The Dave Clark Five (US #1/UK #45 1965).
Also recorded by The Righteous Brothers (1965).

From the wiki: “‘Over and Over’ was written by Robert James Byrd and was recorded by him in 1958 using his stage name, Bobby Day (a name he earlier used when a member of the original ‘Bob & Earl’ duo until parting ways in 1957). Day’s version entered the Billboard Hot 100 in 1958, first as the B-side to the hit single ‘Rockin’ Robin’ and, soon after, as an A-side, the same week a version of the same song by Thurston Harris (who had covered Day’s ‘Little Bitty Pretty One‘ the previous year with chart success) entered the chart. Day’s version would reach #41 on the Hot 100 but would top the R&B chart; Harris’ single peaked on the Hot 100 at #96.

Gee Whiz

First recorded by Bob & Earl (1958).
Hit version by The Innocents (US #18 1960).

From the wiki: “‘Gee Whiz’ was one of two similarly-titled songs that charted in 1960. This version, written by Jeanne Vicki and Jimmie Thomas (the latter an alias for Chess Records owner Leon René), was first recorded in 1958 by Bob & Earl, Bobby Day (née Bobby Byrd) and Earl Nelson. Both authors had also collaborated earlier Day’s #1 hit ‘Rockin’ Robin’ in 1958. (Note: Day left the duo in 1960, and was replaced by Bob Relf. It was the Relf/Nelson ‘Bob and Earl’ who would go on to record ‘Harlem Shuffle‘ in 1963, Bob and Earl’s only chart success.)

“‘Gee Whiz’ was covered in 1960 by The Innocents, the group who had backed up Kathy Young on ‘A Thousand Stars‘, with a single that peaked in the US Top-20.”

Terry’s Theme (Eternally)

Written by Charles Chaplin and first performed in Limelight (1952).
Hit versions by Frank Chacksfield (as “Terry’s Theme” US #5/UK #2 1953), Rod Goodwin (as “Terry’s Theme” UK #12 1953), Vic Damone (as “Eternally” US #12 1953), Jimmy Young (as “Eternally” UK #8 1953).

From the wiki: “‘Terry’s Theme’ was composed by Charles Chaplin (née Charlie Chaplin), with lyrics by the English lyricists Geoff Parsons and John Turner. The music was first used for Chaplin’s film Limelight (1952) titled ‘Terry’s Theme’. The music for the film was belatedly awarded an Oscar for Best Original Dramatic Score at the 45th Academy Awards in 1973.

“Chaplin spent more than two years writing Limelight. His method was remarkable, and unique in his work. As a preliminary, he wrote the story in the form of a full-length novel – some 100,000 words long and entitled ‘Footlights’. The novel – never published in Chaplin’s lifetime or apparently even intended for publication – relates the story as it appears in the finished film.

He’ll Have to Go

First recorded by Billy Brown (1959).
Hit versions by Jim Reeves (US #2/C&W #1/R&B #13/UK #12/CAN #1/AUS #1/NOR #1 1959), Solomon Burke (US #51/R&B #17 1964).
Also recorded by Elvis Presley (1976).

From the wiki: “‘He’ll Have to Go’ was written by Joe Allison and Audrey Allison.

“Joe first worked in the early 1940s as a commercial artist before embarking on a career in the entertainment industry, first as a disc jockey on a Paris, Texas radio station. In 1945, after a few years on radio, Allison took a job as the emcee for the North American tour of country music singing star Tex Ritter. While working on tour, he offered Ritter a song he had written called ‘When You Leave, Don’t Slam the Door’, which the singer turned into a #1 hit on the Country music charts. This success ultimately led to Allison moving to a radio station in Nashville, Tennessee where he remained until accepting an offer from a radio station in Pasadena, California.

“In 1959, Joe and Audrey co-wrote their most famous song, ‘He’ll Have to Go’, which was initially recorded by Billy Brown. A subsequent version by Jim Reeves become a platinum record, and the song would be recorded successfully by more than one hundred other artists including Elvis Presley, Bing Crosby, Tom Jones, Eddy Arnold, and even big band leader Guy Lombardo. That same year, Allison was hired by Liberty Records to create their Country music department. It was at Liberty that Joe signed Willie Nelson to his first recording contract.

Folsom Prison Blues

Based on “Crescent City Blues” by Beverly Mahr (1953).
Hit versions by Johnny Cash (C&W #4 1956), Johnny Cash (US #32/C&W #1/CAN #1 1968).

