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Popular music: 1961

The Hit Songs - 1961
Top 20 Singles of 1961

1. Moon River (instrumental) - Henry Mancini and Jerry Butler (shared)

Henry Mancini was one of if not the most successful film composer of his time. Between 1958 and 1964, he so dominated the television and film music scene that everything else seemed to be either an attempt to clone his sound or a reaction against it. The secret to his success was simple: he wrote catchy tunes. Much of Mancini's work was for director Blake Edwards, who first used him for the TV series, Peter Gunn. Edwards then hired Mancini to do the music for his 1961 film, Breakfast at Tiffany's. He and lyricist Johnny Mercer wrote "Moon River" for a reflective scene with Audrey Hepburn, and the song became a huge hit. Andy Williams' cover outsold the original, and "Moon River" eventually became one of the biggest sellers of the 1960s, with over 500 covers.

2. Exodus (instrumental) - Ferrante & Teicher

First released as a single in November 1960, this was the theme from Otto Preminger's movie, Exodus, and was written by Ernest Gold. After meeting as students, Arthur Ferrante and Louis Teicher began to perform as a piano duo, primarily with classical groups, in 1946. They became a popular act on the "pops" symphony circuit. At the same time, they began experimenting with modifications to pianos. After joining United Artists in 1960, they added an orchestral accompaniment (usually arranged by Don Costa and conducted by Nick Perito) and quickly abandoned fiddling with their pianos. They became one of the best-selling instrumental easy listening groups of the 1960s, having immediate hits with their renditions of Exodus; and the theme from The Apartment, amassing over 10 Top 100 hits in the next 13 years.

3. A Scottish Soldier - Andy Stewart
The use of tartan patriotism and stereotypical Scottish humour began with Sir Harry Lauder and his now famous music hall songs. In the 1960s the tradition was continued by Glasgow-born entertainer Andy Stewart who had several hit singles in the earlier years of that decade. 'A Scottish Soldier' was by far his biggest hit, remaining in the British charts for 36 weeks; it enjoyed a similar run in Australia. The tune, "The Green Hills of Tyrol", is a well-known melody in the Scottish bagpipe tradition and was written by John MacLeod during the Crimean War, and based on an alpine folk tune used in William Tell.

4. Wooden Heart - Elvis Presley

During his Army days in Germany, Elvis heard and learnt many German songs which would surface along the way throughout his career. Elvis sang this English version of 'Muss I Denn' called 'Wooden Heart' in the movie, G.I. Blues. The single was a huge hit in the UK and Australia, but RCA never did release it in the US. The English words have nothing to do with the original German lyrics, which are about leaving home and a lover behind. The title and sound were intended to suggest that the song was Dutch (making a false connection to the traditional Dutch wooden shoes), due to a certain amount of residual anti-German social sentiment that remained a decade and a half after Hitler was defeated. The only German line is the first line of the song, repeated, because the original second line sounded "too German" to American ears. An English version of the song was also recorded by Joe Dowell and many Americans bought it, believing it was Elvis singing.

5. Let There Be Drums - Sandy Nelson

Inspired at the age of seven when he saw the famous and influential American jazz and big band drummer, Gene Krupa, performing, Sandy Nelson asked for a drum set for his next Christmas present. By the time he was in high school, he was working as a session man with Gene Vincent, the Teddy Bears, and other early rock acts. In 1959, he cut his first single. "Let There Be Drums" was the third of a string of hits released over the next six years, despite losing his left foot in a car accident in 1962. A pre-stardom Glen Campbell plays guitar on this single.

6. Asia Minor - Kokomo (Jimmy Wisner)

American pianist, arranger, songwriter, and producer extraordinaire Jimmy Wisner was already making a name for himself as a jazz pianist and recording artist around Philadelphia. He formed the Jimmy Wisner Trio in 1959 with Chick Kinney on drums and Ace Tesone on bass. This ensemble backed musicians who toured through Philadelphia, including Mel Torme, Carmen McRae, Dakota Staton, and The Hi-Lo's. They cut this semi-novelty piano tune based on Grieg's Piano Concerto. With shellac on the piano hammers to produce a more vibrant sound on a $50, out-of-tune upright piano, Wisner called the result 'Asia Minor' and put the record out under the name of Kokomo, so as not to offend the jazz crowd. He was turned down by 10 labels and had to release the track on his own label Future Records.

