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by Matthew Dixon
We now turn to look back at the entire decade of the 1950s. What was the biggest hit? Did "I Believe" 's phenomenal success of 1953 get it to top the chart? Was it Doris Day's "Secret Love" that was the best charter of the decade? Maybe Paul Anka's "Diana" from 1958, or perhaps a hit that never made it to be the best charter in any particular year?
Looking back over the decade that was the 1950s, two styles of music are very evident. As the chart started, the whole chart was easy listening music. Men and women singing ballads to the backing of orchestras were monopolising the chart. Then in 1955, rock and roll was born. Up popped Bill Haley and his Comets and launched a style to add a lot more variety into the chart. In the end, which style got the biggest hit - and the biggest artist? Here is the result.
The best charting artist of the decade actually did perform the best charting single of the decade. The song was "I Believe", the artist - Frankie Laine. He scored over 41 points with that song, but in total scored five times that many, with "A Woman In Love" at No. 21, "Cool Water" at No. 22 and "Answer Me" at No. 30 amongst others. Of the rest of the balladeers, Pat Boone did best, coming out third overall, after hits such as "I'll Be Home" (No. 14), "Love Letters In The Sand" (No. 28), "April Love" (No. 101) and "Friendly Persuasion / Chains Of Love" (No. 105).
David Whitfield also performed well, in particular with "Cara Mia" which landed at No. 4, as well as "Ev'rywhere" (No. 52), "My September Love" (No. 63), and his version of "Answer Me" (No. 76). Perry Como got "Magic Moments" to No. 46, and "Don't Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes" to 85 amongst his biggest hits of the 1950s. Also charting well was Johnnie Ray, with "Just Walking In The Rain" (No. 25) and "Such A Night" (No. 45) amongst his biggest hits. Other more remembered men didn't actually chart quite as well overall in the 1950s. Nat 'King' Cole could only come in at tenth overall, while "Pretend", his biggest charting hit, could only make No. 65. The classic "When I Fall In Love" was further down still at No. 74.
The Rat Pack performed surprisingly badly - Dean Martin only scraped the 50 with "Return To Me" (No. 50), whilst "Memories Are Made Of This" was way down at No. 112, and even Ol' Blue Eyes himself could only become the 14th best charter of the 1950s, with "Three Coins In The Fountain" (No. 32) his only top 100 entry! However, bigger hits were to come of him in the 1960s. As for the mighty Sammy Davis Jr, well his biggest hit being "Love Me Or Leave Me" (No. 452), he's the 136th biggest charting artist of the 1950s.
It really was a male dominated decade - girl power was yet to properly set in. However, the third biggest hit of the decade was for Doris Day, with "Secret Love". She also had the 12th biggest hit, with "Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera Sera)". Unfortunately for her, her overall performance puts her 11th as an artist, as her next biggest hits were at Nos. 158 and 258. Amongst the other women of the decade, one can't forget Connie Francis, with "Who's Sorry Now?" at No. 13 and, the more remembered, "Stupid Cupid" at No. 25.
Also, when looking at women, we have to mention Ruby Murray. "Softly Softly" was No. 23, and was one of the many hits earning her a top 20 placing on the artist chart. Finally, we can't forget Winifred Atwell - the "Queen of the Ivories". Her piano instrumentals were present throughout the decade - she both charted in 1952 and was present on the last chart of the decade. Sadly, that was with her last hit - as the 1960s came, she was quickly forgotten. Her biggest hits were with "Poor People Of Paris" (No. 78) and "Let's Have A Party" and "Let's Have Another Party" which were at Nos. 203 and 212 respectively.
Among the future superstars, Sir Cliff Richard manages to make No. 11 with his classic hit "Living Doll". His other singles include "Travellin' Light" (No. 96) and "Move It" (No. 139). Cliff might well turn out to be the best charting artist of all time - check back when this is all done to find out if he can beat Elvis Presley. Elvis had a truly massive decade in the 1950s - he had more weeks on the chart than anyone, and in doing so gave Frankie Laine a very close run battle for Artist of the Decade. His biggest hit was "All Shook Up" which made No. 20, but there was also big success for "Hound Dog" (No. 29), "Heartbreak Hotel / I Was The One" (No. 42), "(Now And Again There's) A Fool Such As I" (No. 71) and "Let Me Be Your Teddy Bear" (No. 88).
Alongside Frankie Laine, Guy Mitchell can lay claim to having a hit on both the first and last charts of the decade, however his biggest hit, "Singing The Blues" is only at No. 31 on the decade chart. Several acts that had significantly smaller success do make the top 20 with their biggest hits however. These include Eddie Calvert ("Oh Mein Papa" No. 19), Don Cornell ("Hold My Hand", No. 18), Tennessee Ernie Ford ("Give Me Your Word" No. 10), Slim Whitman ("Rose Marie" No. 9) and Kitty Kallen ("Little Things Mean A Lot" No. 8). All had somewhat limited other successes, although, whilst Don Cornell came close to doing so, only Kitty Kallen is officially a one-hit wonder. She's the biggest one hit wonder of the decade, eclipsing the somewhat bizarre success of the Oberkirchen Children's Choir who make No. 15 with "The Happy Wanderer". Amongst the other big hits of the decade, is Paul Anka's "Diana". It was a truly massive hit, and makes No. 5 on the chart of the decade, narrowly ahead of Slim Whitman's "Rose Marie" which is at No. 6.
A lot of acts have been mentioned here, without mentioning any groups (apart from the Oberkirchen Children's Choir). This decade was full of solo artist, however one group makes the top 20 of the decade, and also manages to have the second best charting hit of the fifties - Bill Haley and his Comets. It will come as no surprise at all, that the Comets' biggest hit was with "Rock Around The Clock". It didn't perform all that well in any particular year, but charted in three different calendar years, amassing over 10 points in each of two of them. Among their other hits were "Rockin' Through The Rye" and "The Saints' Rock And Roll / R-O-C-K" (Nos. 49 and 51 respectively) whilst the classic "See You Later, Alligator" could only make No. 110. Do you see a pattern to the first 3 of these hits? Yep, they're all about Rock and Roll. It was Bill Haley and his Comets that brought this style to the charts, and with the help of one aforementioned Mr. Presley they made it one of the biggest styles of the decade.
Among the decade's other rockers, were the Everly Brothers - who to this day remain the duo with the most weeks on the chart ever. They had massive success with hits such as "All I Have To Do Is Dream / Claudette" (No. 16), "Bird Dog" (No. 109), "'Til I Kissed You" (No. 129) and the classic "Wake Up Little Susie" (No. 182). Whilst we're in a rocking theme, let's not also forget another 50s style of music - skiffle, and the phenomenal success of the "King of Skiffle" - Lonnie Donegan. He's lacking a really big hit, but did have substantial success with "Gamblin' Man / Puttin' On The Style" (No. 47), "Battle Of New Orleans" (No. 99), "Stewball / Lost John" (No. 103) and "Rock Island Line" (No. 131). Finally, we can't finish the 1950s without noting it was a massive decade for orchestras. Mantovani's orchestra made No.17 in the chart of the decade with "The Song Of The Moulin Rouge" but it was the Frank Chacksfield Orchestra that had the big hit - with the seventh biggest charting hit of the decade "Terry's Theme from Limelight".
Here are the 40 best charting singles of the 1950s:
Here are the 20 biggest charting artists of the 1950s: