1947 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast
Big Band Swing is all but extinct, but the record biz prospers as nostalgia sweeps the nation, makes Al Jolson cool again, and lifts a record from 1933 to #1.
Welcome to the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. I’m your host, Christopher Verdesi. Every week on this show, we dive deep into a year in Pop music and count down the top ten songs according to our recap of the weekly Pop charts published at the time in the music industry’s leading trade publication, Billboard magazine. Ahead this hour on Chartcrush we’re gonna count down the top ten songs of 1947, a pretty happy year in America. And why wouldn’t it be? The War was over. Fascism in the rear-view. No one else had an atomic bomb yet. And you still hadda kinda read some tea leaves to see what was coming next in the Cold War over the next 40 years. No one even knew what a “Cold War” was until Bernard Baruch coined the phrase in ’47, selling President Harry S. Truman’s “Truman Doctrine” that committed the U.S. to opposing the spread of communism and Soviet expansionism.
Despite a nasty three-day riot over an integrated veterans housing project in Chicago, there were some big early Civil Rights victories in ’47. Jackie Robinson, #42, became the first Black player in the majors for the Brooklyn Dodgers and won Rookie of the Year. Congressional press galleries were opened up to Black reporters, and Truman’s Committee on Civil Rights issued its landmark To Secure These Rights report.
Film noir was at a creative and commercial peak the last year before TV: over 50 “melodramas” (as critics mostly called them at the time), in theaters: classics like Brute Force, The Kiss of Death, Dead Reckoning and Out of the Past featuring world-weary, cynical characters navigating desperate situations. Noir was so ubiquitous that there was even a parody, Bob Hope in My Favorite Brunette. And a real-life noir-ish story out of Hollywood had newspapers buzzing all year: murder victim Elizabeth Short posthumously nicknamed the “Black Dahlia” after the title of a 1946 noir flick, Raymond Chandler’s The Blue Dahlia, starring Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake.
Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in the experimental Bell XS-1 rocket plane in ’47, but that wasn’t the most mind-blowing thing happening in the skies. Pilot Kenneth Arnold’s highly-publicized UFO sighting in Washington State, then just a few weeks later, the Roswell, New Mexico UFO incident sparked the flying saucer craze.
Against that backdrop, the U.S. economy boomed in 1947. 12 million returning G.I.s. had found jobs; wartime bureaucracies, price controls and regulations, dismantled and ended; government spending down 75%; taxes cut; factories back to making cars and appliances instead of fighter planes and bombs. And they couldn’t crank out those durable goods fast enough for a public finally emerging from a generation of deprivation and sacrifice. From the end of the War to 1950, housing starts increased 20-fold, and all those new homes needed appliances and furnishings. And of course families. Who, once they had those homes, tended to stay in them with their Baby Boom toddlers instead of going back to the city to dance.
That’s band historian George Simon’s main theory as to why so many Big Bands dissolved. Bandleader Bob Crosby blamed the Bands themselves for straying from Dance music and becoming “concert Bands playing in dancehalls.” And songwriter Jimmy Van Heusen blamed union scale and pension plans making it impossible for Bandleaders to turn a profit. The feds slapping a 40% cabaret tax on dancing establishments definitely contributed to the mass conversion of America’s teeming dancehalls and ballrooms to bowling alleys, supermarkets and warehouses as well. But despite that (or rather because of it), the record biz had by far its best year ever in 1947: over $200 million in sales: a milestone not reached again until 1955. And that alone qualifies ’47 as a landmark year in Pop history.
#10 The Three Suns – Peg o’ My Heart
At #10 as we kick off our 1947 Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown, the first of two versions of the same song we’ll be hearing this hour. There are actually two of those in our countdown: songs that were so popular that more than one version made the top ten records of the year! This one is major label RCA-Victor’s answer to an offbeat instrumental by an unknown act that was an unknown label’s first release earlier in the year. Yet it was a hit thanks to a new studio gimmick that no one had heard on a record before. RCA correctly identified the trick and deployed it to even more dramatic effect on their version. See if you can guess what I’m talking about–what this gimmick was–as we have a listen to our #10 song, The Three Suns’ version of “Peg o’ My Heart.”
Reverb, the studio trick employed to pretty dramatic effect there, on The Three Suns’ instrumental version of “Peg o’ My Heart,” a song made famous in Broadway’s Ziegfeld Follies all the way back in 1913.