7. Crying/Candy Man - Roy Orbison

Roy Orbison's follow-up to the tear-jerker 'Only The Lonely' was very much a case of more of the same - and the buying public loved it. It became the standard for the dramatic ballad about love, and as such, is up there as one of the Big O's best. 'Candy Man' kept alive the rockabilly style of singing that Orbison preferred. According to Orbison, 'Crying' contains "a vivid combination of hurtful romantic longing combined with near operatic vocals". It is remarkable in that Roy Orbison begins singing the climactic, final note slightly flat, sliding up by the end of the note to just under the correct pitch. That this was done for effect was confirmed in a live performance, Live at Austin City Limits, as well as on the 1987 re-recording from the album In Dreams, on which he sang that note perfectly on key. In 1987, a year before he died, Orbison re-recorded the song as a duet with k.d. Lang as part of the soundtrack for the motion picture, Hiding Out. Their collaboration won the Grammy Award for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals. Rebekah Del Rio performed an a cappella Spanish language version of the song, entitled "Llorando" in the 2001 David Lynch film, Mulholland Drive. It has previously been used on the soundtrack for the 1997 cult film, Gummo, directed by Harmony Korine, in which two of the central characters even discuss the song at length.

8. I'm Counting On You - Johnny O'Keefe

Well established in Australia when he recorded this song, Johnny O'keefe was a regular on the TV show, Six O'Clock Rock, before commencing his own TV show, The Johnny O'Keefe Show, after his move from Channel 9 to 7. Around that time he recorded what would be his biggest hit so far, the ballad 'I'm Counting On You', released at the end of August 1961. it was his 14th single and the second of five No.1 singles in his career.

9. Travelin' Man / Hello Mary Lou - Ricky Nelson

Ricky Nelson, with a little help from The Jordanaires and the guitar of James Burton, came up with a classic pop duo here that has stood the test of time. One song is about giving your heart to lots of women, the other is about losing it to just one; which sums up the subject matter of just about every pre-Bob Dylan hit song. Rick Nelson was born Eric Hilliard Nelson in 1940. He died in a small plane crash in Texas in 1985 while flying to a New Year's Eve concert. Mechanical problems and a cabin fire were suspected as the cause of the crash. "Travelin' Man" was written by Jerry Fuller. There was a park close to where his wife worked, and everyday when he went to pick her up he'd take his guitar, sit in the park and write songs while he waited for her. He'd been thinking about writing a song about a man who traveled all over the world and one day took a World Atlas along with him to go over the countries in it. The song was written in about 20 minutes. And, yes, it was first offered to Sam Cooke's manager but he turned it down. Rick's bass player, Joe Osborne, had been in the next room of the record company and heard it. He asked Cooke's manager if he could hear it again, and the man said: "Here, you can have it." It was one of Rick's biggest hits and stayed on the charts for four months. After releasing his first single, Ricky's father, who was Ozzie of the popular Ozzie & Harriet television show, ensured that each episode of the show ended with a musical performance by Ricky, having realized that whenever he had Ricky sing on their show, Ricky's record sales shot up the next day. As Ricky became popular and the demand for his songs was overwhelming, Ozzie realized that working his singing of this song into the plot was going to be impossible. Ozzie filmed Ricky singing "Travelin' Man," superimposed some travelogue scenes over the film and tacked it onto a show episode at the end. Viola! The music video was born.

10. When The Girl In Your Arms is The Girl In Your Heart - Cliff Richard

Like several other of Britain's early rock 'n' roll artists, the professional career of Cliff Richard (real name Harry Rodger Webb) started at the Two-I 's Coffee bar in London. After a brief spell as a skiffler, Richard began to model himself on his idol, Elvis Presley. Backed by his group, The Drifters, a recording opportunity arose in 1958 and he enjoyed his first hit, 'Move It'. An appearance on the groundbreaking British TV show Oh Boy!, a change of name to The Shadows to avoid confusion with an American group of the same name, and a new clean cut image, set him onto the road of fame that he has been travelling on for nearly 50 years. This song was his 15th single, and his third No.1 in Australia.

11. I'm Gonna Knock On Your Door I'm Gonna Knock On Your Doo - Eddie Hodges

Examining the showbiz credits of Eddie Hodges, those who recall his days of fame may be surprised to learn that this very talented and popular child star appeared in only eight films between 1959 and 1968. Just about every movie-struck kid envied him. Hodges also made numerous television appearances and had a couple of hit records, like this one, so it is not surprising that he made such an impact. Child actors come and go, but Eddie Hodges, along with Macaulay Culkin and Dakota Fanning must surely be there at the top of the pile next to Shirley Temple, who was the biggest child star of all.

12. Little Devil - Neil Sedaka

As a piano playing schoolboy, Neil Sedaka was introduced to a young song-writing neighbour, Howard Greenfield, by Greenfield's mother, and thus began one of pop's most successful and enduring songwriting partnerships. As Sedaka has noted, "for a long period of time, we wrote a song a day." While some songs never made it out of the house, many made their way around the world. In the four years between 1959 and 1963, the team sold over twenty-five million records and their collaboration was to last thirty years, one of the longest partnerships in music history. Their big break had come in 1958 when Connie Francis recorded their 'Stupid Cupid' at a time when Sedaka was just 18 and not yet recording. Its success opened the door for Sedaka as both a writer and a performer of his own material. He had hit after hit, and become a teen idol, flying around the world as one of the youngest touring performers.

