The decade ended much as it had begun, homogenized, predictable, no raws edges, no surprises. From the innocence of Pat Boone through the raw vitality of bluesmen like Fats Domino and then back to the safety of Frankie Avalon. Rock's rougher edges had all but disappeared by 1959. Jerry Lee Lewis had been blacklisted after his marriage to his 13 year old cousin. Chuck Berry would be arrested for an offense with an underage girl.
Little Richard had turned to his church. Elvis Presley would return from the Army in 1960, never again to be the naughty rebel he had been in the Fifties. Under Colonel Parker's control, Elvis would remain a huge star, but he would never realize his full potential as an actor or musician. Further, in February of 1959, a plane crash took the lives of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper. Perhaps the most eloquent chronicler of the demise of rock's early spirit is Don McLean. His epic parable, "American Pie", refers not only to the deaths of Holly, Valens and the Bopper, but to the changes in Rock as well.
1959 belonged to the Teen Idols. Bobby Darin had a hit with "Mack the Knife". Ironically, Darin resisted releasing the 1928 song, "Three Penny Opera", as a single. Also in the Top Ten that year was Frankie Avalon's "Venus". Paul Anka scored with "Lonely Boy" and "Put Your Head on My Shoulder". Fabian had hits with "Turn Me Loose" and "Tiger". Annette Funicello made the charts with "Tall Paul". In 1960 Annette's real life boyfriend, Paul Anka, would write "Puppy" Love about their relationship.
Top 20 Singles of 1959
1. A Fool Such As I - Elvis Presley (right)
At the time this single was released, 24-year old Elvis was still performing his National Service duties in Germany. Colonel Parker continued to keep Elvis' career alive with promotions and hit record releases during his time in the army, this being his biggest hit of that period. The song is believed to have been put down in February 1958 while recording the soundtrack for Presley's fourth movie, King Creole, just weeks before being drafted.
2. Bye Bye Baby Goodbye - Col Joye with the Joy Boys / The Sapphires
A Frank McNulty composition, this song was originally recorded by Sonny Williams on the Chicago label Coin, owned by the composer. This single was the first hit record of Col Joye (right), a pioneering Aussie pop star of the rock'n'roll era. Born Colin Jacobsen in 1937, at the age of 20 he joined his brother Kevin's jazz band that was to become Col Joye and the Joy Boys. Col had ten top 10 hits in the Sydney charts alone from May 1959 to May 1962, including four No.1s, and was a star on television pop show 'Bandstand'. His rock'n'roll suit is on display at Sydney's Powerhouse Museum. Another Frank McNulty song was a hit for Col Joye in Australia, '(Making Love On A) Moonlit Night'.
3. Smoke Gets In Your Eyes - The Platters (right)
Written in 1933 for the musical Roberta, starring Bob Hope, the song's lyrics were by Otto Harbach and the music by Jerome Kern. In 1934, four different recordings were released: by Paul Whiteman, Leo Reisman, Emil Coleman and Ruth Etting. Although The Platters has become the definitive version, recordings have been made by Artie Shaw (1941), Harry Belafonte (1950), Sarah Vaughan, Blue Haze (1973), Brian Ferry (1974) and others. The tune was based on a march that "didn't make it". Subsequently, so the story goes, it was "slowed-down" and a hit was born. Shirley Bassey once sang this song on the Morecambe and Wise Show, during which she lost her shoe. Morecambe followed her around until he could slip his own shoe on her bare foot. She remained straight-faced throughout.
4. Joey's Song - Bill Haley & His Comets
This hit is a catchy instrumental based around guitar and saxophone being given the same 16-bar phrase which is played one against the other. Knowing it wasn't rock'n'roll but not knowing quite what to call it, record label Decca described this single as an "Instrumental Fox Trot" on its release in 1959. It paved the way for a string of instrumental hits that would dominate the record charts over the next decade. Based on a French Edith Piaf song called "La Goualante Du Pauvre Jean", it was written by Joe Reisman and named for his son Joey. Another source says it pays homage to Joey Ambrosia who right the Comets in September 1955 to form the Jodimars together with Marshall Lytle and Dick Richards. Ambrosia is a multi-talented jazz trumpeter, vocalist and educator who, at the time of writing this, was in custody awaiting trial for attempting to purchase cocaine from an undercover narcotics officer.