The Three Suns had had five minor chart hits on indie labels coming into 1947. Their success doing “soundies” in the mid-’40s got them signed by RCA-Victor. What’s a “Soundie?” Well, “Soundies” were short films made for a kind of proto-video jukebox called a Panoram. For a dime you could watch a short film, usually a music video, rear-projected onto a 40-inch screen. No selector though, so if you wanted to see a specific video, it was gonna cost you up to eight dimes to cycle through the videos to the one you wanted. TV of course, ended Soundies in arcades, bars and teen hangouts, but many Panorams found a new homes in adult peep shows in the ’50s!
#9 Swing and Sway with Sammy Kaye (vocal, Don Cornell) – That’s My Desire
At #9, the other song with two different versions in our countdown of 1947’s biggest Pop hits. Same story: upstart indie scores a hit with a new record of an old song, then the major labels all scramble to get competing versions out. It was usually the other way around: majors with their A-list acts getting first dibs on Tin Pan Alley’s latest and greatest “plug songs,” and only after those hit the charts were indies permitted by the publishers to release their versions and maybe sweep up a few crumbs if they were lucky.
But in ’47, indie A&R guys flipped the script on that, ignoring the big-money “plug songs” and digging deep into publishers’ catalogs for offbeat B- or C-list material they could match up with one of their offbeat B- or C-list acts. Well, once a few of those became hits, Billboard gave them a name: “material songs,” which were connecting, they said, because an increasingly “unpredictable public” was more interested in songs than name artists.
Here again, major label RCA-Victor’s version of a “material hit,” but this time, instead of an act people may or may not have heard of because they were in a few Soundies, it’s one of the ’40s top charting acts, on the charts almost continuously from 1945 to ’50. And unlike “Peg o’ My Heart,” this version overtook the indie label’s on the charts. Major label distribution and radio contacts, then as now, decisive. But even though it outranked the original while they were both out, the original racked up more weeks, so when you add it all up, the original comes out at #8. So we’ll be hearing that one next, but now, at #9, here’s RCA-Victor’s version by Swing and Sway with Sammy Kaye featuring Crooner Don Cornell: “That’s My Desire.”
The ’40s’ top charting “Sweet Band” (more Pop than Jazz), Swing and Sway with Sammy Kaye. Their bandwagon-jumping version of “That’s My Desire” at #9 on our 1947 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. Don Cornell on vocals along with Kaye’s vocal group The Kaydettes.
Cornell had been singing exclusively with Kaye’s band since the ’30s, but “That’s My Desire” was only his second appearance on a chart hit. Billy Williams and Nancy Norman, the singers on most of Kaye’s hits up to 1947. But for the next three years it was almost all Don Cornell, until he went solo at the height of Croonerdom in the early ’50s.
#8 Frankie Laine – That’s My Desire
And as previously teased, at #8 we have the original indie label version of “That’s My Desire” that hit the charts end of March, but dropped like a rock once Kaye and Cornell’s we just heard came out six weeks later. It rebounded, though, as upstart Mercury Records, then in business only two years, promoted the heck out of it. Later as the record was completing its 29 week chart run (the longest of the year), the singer found himself the focus of the latest “bobbysoxer” Crooner craze as he made his way East after nine months at Hollywood’s Club Morocco. A reported 45,000 teen girls showed up to see him at a record shop in Detroit. Here’s the record that made Frankie Laine a star, the first and biggest hit version (thanks to its longevity on the charts) of “That’s My Desire.”
Frankie Laine’s first chart hit and breakthrough, “That’s My Desire,” after a decade of, as he put it, “scuffling” from city-to-city, gig-to-gig, trying to break through as a singer. Even as “Desire” was riding high and America’s DJs were voting Laine Most Promising Male Vocalist of the year, critics skewered his “oversinging,” “fervent throating” and “lusty vocalizing.” And his next several records didn’t fare too well.
But 45,000 bobbysoxers and all those DJs can’t be wrong, can they? And Mitch Miller for one, “got it.” Amid all the turbulence and in-fighting of Mercury Records in its early years, by ’49, Miller had risen to head of A&R, and after Pop Crooner-Bandleader Vaughn Monroe scored that year’s biggest smash with “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky,” he gave Frankie Laine Western-type songs that would showcase his emotive singing style. “That Lucky Old Sun” and “Mule Train” were both #1 hits in ’49, and Laine scored nine more top tens over the next eight years.