From the wiki: “Although ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ is still widely thought to have been a Johnny Cash original, he based its melody and many of the lyrics on Gordon Jenkins’s ‘Crescent City Blues’ (which itself borrowed heavily from the 1930s instrumental ‘Crescent City Blues’ by Little Brother Montgomery) from Jenkins’ 1953 Seven Dreams concept album. Jenkins was not credited on the original ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ release. But, by the early 1970s, after the song had become popular, Cash paid Jenkins a settlement of approximately US$75,000 following a lawsuit.

“Cash heard ‘Crescent City Blues’ during his stint with the U.S. Air Force in Germany. He said ‘At the time, I really had no idea I would be a professional recording artist; I wasn’t trying to rip anybody off.’ One very distinct and memorable lyric of ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ that Cash can claim as being wholly original is the line ‘But I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die’. Cash later recalled: ‘I sat with my pen in my hand, trying to think up the worst reason a person could have for killing another person, and that’s what came to mind.’

(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons

First recorded (as “Sentimental Reasons”) by Deek Watson & His Brown Dots (1945).
Hit versions by The King Cole Trio (US #1 1946), Eddy Howard & His Orchestra (US #6 1947), Dinah Shore (US #6 1947), Ella Fitzgerald & Delta Rhythm Boys (US #8 1947), Sam Cooke (US #17/R&B #5 1957), James Brown (R&B #70 1976).
Also recorded by Linda Ronstadt (1986), Rod Stewart (2004)

From the wiki: “‘(I Love You) for Sentimental Reasons’ was written in 1945 by Ivory ‘Deek’ Watson, founding member of the Ink Spots, and William ‘Pat’ Best, founding member of the Four Tunes. The song was first recorded by The Brown Dots, a group Watson had first formed as the ‘New Ink Spots’ after he left the original group in a dispute. The original Ink Spots then filed a lawsuit to force Watson from using its name, resulting in Watson changing his ‘Ink Spots’ name, just barely, to ‘The Brown Dots’.

“The Brown Dots’ original recording of ‘Sentimental Reasons’ was first recorded and released in 1945 as the B-side of their second single, ‘Let’s Give Love Another Chance’. In 1946, it was released again – as an A-side – but it did not chart nationally.

Butterfly

First recorded by Charlie Gracie (US #1/R&B #10/UK #12 1957).
Other hit version by Andy Williams (US #1/R&B #14/UK #1 1957).

From the wiki: “‘Butterfly’ is a popular song written by Bernie Lowe and Kal Mann. The song is credited to Anthony September as songwriter in some sources – a pseudonym of Anthony Mammarella, producer of American Bandstand.

“The original recording of the song by Charlie Gracie reached #1 on the Billboard chart, #10 on the R&B chart and #12 on the UK Singles Chart in 1957. A cover version by Andy Williams (‘Moon River‘,’Happy Heart‘)also reached #1 on the Billboard chart in 1957 – his first chart-topping hit. Williams’ version also reached #1 the UK in May 1957, where it spent two weeks, and also reached #14 on the US R&B chart.

Hurt (Juice Newton)

First recorded by Roy Hamilton (R&B #8 1954).
Other hit versions by Timi Yuro (US #4/MOR #2/R&B #22 1961), Little Anthony & the Imperials (US #55 1966), Fausto Leali (as “A Chi” ITA #1 1967), Connie Cato (C&W #14 1975), The Manhattans (US #97/R&B #10/UK #4 1976), Elvis Presley (US #28/MOR #7/C&W #6/UK #37 1976), Juice Newton (C&W #1 1985).
Also recorded by Carly Simon (1981).

From the wiki: “‘Hurt’ was written by Jimmie Crane and Al Jacobs, and was first recorded by Roy Hamilton (‘Unchained Melody‘, ‘Don’t Let Go‘), whose version peaked at #8 on the R&B Best Seller chart and spent a total of seven weeks on the chart.

“The song is considered to be the signature hit of Timi Yuro, whose version went to #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1961. But, Juice Newton’s recording charted highest on any chart when it reached #1 on Billboard’s Country chart in 1985.

Uncle Pen

Written and first recorded by Bill Monroe & His Blue Grass Boys (1950).
Also recorded by Manassas (1971, released 2009), Goose Creek Symphony (1971), Michael Nesmith (1973), Phish (1997)
Hit versions by Porter Wagoner (C&W #14 1956), Ricky Skaggs (C&W #1/CAN #1 1984).

From the wiki: “James Pendleton Vandiver was a Kentucky fiddler, born there shortly after the American Civil War. He was uncle to Bluegrass legend Bill Monroe, who immortalized him in a song, ‘Uncle Pen’, first recording in 1950.