13. Dream Girl - Mark Wynter (below) / Bryan Davies (shared)

Mark Wynter (real name Terry Lewis) was one of the moderately successful British pop-rock crooners to enter the pop music scene in the wake of Cliff Richard and Billy Fury. By his mid-teens, rock 'n' roll was beginning to make itself felt in England, and in 1959, at the age of 16, he was given his first chance at stardom, filling in for a London group's regular lead singer. Wynter was signed to Decca Records in 1960 and over the next two years, five of his seven singles charted in England; 'Dream Girl' was one of them. In Australia the song was covered by Sydney based Bryan Davies, a regular on the TV show Bandstand. It was the first of five hits for Davies between 1961 and 1967. The song was originally recorded by The Love Notes, a musical group formed 1952 in Boston, Massachusetts comprising Bob White (tenor lead), Walter Taylor (tenor), John Davis (second tenor and bass), Buddy Holt(baritone and second lead), and Wallace Rose(baritone). Late in 1952, Buddy Holt was replaced by bass Ed Anderson, and Walter Taylor was replaced by tenor Teddy Santos.

14. Take Five (instrumental) - Dave Brubeck Quartet

'Take Five' is by far the best-selling jazz single of the all time. Its creator, Dave Brubeck, received early training in classical music from his mother, who was a pianist. By the age of 13 he was performing professionally with local jazz groups. In 1941-2, while a music major at the College of the Pacific in Stockton, California, he led a 12-piece band and by the 1950s, his quartet had become legendary on US college campuses. During the 1950s and 1960s, he began experimenting with time signatures unusual in jazz, such as 5/4, 9/8, and 11/4. By 1959, he had recorded the first jazz instrumental piece to sell a million copies, entitled 'Desmond's Take Five' (in 5/4 meter), writen by band member Paul Desmond. The Dave Brubeck Quartet comprised of Dave Brubeck, Paul Desmond, Joe Morello and Gene Wright.

15. Runaway - Del Shannon

Born Charles Weedon Westover, Del Shannon was one of the few 'manufactured' pop stars of the early 1960s who really had talent. With an untrained voice and an incredibly high range, he had a piercing falsetto that would bring chills down the spine. As a guitarist, Shannon became legendary to music buffs in the industry and his fellow contemporaries alike. Dire Straits' Mark Knopfler admits that Del Shannon was the reason he began playing guitar. Remembered as the man who sang 'Runaway', his excellent guitar work was often overlooked, as was his songwriting. The single is notable for its use of the Clavioline, an early form of synthesizer played by Max Crook, who referred to his heavily-modified instrument as the "Musitron". The following year, Lawrence Welk, who hosted a music tv series, released and had a hit with a cover of the song. "Runaway" briefly returned in 1986 when Shannon recorded a revised version for the theme song of the television show, Crime Story.

16. Run To Him - Bobby Vee

On a snowy February evening in 1959, a plane crashed in Clear Lake, Iowa; its passengers were Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens. When news of the crash reached the people who had organised the concert they were on their way to perform at, another group called The Shadows was hastily chosen to perform in their place. The lead singer of this hitherto unknown band was 15-year old Bobby Velline, later shortened to Bobby Vee who, as a result of this twist of fate, stepped into the mighty shoes of Holly & Co. to become, as Billboard magazine would call him, 'one of the Top 10 most consistent chart makers ever'. "Doing the show that night," he reminisces, "there was no reason why we should have been there because we were just a garage band. But they didn't ask us for our credentials. They just said, 'come on down', and we did a fifteen minute set at the beginning of the evening. I remember hearing Elvis and the Everly Brothers and Chuck Berry and Fats Domino," recalls Vee, "but Buddy Holly was my primary influence. Nothing has been lost. The stuff that was important to me then is still important to me. It's not about the head, it's about the heart." It is a little known fact that, for a very short time, Vee's band had a pianist named Robert Zimmerman, who later became better known under his assumed name: Bob Dylan. However, prior to that, when Zimmerman played piano at gigs in the church basement in Vee's band, he was using yet another name: Elston Gunnn (yes, with three n's).

17. Goodbye Cruel World - James Darren

James Darren (real name James William Ercolani) is an American television and film actor, television director, and singer. The star of such movies as Gidget and The Guns of Navarone, he was equally popular as a recording artist, having released eight singles and 12 albums, the lastest as recent as 2001. This novelty song was released as Darren's third single and was the only one to reach the Australian top 10. It was written by Gloria Shayne, who also wrote the well-known Christmas song, "Do You Hear What I Hear" and several songs for singer Lesley Gore. This song was used in The Donna Reed Show; that performance is believed to have been the debut of the song. Many people recalling this song incorrectly believe it was performed by Bobby Darin who has a similar voice and the same surname (but spelt differently).