5. Personality - Lloyd Price
Lloyd Price is widely known as "Mr. Personality," a nickname he received from this, one his best-known songs. Among the premier rhythm & blues singers of the 1950s and 1960s, the Louisiana native was a musician, bandleader, songwriter, producer, record-company executive and booking agent. His biggest hit, "Lawdy Miss Clawdy," was an original song produced by Dave Bartholomew and featuring Fats Domino on piano. Based on a commercial jingle he'd written, "Lawdy Miss Clawdy" topped the R&B charts in 1952. It is a rhythm & blues classic that helped give birth to rock 'n' roll.
6. Bimbombey - Jimmie Rodgers/Tuula Anneli Rantanen
A contemporary of Buddy Holly, James Frederick Rodgers (not to be confused with the country singer of the same name, aka "The Singing Brakeman") learned to play the piano and guitar as a youth, and formed a band while he served in the United States Air Force. Like a number of other entertainers of the era, he was one of the contestants on Arthur Godfrey's talent show on US radio and was signed up by the newly formed Roulette Records when they became aware of his talent. In the summer of 1957, he recorded a song called 'Honeycomb', which had been first recorded by Bob Merrill three years earlier. It was Rodgers' first big hit. The following year, he had a number of other hits that reached the top ten: 'Kisses Sweeter than Wine', 'Oh-Oh, I'm Falling in Love Again', 'Secretly', and "Are You Really Mine". His other hits include "Bimbombey", "Ring-a-ling-a-lario", "Tucumcari" and "Tender Love and Care (T.L.C)". By 1959 he had a variety show on US television. In 1967 he was the victim of a violent attack while driving home one night, which brought his career to a halt. He began recording again a few years later but to a more mature audience. 'Bimbombey' was written by Bobby Darin.
7. I'll Never Fall In Love Again - Johnnie Ray (right)
Born in 1927 in Dallas, Oregon, Johnnie Ray enjoyed a highly successful singing career during the 1950s. His first effort was a song he had written himself titled "Whiskey and Gin", which became a minor hit. Late in 1951 he recorded two songs that were produced by Mitch Miller: 'Cry' and 'The Little White Cloud That Cried', the first of 25 hits that made the US Top 30 between 1951 to 1957. On many recordings he was backed by Ray Conniff's Orchestra and Chorus. On this recording, Ray is backed by the Dick Maltby Orchestra. 'I'll Never Fall In Love Again', his last single, was a top 10 hit in Australia, but nowhere else. As well as being an accomplished singer, Ray was an actor. His first film was the Irving Berlin musical, There's No Business Like Show Business (1954). The film included a very long, drawn-out, and somewhat strange production number of "Alexander's Ragtime Band", on which he handled the vocals very well. His acting however was overshadowed by others in the film.
8. Boom Boom Baby - Billy "Crash" Craddock (right)
Billy "Crash" Craddock spent a good portion of his childhood surrounded by music. His father, typical of musicians of his day and time, played harmonica, spoons, wash board, and buck danced. A star footballer in high school, which accounts for his nickname, it wasn't until Elvis Presley stormed into the entertainment field that Craddock thought he, too, might be able to combine his love for music and his need for earning a living. Shortly after leaving high school, he was on his way and it wasn't too long before he released the fateful record, "Knock Three Times". That song was to become the first of nine No.1 singles, one of which was 'Boom Boom Baby'. and paved the way for his phenomenal worldwide success.