“Monroe’s parents had both died by the time he was 16, and he lived part of the time with his Uncle Pen. Monroe used to hear his uncle playing fiddle on the hilltop where he lived, while Monroe put away his mules at night. He later said that Vandiver was ‘the fellow that I learned how to play from.’ Bill Monroe’s biographer, Richard D. Smith writes, ‘Pen gave Bill more: a repertoire of tunes that sank into Bill’s aurally-trained memory and a sense of rhythm that seeped into his bones. Sometimes Bill played guitar behind his uncle, sometimes the mandolin.’

Hit the Road, Jack

First recorded (as a demo) by Percy Mayfield (1960).
Hit versions by Ray Charles (US #1/R&B #1/UK #6/AUS #3 1961), The Stampeders (US #40/CAN #6 1975).

From the wiki: “‘Hit the Road Jack’ was written by R&B artist Percy Mayfield and was first recorded as an a cappella demo by Mayfield in 1960, before sending it to producer and Specialty Records owner Art Rupe. Rupe passed the song along to one of friends, Ray Charles. It became a worldwide hit after it was recorded by Charles – his sixth R&B #1 hit and second US #1 – with an arrangement featuring Raelettes’ vocalist Margie Hendrix, and would go on to also to win a Grammy award in 1962 for Best Rhythm and Blues Recording.”

All My Trials (All My Sorrows)

First recorded by Cynthia Gooding (1956).
Popular versions by Glenn Yarbrough (as “All My Sorrows” 1957), Kingston Trio (as “All My Sorrows” 1959), Joan Baez (1960), The Shadows (as “All My Sorrows” 1963), The Searchers (as “All My Sorrows” 1963), Peter Paul & Mary (1963), Dick & Dee Dee (US #89 1964).
Also recorded (in medley) by Elvis Presley (1972).

From the wiki: “”All My Trials” is a folk song during the social protest movements of the 1950s and 1960s. It is based on a Bahamian lullaby that tells the story of a mother on her death bed, comforting her children. The message — that no matter how bleak the situation seemed, the struggle would ‘soon be over’ — propelled the song to the status of an anthem, recorded by many of the leading artists of the era.

“Cynthia Gooding first recorded the song in 1956. It quickly became a Folk song staple, with recordings by Glenn Yarbrough (1957), The Kingston Trio (1959), and Joan Baez (1960) following soon thereafter. (Gooding would later go on to host a Folk music show on NYC radio station WBAI and, in 1962, would conduct the first radio interview, ever, with a young Bob Dylan.) In the UK, Cliff Richard’s backing band, The Shadows, recorded an instrumental cover of ‘All My Sorrows’ in 1961 for their first solo outing, The Shadows; The Searchers would also cover the song in 1963 for the album Sugar and Spice.

“Folk music trio Peter, Paul & Mary released ‘All My Trials’ on their best-selling 1963 album, In the Wind, which yielded the hit singles ‘Don’t Think Twice (It’s Alright)‘ and ‘Blowin’ in the Wind‘. Dick & Dee Dee’s 1964 recording is the only recording to have charted in the Billboard Hot 100.

“A fragment of ‘All My Trials’ is used in the Mickey Newbury anthem ‘An American Trilogy’, also recorded by Elvis Presley and broadcast worldwide in 1972 on Aloha from Hawaii.”

Ruby Baby

First recorded by The Drifters (R&B #10 1956).
Other hit versions by Dion (US #2/R&B #5 1963), Billy “Crash” Craddock (US #33/MOR #23/C&W #1 1974).
Also recorded by The Beach Boys (1965, released 1993), Donald Fagen (1982).

From the wiki: “‘Ruby Baby’ was written by the hit songwriting team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller (‘Hound Dog‘, ‘On Broadway‘). It was first recorded by the Drifters, who scored an R&B hit with the song in 1956. Dion covered ‘Ruby Baby’ in 1963, scoring a Top-5 hit. In 1974, Billy ‘Crash’ Craddock topped the US Country chart with his cover version.

“The Beach Boys recorded ‘Ruby Baby’ during sessions for their 1965 album Beach Boys’ Party!, but the recording remained unreleased until the band’s 1993 box set Good Vibrations: Thirty Years of The Beach Boys. Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen covered ‘Ruby Baby’ for his 1982 solo album, Nightfly.”

Baubles, Bangles & Beads

First recorded by the Original Cast of Kismet (1953).
Hit versions by Peggy Lee (US #30/AUS #9 1954), Georgia Gibbs (B-side US #18 1954), The Kirby Stone Four (US #25 1958), Frank Sinatra (1959), Frank Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim (1967), Deodato (1973).