18. The Wanderer - Dion

The Belmonts lead singer left doo-wop behind with this song to become a major sixties teen-idol. Revealing a bluesy edge little seen in his previous incarnation, the former Mr. DiMucci proved that personality does indeed go a long way. Ernie Maresca, who wroter "The Wanderer", had co-written Dion's previous No.1 hit, "Runaround Sue", but originally intended "The Wanderer" to be recorded by another group, Nino and the Ebbtides. They passed on it in favour of another Maresca song, so Dion was given it as the B-side of his follow-up single, "The Majestic". The record was turned over by radio DJs who preferred "The Wanderer", which duly entered the charts in December 1961 and rose to No.2 in the US, No.10 in the UK, and No.1 in Australia. The song was recorded with an uncredited background vocal group, the Del-Satins, in a rockier style than Dion's earlier hits with the Belmonts. The Del-Satins were an established doo-wop group led by Stan Ziska (later known as Stan Sommers). Dion said of "The Wanderer": "At its roots, it's more than meets the eye. "The Wanderer" is black music filtered through an Italian neighborhood that comes out with an attitude. It's my perception of a lot of songs like "I'm A Man" by Bo Diddley or "Hoochie Coochie Man" by Muddy Waters. But you know, "The Wanderer" is really a sad song. A lot of guys don't understand that. Bruce Springsteen was the only guy who accurately expressed what that song was about. It's "I roam from town to town and go through life without a care, I'm as happy as a clown with my two fists of iron, but I'm going nowhere." In the fifties, you didn't get that dark. It sounds like a lot of fun but it's about going nowhere." However, on Maresca's original demo of the song, the lyrics were "with my two fists of iron and my bottle of beer", and the change to "with my two fists of iron but I'm going nowhere" in fact seems to have been at the record company's insistence. "The Wanderer" has been covered by many other popular singers and bands, including Gary Glitter, The Beach Boys, Leif Garrett, Status Quo, Bruce Springsteen, Eddie Rabbitt, Ted Chippington, Dave Edmunds, The Alley Cats, and punk pioneers, The Heimlich Experiment.

19. Never On Sunday - Don Costa & His Orchestra & Chorus | The Chordettes | Connie Francis

Don Costa began as a guitarist with theatre orchestras in Boston. He moved to New York and worked as a studio musician. His big break came when Eydie Gorme and Steve Lawrence asked him to provideosome arrangments for their early records. The Costa-Gorme-Lawrence team soon moved to ABC-Paramount, and Costa took over as ABC's lead in-house arranger. While at ABC, Costa launched the career of a teenager from Canada named Paul Anka. In 1959, they moved to the new United Artists label, and Costa released a number of albums under his own name. His cover of a "Never On Sunday", sold over a million copies and was the most successful recording of the song. It comes from the 1960 Greek feature film, Pote tin Kyriaki - Never on Sunday, music and Lyrics by Manos Hadjidakis. In the film, the song is sung by Melina Mercouri, the leading actress. Connie Francis was invited to the 1961 Academy Awards ceremony to present one of the songs nominated for an Academy Award. She was offered 'The Second Time Around' from the movie High Time starring Bing Crosby. She turned that song down in favor of 'Never on Sunday', even singing a few bars of the original Greek lyrics during the ceremony. Francis never considered releasing a recording of the song as a single, because The Chordettes had already taken their version to No.13 on the charts. But in August 1961, Francis recorded the song for an album featuring songs from motion pictures and it made the top 20.

20. My Boomerang Won't Come Back - Charlie Drake

Charlie Drake (real name Charles Springall) was a Cockney singer turned comedian turned singer - little wonder that his splendid novelty songs were so well crafted. He had adopted his mother's maiden name before trying to make it in show business as a singer. However, his first big break came in 1955 as part of a comedy duo called Mick and Montmorency on a children's TV show in Britain. Drake's first recorded single was simply a rock and roll number - a cover of an early Bobby Darin song. The recording was automatically taken as a comedy novelty - though he never intended it to be. Being a believer in the old saying, "If you can't beat them, join them", he released a number of comic songs, the biggest of which was 'My Boomerang Won't Come Back', about an Australian Aboriginal who couldn't get his boomerang to come back. Sadly, it was his last hit record though he continued to release singles until 1967.

Top 10 Australian Hits of 1961

1. I'm Counting On You - Johnny O'Keefe
See above.

2. Dream Girl - Bryan Davies
See above.

3. Hokey Pokey - Johnny Chester

John Howard Chester's career as an entertainer began when he shone as a comedy actor in primary school plays in his hometown of Melbourne. At high school, he was drummer in the school band and by the age of 17, had taken up the guitar and formed his own band named The Jaywoods. He came to the attention of W&G Record's Ron Tudor who was looking for a Melbourne based teen idol, and found it in Johnny. Chester was signed up and his first single, a beefed up version of the old dance standard 'Hokey Pokey' was released. It was to be the first in a long line of top selling records. Chester has toured nationally with The Beatles, Roy Orbison, The Everly Brothers, Kenny Rogers, Johnny Cash, Tammy Wynette and Charley Pride. He has won Golden Guitars at the Country Music Awards of Australia for best selling track in 1975 and for Male Vocalist of the Year in 1981, 82 and 83. In 1994 he was awarded the Songmaker of the year award from the Tamworth Songwriters Association.