9. The Battle of New Orleans - Johnny Horton (right)
Written by Jimmy Driftwood, an Arkansas high school principal and history teacher, who loved singing and writing songs. He often wrote songs to help students learn about historical events like this battle. The melody for 'Battle of New Orleans' was taken from an old fiddle tune called 'The Eighth of January' (which is actually the date of the U.S. forces' defeat of the British in this Battle). The tune was commonly played, and is still played today, in traditional fiddling. The song is one of a string of history related hits that Horton recorded, including 'North to Alaska' and 'Sink the Bismarck'. This song won the 1959 Grammys for Song of the Year and Best Country and Western Performance for Horton in spite of it actually being banned in England for a time because of its anti-British sentiment. A parody version by Homer and Jethro ('Battle of Kookamonga') also won a Grammy for Best Musical Comedy Performance. Soon after he was awarded a Gold record for this song, Horton asked if he could trade it for four "Golden Guitar" awards, given by the RIAA for a country single that sold at least 250,000 copies. Horton's wife thought the Gold Record didn't fit the home decor, but the Golden Guitar did.
10. Oh Yeah, Uh Huh - Col Joye & the Joy Boys
This song holds a unique place in Australian popular music history as it was Australia's first locally written, locally produced, national No.1 record. The song's unusual sound was created by the simultaneous playing of a riff on guitar and piano. To produce the song's unusual tapping beat a typewriter was used. It was the third of three hit singles recorded by Col Joye to be released between June and October 1959.
11. Petite Fleur - Chris Barber's Jazz Band
Trombonist Chris Barber began leading his own bands in 1949 in which he played trombone. Barber helped to create the careers of many diverse musicians, most notably the superb blues singer Ottilie Patterson. Others include vocalist and banjo player Lonnie Donegan who rose to fame during the skiffle music craze of the middle 1950s. Barber's English trad jazz band had an unexpected hit with their version of Sidney Bechet's 'Petite Fleur', a feature for clarinetist Monty Sunshine.
12. On The Street Where You Live - Vic Damone
Vic Damone (born Vito Rocco Farinola, 1928) began recording at the age of 19. His first release, "I Have But One Heart" reached No.7 and Damone was on his way. Modelling himself on Frank Sinatra, he became a highly regarded singer and actor in Hollywood musicals. 'On The Street Where You Live', with words and Music by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, was featured in the movie, My Fair Lady, and was one of many movie theme songs he recorded during his long career. His recording career effectively ended in 1971 wheh he became a Las Vegas casino performer.
13. Mona Lisa - Conway Twitty
This ballad was first sung and made a No.1 hit by Nat King Cole in 1950, who sold 3 million copies. This Academy Award-winning song was written by Ray Evans and Jay Livingston for the Paramount Pictures film Captain Carey, U.S.A. (1950). Cole's version of the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1992. It was later used in the 1986 film, Mona Lisa. An uncredited version of Mona Lisa plays in the background of one scene in Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window (1954). The song was used in the wedding scene of the NBC mini-series, Witness to the Mob, in 1998. Though a hit in the US at the time of its release, Twitty's rockability interpretation of the classic remains largely forgotten today, lost in the shadow of Nat King Cole's version. Various artists, including Elvis Presley, Willie Nelson, Shakin' Stevens, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, and Nat King Cole's daughter Natalie Cole, have released cover versions of this song.
14. Shout (Parts 1 & 2) - Johnny O'Keefe
The Isley Brothers wrote this on the spur of the moment at a Washington, DC. concert in mid-1959. As they performed Jackie Wilson's "Lonely Teardrops," Ronald Isley ad-libbed, "WELLLLLLLLLLL... you know you make me want to SHOUT" and Rudy and O'Kelly joined in on the improvisation. The audience went wild and afterwards, RCA executive Howard Bloom suggested putting it out as their first RCA single. It evolved out of the call-and-response singing style The Isleys grew up with in church. The organist from their church, Professor Herman Stephens, played on the song. The Isley Brothers did not consider this a song at first. It was just a "thing" they would do onstage and the crowd would go crazy. When it was finally released, the B-side was "Shout Part 2," an even wilder version. Within weeks of their single being released, O'Keefe, who was touring the US with Ricky Nelson, heard the song and immediately recorded a cover version for Australian release. Before the year's end, it raced to No.11 and stayed in the charts for 11 weeks. For many years it was his signature tune. A cover version by Joey Dee And The Starlighters was a US Top 10 hit in 1962. British popster Lulu (born Marie Laurie) and the Luvvers made it a No.1 hit in Britain in 1964.
15. Venus - Frankie Avalon (right)
This was the first of two No.1 hits by the former trumpeter. According to music lore, it was the first US top 10 hit that Avalon sang without holding his nose. He held his honker whilst recording the earlier hits 'Dede Dinah' (No.7) and 'Ginger Bread' (No.9). Avalon's recording career started when Chancellor Records president Bob Marcucci signed him up after he saw Avalon sitting on a street curb. The song was written by Ed Marshall and has become a standard among crooners. Avalon re-released the song in disco style in 1976.
16. (Rockin' Rollin') Clementine - Col Joye & the Joy Boys
This beefed up version of the old standard 'My Darling Clementine' was the second of three top 10 singles released by Col Joye & the Joy Boys in 1959. Legend has it that Joye had a bad case of the flu when he recorded this song and the earlier hit, 'Bye Bye Baby', and his coughs and wheezes had to be edited out.
17. The Three Bells - The Browns
This song was based on "While The Angelus Was Ringing " by Jean Villard and Marc Herrand, which, as "Les trois cloches", was originally a hit in France in 1946 for both Les Compagnons De La Chanson and Edith Piaf. The English lyrics were written by Bert Reisfeld and first recorded by Melody Maids in 1948. The one-hit wonders, The Browns, were a family group from Arkansas - Jim Ed Brown and sisters Maxine and Bonnie. Jim Ed Brown still performs this song regularly on The Grand Ole Opry.
18. Living Doll - Cliff Richard (right)
This song was from the soundtrack to the film Serious Charge, which was Cliff Richard's movie debut. It was written by Lionel Bart who also wrote the West End and Broadway musical 'Oliver'. Originally intended for the singer Duffy Power before it was included in Serious Charge, the song had a strong rock beat. As both Cliff and his backing band thought that a song about a blow-up doll was uncool, they originally weren't planning to record it. One of his backing musicians, Bruce Welch, suggested a slower tempo like a country song would work better, so they rearranged it into the now familiar form. In an interview about his songs, composer Bart said of 'Living Doll', "I had taken it from one of those ads in the Sunday papers for a doll that did everything and I wrote it in 10 minutes flat."
19. Dream Lover - Bobby Darin (right)
Written by Darin (born Walden Robert Cassotto) himself, many rock critics considered this No.1 hit his most soulful rock ballad ever and one of the best love songs of the 20th century. Neil Sedaka played piano on it. Glen Shorrock, former lead singer of the Little River Band, had a big hit in Australia in 1979 with a very listenable cover of this song. "Mack The Knife" was also a hit for Darin in 1959. "Mack the Knife", originally "Die Moritat von Mackie Messer", was composed by Kurt Weill with lyrics by Bertolt Brecht for their music drama Die Dreigroschenoper, or, as it is known in English, The Threepenny Opera. It premiered in Berlin in 1928. The song has become a pop standard.
20. Morgen (One More Sunrise) - Ivo Robic & the Songmasters
Ivo Robiç (1923-2000) was a popular Croatian singer and songwriter. A pioneer of popular Yugoslavian music since the early 1950s, he successfully pursued both domestic and international careers for almost half a century. Robiç was nicknamed 'Mister Morgen' following the success of his first international hit, 'Morgen', in 1959. The song was the first collaboration between Robiç and Bert Kaempfert. Following its success in Germany, the German-language version became an international hit, earning both artists a Gold Record. An English version, "One More Sunrise", sung by Leslie Uggams, reached No.98 on the same charts. It has since been performed by many other artists. Peter Mosser wrote the original lyrics, Noel Sherman wrote the English version.