From the wiki: “‘Baubles, Bangles & Beads’ is from the 1953 musical Kismet, credited to Robert Wright and George Forrest. Like all the music in that show, the melody was based on works by Alexander Borodin, in this case the second theme of the second movement of his String Quartet in D.

“The best-selling version of the song was recorded by Peggy Lee in 1953, charting in 1954. Another popular cover from 1954 was recorded by Georgia Gibbs, released as the B-side to ‘Somebody Bad Stole De Wedding Bell’. A Kirby Stone Four re-make hit the Billboard Top 100 in 1958 and remains the favorite cover heard on Adult Standard (MOR) radio stations. Frank Sinatra recorded the song twice: in 1959 with the Billy May Orchestra, and again in 1967 in a Bossa nova arrangment with guitarist Antonion Carlos Jobim. (Eumir) Deodato recorded an instrumental version for his hit LP of 1973.

“The most curious version mixed the scherzo of Borodin’s ‘String Quartet No. 2’ with the pop arrangement of ‘Baubles, Bangles & Beads’, under the name ‘Borodin, Bangles & Beads’, and arranged by the Argentine Ernesto Acher in 1987 on his album Juegos.”

Wheel of Fortune

First recorded by Johnny Hartman (1951).
Hit versions by The Bell Sisters (US #10 1952), Eddie Wilcox Orchestra feat. Sunny Gale (US #13/R&B #2 1952), Dinah Washington (R&B #3 1952), Bobby Wayne (US #6 1952), Kay Starr (US #1 1952), Susan Raye (C&W #10 1972).

From the wiki: “‘Wheel of Fortune’ was written by Bennie Benjamin and George David Weiss, and was originally recorded in 1951 by Johnny Hartman. The song was also used as the theme to the television series Wheel of Fortune.

“Several different covers of ‘Wheel of Fortune’ were released and charted in 1952. Although recorded in Dec. 1951, the Bell Sisters’ cover did not chart until 1952. The Eddie Wilcox/Sunny Gale recording first charted in Feb. 1952. Dinah Washington, and Bobby Wayne, also released charting covers in 1952. But it was Kay Starr who topped Billboard Best Seller chart with her recording of ‘Wheel of Fortune’, which spent a total of 22-weeks on the Hit Parade.

“Country singer Susan Raye (‘L.A. International Airport’) returned the song to the charts with her 1972 cover.”

On the Street Where You Live

First performed by John Michael King (1956).
Hit versions by Vic Damone (US #4/UK #1 1956), Eddie Fisher (US #18 1956), Andy Williams (US #28/MOR #3 1964).

From the wiki: “‘On the Street Where You Live’ was composed by Frederick Loewe with lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, from the 1956 Broadway musical, My Fair Lady. It is sung in the musical by the character Freddy Eynsford-Hill, portrayed by John Michael King in the original Broadway production. The most popular single of the song was recorded by Vic Damone in 1956 for Columbia Records. Eddie Fisher also had a Top-20 Billboard hit with the song in 1956. Andy Williams’ recording appeared in the Billboard Top-40 in 1964.”

Dance (Roll) with Me, Henry

First recorded and co-written (as “The Wallflower”) by Etta James (R&B #1 1955).
Other hit version by Georgia Gibbs (US #1 1955).
Also re-recorded by Etta James (1958).

From the wiki:”‘The Wallflower’ (also known as ‘Roll with Me, Henry’ and ‘Dance with Me, Henry’) was one of several answer songs to ‘Work with Me, Annie’, by Hank Ballard & the Midnighters. Written by Johnny Otis (‘Willie and the Hand Jive‘), Hank Ballard (‘The Twist‘) and Etta James, James recorded ‘The Wallflower’ for Modern Records, with uncredited vocal responses from Richard Berry (‘Louie, Louie‘). It became a R&B hit, James’ first, topping the U.S. R&B chart for 4 weeks. In 2008, James received a Grammy Hall of Fame Award for her original 1955 recording.

The Happy Wanderer

First hit version (as “Der Frohliche Wanderer”) by The Obernkirchen Children’s Choir (UK #2 1954).
Other hit version by Frank Weir & His Saxophone, Chorus and Orchestra (US #4 1954), Henri René & His Musette Orchestra (US #8 1954).

