It’s June, 1950

It’s only six weeks into our adventure in audio and we’ve already reached the middle of 1950. Thanks to everyone for tuning in again and for the responses to the survey in our last post – your feedback is being taken into consideration. If you didn’t have your say, then feel free to click the link and do so.

The songs of June, 1950

BEWITCHED,Gordon Jenkins / Bonnie Lou Williams
BEWITCHED,Jan August / Jerry Murad’s Harmonicats
BEWITCHED,Larry Green / Honeydreamers
COUNT EVERY STAR,Hugo Winterhalter
DOOP-DEE-DOO,Perry Como / Fontane Sisters
HOOP-DEE-DOO,Perry Como / Fontane Sisters
I WANNA BE LOVED,Andrews Sisters / Gordon Jenkins
I WANNA BE LOVED,Billy Eckstine
IT ISN’T FAIR,Sammy Kaye / Don Cornell
MONA LISA,Nat King Cole
MY FOOLISH HEART,Gordon Jenkins / Sandy Evans
NOLA,Les Paul
ROSES,Sammy Kaye / Kaydets
SAM’S SONG,Joe Fingers Carr / Carr-Hops
SENTIMENTAL ME,Russ Morgan / Morganaires
THE OLD PIANO ROLL BLUES,Hoagy Carmichael / Cass Daley
TZENA TZENA TZENA,Weavers / Gordon Jenkins
WANDERIN’,Sammy Kaye / Tony Alamo

According to Billboard magazine in June 1950, record sales were slow, for which six reasons are given in the short article included below. I can’t wait to explain to Sadie about record players and why “Too many speeds” and “Too many different sized spindle holes” was a problem one day. But the one that really resonates this month is “the need for an impartial committee to pick out the three top versions of a tune instead of having the 13 versions now available on ‘Third Man Theme'”. 13…versions!

Actually from my point of view, “Bewitched” would have been a better example. Only 2 versions of “Third Man Theme” flew as high as the top 20 this month, whereas 5 versions of “Bewitched” did. Bill Snyder, Doris Day, Gordon Jenkins, Larry Green, Bill Snyder and Jan Murad all had a crack at it. I’ve included the latter on this week’s playlist.

In fact, due to versionitis*, of the 29 songs that hit the top 20 in the four charts of June, there were only 17 unique songs. So I’ve supplemented the playlist with the top 10 from a Rhythm & Blues chart from June.

*Not a term used in the 1950s but I’m happy to offer them the term retrospectively.

You can listen to the full playlist on Youtube via this link or embedded below:

This month in history

Whenever I find myself in a sports-orientated bar in the states it never ceases to amaze me how many TVs they can pack into the joint. There’s not an angle you can sit at, in some of them, without having a gigantic screen in front of you. Suffice it to say it wasn’t always this way, but by June 1950 TVs were already starting to encroach on people’s eye lines in bars.

Which was effecting Juke Box music plays, as the article below describes, a major source of direct revenue and promotion for record labels. But never fear, the canny jukebox manufacturers took the fight directly to the medium itself with TV ads to be played on the very TVs that were competing with them. Savvy!

In an attempt to showcase humankind’s ability to take one step forward, and two back the month of June, 1950 saw a life saving medical procedure created and a new major war begun.

The first human organ transplant in history was performed at the Little Company of Mary Hospital, in Chicago, Illinois on June 22, 1950. The patient received a kidney from a patient who had died an hour earlier from cirrhosis of the liver and would survive for five more years after the operation.

Only three days later the Korean War began when South Korean army bases near the border with North Korea came under fire without warning. After 45 minutes of shelling, North Korean troops invaded with six infantry divisions, an armoured brigade and three border brigades coming across the 38th parallel. With many of their personnel on weekend leave, the four South Korean divisions in the area were quickly overwhelmed, and the invaders proceeded toward the South Korean capital of Seoul.

Two days later still and U.S. President Harry S. Truman ordered warships of the Seventh Fleet to assist South Korean forces in their resistance of the North Korean invasion – dragging the super power into what would be a 3 year conflict in which, as we know, millions of lives were lost.

M*A*S*H, the ’70s TV series set during the Korean War, was one of my favourite sitcoms as a child in the ’80s. I can’t find a definitive list of songs played on the show, but this playlist has 83 of them. The only one that I recognise from our adventure so far is, “Chattanooga Choo Choo”.

What’d Sadie think?

It’s been in the top 20 for three months but there’s no chance of me running out of new versions to listen to as we know, so this week it was Jerry Murad’s version of “Bewitched”. It seems that once a song has at least 3 versions charting, one of them inevitably has to be an instrumental version in 1950.

It’s less of a requirement that the version should be performed on…Harmonicas but that was going to be the case when Murad’s band is called, “The Harmonicats”. Which wins quirky band name of the week, and has led me to learn that harmonicas come in different flavours – with the four members of the group playing chromatic (x2), bass and chord harmonicas respectively. And in case I make them sound like one-hit wonders, actually the group charted with a number of different songs during this time and even had a number 1 hit a couple of years prior. So kudos them. Still not sold on this version of the song though.

Meanwhile, the Doris Day version of “Hoop-Dee-Doo” is much more to my liking than the Perry Como version from last month. Doris Day was an original “triple threat” – singer, dancer, actor. 1950 was early in her film career but here she is doing all three in a scene from “Tea for Two” that year:

I thought perhaps my historical knowledge was failing me when I couldn’t link the title of “Bonaparte’s Retreat” and the lyrics.

So I held her in my arms and told her of her many charms, I
Kissed her while the fiddles played
The Bonaparte’s Retreat

– Kay Starr, “Bonaparte’s Retreat”

But it turns out to be an intriguing amalgam of a song. The melody is a fiddle tune that dates back to the 1800s and celebrated Bonaparte’s retreat from Russia in 1812 that led to his defeat. Country artist Pee Wee King picked up that melody in 1950 and added lyrics about wooing a girl, with a very post-modern reference to the fiddle tune being played while he did so. Kay Starr then covered his version and sent it into the regular pop charts which is where we find it. Good tune, great back story.

“I wanna be loved” is in the pop charts covered by The Andrew Sisters and also in the R&B charts by Dinah Washington. The latter is our pick of the two. At some point in the next virtual year though we need to dig deeper into The Andrew Sisters who charted dozens of hits in the ’40s and sold over 80 million records over their career, which came to a close the beginning of this decade.

Ear worm of the week goes to “Sam’s Song” by Joe Carr, which is very meta as it is simply a song about what a catchy song it is…

Here’s a happy tune you’ll love to croon
They call it Sam’s song
It’s catchy as can be, the melody
They call it Sam’s song
Nothing on your mind
And then you’ll find you’re humming Sam’s Song

“Pink Champagne” by Joe Liggins is our pick from the songs on the R&B chart. Officially a “jump blues” song it sounds very proto-rock’n’roll to these ears from the future, and topped the R&B charts for a number of weeks as well as making it into the lower tiers of the pop charts even. #crossover

“Well, oh well” by Tiny Bradshaw is another great rockin’ number from this chart. Tiny is better known for another song that has some real rock’n’roll history, but we’ll discover that in a few months time…#spoileralert

So before we get ahead of ourselves let’s sign off for this week and leave you to enjoy the songs of June, 1950.