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50 Song Hits


by Roger Lee Hall


There are movie critics and fans who say that 1939 was the peak year for great Hollywood films. And that's true.

Well, I believe 1959 was one of the peak years for popular songs, because it was the end of a decade when a great deal of change had taken place in the pop music world.

There was the growing popularity of R&B and Rock n' Roll music. Also, there was a broadening of music categories on records, radio, movies and television. Just consider these different categories:

Broadway tunes: "Everything's Coming Up Roses" from GYPSY

Country & Western songs: "The Battle of New Orleans"
(21st best seller of 1950s)

Easy Listening: "Mack the Knife" (the 5th best selling record of the 1950s)

Ethnic/ Latino: "La Bamba"

Exotica/Lounge music: "Quiet Village"

Movie songs: "High Hopes" from A HOLE IN THE HEAD
(Oscar winning song)

Nostalgia: "My Happiness"

Patriotic: "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" (only hit for Mormon
Tabernacle Choir)

Rhythm & Blues: "Stagger Lee"

Rock n' Roll: "A Big Hunk O' Love" (another No. 1 hit for Elvis Presley)

This was also the year when three Rock n' Roll legends died in a plane crash on February 3, 1959: J.P. (The Big Bopper) Richardson, Richie Valens, and Buddy Holly.

And it was the year that Elvis returned from his Army service in Germany and kept his hit records rolling along.

1959 was the year when the first Rock guitar instrumental ("Sleep Walk") reached No. 1 on the charts.

And it was year of scandal when New York disc jockey, Alan Freed, was brought to trial for taking money for promoting records in the so-called "Payola Scandal." Other disc jockeys were also fined, like Peter Tripp from WMGM in New York, who pioneered the Top 40 format.

So look at this list and see how many you know from these...

50 Song Hits from 1959

All My Tomorrows -- Frank Sinatra

Along Came Jones -- The Coasters

+The Battle of New Orleans -- Johnny Horton

The Battle Hymn of the Republic -- Mormon Tabernacle Choir

The Best is Yet to Come -- Tony Bennett

+A Big Hunk O' Love -- Elvis Presley

+The Big Hurt -- Miss Toni Fisher

Charlie Brown -- The Coasters

Climb Ev'ry Mountain -- Patricia Neway from THE SOUND OF MUSIC

+Come Softly To Me -- The Fleetwoods

+Donna -- Ritchie Valens

+Don't You Know -- Della Reese

+Dream Lover -- Bobby Darin

El Paso -- Marty Robbins

+The Happy Organ -- Dave "Baby" Cortez

+Heartaches By The Number -- Guy Mitchell

High Hopes -- Frank Sinatra

It Doean't Matter Anymore -- Buddy Holly

+It's Just A Matter of Time -- Brook Benton

+Kansas City -- Wilbur Harrison

La Bamba -- Ritchie Valens

+Lavender Blue -- Sammy Turner

+Lonely Boy -- Paul Anka

The M.T.A. -- The Kingston Trio

+Mack the Knife -- Bobby Darin

+Mr. Blue -- The Fleetwoods

+My Happiness -- Connie Francis

My Wish Came True -- Elvis Presley

+(Now and Then There's) A Fool Such As I -- Elvis Presley

Oh! Carol -- Neil Sedaka

Peter Gunn Theme -- Ray Anthony & His Orchestra

+Put Your Head On My Shoulder -- Paul Anka

Quiet Village -- Martin Denny & His Orchestra

Sea of Love -- Phil Phillips & The Twilights

See You in September -- The Tempos

Shout -- The Isley Brothers

Since I Don't Have You -- The Skyliners

+16 Candles -- The Crests

+Sleep Walk -- Santo & Johnny

Small World -- Johnny Mathis

+Smoke Gets in Your Eyes -- The Platters

+Stagger Lee -- Lloyd Price

Talk to Me -- Frank Sinatra

A Teenager in Love -- Dion & The Belmonts

+There Goes My Baby -- The Drifters

+The Three Bells -- The Browns

+('Til) I Kissed You -- The Everly Brothers

+Venus -- Frankie Avalon

What'd I Say -- Ray Charles

+Why -- Frankie Avalon

+ =
from Billboard Top 1000 Singles, 1955-1996, compiled by Joel Whitburn

Singers with most recordings listed:

Elvis Presley = 3
Frank Sinatra =3

Paul Anka = 2
Frankie Avalon = 2

The Coasters =2
Bobby Darin = 2
The Fleetwoods = 2

Mack The Knife - Bobby Darin


No. 1 Songs from 1959

Arranged by number of weeks at No. 1 and alphaebtical titles for tied weeks
(according to The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits by Joel Whitburn)

Mack The Knife -- Bobby Darin (9 weeks at #1)
The Battle Of New Orleans -- Johnny Horton (6 weeks at #1)
Venus -- Frankie Avalon (5 weeks at #1)
Come Softly To Me -- The Fleetwoods (4 weeks at #1)
Lonely Boy -- Paul Anka (4 weeks at #1)
Stagger Lee -- Lloyd Price (4 weeks at #1)
The Three Bells -- The Browns (4 weeks at #1)
Smoke Gets In Your Eyes -- The Platters (3 weeks at #1)
A Big Hunk Of Love -- Elvis Presley (2 weeks at #1)
Heartaches By The Number -- Guy Mitchell (2 weeks at #1)
Kansas City -- Wilbert Harrison (2 weeks at #1)
Sleep Walk -- Santo & Johnny (2 weeks at #1)

The Happy Organ -- Dave "Baby" Cortez (1 week at #)
Mr. Blue -- The Fleetwoods (1 weeks at #1)
Why -- Frankie Avalaon (1 week at #1)

Ten Top Albums from 1959


KIND OF BLUE -- Miles Davis (No. 3)
HEAVENLY -- Johnny Mathis (No. 7)
TIME OUT -- The Dave Brubeck Quartet (No. 10)
THE SOUND OF MUSIC -- Broadway Cast (No. 17)
AT LARGE -- The Kingston Trio (No. 18)
THE MUSIC OF PETER GUNN -- Henry Mancini (No. 19)
HERE WE GO AGAIN! -- The Kingston trio (No. 22)
THE LORD'S PRAYER -- The Mormon Tabernacle Choir (No. 29)
COME DANCE WITH ME! -- Frank Sinatra (No. 35)

-- Source: 100 Best-Selling Albums of the 50s
by Charlotte Greig

Recommended Recordings on CD


Cruisin' 1959

Cruisin' 1959




Billboard Top Rock & Roll Hits: 1959


1959: Billboard Top Rock n' Roll Hits

Timeline - 1959

Timeline - 1959 (sights & sounds - music & memories)



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Songwriter Memories


Read about songs from the 1950s and '60s, including a chapter about Elvis Presley from 1955-1956, in these this illustrated disc playable on any computer, with music files by songwriter Roger Hall:

"Dream World" - Songs, Poems and Stories



AMP Song Links


150 Essential Songs (1861 - 1961)

Early Elvis

National Carry A Tune Week

Popular Songwriters


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