“Please Mr. Postman” is a song written by Georgia Dobbins, William Garrett, Freddie Gorman, Brian Holland, and Robert Bateman. It is the debut single by the Marvelettes for the Tamla (Motown) label, notable as the first Motown song to reach the number-one position on the Billboard Hot 100 pop singles chart. The single achieved this position in late 1961; it hit number one on the R&B chart as well. “Please Mr. Postman” became a number-one hit again in early 1975 when the Carpenters’ cover of the song reached the top position of the Billboard Hot 100. “Please Mr. Postman” has been covered several times, including a 1963 version by the English rock group the Beatles.
“Big Bad John” is a country song originally performed by Jimmy Dean, who wrote and composed in collaboration with Roy Acuff. Released in September 1961, by the beginning of November it went to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and won Dean the 1962 Grammy Award for Best Country & Western Recording. The song and its sequels tell a story typical of American folklore, reminiscent of Paul Bunyan or John Henry. Big Bad John was also the title of a 1990 television movie starring Dean.
“Runaround Sue” is a pop song, in a doo-wop style, originally a US No. 1 hit for the singer Dion during 1961 after he split with the Belmonts. The song ranked No. 342 on the Rolling Stone list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”. The song was written by Dion with Ernie Maresca, and tells the story of a disloyal lover.
The lyrics are sung from the point of view of a man whose former girlfriend, named Sue, was extremely unfaithful. He warns all potential lovers to avoid her at all costs, as Sue “runs around” with every guy she meets and never settles down with any man in particular. He advises “Now people let me put you wise, Sue goes out with other guys” and suggests that potential suitors should ‘keep away from Runaround Sue’. Dion stated in his autobiography “The Wanderer” that although his wife’s name was Susan, Runaround Sue had nothing to do with her:
“Hit the Road Jack” is a song written by the rhythm-and-blues artist Percy Mayfield and first recorded in 1960 as an a cappella demo sent to Art Rupe. It became famous after it was recorded by the singer-songwriter-pianist Ray Charles with Raelettes vocalist Margie Hendricks.
Charles’s recording hit number one for two weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, beginning on Monday, October 9, 1961. “Hit the Road Jack” won a Grammy award for Best Rhythm and Blues Recording. The song was number one on the R&B Sides chart for five weeks, thereby becoming Charles’s sixth number one on that chart. The song is ranked number 387 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”.
“Take Good Care of My Baby” is a song written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin and made famous by Bobby Vee, when it was released in 1961. It quickly became popular, reaching #1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in September. The song is noted for being incredibly similar in musical structure to “Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen” by Neil Sedaka.
The song was covered by The Beatles during their audition at Decca Records on January 1, 1962. Dion also recorded a version, though it was not released as a single. Gary Lewis & The Playboys recorded a cover version in 1965 on their She’s Just My Style album. In 1968, it became a hit again, this time for Bobby Vinton, but his version reached only #33 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in comparison. Vee re-recorded the song as a ballad in 1973 on his album Ain’t Nothing Like a Sunny Day (released under his real name, Robert Thomas Velline). However, it’s his original version, along with Vinton’s, that remain as staples of oldies radio stations. musicians on the record included Barney Kessell, Tommy Allsup, and Howard Roberts on guitar, Clifford Hills on bass, Robert Florence on piano, Earl Palmer on drums, Elliot Fisher, Leonard Malarsky, Sid Sharp, Tibor Zelig, Isreal Baker and Lou Raderman on violins, Ralph Schaffer and Harry Hymas on cellos Alexander Neiman and Wilbert Nuttycombe on viola.
It has also been covered by, among others, Smokie (Solid Ground, 1981), Micky Dolenz and German pop star Sasha (Dick Brave and the Backbeats, 2003).
An answer song, entitled “I’ll Take Good Care of Your Baby”, was recorded by Ralph Emery. It was released as a single on Liberty F-55383. Another answer song, entitled “You Should Know I’m Still Your Baby”, was recorded by Sammi Lynn. It was released as a single on Sue Records 45-752.
“Michael, Row the Boat Ashore” (or “Michael Rowed the Boat Ashore” or “Michael, Row Your Boat Ashore” or “Michael Row That Gospel Boat”) is a negro spiritual. It was first noted during the American Civil War at St. Helena Island, one of the Sea Islands of South Carolina. It is cataloged as Roud Folk Song Index No. 11975.
It was sung by former slaves whose owners had abandoned the island before the Union navy arrived to enforce a blockade. Charles Pickard Ware, an abolitionist and Harvard graduate who had come to supervise the plantations on St. Helena Island from 1862 to 1865, wrote the song down in music notation as he heard the freedmen sing it. Ware’s cousin, William Francis Allen, reported in 1863 that while he rode in a boat across Station Creek, the former slaves sang the song as they rowed.
The song was first published in Slave Songs of the United States, by Allen, Ware, and Lucy McKim Garrison, in 1867.