4. (Rockin' Rollin') Clementine - Col Joye & the Joy Boys
5. Swanee River - Johnny O'Keefe
By the time this single was released in October 1959, O'Keefe had only been recording for less than two years but he already had seven singles that charted to his credit.
6. Why Do They Doubt Your Love? / You Excite Me - Johnny O'Keefe
Whilst in the US touring with Ricky Nelson, Johnny O'Keefe met Liberty Records' executive, Mickey Shaw, purely by chance. There meeting ended with O'Keefe signing a 5-year recording contract which produced a string of hits. This song reached No.4 and stayed on the charts for 15 weeks.
7. Doreen - Johnny Devlin (right)
New Zealand born Johnny Devlin's first hit was a Presley-style version of Lloyd Price's 'Lawdy Miss Clawdy', which was released in New Zealand and sold an incredible 100,000 copies there. Australian promotor Lee Gordon brought Devlin and his band, The Devils, to Australia in 1959. Johnny was an instant hit with his latest single, 'Doreen', and decided to make his stay in Australia permanent. After a few years, his popularity began to wane; he stayed in showbiz, however, by expanding into the areas of songwriting and management.
8. Pathway To Paradise - Johnny Rebb (right)
During the early 1950s, Rebb became the lead singer of a five-piece band called The Rebels. He adopted the stage name, Johnny Rebb (after the US Civil War term used to describe rebels), and began singing covers of American rock greats like Chuck Berry. Johnny became the newly formed Leedon Records' first Australian artist. His debut single with Leedon was 'Hey Sheriff', the B-side was 'Noeline', which Johnny wrote. The single reached No.28, and was followed a few months later by a second single, the sentimental ballad 'Pathway To Paradise', which Johnny and his friend Syd McDonagh wrote together. 'Pathway To Paradise' was an ever bigger hit, reaching No.10.
9. What Da Ya Know/Peek-a-Boo - Johnny O'Keefe
One of Johnny O'Keefe six singles that charted in 1959, this one reached No.22 and stayed on the charts for seven weeks.
10. I Wanna Love You - Digby Richards
Early in 1959 when 18-year old Dig was vocalist for a group called The R-Jays, the band was granted an audition with Festival Records. They performed their whole repertoire but producer Ken Taylor was not convinced they had what it takes. As a last resort, Dig began singing a song his brother Doug had partly written - 'I Wanna Love You'. Taylor liked it enough to record it, and it became a hit, reaching No.22 and staying in the charts for 5 weeks. He soon became one of Australia's leading popular singers. Hear the song online
Other Hits of 1959
La Bamba / Donna - Ritchie Valens
This was the biggest hit for Richie Valens, who died in a plane crash in February 1959 along with Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper. It was released shortly after his death. Valens' version of "La Bamba" is a reworking of a traditional Mexican folk song that is popular with Mariachi bands and often played at weddings. The lyrics are in Spanish: "Para bailar la Bamba se necessita una poca de gracia" means "To dance La Bamba you need to have a little grace." The title does not have a literal translation, however "Bambolear" means "To Swing." Valens couldn't speak Spanish, and his pronunciation was so bad that this recording was used in Spanish classes as an example of how to tell an American accent. The song was released as the B-side of "Donna." Mexican group Los Lobos covered this song for the 1987 movie, La Bamba. Their version went to No.1 in the US, becoming the first song with all Spanish lyrics to do so. The guitar on Valens' "La Bamba" was played by a woman, Carol Kaye. Carol is one of the most famous Los Angeles session musicians, who was part of Phil Spector's studio band, the Wrecking Crew. She was the bass player on many hits recorded by the Beach Boys, Monkees, Ray Charles and others. Hear La Bamba online | hear Donna online
Sweet Nothin's - Brenda Lee
In 1949 Brenda Lee (born Brenda Mae Tarpley) began her career as a child prodigy on the radio in Conyers, Georgia and had been singing professionally since age six to help support her family who lived in poverty. She became a singing sensation at the age of 12 with her big adult voice. The song "Dynamite" coming out of her 1.45 metre frame led to her lifelong nickname, Little Miss Dynamite. Along with Connie Francis, she was one of the first female idols, achieving huge popularity with a string of top 10 hits. At Christmas 1958 she hit the top of the US charts with "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree". Then, disc jockeys also dubbed her "Little Miss Razz Matazz" after her husky, pounding voice belted out her second big hit, "Sweet Nothin's". Her last top 10 single, 1963's "Losing You", was a moderate success, though she continued to have other songs charting into the late 60s. View the video online
Put Your Head On My Shoulder - Paul Anka
Encouraged by his parents at age 14, Lebanese Canadian Paul Anka recorded his first single, "I Confess." In 1957 he went to New York City where he auditioned for ABC, singing a lovestruck verse he had written to a former babysitter, Diana Ayoub. The song, "Diana", brought Anka instant stardom as it rocketed to No.1 on the charts. "Diana" is one of the best selling 45s in music history. He followed it up with four more songs that made it into the Top 20 in 1958/59, among them was "Put Your Head On My Shoulder". They made him one of the biggest teen idols of the time. He toured Britain and then, with Buddy Holly, toured Australia. The song was repopularized when released as a single by The Lettermen in 1968. This version peaked just outside the top forty of the Hot 100, but continued their streak of top forty adult contemporary hits. The song was used in the videogame Hitman Contracts, in a scene where Agent 47, the main character, discovers a mutilated girl's body hanging from the ceiling. The song plays in the background in an eerily disturbing tongue-in-cheek horror manner. This song was also recorded by the band Good Charlotte for the mock teen comedy, Not Another Teen Movie. The movie was released on 2001. Canadian crooner and Paul Anka protegé Michael Bublé also recorded a lushly arranged version of it on his eponymously titled 2003 debut album. Not to be confused with the Beach Boys' "Don't Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)" (Brian Wilson/Tony Asher) from Pet Sounds (1966), with which it has much in common musically. View the video online
True Love Ways - Buddy Holly (right)
This song was co-written by Buddy Holly and Norman Petty and recorded in October, 1958. Petty was Buddy Holly's first producer and owned the studio in Clovis, New Mexico where all of Buddy's first recordings were made (Holly's hometown of Lubbock did not have a recording studio at the time). This song and "It Doesn't Matter Any More" were Buddy's first recordings to use orchestral string arrangements, which accentuated his vocal mannerisms. Both songs were released as singles after he died in a plane crash in February 1959. Notable covers include versions by Mickey Gilley, Peter & Gordon, Cliff Richard and The Royal Philharmonic. The melody is based on an old gospel song "I'll Be All Right" that Buddy particularly liked, as sung by the Angelic Gospel. Their version of this old tune was played at Holly's funeral. Hear the song online
Lipstick On Your Collar - Connie Francis (right)
Born Concetta Rosemarie Franconero in Newark's Italian neighbourhood, Connie Francis is considered the most prolific female rock 'n' roll hit-maker of the early rock era. After an appearance on a TV talent show called Startime, Francis was advised to change her name to something more easily pronounceable, as well as to quit the accordion and focus on singing. Connie's first single "Freddy" (1955) met with little success and she began considering a career in medicine. However, "Who's Sorry Now" (a cover version of a 1923 song) launched her into super-stardom worldwide in 1957. It was followed by "Don't Break the Heart That Loves You", "Everybody's Somebody's Fool", 'Stupid Cupid", 'Lipstick On My Collar", "In the Summer of his Years" (written after the assassination of John F. Kennedy) and "Strangers in the Night". Both "Everybody's Somebody's Fool" and "My Heart Has A Mind Of Its Own" went to No.1 on the Billboard music charts in 1960. In 1962 she had another No.1 US hit with "Don't Break The Heart That Loves You"., "Who's Sorry Now" reached No.1 on the UK Singles Chart and in 2000, it was named one of the Songs of the Century. View the video online
Where The Boys Are - Connie Francis
