Last week we did our best to answer the following question from one of our readers:
>>>I heard Scott Shannon state the other day on The True Oldies Channel that the Tornadoes' Telstar is the first British song to ever reach no. 1 on the U.S. charts. Could you tell us what British song first charted on Billboard without hitting no. 1? I'd be very interested to know. Thank you. (Fred Rhian / Lafayette, CA)
Here is how we answered Fred's question:
>>>The Tornadoes have always been singled out for beating The Beatles to #1 here in America. Confining ourselves strictly to The Rock Era (which, in this case, locks us into the period of 1955 - 1962, BEFORE "Telstar" hit the top spot on the charts), I can come up with a couple of pretty good candidates for the first British Pop Chart Hits on our shores. British Skiffle King Lonnie Donegan reached #8 with his version of "Rock Island Line" way back in 1956 here in The States. Donegan seems to be the artist most-often singled out as inspiring the whole British skiffle craze, which launched the rock and roll craze that begat The British Invasion. (How is it possible that THIS guy is not in The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame?!?!? Talk about your MAJOR "Early Influences"!!!) Donegan and Elvis pretty much turned Great Britain's teenagers on their ears back in 1956, inspiring HUNDREDS of kids to pick up a banjo, guitar, washboard or tea chest (prior to graduating to bass guitar, drums and keyboards), putting together a band and having a go that this hot new sound. Donegan hit The U.S. Top Five a few years later with the novelty hit "Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor (On The Bedpost Overnight)". In between a few other British acts hit our charts as well. In 1957, Liverpool-born Russ Hamilton hit #7 in Billboard with "Rainbow". A year later, 14 year old Laurie London (that's a GUY, by the way) reached #1 on Billboard's DeeJay Chart with his version of "He's Got The Whole World (In His Hands)" ... but the record OFFICIALLY stopped at #2 on The Top 100 Chart ... so he just missed the distinction of having the very first British #1 Record on the American Charts. Frankie Vaughn (ALSO born in Liverpool) hit #22 with a long-Forgotten Hit called "Judy" in 1958. It would be his only U.S. Hit ... but back home in Jolly Ol' England he reached The British Top 40 an incredible THIRTY times!!! Even British Superstar Cliff Richard (second only to Elvis in the Biggest Solo Male Artist Category) first hit The U.S. Charts in 1959 with "Living Doll", a #30 Billboard Hit. Before his big '70's comeback (with hits like "Devil Woman", "We Don't Talk Anymore", "Dreaming", "A Little In Love" and his big duet with Olivia Newton-John, "Suddenly"), Cliff also found minor success here with the hits "Lucky Lips" (#62, 1963), "It's All In The Game" (#25, 1964), "I Only Have Eyes For You" (#109, 1964) and "Bachelor Boy" (#99, 1964). By comparison, Richard hit The British Chart 105 times between 1958 and 1990. Crooner Matt Monro had a couple of U.S. Top 40 Hits, the first of which, "My Kind Of Girl" reached #18 in 1961. And finally, The Springfields (featuring a young Dusty Springfield and her brother Tom ... two years before Dusty's solo career took off) had a Top 20 Smash with their version of "Silver Threads And Golden Needles". So the REAL answer to your question as to which British Artists first made an impact on The U.S. Charts prior to The Beatles and The Tornadoes is ... quite a few!!! History has been rewritten in such a way as to make it appear that The Beatles kicked off the whole revolution ... and, as to massive impact, this very well may be true ... but, as you can see, several OTHER artists found a receptive audience here, too, prior to The Fab Four first landing on our shores back in 1964. (kk)
Now, with all that being said, we recently received a few OTHER suggestions from some of our readers as to British Artists who had an early impact on The American Charts ...
Long before The Tornadoes' "Telstar," Vera Lynn -- England's most popular female singer during World War II -- became the first British artist to hit #1 in the U.S., thanks to her moving rendition of "Auf Wiederseh'n Sweetheart" (London 1227). Recorded in England with a huge chorus of soldiers, sailors and airmen, her emotional farewell in song spent nine weeks at the top of Billboard's charts in 1952, selling over two million copies.
