It’s February, 1951

It’s February 1951 in our adventure through the charts of the past and cowboy chic is as on the rise as it is in 2020.

The songs of February, 1951

Xmas is now a couple of months behind us so the novelty tunes have fallen off the charts and a number of new songs are here to see us through the first (2020) or the last (1951) month of winter in the northern hemisphere.

February, 1951 Top 20 Hits

A BUSHEL AND A PECK, Perry Como / Betty Hutton
A PENNY A KISS A PENNY A HUG, Tony Martin / Dinah Shore
ABA DABA HONEYMOON, Debbie Reynolds / Carleton Carpenter
BE MY LOVE, Mario Lanza
BRING BACK THE THRILL, Eddie Fisher
HARBOUR LIGHTS, Guy Lombardo / Kenny Gardner
HARBOUR LIGHTS, Sammy Kaye / Tony Alamo / Kaydets
I APOLOGIZE, Billy Eckstine
I STILL FEEL THE SAME ABOUT YOU, Georgia Gibbs
I TAUT I TAW A PUDDY TAT, Mel Blanc
IF, Perry Como
MOCKIN’ BIRD HILL, Les Paul & Mary Ford
MY HEART CRIES FOR YOU, Dinah Shore
MY HEART CRIES FOR YOU, Guy Mitchell
MY HEART CRIES FOR YOU, Jimmy Wakely
MY HEART CRIES FOR YOU, Vic Damone
NEVERTHELESS, Mills Brothers
SO LONG, Weavers / Gordon Jenkins
TENNESSEE WALTZ, Guy Lombardo / Kenny Gardner
TENNESSEE WALTZ, Les Paul & Mary Ford
TENNESSEE WALTZ, Patti Page
THE ROVING KIND, Guy Mitchell
THE ROVING KIND, Weavers
THE THING, Phil Harris
WOULD I LOVE YOU, Patti Page
YOU’RE JUST IN LOVE, Perry Como / Fontane Sisters
ZING ZING ZOOM ZOOM, Perry Como

For a reason that will become clear soon, we’re supplementing the pop charts with a top 10 country chart this week:

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

This month in history

Down a rabbit hole we go this month thanks to an advert in an issue of Billboard Magazine from February. You can read it for yourselves below but in essence it documents the growing popularity of mechanical horse rides for kids.

Wait… did we read that right?! They were originally designed as weight loss devices for adults? It would seem so.

In fact, as the Atlantic recounts in, “The brief history of a widely mocked electric horse in the White House” there’s a rich history of mechanical horses for adult exercise. President Calvin Coolidge notoriously had one in the White House during his term in the 1920s for some years after the secret service made him give up riding real horses.

Coolidge’s electric exercise horse.

His model was designed by the cereal pioneer, John Harvey Kellogg, who attested to its ability to keep riders trim. This wasn’t actually his biggest bullshit, that was left for his promotion of circumcision to stop the evils of masturbation. A whole other story you’ll need to google for yourselves readers!

When the mechanical horse was discovered it became a point of mockery, including in a poem that was read out on the floor of the House of Representatives,

“‘Twould not be very strange, indeed/If history should repeat,’/And discovery of the White House steed/Should encompass Cal’s defeat.”

It was a a couple of years later that they would be repurposed for children, where at least the claims that they provided a minute of entertainment that would “satisfy the kids” is true.

In a history of the Memphis Metal Manufacturing company, who are credited in the Billboard article as the manufacturer of some of the first rides for kids, they recount this transition, “It began when the owner of the first Memphis supermarkets, Mr. Fred Montesi, had asked my father to make a machine similar to one at the gym that he could use at home,” said the owner of the company. “So we put a 55 metal drum with a motor on it and one of the guys said ‘You know this kind of simulates a horse.’ Then they cut down metal and welded a horse’s head and they put on a tail. That was the design.”

This article from Billboard has a great showcase of the various rides available as the category exploded in the early 1950s. And here’s a video of a young lad in the ’80s riding an original 1950 model from the company:

Within just a few years shopping streets and malls across the west were littered with rides of all sorts, from horses – fuelling a fad for cowboy costumes – through to a spaceships in tandem with the growing interest in science fiction.

What of Harry Saltzman who Billboard credited as a pioneer in this space? Well it turns out that horse rides were just a side-project for him, albeit a profitable one, his main pursuit was producing films. He, in early 1961, excited by reading the James Bond novel Goldfinger, made a bid to land the film rights to the character and would go on to produce them for two decades.

What’d Sadie think?

Another month of Patti Page’s Tennessee Waltz dominating the number 1 position but it’s Tony Martin and Dinah Shore’s duet, “A penny a kiss, a penny a hug” that is my number 1 for the month. And it got the Sadie smile of approval too.

I’m gonna save a penny
Every time we kiss goodnight.
And honey when we’re married
We can own a bungalow.

“A Penny a Kiss, a Penny a Hug”

Contrition seems to be the theme for the month, “I apologise” by Billy Eckstine and his outstanding voice for one, and “I feel the same about you” by Georgia Gibbs for another.

Guy Mitchell’s “The Roving Kind”, one of two versions of the song charting in February, is less contrition and more commiseration though in a tale of what a song from six decades later would called a ‘gold digger’.

I took her for some fish and chips and treated her so fine
And hardly did I realize she was the rovin’ kind
I kissed her lips, I missed her lips and found to my surprise
She was nothin’ but a pirate ship rigged up in a dis-guy-eye-ise

“The Roving Kind”, Guy Mitchell

Les Paul’s “Mocking Bird Hill, Tra la la” has his trademark distinctive guitar work and is one of two songs featuring “tweedle dee dee dee” in the lyrics. Because yes, did I say novelty songs were behind us? Xmas ones certainly, but now charing is Mel Blanc’s “I taut I saw a puddy tat” song portraying the relationship between Tweety and Sylvester – star of the Warner Bros. cartoons popular since the 1940s. Here’s the same song set to 3D animation in 2011:

Boogie is, oddly, word of the month on the country charts with Tennessee Ernie Ford’s, “Shotgun Boogie” and Hank Snow’s, “Rhumba Boogie” both charting. The former is my favourite of the boogies. But Hank Snow needn’t worry as he managed to have 3 songs in the charts and one of the others, “I’m movin’ on” is great.

Its Hank Williams “Moanin’ the Blues” that is my pick of the country charts for the month. And yes, I’m fairly sure that its obligatory to spell “-ing” words as “-in'” in 1950’s song titles.

And there we are for February 1951. Let’s end on a reminder that Easter is on its way as another new novelty songs, Sonny the Bunny, starts its campaign for song of the season in Billboard Magazine…

See you all soon!