From the wiki: “‘The Happy Wanderer’ (‘Der fröhliche Wanderer’ or ‘Mein Vater war ein Wandersmann’) was first written as poetry by Florenz Friedrich Sigismund (1788-1857). The present tune was composed by Friedrich-Wilhelm Möller shortly after World War II. It is often mistaken for a German folk song, but it is actually an original composition. Friedrich-Wilhem’s sister, Edith Möller, conducted a small amateur children’s and youth choir in Schaumburg County, Northern Germany, internationally named Obernkirchen Children’s Choir, and adapted Sigismund’s words for her choir. The amateur choir, many of whose original members were war orphans, turned into an unlikely international phenomenon in the following years.

“In 1953 a BBC radio broadcast of the choir’s winning performance at the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod turned the song into an instant hit. On January 22, 1954, the song entered the UK singles chart and stayed on the chart—only a Top 12 at the time — for 26 non-consecutive weeks, peaking at #2 (for five consecutive weeks). With the BBC’s strong international influence ‘The Happy Wanderer’ turned up everywhere, e.g., as the winning song of the 1955 Calypso road-march season of the Trinidad Carnival. (People protested after this event, complaining that only Calypsoes should be chosen over foreign music).

Hey Little Girl

Inspired by “Hambone” by The Red Saunders Orchestra with The Hambone Kids (1952).
Hit version by Dee Clark (US #20/R&B #2 1959).

From the wiki: “Dee Clark was born Delecta Clark (or Delectus Clark, Jr.), in Blytheville, Arkansas, in 1938 and moved to Chicago in 1941. His mother, Essie Mae Clark, was a Gospel singer and encouraged her son to pursue his love of music. Clark made his first recording in 1952 as one of the original members of The Hambone Kids, who enjoyed some success with a recording, with The Red Saunders Orchestra, of ‘Hambone’ on the OKeh label. Clark embarked on a solo career in 1957, initially following the styles of Clyde McPhatter and Little Richard. When Little Richard temporarily abandoned his music career to study the Bible, Clark fulfilled Richard’s remaining live dates and also recorded with his backing band, The Upsetters.

“Over the next four years Clark landed several moderate hits, two of which (‘Just Keep It Up’ and the Otis Blackwell-composed ‘Hey Little Girl’) reached the top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100. Clark’s biggest single, ‘Raindrops’, a ballad augmented by heavy rain and thunder sound effects and Clark’s swooping falsetto, was released in the spring of 1961 and became his biggest hit, charting Top 5 in the US and internationally.”

Hearts of Stone

First recorded by Jewels (1954).
Hit versions by The Charms (US #15/R&B #1 1954), The Fontane Sisters (US #1 1954).

From the wiki: “‘Hearts of Stone’ was written by Eddie Ray and Rudy Jackson, a member of the San Bernardino, California-based R&B vocal group the Jewels, a group who began as a gospel group, then became the Marbles, recording for the Lucky label out of Los Angeles.

“According to Johnny Torrence, leader of the Marbles/Jewels, ‘Hearts of Stone’ was taken from a song they had recorded during their Gospel days. ‘Hearts of Stone’ was subsequently covered and taken up the charts by East Coast R&B vocal group the Charms, causing the story of the Jewels’ involvement to be ignored by various writers and DJs who assumed the Charms’ cover was the original. The Charms’ version of the song went to #1 on the R&B Best Sellers and #15 on the pop charts.

The Ballad of Davy Crockett

First performed by The Wellingtons (1954).
First released by Bill Hayes (US #1/UK #2 1955).
Other hit versions by Fess Parker (US #6 1955), Tennessee Ernie Ford (US #5/C&W #4/UK #3 1955), Mac Wiseman (US #10 1955), Max Bygraves (UK #20 1955).

From the wiki: “‘The Ballad of Davy Crockett’ was introduced on ABC’s television series Disneyland, in the premiere episode of October 27, 1954, sung by The Wellingtons but performed on-screen by Fess Parker, playing the role of Davy Crockett, accompanied by similarly attired musicians. The song would later be heard throughout the follow-up Disneyland television miniseries, Davy Crockett, first telecast on December 15, 1954. The Wellingtons were originally called The Lincolns, and recorded for Kapp Records. As The Wellingtons, they were signed by Walt Disney to record the theme song for Disney’s The Wonderful World of Color and, subsequently, ‘The Ballad of Davy Crockett’.

“Trivia: Gilligan’s Island producer Sherwood Schwartz, working with composer George Wyle, came up with a Folk song theme song that told the back story of the castaways, and hired The Wellingtons to sing it. The song was a hit. The Wellingtons appear in a second season (1965–66) episode of Gilligan’s Island as a Rock group called ‘The Mosquitoes’.

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