Some great work lately, especially the features on Sam Cooke and the old Cameo / Parkway recording studio fire. If Scott Shannon has stated that The Tornadoes had the first Billboard #1 by a British artist, then I’m not so sure that he is correct.
I believe that Acker Bilk’s "Stranger On The Shore" was #1 in the spring of '62, which is several months before Telstar was #1 for The Tornadoes.
Your summary of other Brits who charted pre-British invasion was pretty good.
Fred Rhian, who asked the question, might be interested in knowing that there were others.
The following are British (or British based) artists, who made the Billboard Top 20 chart inthe late 50’s or early 60’s, though they are not necessarily of the “rock” genre.
Kenny Ball & His Jazzmen with “Midnight In Moscow”, peaked at #2 in early '62.
Chris Barber’s Jazz Band with "Petite Fleur", peaked at #5 in early '59.
The Caravelles with "You Don’t Have To Be A Baby To Cry", peaked at #3 in late '63.
Frank Ifield with "I Remember You", peaked at #5 in the fall of '62.
Rolf Harris with "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport", peaked at #3 in the summer of '63.
Hayley Mills with "Let’s Get Together", peaked at #8 in the fall of '61.
Cyril Stapleton with "The Children’s Marching Song", peaked at #13 in early '59.
Most of these artists only charted once in the US, though they had lots of charts success in the UK.
I think the key to all these different answers lies in the way you interpret the question ... and, to a degree, are willing to manipulate your answer.
Since Fred's original question asked "Which British song first charted on Billboard without hitting no. 1?", we zeroed in on "The Rock Era", 1955 - 1962. That's because the years
typically covered here in Forgotten Hits are 1955 - 1979 ... and, since he prompted this question in the first plance, we figured that these would ALSO be the years that Scott Shannon would be most likely to cover on the True Oldies Channel. Since "Telstar" reached #1 in Billboard in December of 1962 ... and Fred wanted to know what British song hit the U.S. Charts BEFORE "Telstar" hit #1 ... we locked ourselves into a very specific timeframe in coming up with our answer(s).
So, while Gary Theroux is correct when he states that Vera Lynn hit #1 in Billboard in 1952, this pre-dates the specific area we elected to cover.
And while Mike Ogilvie is correct in stating that all these British artists had hits on the U.S. charts, many of these came AFTER "Telstar" ... and ALL of them came after "Rock Island Line" by Lonnie Donegan, the record WE decided to go with, from 1956, at the dawn of The Rock And Roll Era.
Now Laurie London DID hit #1 on Billboard's DeeJay Chart ... and Mr. Acker Bilk DID hit #1 with "Stranger On The Shore" BEFORE The Tornadoes reached #1 with "Telstar" seven months later ... but my GUESS is (since I didn't hear Scott Shannon's original statement) that what Scott REALLY said was that The Tornadoes were the first British GROUP to hit #1 in America ... because that's the way this particular "trivia question" is typically phrased.
A technicality? Yes ... but once you strip it down to these specifics, you can see that the correct answer CHANGES depending on your interpretation of the question ... and the specific criteria applied to your answer ... meaning that yes, there are several right answers ... depending on the EXACT question!!! (lol)
Fred's specific question DIDN'T specify whether the correct answer would be a group or a solo artist ... he just wanted to know which record by a British artist was the first to chart in America ... and my guess is (without doing ANY research) that if we REALLY dug deep enough, we could probably find several such British Artists charting here BEFORE Vera Lynn, too. It's really all a matter of going back far enough. After all, Billboard started publishing their music charts in the late 1890's!!! Joel Whitburn??? Fred Bronson??? HELP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (kk)
BTW: Scott Shannon later confirmed with me that he DID specifically say "which British GROUP hit #1 on The U.S. Charts before The Beatles" ... which is EXACTLY what I figured. (kk)KENT ... YOU ARE 100% CORRECT ... I DID SAY "GROUP" ... SCOTT SHANNON
And, speaking of Scott Shannon ...re: THE ROCK AND ROLL REMAKES WEEKEND:
Man, you put some effort into THIS project, didn't you?!?
