Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Revisiting The Leap Year Countdown, 2012 (Part One)

It's our completely revamped Leap Year Countdown ... all new for 2012!

And this time around, we've got some special new features ...

Like the "Official" Super Charts for years 1960, 1964, 1968, 1972, 1976 and 1980!!!

Stick around ... and check back often ... because we'll be revealing them all day long ...

Right here on The Forgotten Hits Website!

But first ... a recap of The Top Ten Singles on February 29th ... 1956!!!

February 29, 1956:
10. Why Do Fools Fall In Love - 
Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers:  
Kicking off the countdown today, we've got future Rock and Roll Hall Of Famers Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, who, in a RARE case of musical justice, circa 1956, placed THEIR version of "Why Do Fools Fall In Love" ahead of the Gale Storm cover version of the same song on this week's Top 40 Chart. (Back in the earliest days of Rock And Roll, thanks to much greater, wide-spread airplay, the "Whitebread Cover Versions" typically outscored the R&B Original Versions on The National Pop Charts. In this case, The Teenagers' version topped Billboard's Rhythm and Blues Chart for five weeks and became a HUGE cross-over pop hit ... as well as a Doo-Wop Classic.) Lymon would go on to become one of Rock And Roll's earliest tragedies, a story presented VERY well in the film of the same name as his all-time biggest hit, "Why Do Fools Fall In Love."

9. Theme from "Three-Penny Opera" - Dick Hyman: 
It was Dick Hyman's version of "The Theme from 'Three-Penny Opera'" that placed highest on the charts in 1956 when no less than SIX versions competed for radio airplay. Three years later, it would go all the way to #1 when Bobby Darin covered it as a vocal arrangement now FOREVER immortalized as "Mack The Knife", the biggest hit single of 1959 ... but, incredibly, the melody of this song actually dates back to 1928!  

8. Band Of Gold - Don Cherry: 
This is another song that was covered by several artists in 1956, back at a time when the music industry considered the SONG to be more important than the ARTIST who recorded it. The BIGGEST hit version of "Band Of Gold" ... not to be confused with the Freda Payne song of the same name ... was done by Don Cherry!  Cherry was a big band singer back in the '40's (one website we found says he sang with the Jan Garber Band for all of seventeen days!) and, in another case of some friendly chart competition, his 1950 version of "Mona Lisa" went head-to-head with Nat "King" Cole's version. (Cole clearly won THAT battle hands-down ... his definitive version peaked at #1 and stayed there for five weeks! ... Cherry's all but forgotten take stopped at #10.) In the 1960's, Cherry attempted a career as a professional golfer but, by the '80's, he was back to telling golf stories between songs in his Las Vegas lounge act.   

7. See You Later, Alligator - Bill Haley and the Comets: 
Bill Haley had already hit the Pop Top 40 a dozen times before Elvis Presley debuted on the charts with "Heartbreak Hotel" this week back in 1956 ... in fact, his country-rockin' cover version of "Shake, Rattle And Roll" was a Top Ten Hit in 1954 BEFORE the release of "Rock Around The Clock" ... and "See You Later, Alligator" kept the string of rock hits going. (For the record, "Rock Around The Clock" was first recorded by Haley back in 1954 ... but it didn't chart ... until May of the following year, when it was featured in the teen cult classic film "Blackboard Jungle".  Today it is considered by most music historians to be the song that "officially" launched what came to be known as "The Rock and Roll Era.")   

6. The Poor People Of Paris - Les Baxter: 
Instrumentals were BIG back in 1956 ... and Les Baxter's instrumental hit "The Poor People Of Paris" would go on to top the charts a few weeks later. (Some of you may ALSO remember his big hit instrumental version of "Unchained Melody" from the year before, another #1 Chart-Topping Record for Baxter ... and, years later, a HUGE hit for The Righteous Brothers in their VOCAL version!) 

5. Memories Are Made Of This - Dean Martin: 
Dino's version of "Memories Are Made Of This" has appeared in several movies, television shows and commercials these past few years ... it's a great tune, and a former #1 Hit. Today Dean Martin is considered to be the epitome of cool lounge singers, a label that at OTHER times in his career may have been considered to be more of a burden than a compliment. We mean it ONLY as a compliment.  

