This Week’s Top Songs In 1956: #1 Heartbreak Hotel by Elvis, #2 Moonglow/The Theme from Picnic by Morris Stolloff

The King - Click to Play Heartbreak Hotel
The King - Click to Play Heartbreak Hotel

Flip your ears to the hi-fi kats and kittens and listen to what I’m laying on ya, two big hits from ’56 in the mix and there ain’t no tricks, it’s the King, The Man with the Swingin’ Pelvis, Elvis Presley in the Number One slot this week in 1956, and right in view at Number Two is…Morris Stoloff?

Yeah, that’s how it was back in the 50’s. Back then there was ONE chart, one list of hits, and you could have Rock ’n’ Roll and a Jazz standard together with a Western tune and standards vocalists like Frank Sinatra on the top five at the same time. Today you have a couple of dozen charts, so you’ll (probably) never see Winton Marsalis on the same hit list as Beyonce. but back in the day that would have been common.

Now don’t get me wrong, most kats that were digging Elvis wouldn’t listen to Jazz if their lives depended on it. And vice versa…A lot of kats in the Jazz scene were too busy groovin’ to sophisticated bop to catch the Rhythm & Blues bug. And neither click would turn their ears to say, Patsy Cline, who also topped the charts plenty in the 50’s. But there were some mavericks who could riff along with all of them…From Frank and Dean to Les Brown and Dorris Day to Miles Davis and Stan Getz to Elvis and Buddy Holly.

My old man was just such a kat. “Picnic” happened to be one of his favorite movies, and according to him the scene where William

Picnic - Click Here to Play "Moonglow/The Theme From Picnic"
Picnic - Click Here to Play "Moonglow/The Theme From Picnic"

Holden and Kim Novak danced to “Moonglow” had everybody going crazy (Kim Novak burns through the scene with one of the most understated and sexiest ‘innocent’ dances  of all time, believe me). It’s a krazy scene musically because up to that point there is sort of corny dixie-type music playing for the picnic. Then this piano, guitar, bass and brushes comes in swinging with Moonglow, and these two characters finally get together (and just dance) after an hour of repressed 50’s sexual tension. It’s like, hypnotic, lulling you into this dream-like paradise for two…then all hell breaks loose. If you want to know more, rent the movie, I won’t spoil it for you here.

So back to the tunes.

#1 This week, July 1, 2009 is Boom Boom Pow by the Black Eyed Peas. Imagine if a Diana Krall tune was #2. That’s how it used to be. Granted, you’ll get a few Jazz or other tunes reaching into the Top 20 now and then, if they’re from a movie usually. But gone the days when diverse talent like Fran Sinatra and Bill Haley shared the top positions on the charts.

Other #1 songs of 1956 included:

Dean Martin – Memories Are Made Of This
Gogi Grant – The Wayward Wind
Platters – My Prayer
Les Baxter – The Poor People Of Paris
Tennessee Ernie Ford – Sixteen Tons

All on the same chart. Krazy, ain’t it?

9 Replies to “This Week’s Top Songs In 1956: #1 Heartbreak Hotel by Elvis, #2 Moonglow/The Theme from Picnic by Morris Stolloff

  1. Hey, Groovy’s just fine…somewhere between 1930 and 1965 in went from “in the groove” to “groovy”…no one’s keeping track anymore!

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