4. Can Can Ladies - Johnny Chester with The Thunderbirds

The follow-up single to 'Hokey Pokey', 'Can Can Ladies', released on the W & G (White and Gillespie) record label, turned Johnny Chester into Melbourne's hottest rock performer of 1961. A year later he was chosen to tour with with Roy Orbison, then The Everly Brothers. The song is yet another about a dance, this time the Can Can, the dance in which the women lift their skirts. It is very similar to the song "Yes we Can Can", written and recorded by Lee Dorsey. The single's B-side was "What A Night".

5. New Orleans Beat (instrumental) - The Thunderbirds

The Thunderbirds were a nine-piece instrumental band that hailed from the Melbourne suburb of St Kilda and backed Johnny Chester on his early hits. Their first recording was a rendition of Duane Eddy's 'Peter Gunn' which was a standard of the day for the many emerging instrumental groups. 'New Orleans Beat' was the second of three singles released by the group in 1961, all of which sold well.

6. Wild Weekend (instrumental) - The Thunderbirds

The Thunderbirds were Melbourne's very first rock band, formed in 1957. The first single to be released by the group, it was a No.1 hit. Their success in 1961 led to The Thunderbirds being chosen as the band to accompany most of the overseas acts who toured Australia that year - including Dion and Roy Orbison. The latter was so impressed by them, he invited 17-year old Charlie Gould to be his personal guitarist. The Thunderbirds was shortlived and had broken up by 1963. This tune is an excellent cover of the Rockin' Rebels original.

7. You're The Limit - The Delltones

The Sydney based band The Delltones were one of Australia's most successful proponents of surfing music. Between 1959 and 1971 when they broke up, they had a string of hits and were able to survive the tragic death of their lead vocalist - Noel Widerberg - in a car accident in 1962 and continue recording and performing with Colin Loughman as part of their new line-up. 'You're The Limit', their first single, reached No. 4 and charted for over three months.

8. Good Looking Boy - Patsy Ann Noble

Hailed as Australia's Brenda Lee look-alike and sound-alike, Patsy Ann Noble hailed from the Sydney suburb of Marrickville. The daughter of popular comedian Buster Noble and choreographer Helen de Paul, her parents employed her as a singer and dancer before she became a regular on TV's Bandstand in 1960. She was first discovered by Bandstand in 1960, then recorded two singles that did not sell, but reached No.6 on the charts with her next single, 'Good looking Boy'. It was written for her by Johnny Devlin. After winning a Logie for Best Female Singer, she moved to England where she recorded a number of singles but could not come up with a hit there. Noble returned to Australia and became Trisha Noble. After a trip to the US in 1965, she ceased her showbiz activities both as an actress and singer.

9. Right Now - Johnny O'Keefe
The second of two hit singles released by Johnny O'Keefe in 1961. It began life as the B-side of the single "I'm Counting On You".

10. Skip To My Lou - Dave Bridge Quartet
A guitarist since he was 5 years old, Dave Bridge took a job with a Sydney jeweller where he discovered a workmate named Col Joy shared the same passion for music. They formed Col Joy And The Joy Boys and Bridge became the lead guitarist. He stayed with the group until 1961 when he formed the Dave Ridge Quartet. 'Skip To My Lou', a traditional ballad, was soon recorded and released, moving quickly to No.4 and charting for 12 weeks. After two more hits, Dave began concentrating on session work before becoming one of Australia's most sought after producers and arrangers.

Stand By Me - Ben E. King

Like Chubby Ckecker's 'The Twist', this soulful classic became a hit all over again when it was re-released some years later. And it was to this, King's most loved recording, that John Lennon turned to when he needed a song to express how he was feeling in the years following the Beatles' breakup. Prior to becoming a solo artist, King was a member of The Drifters. Written by Ben E. King, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, this song has been recorded by many artists, though few versions have achieved the fame of the original. The song utilises the common chord progression now called the 50s progression.

Other Hits of 1961

He's A Rebel - The Crystals

The Crystals were a girl group that was riding the wave of popularity at the beginning of the 1960s, and "He's A Rebel" was by far and away their biggest hit. Gene Pitney wrote it though he never released it as a single; producer Phil Spector applied his 'Wall of Sound' backing and Darlene Love sang it. That's right - Darlene Love, backed by The Blossoms, with not a Crystal to be heard singing a single note; why it was released as a Crystals single is anyone's guess! Australian Debbie Byrne recorded an excellent cover of this song in the early 1970s after leaving the TV show, Young Talent Time.