"Where the Boys Are", Connie Francis' signature song, became one of the first pop songs to be recorded in foreign languages. She first recorded the song in 1959, a year later it was made into a motion picture with the same title in which Francis had a role and sang the title song. From 1958 until 1963, she had 25 singles that were top 100 hits in the US. In 1960, she became the youngest headliner to sing in Las Vegas, where she played 28 days a year for nine years. Hear the song online
Money (That's What I Want) - Barrett Strong
Recorded on the Tamla label and distributed by Anna Records, the song was written by Tamla founder Berry Gordy and Janie Bradford. It was the first hit record for Gordy's Motown flagship label. It was covered by many artists in the 1960s, the most well known being the version by The Beatles which became a top 10 hit in its own right in Britain. Hear the song online
Along Came Jones - The Coasters (right)
A novelty hit song originally recorded by The Coasters, but covered by many other groups and individuals. The most well known of these was by Ray Stevens. Told from the perspective of a person who decides to watch television, the song tells of the interaction between a gunslinger villain, Salty Sam, and a ranch-owning woman, Sweet Sue, on an unnamed television show. It is one of the earliest references in popular culture to the repetitive nature of television programming. The song was nspired by the Gary Cooper film Along Came Jones (1945), a Western comedy in which "long, lean, lanky" Cooper mercilessly lampoons his "slow-walkin', slow-talkin'" screen persona. View the video online
Heartaches By The Number - Guy Mitchell / Ray Price
A popular and country song written by Harlan Howard, the biggest hit version was recorded by Guy Mitchell on 24th August 1959. It reached the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for the weeks of 14th and 21st December 1959. At the same time, the song also made the country music charts in a version by Ray Price. In 1979, it was one of the last songs to be recorded by Bill Haley. View the video online
Hippy Hippy Shake - Chan Romero (right)
A song that became an international hit in 1963-64 by the UK-based band The Swinging Blue Jeans, it was originally recorded by original songwriter Chan Romero in 1959, who in 1959 reached No. 3 in Australia, but made only the bottom of the US charts. It was not a commercial hit there until The Swinging Blue Jeans' version made the top ten early in 1964. The song was also covered by the band The Georgia Satellites in 1988 (from the movie Cocktail). Intriguingly, while "Hippy Hippy Shake" sounds rather like a Beatles-clone, in reality it was recorded before their 'classic' line-up (John, Paul, George, Ringo) was created, and they actually did a cover version of this song. Hear the song online
I Only Have Eyes For You - The Flamingos
One of The Flamingos' most popular hits, this popular song by composer Harry Warren and lyricist Al Dubin was written in 1934 for the film, Dames, where it was introduced by Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler. Rolling Stone ranked this version No.157 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. It was also part of the soundtrack for the 1973 film American Graffiti. The song became a Billboard Hot 100 hit again in 1966 when it was released as a single by The Lettermen from their album, A New Song for Young Love. A remake of the song by Art Garfunkel was a UK No.1 single in October 1975. The song was his first hit as a solo artist in the UK. An episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is named after this song, and features the version by The Flamingos. View the video online
Take Five - Dave Brubeck Quartet
A classic jazz piece first recorded by and released on the Dave Brubeck Quartet 1959 album, Time Out. Composed by Paul Desmond, the group's saxophonist, it became famous for its distinctive, catchy saxophone melody and use of quintuple time, from which the piece got its name. While "Take Five" was not the first jazz composition to use this meter, it was the first of United States mainstream significance, becoming a hit on the radio at a time when rock music was in fashion. It is also known for the solo by jazz drummer Joe Morello. The piece has been covered by numerous artists, including a version with lyrics written by Dave Brubeck and his wife Iola, sung by Carmen McRae in 1961. Swedish singer Monica Zetterlund recorded a version titled "I New York" with lyrics by Beppe Wolgers in 1962. Hear the song online