4. No, Not Much - The Four Lads: 
The Vogues resurrected this one and had a nice cover hit version of "No, Not Much" in 1968 ... but The Four Lads, one of the earliest successful pop vocal quartets, topped the Cash Box Chart with their platter in 1956.  

3. The Great Pretender - The Platters: 
And, speaking of hit platters, The Platters were one of the VERY few black groups to cross over in a big, big way to the pop charts during the earliest days of The Rock Era, a time when R&B tracks were still referred to as "Race Music." Their classics "Only You", "The Great Pretender", "The Magic Touch", "My Prayer", "Twilight Time", "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" and "Harbor Lights" were all Top Ten Pop Hits between 1955 and 1960 ... and four of those went all the way to #1 (including this one!) 

2. Lisbon Antigua - Nelson Riddle: 
In fact, all six of this week's Top Six tunes topped at least one of the National Pop Charts! Nelson Riddle was one of the most successful, in-demand arrangers / conductors of the '50's and '60's ... and was a true fixture on television during that time. Besides being the musical arranger for the hit television series "Batman", "Emergency", "The Rogues", "The Untouchables" and "Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea', amongst many others, he was also the "house" orchestra on several variety series like "The Frank Sinatra Show" (for whom he arranged MANY classic albums), "The Helen Reddy Show", "The Julie Andrews Show", "The Leslie Uggams Show", "The Nat King Cole Show", "The Rosemary Clooney Show" and one of the many, many, MANY Tim Conway Shows!  Riddle enjoyed a big career comeback when he worked with Linda Ronstadt in the early '80's, too! Sadly, he passed away in 1985.  

***1*** Rock And Roll Waltz - Kay Starr: 
It was Kay Starr who topped the pop charts with "The Rock And Roll Waltz" back on February 29th, 1956 ... yet you rarely ever hear this one on the radio. Starr started her solo career back in 1945 after singing with a string of orchestras since the age of 15 ... including (very briefly) Glen Miller's band. Her first chart hit came in 1948 when "You Were Only Fooling" went to #16 ... and fourteen other Top 20 Billboard Pop Hits followed, including "Bonaparte's Retreat" and "I'll Never Be Free" (1950), her version of "Come On-A My House" (1951), the #1 Hit "Wheel Of Fortune" (1952), "Side By Side" and "Half A Photograph" (1953), and "Changing Partners", "If You Love Me" and "The Man Upstairs" (1954). "The Rock And Roll Waltz" would be her last big hit (although her version of "My Heart Reminds Me" made Cash Box Magazine's Top 20 in 1957 ... it stopped at #53 on the Billboard Chart.) She also made a couple of movies and, according to "The Billboard Book of #1 Hits", was the very first female artist to score a number one single during The Rock Era. "The Rock And Roll Waltz" was ALSO the very first #1 single to have the phrase "rock and roll" in its title and, believe it or not, it was ALSO the very first #1 single for RCA Records!  (Ironically, all of Starr's other hit singles had been with Capitol Records!  Newcomer Elvis Presley, who debuted on the pop charts on February 29, 1956, with his first big break-through hit, "Heartbreak Hotel", would , of course, insure that RCA Records would go on to have quite a few MORE #1 Records in the years to come ... in fact, he scored 20 of his OWN for the label over the next twenty years!) During World War II, Kay performed at various army camps and developed pneumonia, eventually developing nodes on her vocal cords. She had surgery in an army hospital and wasn't sure she'd be able to sing again. Fortunately, her voice came back ... even stronger than before ... and her string of hits for Capitol Records began. After scoring her biggest #1 Hit, "Wheel Of Fortune" (it topped the pop charts ...with no help from Vanna White whatsoever ... for nine weeks back in 1952), she felt that "The Rock And Roll Waltz" sounded almost like a nursery rhyme in comparison, and couldn't believe that RCA was serious about wanting her to record the tune. "I thought, 'What are they doing to me?'" she said. "I made the switch from Capitol to RCA and they're gonna give me THIS stuff to sing?" She ultimately agreed to record the song but later said, "I didn't feel my heart was in it." Despite what Kay may have felt was a "lackluster" performance, the song went on to sell a million copies and top the charts!