Fifty years ago this week, a New Orleans trio was new on the radio, and their song wouldn’t be off the radio for years to come.
It’s been four weeks since we compared the Billboard Hot 100 of April 4, 1964, topped by five Beatles records in a row, with the chart for the same week at WOKY in Milwaukee. So let’s go back 50 years again to see what we can see.
According to Billboard, for the week of May 2, 1964, “Can’t Buy Me Love” is in its 5th week at the top. Louis Armstrong’s “Hello Dolly” is up to #2 from #4. The Beatles’ “Do You Want to Know a Secret” is holding at #3. “Bits and Pieces” by the Dave Clark Five is up to #4 from #7, and “My Guy” by Mary Wells is up to #5 from #9. Five other Beatles songs are in the Hot 100: “Twist and Shout” (#7), “Love Me Do” (#32), “She Loves You” (#36), “Thank You Girl” (#40), and “All My Loving” (#59). Four of those seven Beatle hits are on WOKY’s top 35 dated May 2, 1964, each at a lower position than the week before: “Do You Want to Know a Secret” (#5), “Love Me Do” (#8), “Can’t Buy Me Love” (#16), and “Twist and Shout” (#26). Milwaukee is rockin’ to the DC5, with “Bits and Pieces” at #1 and two new songs, “Do You Love Me” (on Epic records) and “I Knew It All the Time” (on the Congress label) debuting at #32 and #33 respectively. The Searchers round out Milwaukee’s British Invasion with “Needles and Pins” at #10. The hottest record of the week is from Motown, however: “My Guy,” debuting at #16.
Five other interesting records on the air in Milwaukee a half-century ago this week:
9. “Love Me With All Your Heart”/Ray Charles Singers (up from 16). As Louis Armstrong shows (and Robert Maxwell, too, whose “Shangri-La” we noted four weeks ago), more old-fashioned kinds of pop music still got plenty of traction alongside the British Invasion stars. This Ray Charles is not the soul singer; he’s a choral arranger and vocalist who got his start on radio. He led the singers who performed with Perry Como for decades. Charles sang the Three’s Company TV theme, still works today, and will be 96 in September. “Love Me With All Your Heart,” is the English version of a Mexican love song, and it would hit #3 on the Hot 100 in June.
14. “Forever”/Pete Drake (up from 15). OK, so you think I know a lot about music, and I would modestly say you’re right, but until I looked this up, I couldn’t place it. Turns out “Forever” has been been a hit four different times, including a Top 10 version by the Little Dippers in 1960. Drake’s “Forever,” with his “talking” steel guitar, made #25 in Billboard. But neither of those (nor the other two, by country singer Billy Walker and the group Mercy, famed for “Love Can Make You Happy”) seems entirely familiar, so maybe there’s another version out there, or maybe I’ve hallucinated the whole thing, which can never be ruled out.
22. “Winkin, Blinkin, and Nod”/Simon Sisters (holding at 22). That’s Carly Simon, 18 years old in the spring of 1964, and her older sister Lucy.
28. “Today”/New Christy Minstrels (up from 34). The folk boom ended lots of careers, but the New Christy Minstrels managed to hang on through the 60s with a string of successful albums, and an edition of the group with three original members still exists today (“three more than the Kingston Trio,” according to the group’s website bio). “Today” is a lovely song performed beautifully, with a poignant lyric about seizing this moment right here, neither looking back on yesterday nor planning on tomorrow.
35. “Chapel of Love”/Dixie Cups (debut). This future Billboard #1, a bit of a throwback by 1964, involves some of the most significant figures of pop history. It was written by Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich, and Phil Spector and released on the Red Bird label, run by Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller, and George Goldner. The song was intended for the Ronettes (hence Spector’s writing credit, most likely a cut-in), but it ended up with three singers whose names nobody knows: sisters Barbara and Rosa Hawkins and their cousin Joan Johnson, all from the same housing project in New Orleans. One night back in my wedding DJ days, I dropped “Chapel of Love” at the perfect moment on the perfect crowd. The room erupted in pure, unfettered joy the likes of which I’d never seen before and haven’t seen since. If you don’t dig it, we probably shouldn’t see each other anymore.