Will You Love Me Tomorrow - The Shirelles

Before The Beatles put popular music on its ear, girl groups were all the rage. The Shirelles were up there with the best of them and this number captures perfectly the sound, feel and subject matter of the girl groups' music form. Written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King, "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" has been recorded by many different artists and was ranked among Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time at No.125. When first presented with the song, Shirelles lead singer Shirley Alston did not want to record it because she thought it sounded "too country." She relented after a string arrangement was added. Alston recalled on the oldies radio program, Shake Rattle Showtime, that some radio stations banned the record because they felt the lyrics were too sexually charged. "Boys", a song by Luther Dixon and Wes Farrell, was released as the B-side. The Beatles covered "Boys" on their first album released in the UK, Please Please Me. Their version, recorded at Abbey Road Studios on 11th February, 1963 in a single take, featured Ringo Starr's first recorded lead vocal with The Beatles.

The Lion Sleeps Tonight - The Tokens

One of the stranger anomalies in rock history, 'Lion' began life as a spontaneous recorded outburst by a Zulu tribesman, morphed into a misinterpreted folk song, wound up in the hands of Sam Cooke's producers who added tympani, woodwinds, and an opera singer and recorded it with a white New York doo-wop group, whose original lead singer had been Neil Sedaka. Could a combination like that ever work? We all know the answer. "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" was first recorded as an African popular music hit called "Mbube". Mbube is Zulu for lion and is the original name for one of the world's most popular songs. It was written in 1939 by Solomon Linda, a Zulu tribesman, who was born in the bush near Ladysmith, South Africa. As a young man, Linda moved to Johannesburg to seek his fortune. He organized a singing group named the Evening Birds who sang on the weekends in the beer halls in the Soweto Township where the black labourers lived. Linda sang soprano while the other members of the group sang four part harmony. The style they originated was quickly copied. In 1939 Linda, who was illiterate and could not read or write music, met Griffiths Motsieloam, the black partner of Eric Gallo, an Italian who owned the first recording studio in sub-Saharan Africa. In 1939 The Evening Birds recorded Mbube at Gallo's studio, and required three takes to get the final, incredible recording. Perhaps because he had no musical score to work from, Solly Linda improvised as he sang the falsetto part over the strong bass chant. At the end of the third take, he abruptly added the melody that has become associated with the words, "In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight." The record was so popular, by 1948 it had sold around 100,000 copies and Solomon Linda had become famous among the Zulu immigrants.
At that time, Pete Seeger was a struggling banjo player living in a tiny flat in Greenwich Village with his wife and their two young children. The to-be-famous musicologist Alan Lomax popped up at Pete's place with some African 78s that he thought Seeger might like. One of the records was Mbube, which immediately fascinated Seeger. He transcribed from the record but could not make out the chant of "uyimbube" on the scratchy recording and wrote it as "Wimoweh." He taught the tune to his band, a folk group called The Weavers, who sang folk songs and spirituals. They included "Wimoweh" in their repertoire and recorded it a year later. Seeger explains in one recording, "it refers to an old legend down there, [about] their last king, who was known as Chaka The Lion. Legend says, Chaka The Lion didn't die when Europeans took over the country; he simply went to sleep, and he'll wake up some day." Seeger made some additions to the melody. The Weavers' version was covered by Jimmy Dorsey in 1952 and in 1959 by the The Kingston Trio. On all these versions, the song was credited exclusively to Paul Campbell (Campbell being a pseudonym for the four members of the group: Lee Hays, Fred Hellerman, Ronnie Gilbert, and Pete Seeger). Linda's name remained unknown, to a point where he did not receive credit even on his own original release of the song. Solomon Linda would not receive actual credit until 1960, on Miriam Makeba's version of "Mbube" (credited to "J. Linda"). Accompanied by the Chad Mitchell Trio, her cover appeared on her debut album. Jay Siegel, the leader of a young white doo-wop singing group from Brooklyn called The Tokens, introduced the song to his group in 1960. He had learned it from an old Weavers album. The Tokens had grown out of a singing group formed in 1955 by students at Brooklyn's Abraham Lincoln High School. In 1956, the Linc-Tones recorded their first single, "While I Dream", on which Neil Sedaka, who was then a group member, sang lead. The Tokens' producers, Luigi Creatore and Hugo Peretti, had George David Weiss rework the song. Weiss gave the song the name, "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" and added the now famous line "In the jungle, the mighty jungle". He also excised all of the falsetto hollering from the original and retained the famous, magical melody of Solomon Linda. Weiss obtained a copyright. Recorded in RCA's Manhattan studios in July 1961, the song quickly became a big international hit, but only by a twist of fate. The recording was the B-side to a song, "Tina", which flopped. An obscure DJ flipped "Tina" over and was so impressed that he played "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" frequently. The response was unexpectedly strong, other DJ's followed, and the song reached the US charts by November. Jay Siegel's characteristic lead vocals helped The Tokens' 1961 cover not only rise all the way to No.1, but become the difinitive version of the song. In the 1990's, the song was adapted by Disney for use in "The Lion King", and then in the Broadway version. Solomon Linda was paid a single fee of 10 shillings for his recording and no royalties for his song about his childhood when he had watched his family's cattle at night to protect them from the lions. African laws restricted Blacks from owning any copyrights. The song has been recorded by 72 different artists over the years and has generated an estimated 15 million dollars or more in royalties, most of which have gone to Weiss. Solomon Linda spent his last years on poverty and died in 1962 of renal failure. His descendents have successfully prosecuted a lawsuit against those who have made so much money from Linda's genius. The settlement was reached in February 2006.