'Til There Was You - Shirley Jones (right)
This is a song written by Meredith Willson for his 1957 musical play, The Music Man - it also appeared in the 1962 movie version. The song is sung by librarian Marian Paroo (Barbara Cook on Broadway, Shirley Jones in the film) to Professor Harold Hill (portrayed by Robert Preston) toward the end of Act Two. In 1959, Anita Bryant recorded a single which reached No.30 on the Billboard Hot 100; a 1962 instrumental version by Valjean was also popular. Perhaps the best-known cover version was recorded by The Beatles. It was included on their albums With the Beatles and Meet the Beatles. It was the only Broadway song the Beatles ever recorded. "Til There Was You" was also a minor hit in the UK for Peggy Lee in March 1961. Paul McCartney was introduced to her music by his older cousin, Bett Robbins, who would occasionally baby-sit the two McCartney brothers, Paul and Michael. "Til There Was You" was part of The Beatles repertoire in 1962 and performed at the Star Club in Hamburg. It became illustrative of The Beatles versatility, proving they could appeal to all sections of an audience, moving easily from ballads to rock and roll, as in their Royal Command Performance when they followed this song with "Twist and Shout". View the video online
Misty - Sarah Vaughan
'Misty' is a jazz standard written in 1954 by the pianist Erroll Garner. Originally composed as an instrumental following the traditional 32 bar format, the tune later had lyrics added by Johnny Burke and became the signature song of Sarah Vaughan. It has been covered numerous times, perhaps most notably by Ella Fitzgerald, Johnny Mathis (1959), and also by Ray Stevens (1975) as a country song. View the video online
What'd I Say - Ray Charles (right)
A popular two-part recording that was released in 1959 by R&B/soul singer-songwriter Ray Charles (born Ray Chrles Robinson). The song, which is basically the twelve bar blues, was ranked tenth on Rolling Stone's List of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. The song has been featured as one of 500 songs that shaped rock & roll according to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and for its historical, artistic and cultural significance was added by the Library of Congress to the US National Recording Registry in 2002.
According to Charles, while performing at a Milwaukee nightclub, he had performed the last song of his set, "The Night Time (Is the Right Time)", when he was informed that there was another twelve minutes right in the show. Charles decided to fill the time by performing an impromptu version of the song that would eventually be recorded as "What'd I Say". Charles told his backing band and female background singers, the Raelettes, to "just follow me". The song began on a Latin influenced drum beat and keyboard riff before Charles improvised his own lyrics to it. As the band became more comfortable with the piece, Charles and the Raelettes started an impromptu call and response vocalization that was charged with soul and sexual provocation. Charles later said that the call and response section was "all about the sounds of making love". Although the song is usually listed as "What'd I Say," Charles always insisted that the name of the song is "What I Say". View the video online
The Wonder of You - Ray Peterson
A song written by Baker Knight, Peterson's version, the original recording, peaked at No. 25. In the same year it was recorded by Ronnie Hilton in the UK, his version reaching No. 22 on the UK Singles Chart. Elvis Presley released a live recording of it as a single on 20th April 1970 and it became somewhat of a signature tune for him in the latter days of his career. Its b-side song was "Mama Liked the Roses." "The Wonder of You" was one of his most successful records in the UK ever, topping the UK Singles Chart for six weeks in the summer of that year. This was the 59th Top 40 hit of his career. "The Wonder of You" was one of about thirty five songs he would play live in concert but he never recorded it in a studio. Blessed with a 4-octave singing voice, he idolized the vocal sounds of fellow Texan, Roy Orbison. Peterson died of cancer in 2005 in Smyrna, Tennessee. Hear the song online