Another week, another month in music. And this week it’s February, 1950. 27 years before I was born and more than 70 before Sadie was. So what does it sound like?
The songs of February 1950
A DREAMER’S HOLIDAY,Perry Como / Fontane Sisters
BIBBIDI BOBBIDI BOO,Perry Como / Fontane Sisters
BLUES STAY AWAY FROM ME,Owen Bradley Quintet
CHATTANOOGIE SHOE SHINE BOY,Bing Crosby
CHATTANOOGIE SHOE SHINE BOY,Red Foley
CRY OF THE WILD GOOSE,Frankie Laine
DADDY’S LITTLE GIRL,Dick Todd
DEAR HEARTS AND GENTLE PEOPLE,Bing Crosby
DEAR HEARTS AND GENTLE PEOPLE,Dennis Day
DEAR HEARTS AND GENTLE PEOPLE,Dinah Shore
ENJOY YOURSELF,Guy Lombardo / Kenny Gardner
I CAN DREAM CAN’T I,Andrews Sisters / Gordon Jenkins
I SAID MY PAJAMAS,Tony Martin / Fran Warren
IT ISN’T FAIR,Sammy Kaye / Don Cornell
IT ISN’T FAIR,Sammy Kaye / Don Cornell
JOHNSON RAG,Jack Teter Trio
JOHNSON RAG,Jimmy Dorsey / Claire Hogan
MUSIC MUSIC MUSIC,Teresa Brewer
QUICKSILVER,Bing Crosby / Andrews Sisters
RAG MOP,Ames Brothers
RAG MOP,Johnnie Lee Wills
RAG MOP,Lionel Hampton / Hamptones
RAG MOP,Ralph Flanagan / Harry Prime
SLIPPING AROUND,Margaret Whiting / Jimmy Wakely
THE OLD MASTER PAINTER,Dick Haymes
THE OLD MASTER PAINTER,Phil Harris
THE OLD MASTER PAINTER,Richard Hayes
THERE’S NO TOMORROW,Tony Martin
WEDDING SAMBA,Edmundo Ros
WITH MY EYES WIDE OPEN I’M DREAMING,Patti Page
I had a reader request to throw in some chart hits from my homeland of New Zealand, but upon further investigation it appears no charts are available from this time. Curiously New Zealand didn’t keep sales charts until the late 50s, and prior to that so-called “hit parades” were just the songs currently preferred by disc jockeys. Which reminds me of the number of articles in Billboard in about “Payola” during this time…
Either way these charts seem lost in time, as are those of most other countries it appears. So I’m not likely to be able to throw in non-US charts for a few years (both 4x and real-time) it seems. If anyone has any leads – let me know!
To add some diversity I’ve thrown in the top 10 songs from a week of The Billboard R&B charts. On that, Billboard actually have a dozen different charts in each issue, the core chart I use is the “Best Selling Pop Singles”.
About half the songs from last month are still charting this month. Where possible I’ve included a different artist’s rendition of a song in this week’s playlist from last. Which was easy to do with Rag Mop – which has 4 different version in the pop charts and another 2 in the R&B charts. That tune must have been impossible to avoid. Luckily it ain’t bad.
This month in history
We all know Rudolph the Rednose Reindeer the Xmas classic right? Interestingly it was popularised by a Gene Autry version in December 1949 just before our timeline began. Even more interesting is a song you might not have head of, certainly I hadn’t. Fresh off of his seasonal success Autry launched a song, and campaign, to create an Easter hit with “Peter Cotton Tail”.
Not quite as successful as Rudolph, as its not trotted out every year since, but we’ll see if it turns up in the charts of 1950 at least after getting full page ads in Billboard in February.
The pages of Billboard are also fascinating for the insights into the music industry, and advances in music technology, of the time. Just as today digital technology is accused of changing behaviours it looks like the fledgling technology of television was similarly accused of messing with the state of things. But never fear, a study released in February 1950 determined that TV ownership only increased attendance at live Sports games. Whew!
In geopolitics, February 1950 began the era of “McCarthyism”, as US Senator Joseph McCarthy announced in a speech on the 9th that that Communists had infiltrated the U.S. State Department and that he had a list of over 200 names of employees who had been identified. Only two weeks later U.S. Undersecretary of State John Peurifoy testified to a Senate subcommittee that most of the 91 employees who had been recently dismissed as security risks, weren’t barred because of Communist leanings, but because they were homosexual. Sigh!
In cheerier news, on February 1926 this year Helen Clark, 37th Prime Minister of New Zealand (1999-2008), was born in Hamilton. Known affectionately as “Aunty Helen” by many now, she went on to a career in the UN and was unjustly pipped-at-the-post for the role of UN Secretary General in 2016. As documented in the excellent film, My Year with Helen.
What’d Sadie think?
Before getting into a few of the songs themselves, it occurred to me that the first 8 years (or 2 at 4x speed) will feature only songs in mono, as stereo recordings aren’t launched until 1958. I know children have poorly developed stereoscopic vision, but I’m fairly sure even Sadie will notice the difference in a jump to 2-channel audio when it comes.
Luckily Sadie can’t read yet, as I noticed some amusing AI mistakes when I had auto-captions turned on during some of the songs. In particular the “god praising” lyrics of ‘The Old Master Painter’ by Phil Harris became, ‘The Old Masturbator”. Not sure that version is 1950’s compliant!
“Daddy’s Little Girl” has been covered plenty over the years, the version charting this month – the year after it was written – was by Dick Todd. It’s alright, but not quite the lullaby for Sadie I was hoping for.
Whereas “Dearie” is a comedy duet that could easily be verbatim of a conversation my darling wife has with me. Apparently the lyrics change depending on the (many different version) singers, as the general thrust is that each of them is teasing the other about being old by asking if they remember a particular event. This version by Ray Bolger & Ethel Merman is pretty fun for sure.
“I Said My Pajamas (and Put On My Pray’rs)” by Tony Martin and Fran Warren is one of four versions of the song to chart in 1950 and another comedy duet that tickles my fancy in this week’s playlist. A couple sing about how their mutual attraction has got them all mixed up. The last lines of “this could lead to marriage, and perhaps a little carriage” is just oh so saccharine but adorable. #couplegoals
Turns out to be the right month to have dipped into the R&B charts for supplementary songs. Whilst it is full of obligatory blues numbers about cheating spouses the real joy is Louis Jordan’s, “Saturday Night Fish Fry” , easily the most upbeat number in the whole playlist.
Which makes sense when you find out it is often credited as being the first Rock ‘n’ Roll song and referenced by the likes of Chuck Berry as influential on their style. Heck the entertaining lyrics repeat the refrain, “it was rockin” a bunch of times. It was, and it still is.
Thematic surprise of the month is Guy Lombardo’s, “Enjoy Yourself, It’s Later Than You Think”.
You work and work for years and years, you’re always on the go
You never take a minute off, too busy makin’ dough
Someday, you say, you’ll have your fun, when you’re a millionaire
Imagine all the fun you’ll have in your old rockin’ chair
Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think
Enjoy yourself, while you’re still in the pink
The years go by, as quickly as a wink
Enjoy yourself, enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think
Which is very reminiscent, in every way but sonically, of Drake’s “the Motto” which gave pop culture the world “YOLO” (That’s “you only live once” mother!). So let’s end this week’s post with a trip back just 8 years to that moment in pop culture:
See you all in March, 1950!