You've come up with some GREAT suggestions and, while I didn't hear ALL of the remakes that Scott Shannon featured, you've certainly given him a lengthy list of choices for future Remakes Weekends. This is the kind of programming that really interests us die-hard oldies music fans ... thanks to Kent Kotal and Forgotten Hits and Scott Shannon and The True Oldies Channel for digging just a little bit deeper than the music most OTHER oldies stations tend to play.
Thanks, Ed! Funny thing is, I've probably come up with at least two dozen MORE since we put this list together ... so yes, we can keep this feature going for some time to come. (And, from what I understand, it is one of the listeners' favorites on The True Oldies Channel ... so we are happy to have been able to contribute in some small way to that success!) Hope most of you got a chance to tune in and listen a little bit this past weekend! (kk)
Wow, Kent ...
I think I could dedicate the entire weekend to reading the stories, articles, links that I've missed and still have more catching up to do. How you do all this is simply amazing!
Thanks for your 'labor of love.' Have a great 2010!
Fred Vail / Treasure Isle
"Music City, USA"
Yeah, even taking some time off earlier this month still left PLENTY of reading and catching up for our readers ... hopefully some of you used that time to check out some of the articles you missed the first time around ... or enjoyed enough to read again. Thanks again to EVERYBODY out there for their continued support! (kk)
Hi Scott & The Gang,
I VERY MUCH appreciated the Remake Weekend! It was very informative, with historical tidbits of the remade songs and original obscure recordings. By my count, the number of remade songs that you broadcast was well over 50. And playing the songs at the top and bottom of the hour was also appreciated as well as the supplemental oldies site "Forgotten Hits." THANKS AGAIN from the Oldies Nation!
Hal "Baby" Moore was a big time jock on KIMN in Denver in the 60's and is doing mornings on Cruising Oldies 950 here in Denver. Not sure if he's signed up with you yet, but I put a bug in his ear.
Hope you're well.
Wild Bill Cody
Don't know if you're signed up for Forgotton Hits or not, but it's free and you get killer emails about Oldies Tunes weekly. Check out this week's edition about Oldies Remakes and let me know what you think. Kent Kotal is the guy that puts it all together and he loves any input you might have.
Thanks, Bill ... actually yes, Hal IS on the list ... although we don't hear from him very often. (Too bad, too, 'cause can you imagine the volume of information HE could give our readers?!?!?) Thanks for the kind words. Glad you're all enjoying what we do here in Forgotten Hits! kk
A wonderful job.
What a lot of work you and the staff put into preparing the weekend.
Fascinating stories -- and lots of new material.
Together, your features and Kent Kotal's stories make a great historical archive going forward for music fans everywhere.
Thanks for all the effort and for sharing it all.
Loved the tie-in between your website and The True Oldies Channel on the Rock And Roll Remakes Weekend ... very informative (and so much to read! I'll be back for sure!) What else have you guys got cooked up ... any more "specialty weekends" on the horizon? Margaret
Actually, we DO have a couple more "specialty weekends" in the works ... and, as soon as I get the official word on when Scott is planning to run them, you can be sure that we will pass this information along to our readers as well. Glad you enjoyed this feature! (kk)
>>>After recording their #1 Hit "Wild Thing", Troggs' lead singer Reg Presley reportedly said, "This is either gonna be the biggest bomb or the biggest hit ever." Incredibly, by the time The Troggs' version was released as a single in 1966, it is believed that at least FIVE other versions of the song had already been recorded and released, with NONE of them garnering any attention. (kk)
Re: "Wild Thing": Lead singer Reg Presley told me in an interview a few years back that after The Troggs recorded "Wild Thing", everyone in the group went back to their respective day jobs. Reg was working construction and a few weeks later, he was up on the roof of a house with a bunch of other guys and "Wild Thing" came on the radio. The announcer said, "Here's a new smash hit from a new group, The Troggs". Reg says he put down his tools, climbed down the ladder and quit his construction job then and there. These days, he spends most of his time investigating crop circles in England.
Doug Thompson (Toronto)
Hello Kent ~ Please, please, PLEASE add my name and email address to any list you have. I just moments ago checked out your web site for the first time! Holy Cow! Between you and Scott Shannon my head is about to explode! This amazing music - - all this information. The wonderful REMAKES weekend. All I have to say is WOW and THANK YOU so much for what you and Scott Shannon do!