#7 King Cole Trio – (I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons
So ’47, a year of Civil Rights milestones, as I mentioned at the top of our 1947 Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. Well March 1, 1947 marked the first time that five or more the top ten records on the Pop charts were by Black artists, and it didn’t happen again ’til the end of 1957.
Now four of those records were the same song, “Open the Door, Richard,” but the fifth, at #6 that week, was the first top ten by a Jazz pianist who, legend has it, started singing when a drunk guy at a piano bar demanded it. And he became one of America’s top Crooners. No fewer than six versions of this song were on the charts in ’47, but this was the first, and the biggest. At #7 it’s Nat King Cole, still releasing records as the King Cole Trio until ’49, “(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons.”
The King Cole Trio got their own network radio show in ’46, the first hosted by a Black musician: another sign of things to come in Civil Rights that set the stage for their breakthrough success with the song we just heard at #7 here on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1947, “(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons.” That and all of Nat King Cole’s records throughout his long career, on Capitol Records.
#6 Ray Noble & His Orchestra and Buddy Clark – Linda
The singer at #6 had been Crooning for Big Bands since 1932, but in ’38, after doing the popular Your Hit Parade radio show for two years, he became one of the few singers besides Bing Crosby to score a hit under his own name in the Swing Era, before Frank Sinatra went solo.
After his three years in the military during the war he landed a record contract with Columbia, who paired him with English Bandleader Ray Noble for this record that stayed in the top ten on all three Billboard Pop charts (Sales, Airplay and Jukeboxes) throughout the Spring, and is #6 on our 1947 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. It’s Ray Noble’s Orchestra and (double-billed, not featuring) singer Buddy Clark, “Linda.”
Ray Noble and Buddy Clark, “Linda,” #6 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown of 1947’s biggest hits.
So who is this beguiling “Linda” Clark is singing about? Well, songwriter Jack Lawrence wrote the song as a favor to his attorney, who wanted a song for his baby daughter. The attorney was Lee Eastman, and the daughter was Linda Eastman, who if you know your Beatles history in 1969 became Linda McCartney, wife of Paul McCartney, who never played that song. Wonder why?
Clark continued scoring hits, including four duets with Columbia label-mate Doris Day. But sadly, right at the peak of his fame, he suffered a fatal head injury when the chartered plane he was on ran out of fuel and attempted to land on Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles. The other four passengers and the pilot, also injured but Clark was the only fatality.
After his death, his record “A Dreamer’s Holiday” became the first posthumous top 20 hit. Even Big Band icon Glenn Miller didn’t rate that after his plane went down over the English Channel in late 1944. Major Miller, en route to newly liberated Paris to set up his Army Air Forces Band. Maybe it didn’t occur to RCA to release a tribute, or considered poor taste. Both Miller and Clark, though, huge news stories when they happened, as you can imagine.
#5 Tex Williams & His Western Caravan – Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette)
OK, back to the fun! At #5 we have a Western Talking Blues Novelty hit written, no, not in the ’30s like “Peg o’ My Heart” and “That’s My Desire,” but actually in 1947, after the singer got fired for wanting equal billing with Bandleader Spade Cooley (later convicted for murdering his wife). Several players exited the band with him, and the Singer formed his own 12-piece “Western Caravan.” Capitol Records snapped him up, but not satisfied with the Polkas they were having him record, the Singer turned to his friend, Country star Merle Travis, for help writing a hit more suited to his style. And what they came up with topped the Country chart for 16 weeks and was the first big Country-Western Pop crossover hit. #1 on the Best Sellers chart for six weeks in late Summer, at #5 it’s Tex Williams and His Western Caravan: “Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette).”
Tex Williams, “Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette),” #5 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown of the biggest hits of 1947. Williams kept charting records on the Country charts all the way to the ’70s, but never dented the Pop charts again. Western Swing revivalists Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen scored a big FM counterculture hit with their cover of “Smoke! Smoke! Smoke!” in 1973. It even made the Hot100.
#4 Swing and Sway with Sammy Kaye (vocal, Billy Williams & Choir) – The Old Lamp-Lighter
You know, the further removed you get from an era, the harder it is to spot a nostalgia wave, but when a sentimental song about pre-War street lighting charts three versions in the top ten, and one of them is the #4 record of the year, well, that’s a pretty good sign that one was underway. Actually, the signs were everywhere, not just the Pop charts, but also many of 1947’s top movies: Life with Father set in the 1880s, Green Dolphin Street, the 1840s, Mother Wore Tights, turn of the century Vaudeville; The Perils of Pauline, 1920s silent film era. MGM even re-released Gone with the Wind in ’47.