Walking Back To Happiness - Helen Shapiro

If anyone has experienced the highs and lows of fame and the fickleness of public taste, it is Londoner Helen Shapiro. At the age of 14 she was thrust into the limelight with two No.1 hits ('You Don't Know' and 'Walking Back To Happiness'), yet two years later she was a has-been. Helen had a deep timbre to her voice, unusual in a girl barely into her teens - her school friends gave her the nickname, 'Foghorn' - but her mature voice made her an overnight sensation. Despite being up against Elvis Presley, Del Shannon, and Shirley Bassey, this beehive-hairstyled schoolgirl popstar produced an incredible four top ten hits in Britain in 1961. In the following year, she embarked on an extensive national tour with The Beatles as her support act. At the time they were largely unknown outside of Liverpool. By the end of the tour, The Beatles had released their first singles and shot to fame, and Helen found herself being booed off the stage of her own concerts by fans itching to see The Beatles perform live! The Beatles even wrote the song 'Misery' for her to help her along, but inexplicably, EMI decided not to record her singing it. Undaunted, she later re-invented herself as a performer in stage musicals, a jazz singer, and more recently a gospel singer.

You're Sixteen - Johnny Burnette

Written by the Sherman Brothers (Robert B. Sherman & Richard M. Sherman), it was a top 10 hit the United States for Rockabilly singer Johnny Burnette and then thirteen years and one month later, a cover version by Ringo Starr hit No.1. The latter performance reunited Ringo Starr with his former Beatles bandmate Paul McCartney, who sang background on the track along with his wife, Linda McCartney. Paul McCartney also does an imitation of a saxophone for the solo on the track, which is often mistaken for a kazoo. Burnette's version is featured prominently on the 1973 motion picture soundtrack of American Graffiti.

Hit The Road, Jack - Ray Charles

A song written by Percy Mayfield, it is said to be devoted to Jack Kerouac. In the US, the song is often played during sporting events when a player from the visiting team is forced to leave the game by a referee. It is also often played near the end of the game, when the home team appears likely to win. Charles was a pioneer in the genre of soul music during the 1950s by fusing rhythm & blues, gospel, and blues styles into his early recordings for Atlantic Records. He also helped racially integrate country and pop music during the 1960s with his crossover success on ABC Records, most notably with his Modern Sounds albums.

I Fall To Pieces - Patsy Cline

A much-covered country/pop song written by Hank Cochran and Harlan Howard that was first recorded and released as a single by Patsy Cline. "I Fall to Pieces" was the first song Cline recorded under her new contract with Decca Records in 1960. Originally, Cline hated the song, but when she heard her version of it, she changed her mind. While "I Fall to Pieces" was climbing the charts, Cline was involved in a head-on car collision that June and nearly died in the accident. While she was in the hospital, "I Fall to Pieces" climbed to No.1 on the US Country charts, becoming her first No.1 hit, as well as climbing to No.12 on the Pop charts. It was followed by  "Crazy" which was rush-released to make up for the touring time and promotional scheduling she lost while in recovery in the hospital. However, it was "I Fall to Pieces" that made Cline a household name, and remained one of her signature songs throughout her career. The song has been covered by countless artists of various genres (such as LeAnn Rimes and Madeleine Peyroux). In 1980, the song was released again as an overdubbed single with an electronically-produced duet between Patsy Cline and country singer Jim Reeves that reached 61 on the US Country charts.

Let's Get Together - Hayley Mills

A popular song written for the 1961 Disney film, The Parent Trap. It was sung by a star of the film, teen actress, Hayley Mills, and was written by the songwriting brother team of Robert and Richard Sherman. In the film, Hayley Mills sings a duet with herself. This is because she played twin sisters, which was quite a technical feat in the early 1960s. The song was homaged in the 1998 remake of the film as well with Lindsay Lohan singing the title line.

Moody River - Pat Boone

A No. 1 hit for Pat Boone at a time when he was at the height of his popularity. The song tells the story of a man who goes to meet his love at the river, and finds that she has committed suicide. A note on the riverbank explains that she has cheated on him and that "No longer can I live with this hurt and this sin. I just couldn't tell you that guy was just a friend." Boone has sold over 45 million albums, had 38 Top 40 hits and starred in more than 12 Hollywood movies. Boone's talent as a singer and actor combined with his old-fashioned values contributed to his popularity in the pre-rock and roll era.