YOU DO A HELLUVA JOB, KENT! Thanks for all the posts!
Charlie Gracie, Jr.
Great work as always! One note to add to Sedaka's own remake of "Breaking Up is Hard to Do" is that the 1976 version's strings were arranged by Richard Carpenter. (Before the fiasco that turned into a PR nightmare of Richard firing Sedaka as their opening act for upstaging them!) I personally always longed to hear Karen sing the slow ballad version in her lower register and was very excited to see it on the album track list for "A Kind of Hush" LP, but was disappointed to hear a version that appeared to channel the Partridge Family more than anything else.
First Choice PROductions
Cool ... I did not know that! Thanks, Chip! (kk)Hi, Kent,
Loved your Friday feature on Remake Weekend songs.
One interesting aside:
With all the versions and permutations of "Muskrat Love" out there, there's one more folks should know about -- and it's actually my favorite version, from the magnificent (and underappreciated) Lani Hall (formerly of Brasil '66), who offers new lyrics that she and her husband wrote -- a much more sultry arrangement, in my opinion. Her version removes all of the animal references but not animal instincts!
It's renamed "Sundown" and is the title song of her 1972 "Sundown Lady" album. Oh, and that's her husband, Herb Alpert, accompanying her on the song. He also arranged and produced it all, one of my all-time favorite albums.
Thanks for all your work, for sharing all your knowledge and for producing a "living history" that's preserving a landmark musical era before those who created it are no longer around to share their stories.
Thanks for the kind words, Don ... and for sharing this track. No, I was NOT familiar with this version. "Muskrat Love" has always been considered a pretty syrupy song ... I first heard it thanks to the America version (which petered out at #67 in Billboard in The Fall of 1973 ... yet. incredibly, despite that poor Billboard showing, the record actually went to #33 in Cash Box Magazine!) Even so, I was still QUITE surprised to see The Captain and Tennille ressurect this song a few years later ... and even MORE shocked to see it go all the way to #2 in Cash Box and top our charts here in Chicago ... pretty much EVERYBODY I knew HATED this song ... and it was the butt of quite a few jokes ... but NONE quite as "biting" as the Big Daddy track that Dr. Demento used to play on his program. "Hamster Love" gives a whole new meaning to the term "bad taste" ... pun intended!!! (kk)
By the way, I just about fell out of my chair Saturday Night when I signed on to AOL to check mail and saw THIS headline on the Sign-On Screen:
Aretha Wasn't The First To Sing R-E-S-P-E-C-T
That's right, Franklin's popular song is really a C-O-V-E-R ... and it was first sung by a man 2 years earlier.
20 hits you didn't know were covers
Some people have a negative reaction when they hear a cover version of one of their favorite songs. On the other hand, there are other covers that are so identified with the artist, many people don't even realize someone else did it before. Here are examples of cover songs where we've discovered, recovered and uncovered the original versions.
The article goes on to single out several of the songs covered this past weekend on both Scott Shannon's True Oldies Channel Rock And Roll Remakes Weekend AND right here on The Forgotten Hits Web Page:
In addition to "Respect", the article also mentions "Hound Dog" by Elvis, "Twist And Shout" by The Beatles, The Isley Brothers and The Top Notes ... and "Wild Thing" by The Wild Ones and The Troggs!!!
Not sure whether to chalk this all up to "Great Minds Think Alike" ... "Imitation Is The Sincerest Form Of Flattery" ... or simply the fact that we now provide a great deal of inspiration when it comes to all things musical!!! (lol)
I THINK SOMEBODY OVER AT AOL IS EITHER LISTENING ... OR READING ... THAT'S JUST TOO MUCH OF A COINCIDENCE!
Speaking of which ...
I just saw a posting on a site called SITELOGR, which tracks how many visitors EVERY website in the world receives ... and I am proud to announce that ... as of last week anyway ... The Forgotten Hits Website was the #3,039,424 most-viewed website in the world!!! (lol) Of course, we had THOUSANDS of new visitors this past weekend, thanks to The True Oldies Channel / Rock And Roll Remakes Weekend tie-in ... so I'm guessing that we MUST have moved up in stature to AT LEAST #3,039,420 by now!!! Too funny! (kk)