But back to street lighting. During the war, the spike in natural gas prices got many cities to switch to electric outdoor lighting. But to a certain generation, nothing said “simpler, happier time” like gas streetlights. And throughout the ’50s and ’60s, so many businesses, neighborhoods and communities (mostly upscale ones) reverted back, that during the ’70s energy crisis, the Carter Administration had to specifically ban gas outdoor lighting.
At #4 is the song that, as far as we can tell, first gave voice to that particular slice of nostalgic yearning, the biggest hit version was by the Band whose version of “That’s My Desire” we heard back at #9, Swing and Sway with Sammy Kaye, but it’s not Don Cornell singing this time; it’s the Country Singer who’d been the Male Vocalist on almost all Kaye’s hits with male vocals since their version of “Don’t Fence Me In” in 1945, Billy Williams. The song isn’t about gas streetlights per se; it’s about the man whose job was to come around at dusk and dawn to turn them on and off, “The Old Lamp-Lighter.”
Swing and Sway with Sammy Kaye featuring Billy Williams, “The Old Lamp-Lighter,” #4 on our Chartcrush Countdown of 1947’s top hits.
By the way, our top ten is based on our exclusive ranking that combines action on Billboard’s published Sales, Airplay and Jukebox charts. From those, we derive a single unified Hot100-style weekly ranking that lets us tabulate the year using the same exact method we do for Hot100 years post-1958.
RCA’s only competition on the charts with “The Old Lamp-Lighter” was Columbia’s top late ’40s Bandleader Kay Kyser, who had future afternoon TV talk show host Mike Douglas singing. That one comes out at #31 on our 1947 ranking.
#3 The Harmonicats – Peg o’ My Heart
At #3, it’s the original version of the instrumental oddity we heard RCA-Victor’s copycat version of by The Three Suns. I mentioned when we heard that back at #10 that reverb was the brand new secret sauce studio gimmick that got folks’ attention when they heard it, and RCA did a very good job with the effect on the Three Suns record. But the original we’re about to hear was where it was first unleashed, by pioneering studio genius Bill Putnam: the debut release on the Vitacoustic label he co-founded in Chicago. Recording in his building’s tile bathroom was how he got the reverb effect, but it’s the mixing with non-reverberated parts that creates the illusion of space and depth that Putnam was after.
It had the charts all to itself for its first nine weeks, late April to late June until RCA’s Three Suns version hit, and then four traditionally-recorded versions of the song with vocals on other labels. Yes, “Peg o’ My Heart” has words!
Now, a massive hit by a trio of harmonica players wasn’t on anyone’s Pop bingo card in 1947, but here it is: the #3 song of the year, The Harmonicats’ original version of “Peg o’ My Heart.”
Released in early Spring on Vitacoustic Records, their first release, by August, The Harmonicats’ “Peg o’ My Heart” had racked up eight weeks atop the Jukebox chart and passed the million mark for Sales: pretty incredible.
On a different record in 1947, Bill Putnam, the studio ace who produced “Peg” also invented overdubbing, so Patti Page could do her own backing vocals on her debut record on Mercury. No money in the budget to hire a second singer. Patti Page harmonizing with herself became her signature sound.
The Vitacoustic label foundered after things soured between Putnam and his business partners, and the Harmonicats’ subsequent hits were on Putnam’s own Universal label, then on Mercury into the ’50s.
#2 Francis Craig & His Orchestra (piano, Francis Craig; vocal, Bob Lamm) – Near You
Well, halfway through the year, while the instrumental versions of “Peg o’ My Heart” were still battling it out on the charts, another odd record appeared, and on another indie label no one had ever heard of, Nashville’s Bullet Records. By the end of August it was #1 on the DJ chart, then Best-Sellers in September, finally winning Billboard’s Pop “Triple Crown” by topping the Jukebox chart October 4 and staying #1 on all three for the next ten weeks.
Of course, major label covers by established stars followed, but Bullet Records kept up with demand, and the original version by a recently unemployed Nashville Bandleader and his blind Vocalist-Trumpeter, slapped on the record as a B-side, sold 2½ million and became one of the biggest chart hits of all time, and the first-ever Pop hit recorded in Nashville. At #2, it’s Francis Craig, who wrote the song, and what was left of His Orchestra, “Near You.”