Please Mr Postman - The Marvelettes

The debut single by The Marvelettes, it is notable as the first Motown song to reach No.1 on the pop singles chart. In early 1961, The Marvelettes (then known as "The Marvels") arranged an audition for Berry Gordy's Tamla/Motown label. Marvels member Georgia Dobbins needed an original song for their audition and got a blues song from her friend William Garrett, which she then reworked for the group. Their recording features lead singer Gladys Horton hoping that the postman has brought her a letter from her boyfriend, who is away at war. Instrumentation is provided by The Funk Brothers, including Marvin Gaye on drums. Songwriting credits for "Please Mr. Postman" seem to have changed over the years. The original Marvelettes' single credits "Dobbins/Garett/Brianbert" as the songwriters, and credits "Brianbert" as producer. The With the Beatles album cover credited it to just Brian Holland. The 1974 Beatles discography book All Together Now credits it to Holland, Bateman, and Berry Gordy. The 1992 Motown boxed set Hitsville USA: The Motown Singles Collection credits Dobbins, Garrett, Holland, Bateman, and Gorman as the composers. The Songwriters Hall of Fame credits "Please Mr. Postman" to just Holland, Bateman, and Gorman. "Please Mr. Postman" has been covered frequently; the version by The Beatles was sung by John Lennon, however it reverses the genders. A version by The Carpenters took the song to No.1 again in early 1975.

The Way You Look Tonight - Frank Sinatra (right) / The Lettermen

This song first featured in the film, Swing Time, which won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1936. It was written by Jerome Kern with lyrics by Dorothy Fields. The latter has remarked that the melody, upon first hearing it, moved her to tears and she was thrilled to provideothe lyrics: "The first time Jerry played that melody for me I had to leave the room because I started to cry. The release absolutely killed me. I couldn't stop, it was so beautiful." In the film, the song was sung by John "Lucky" Garnett (played by Fred Astaire) while sitting at the piano. Penelope "Penny" Carroll (played by Ginger Rogers) was busy washing her hair in an adjacent room, and feeling anything but beautiful at the time. This song was later popularly performed by Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Michael Bublé, Rod Stewart, Ray Quinn and as a duet between Bing Crosby and his wife Dixie Lee. Jazz pianist Art Tatum has an instrumental recording in the collection, The Complete Pablo Solo Masterpieces. It was also performed by The Lettermen and became a moderate hit for them in 1961, although it received limited airplay in Australia.

When I Fall In Love - The Lettermen

When it comes to classic love songs, they don't come much bigger and better than this one. Written by Edward Heyman and Victor Young, this brilliantly crafted gem was first introduced in the film One Minute To Zero (1952). The song has become a standard, with many artists recording it, though the original hit version was by Doris Day. Her recording was made on 5th June 1952. Nat King Cole recorded his version six months later, and though it was never issued as a single, it is the one most people remember. The Lettermen issued their single in 1961; it became quite popular and was their biggest hit in Australia. Marilyn Monroe released her deliciously delightful version in the same year (it is definitely Marilyn singing here, in spite of what the YouTube notes say!), as did Sandra Dee. A version of the song recorded by Céline Dion and Clive Griffin was featured in the movie, Sleepless in Seattle.

Running Scared - Roy Orbison

"Running Scared" was written by Roy Orbison and Joe Melson. An operatic rock ballad, the song was released as a single by Monument Records in March 1961 and shot immediately into the top 10. Noted for being a song without multiple verses or a chorus, the verse builds to a climax that, without vibrato, demonstrates the power of Orbison's clear, full voice. It is written in the bolero style; Orbison is credited with bringing this style to the rock genre. John Peel, a famous British BBC Radio DJ who died in 2004, listed "Running Scared" by Roy Orbison as one of the songs to be played at his own memorial service.

The Baby Elephant Walk - Henry Mancini

The instrumental "Baby Elephant Walk" was written in 1961 by composer Henry Mancini, for the 1962 movie Hatari!. The composer combines brass instruments (including repeated blasts from the tuba) and woodwind elements to convey the sense of a baby elephant that is large and plodding, but nonetheless filled with the exuberance of youth. The catchy, jazzy simplicity of the tune has made it one of Mancini's most popular works, prompting its appearance on nearly twenty later compilation and best of/greatest hits albums. As the allmusic.com album review states, "if Hatari! is memorable for anything, it's for the incredibly goofy 'Baby Elephant Walk', which has gone on to be musical shorthand for kookiness of any stripe. Get this tune in your head and it sticks." The cheerful tone, like that of Mancini's "Pink Panther Theme", presents a stark contrast to more melancholy Mancini standards such as "Moon River".

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