As 1962 was in its first week, your narrator was busy being eight years old and learning third-grade stuff at Lincoln Elementary School from Miss Kelly. She was new at Lincoln that year, and it’s quite likely that she was in her first year of teaching, probably having just earned her degree across the Mississippi River at St. Cloud State College. Whether she was in her first year or not, Miss Kelly was – according to the young whiteray, at least – just about the prettiest teacher you could find.
(Someone else quite a bit older evidently thought the same, as Miss Kelly announced to her class on the last day of school that year that she would be getting married during the summer; she did not return to Lincoln when school convened in September of 1962.)
Beyond enjoying that slight crush on Miss Kelly and reading pretty much anything I could get my hands on, what else was I doing in early 1962? I recall watching some television. My folks, my sister and I sat down each Sunday night for Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color, Car 54, Where Are You? and Bonanza. I also recall – glancing at the prime time schedule for that season at Wikipedia – watching Top Cat, The Red Skelton Show, 77 Sunset Strip and a few more shows. And I’m sure my dad and I had spent a few hours on January 1 watching the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers defeat UCLA’s Bruins 21-3 in the Rose Bowl. (The Gophers, sadly, have not been invited to the annual game in Pasadena, California, since then.)
And I was aware of at least one of the tunes in the Billboard Top Ten that was released on January 6, 1962, forty-nine years ago today. But then, how could anyone who was sentient in the United States be unaware of “The Twist” by Chubby Checker? We even had a discussion about the record in Miss Kelly’s classroom, followed by a demonstration from some of the girls of the dance that gave the record its title. In that January 6 Top Ten, the record was sitting at No. 2 and would move to No. 1 the following week. The same recording had been No. 1 during September of 1960, making it the only record to reach No. 1 in two separate runs on the charts.
The Twist as a dance was popular far beyond Miss Kelly’s classroom, of course, and other recording artists were getting listeners to swivel their hips, too. Along with Checker’s No. 2 record, there were eight other Twist records in the Billboard Hot 100 (and its Bubbling Under section) during that first week of 1962:
“The Peppermint Twist–Part 1” by Joey Dee & the Starliters (No. 4)
“Rock-A-Hula Baby (‘Twist’ Special)” by Elvis Presley (No. 23)
“Dear Lady Twist” by Gary (U.S.) Bonds (No. 48)
“Twist-Her” by Bill Black’s Combo (No. 52)
“Let’s Twist Again” by Chubby Checker (No. 65)
“Twistin’ All Night Long” by Danny & the Juniors with Freddy Cannon (No. 81)
“The Twist” by Ernie Freeman (No. 93)
“The Basie Twist” by Count Basie (No. 108)
But what else was in the air? Here are the other eight songs in the Top Ten that week:
“The Lion Sleeps Tonight” by the Tokens
“Run To Him” by Bobby Vee
“Can’t Help Falling In Love” by Elvis Presley
“Happy Birthday, Sweet Sixteen” by Neil Sedaka
“Goodbye Cruel World” by James Darren
“Walk On By” by Leroy Van Dyke
“When I Fall In Love” by the Lettermen
“Unchain My Heart” by Ray Charles
Until this morning, I’d never heard the Darren tune, and I likely won’t seek it out again. Nor had I heard Van Dyke’s “Walk On By,” which turns out to be a twangy country tune that might bear closer scrutiny. Those were the only strangers in that week’s Top Ten although the only records I truly like in that list are those by the Tokens, the Lettermen and Ray Charles.
As usual, though, there are some interesting tunes further down in the Hot 100, starting with an answer record. Ray Charles’ “Hit The Road Jack” had gone to No. 1 during in October 1961, and shortly after that, the Chantels – best known for 1958’s gorgeous “Maybe” – released their response to Charles’ record, the saucy “Well, I Told You.” By the beginning of January, the Chantels’ record was at No. 43, having peaked a couple of weeks earlier at No. 29.
At No. 59, we find “Flying Circle,” the only charting single for Frank Slay and His Orchestra, and I have to admit that I’d not heard of Slay before this morning. But searching his name at YouTube brought up more entries than I could quickly scan. Slay was the writer and producer for the majority of Freddy Cannon’s hits and was involved with many other performers, often working with famed producer Bob Crewe, with whom Slay wrote the classic “Silhouettes.” According to the notes appended to the video I’ve embedded below, Slay and his orchestra released several instrumental singles based on international folk songs. “Flying Circle,” which was on its way to No. 45 as 1962 began, is based on “Hava Nagila.” (The video also includes two other Slay recordings, “The Bullfight” and “East of Istanbul” – neither of which made the Hot 100 – as well as a fourth tune that the original poster acknowledges is likely not Slay’s work.)
I wrote sometime last year about the Vogues’ version of “Turn Around, Look At Me” and learned at the time from regular reader Yah Shure that the original version of the tune had been recorded by Glen Campbell. During the first week of January 1962, Campbell’s version of the song was at No. 66, having peaked a week earlier at No. 62. It was the first of an eventual forty-four Glen Campbell records to reach the Hot 100. It doesn’t sound a lot like Campbell to me, but it’s a very nice version of the tune.
Jazz pianist Dave Brubeck had an obvious fascination with challenging time signatures. In 1961, his “Take Five” – written in 5/4 time – went to No. 25. Brubeck and his quartet followed that in late 1961 with “Unsquare Dance,” written in 7/4 time. One commenter at YouTube said “Sounds like Brubeck took a standard 4/4 12 bar blues progression, lopped off a quarter note every other measure, and turned it into a wonderful, quickly flowing 7/4 thing . . . Amazing, but typical Brubeck.” The record, which was used in the video embedded here for a dance duet on an unidentified television show, was – appropriately enough – at No. 74 during the first week of January 1962. It would go no higher.
The Corsairs, according to Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles, were an R&B group made up of three brothers and their cousin from La Grange, North Carolina. They had two Hot 100 hits in 1961 and 1962. The first of them, “Smokey Places,” was at No. 83 in the January 6, 1962, Hot 100. It would go all the way to No. 12. The Corsairs’ second charting record, “I’ll Take You Home,” got only as high as No. 68 later in 1962. I don’t know that I’d ever heard “Smokey Places” until this morning, but I like it quite a bit.
Our last stop this morning is at No. 99, where we find the second appearance by Paul Simon in the Billboard Hot 100. (He and Art Garfunkel, recording as Tom & Jerry, had reached No. 49 with “Hey, Schoolgirl” in 1957.) Simon was one of three members of Tico & the Triumphs, whose single “Motorcycle” had just entered the Hot 100 that week. The record spent the next three week in the Bubbling Under portion of the chart and then went away.
Assuming there’s no snow to shovel tomorrow morning, I’ll likely stop by with something brief. Otherwise, I’ll be back in two days with a Saturday Single.