Francis Craig had been leading a band since the early ’20s and was pushing 50 when, in 1947, he lost his gig at Nashville’s Hermitage Hotel after 21 years, and his Sunday night NBC network radio show after 12 years, and was thinking about retiring. He was an institution in Nashville, though, so the two local guys starting up Bullet Records asked him to record one of the signature songs from his ballroom set, and for the B-side he did “Near You.”
The way it goes for a full minute with just Craig’s piano, and then the vocal comes in when you least expect it with a full brass band accompaniment. Riveting! And easy to see how it caught people’s attention and became a big hit once radio got a hold of it.
Craig rode the momentum for one more hit, “Beg Your Pardon” in ’48 and started up Nashville’s first pressing plant with the profits. When comedian Milton Berle (“Mr. Television”) became the permanent host of NBC’s Texaco Star Theater, “Near You” was his theme song.
#1 Ted Weems & His Orchestra (whistling, Elmo Tanner) – Heartaches
But despite its miraculous success and being Billboard #1 Best Seller of 1947, our Chartcrush rankings factor the DJ and Jukebox charts as well, and it loses out for the #1 spot by the slimmest of margins, to an even more unlikely hit (is that possible?) that was #1 for 16 weeks, three longer than “Near You.”
But there’s an asterisk on our #1 song of ’47: two different versions on different labels, but by the same artist, and Billboard didn’t chart them separately, so the two versions combined for chart positions. Come to think of it, that’s actually how Billboard handles remix versions today, so maybe no asterisk necessary for that.
But how about an asterisk for both versions being from the 1930s? Hey, in a year of peak nostalgia with indie labels scoring hits recording old songs, why not an old record? Well, when overnight D.J. Kurt Webster on Charlotte, North Carolina’s WBT pulled a 1938 record out of a box and gave it a spin on the air, the phones lit up from up and down the East coast. WBT was 50,000 watts. And soon, everyone was playing it, so Decca re-issued it. And RCA, who had the original faster-tempo one from 1933, re-issued that.
The ’38 Decca version folks heard on WBT that night is a slightly slower-tempo Rhumba Fox Trot, and with no way to unravel which version did better from Billboard’s combined chart placements, we’re gonna go with the faster, original Samba version on RCA. It’s Ted Weems and His Orchestra, a record from 1933, the #1 song of 1947: “Heartaches.”
A-list Crooner Perry Como started out singing with Ted Weems’ band in the ’30s and Decca owned all those records, so after “Heartaches” hit, Decca figured, why not reissue one of these old Weems-Como discs? And “I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now,” from 1939, made the top ten on all three Billboard charts in the Fall. RCA, of course, rushed Como into the studio to cut a 1947 version of that song, and again, Billboard combined them on the charts.
By the way, Como called “Heartaches” Ted Weems’s “intermission number,” the song he’d play when there was nothing else, a filler, and couldn’t believe it was such a big hit. Elmo Tanner’s whistling on both “Heartaches” versions, Como said, was because Weems preferred it to the song’s lyrics!
Well there you have them, the top ten records of 1947 here on the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. Now as you’ve been hearing this hour, songs had multiple versions on the charts at the same time in the ’40s, all competing for chart slots. Given that, what if we ranked songs instead of specific records?
Well actually, Billboard’s flagship chart in the ’40s did just that. The Honor Roll of Hits was a weekly ranking that combined sales, airplay, jukebox plays and sheet music sales for all versions of songs. That’s the chart Tin Pan Alley publishers checked every week. Well as it turns out, a few of 1947’s top songs didn’t have a dominant version that rose to the top of any of the record charts, so in the time we have left, let’s take a look at those, shall we?
Count Basie & His Orchestra (vocal, Harry “Sweets” Edison & Bill Johnson) – Open the Door, Richard!
So that week I mentioned in March ’47 when five of the top ten hits were by Black artists for the first time ever. pur #7 song, the King Cole Trio’s “(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons” was #6 that week. At numbers 2, 3, 4 and tied at #6 were four different versions of what by our reckoning was the twelfth biggest song of 1947, all versions combined, “Open the Door, Richard!”
That was the Count Basie Orchestra’s version of “Open the Door, Richard!” [see note] sung by the Basie Band’s trumpeter Harry “Sweets” Edison and trombonist Bill Johnson on RCA-Victor, #63 on our ranking of the year’s top records we just got done counting down the top ten from here on our 1947 edition of Chartcrush.[Note: Count Basie Orchestra version not available on Spotify, so podcast substitutes the earlier version by Jack McVea]
It topped both the Best Sellers and DJ charts in April ’47 and was the biggest hit, beating out versions by singing comedians The Three Flames on Columbia, and Jump Blues icon Louis Jordan on Decca. Versions also charted by the Comedian who came up with the routine on the Vaudeville circuit, Dusty Fletcher, and the Saxophonist who first turned it into a song, Jack McVea. Both of those, though, on indie labels that didn’t get much traction.
Freddy Martin & His Orchestra (vocal, Stewart Wade & Ensemble) – Managua, Nicaragua
Now, before Managua, Nicaragua in Central America became a flashpoint in the Cold War in the ’80s, Contras vs. Sandinistas, it was pretty idyllic from the sound of what was 1947’s tenth biggest song, combining all versions’ chart action, not to mention fun to say, or sing.
Three versions of “Managua, Nicaragua” on the charts in ’47. Freddy Martin’s on RCA-Victor with a band vocal and Clyde Rogers singing lead was first and the biggest, #21 on our Chartcrush record ranking, beating Decca’s Guy Lombardo & His Royal Canadians with Don Rodney, which did best on the Jukebox chart, and Kay Kyser on Columbia with female vocals by Gloria Wood backed by The Campus Kids.
Vaughn Monroe & His Orchestra (vocal, Vaughn Monroe & The Moon Maids) – I Wish I Didn’t Love You So
Singing bandleader Vaughn Monroe was one of the most successful acts in the late ’40s and his biggest chart hit of 1947 was his version of “I Wish I Didn’t Love You So.”
Radio preferred the two female-sung versions of “I Wish I Didn’t Love You So:” Dinah Shore’s on Columbia and Betty Hutton’s on Capitol. But singing bandleader Vaughn Monroe with his deep baritone on RCA-Victor was the choice for record buyers and on jukeboxes: the #20 record our Chartcrush ranking but combining all those versions’ chart action together, the #8 song of the year.
Art Lund – Mam’selle
Like Buddy Clark, 6-foot-4 baseball player-turned-singer Art Lund served in the War and got a record deal straight away after he got out. Also like Clark, his first release, “Mam’selle,” was a massive hit.
The MGM movie studio started up MGM Records in 1946 supposedly to release soundtracks of MGM’s films, but the movie “Mam’selle” first appeared in, The Razor’s Edge, was a 20th Century Fox property, and Art Lund doesn’t sing it the film anyway. Lund’s version was first on the charts though, and the biggest hit: the #25 record on our 1947 Chartcrush ranking we counted down the top ten from this hour, and, when you combine the points from all the many charting versions, 1947’s #7 song.
Al Jolson – Anniversary Song
And finally, no 1947 recap would be complete without talking about Pop’s most dramatic comeback that side of Tony Bennett in the ’90s and ’00s, by one of America’s most famous and best-paid entertainers of the 1920s and star of the first movie with sound, 1927’s The Jazz Singer, Al Jolson. In Columbia Pictures’ multi-Oscar-winning biopic of him, The Jolson Story which hit theaters in 1946, he dubbed his own vocals for the actor portraying him, and “Anniversary Song” was the biggest hit from the movie.
Maybe not too surprising with such a strong nostalgia current running in the late ’40s, but in 1948, Al Jolson at age 62, was voted America’s Top Male Singer in a Variety poll up against all the top Crooners: Perry Como, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra.
Jolson’s own version of “The Anniversary Song” was by far the Best-Seller, #1 on that chart for six weeks. But radio by a big margin preferred Dinah Shore’s woman’s touch, and Jukebox patrons liked the Band versions by Guy Lombardo and Tex Beneke leading Glenn Miller’s Orchestra.
Well, 1947 sure was a wild year in American Pop, huh? But that’s gonna have to do it for this edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. I’ve been your host, Christopher Verdesi. Hey, be sure and visit our website, chartcrush.com, for written transcripts and streaming links for this and other Chartcrush countdown shows, plus chart run line graphs and other top-notch extras. And check us out on TikTok @Chartcrush. Every week, we count down a different year on this show, from the beginning of the charts in the 1940s all the way up to the present, so tune in again, same station, same time, for another edition of Chartcrush.