It’s May, 1950

As of writing it’s the first week of October, 2020 and its been nothing but rain, rain, rain for three days here in London. But as the lyrics of ‘Rain’ by Frank Petty’s Trio, in May 1950’s charts, remind us, “Rain, it’s so cosy in the rain, There’s no reason to complain”. Perfect weather for listening to a new playlist of tunes in fact.

The songs of May, 1950

ARE YOU LONESOME TONIGHT,Blue Barron / Bobby Beers
BEWITCHED,Gordon Jenkins / Bonnie Lou Williams
BEWITCHED,Jan August / Jerry Murad’s Harmonicats
CHOO N GUM,Teresa Brewer
COUNT EVERY STAR,Hugo Winterhalter
DEARIE,Guy Lombardo / Kenny Gardner
DEARIE,Jo Stafford & Gordon MacRae
DEARIE,Ray Bolger / Ethel Merman
HOOP-DEE-DOO,Perry Como / Fontane Sisters
I WANNA BE LOVED,Andrews Sisters / Gordon Jenkins
IT ISN’T FAIR,Sammy Kaye / Don Cornell
LET’S GO TO CHURCH,Margaret Whiting
MY FOOLISH HEART,Gordon Jenkins / Sandy Evans
RAIN,Frank Petty Trio
ROSES,Sammy Kaye / Kaydets
SENTIMENTAL ME,Russ Morgan / Morganaires
THE OLD PIANO ROLL BLUES,Hoagy Carmichael / Cass Daley
VALENCIA,Tony Martin
WANDERIN’,Sammy Kaye / Tony Alamo

We’re sticking to the main Billboard chart this month, which gives us no less than 4 versions of “Bewitched”. But if that’s not enough, “variety” for you… just you wait for June’s sextet of covers of the song!

As usual I’ve just picked the one version of duplicate songs, the great Doris Day rendition in this case. Which does raise the question dear readers, would you prefer playlists included all versions that were charting that month or a single selection? And in a related ask, would a Spotify playlist be easier for you than a Youtube one?

I ask not idly, here is a link to a survey with 3 questions that I shall diligently listen to the results of, and my act on. So go ahead and let me know.

So go ahead and listen to May 1950’s tunes in the Youtube playlist now:

This month in history

Covid-19 seems like 2020’s answer to the challenge, “what could be more disruptive to the United Kingdom this year than Brexit?”. So it’s interesting to read that May, 1950 saw the inaugural Charlemagne Prize awarded for work done “in the service of European unification”. The first recipient was Richard von Coudenhove-Kalergi, the founder of the Pan-European Movement. Who, again in a timely sense, also had an optimistic view of the future of race politics.

The man of the future will be of mixed race. Today’s races and classes will gradually disappear owing to the vanishing of space, time, and prejudice.

Richard von Coudenhove-Kalergi,founder of the Pan-European Movement.

Meanwhile, in a less progressive place, the town of Mosinee, Wisconsin, was the site of a mock Communist takeover, designed to “teach Americans the meaning of good Americanism.”, staged by the local American Legion outpost. The town was renamed “Moskva” in the exercise and a Soviet flag flew in front of the American Legion outpost.

They went full method it appears, “There was a coup to oust the mayor; Russian flags hung along Main Street; townspeople who sang religious songs were arrested and ushered to a mock concentration camp; a menu at a local restaurant was changed to Russian fare.”

Mayor Ralph E. Kronenwetter, who had participated in the mock coup by allowing himself to be “arrested”, suffered a cerebral hemorrhage that evening, and died six days later which no doubt cemented the local’s objections to “commies”.

May was also the month that the McMinnville UFO photographs were taken and popularised, published in Life magazine and in newspapers across the country – kickstarting a phenomenon of similar sightings.

To this date many still claim them as the best evidence of alien visitation.

In other ideas that seemed all-to-alien at the time, May 1950 saw two landmark studies published, which gave tentative support to the crazy notion that cigarettes caused cancer. Which initially just gave brands the idea that science might be as well used to promote the habit, as disparage it, as seen in this 1953 advert:

And finally, in relevant births this month, Stevie Wonder, soul musician, was born Steveland Hardaway Judkins, in Saginaw, Michigan on May 13. We’ll see you in a few years Stevie!

What’d Sadie think?

April 1950 really affected me. I’m starting to hear talking trumpets everywhere. Like in the intro to Blue Barron (and his Orchestra’s) take on “Are you Lonesome Tonight?”. That aside, it’s a nice chill rendition. And while the mind instantly goes to the Elvis version from 1960, the original was actually from 1926. And subsequent versions, including this one, all included a spoken bridge which was based on a line in Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, and included a riff on Shakespeare, “You know someone said that the world’s a stage. And each must play a part”.

Spoken bridges are an interesting phenomenon and these days could be compared with a “rap” verse being dropped at the end of a pop song, which was almost de rigueur in the late ’90s. If we’re finding parallels to modern song structures, as I’m wont to do it seems, then I also note the frequent use of recorded introductions by the band leader/conductor to the singer, as in “It Isn’t Fair” By Sammy Kaye where he chimes in after the intro, “To sing this beautiful song, here is Don Cornell”. These days producers often drop an ID sample at the beginning of a song to identify it as theirs. As in the famous “mustard on the beat” sample (NSFW) used by DJ Mustard. Nothing’s new Sadie!

“It Isn’t Fair” is a better tune than “Roses” or “Wanderin'” which are the other two Sammy Kaye songs that charted this month – busy chap! Which don’t rate much of a mention, except to say that the name for his backing group, “the Kaydets” is great and I look forward to a ’50s of more ridiculous backing group names.

While her hit, “Music, Music, Music” is still on the charts Teresa Brewer has another with “Choo’n Gum” in May. Which shows again that nthing has changed and teen pop idols were as likely to go off the rails in the ’50s as they are today,

My mom gave me a nickel
To buy a pickle
I didn’t buy a pickle
I bought some choo’n gum

– “Choo’n Gum” by Teresa Brewer

Yikes! A quick descent into a drug habit from there I’m sure…stay tuned.

Lastly, Tony Martin’s cover of “Valencia” is a song of yearning for summer and faraway places that we can all feel after Summer 2020 in lockdown.

In my dreams it always seems
I hear you softly call to me
Where the orange trees forever
Send the breeze beside the sea

– “Valencia” by José Padilla

It’s a great version. But will struggle to do as well as the 1926 version recorded by Paul Whiteman & his Orchestra, which became one of the biggest hits of 1926, topping the charts for 11-weeks straight. So let’s round out the month on a throw back to the ’20s with that version:

Shout outs to our Southern Hemisphere readers who are lucky enough to just be moving into summer now – make the most of it! And see you all in June, 1950 in a week’s time.