“Wooden Heart” (“Muss i denn” lit. Must I then) is a song best known for its use in the 1960 Elvis Presley film G.I. Blues. The song was a hit single for Presley in the UK Singles Chart, making No. 1 for six weeks there in March and April 1961, but was not released on a single in the United States until November 1964, where it was the B-side to “Blue Christmas”. Presley performed the song live during his Dinner Show concert at the Hilton Hotel in Las Vegas in 1975, a recording available on the Elvis Presley live album Dinner At Eight.
A cover version by Joe Dowell made it to number one in the US at the end of August 1961, knocking Bobby Lewis’ “Tossin’ and Turnin'” off the number-one spot of the Billboard Hot 100 after seven weeks. Dowell’s version also spent three weeks at number one on the Easy Listening chart.
“Wooden Heart”, created by Fred Wise, Ben Weisman, Kay Twomey and German bandleader Bert Kaempfert, was based on a German folk song by Friedrich Silcher, “Muss i denn”, originating from the Rems Valley in Württemberg, southwest Germany. “Wooden Heart” features several lines from the original folk song, written in the German Swabian dialect, as spoken in Württemberg. Marlene Dietrich recorded a version of the song sometime before 1958, pre-dating Presley, in the original German language, which appears as a B-side on a 1959 version of her single “Lili Marlene”, released by Philips in association with Columbia Records. The Elvis Presley version was published by Gladys Music, Elvis Presley’s publishing company. Bobby Vinton recorded his version in 1975 with those lines translated into Polish.
The Elvis Presley version featured two parts in German, the first one is the first four lines of “Muss i’ denn zum Städtele hinaus”, whereas the second part appears towards the end and is based on a translation of the English version (therefore not appearing in the original German folk lyrics). This part being “Sei mir gut, sei mir gut, sei mir wie du wirklich sollst, wie du wirklich sollst…” This literally means “Be good to me, Be good to me, Be to me how you really should, How you really should…”
“Tossin’ and Turnin'” is a song written by Ritchie Adams and Malou Rene, and originally recorded by Bobby Lewis. The record reached number one on both the Billboard Hot 100 on July 10, 1961 and R&B chart and has since become a standard on oldies compilations. It was named the number-one single on the Billboard chart for 1961, after spending seven consecutive weeks at the top. It was featured on the soundtrack for the 1978 film Animal House.
On the original hit single version, the track begins with Lewis singing “I couldn’t sleep at all last night,” and it appears this way on most oldies compilations. However, on some releases the song has a prelude, where Lewis sings “Baby…Baby…you did something to me,” followed by a musical cue into the first verse. Lewis usually includes this prelude when he performs the song live. The personnel on the original hit recording included Ritchie Adams and Eric Gale on guitar, Bob Bushnell on bass, King Curtis on a tenor sax mouthpiece, Frank Haywood Henry on baritone sax, Paul Griffin on Piano, and Sticks Evans on drums.
In 2008, Billboard magazine ranked the song as the 27th biggest song of all time that charted on the Billboard Hot 100, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the chart. It is one of only six songs from the 1960s to spend at least seven weeks in the number one position on the Billboard Hot 100.
“Quarter to Three” is a popular song, adapted and expanded from “A Night with Daddy ‘G’ – Part 1” (Legrand LEG 1004), an instrumental by the Church Street Five, which was written by Gene Barge, Frank Guida and Joseph Royster, and sung by Gary U.S. Bonds. The song became a number-one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States on June 26, 1961, and remained there for two weeks.
The 45rpm single of “A Night with Daddy ‘G'” identifies the composers by their last names only – Barge, Guida, Royster – and identifies the music publisher as Pepe Music (BMI). The Legrand Records 45 release of the vocal “Quarter to Three” version adds “Anderson” to the author credits, since that was Bonds’ birthname and he supplied the vocal arrangement.
The single was recorded with very rough sound quality (compared to other records at the time). Producer Frank Guida has been quoted on subsequent CD reissues that his production sound was exactly what he wanted it to sound like. Noted British producer and columnist Jack Good felt compelled to devote his entire Disc magazine column to praising the “fuzzy, muzzy, and distorted” sound of the U.S. Bonds hit release. The article was subtitled “This record could never have been made in Britain”.
Members of the Church Street Five (otherwise known as Gene Barge’s band) Played on this record and all of the other Legrand and S.P.Q.R releases (including Jimmy Soul’s sides as well). Members of this group included Ron “Junior” Farley on bass, Willie Burnell on piano, Leonard Barks on trombone, and Emmet Shields on druns. Eric Shauls and Wayne Beckner also played guitar on this record and various other records produced by Frank Guida (Earl Swanson played the sax solo on this side as well).
The UK release on Top Rank International JAR 575 reached number 11 in the UK chart on September 2, 1961. The record’s B-side is “Time Ole Story” (Beckner).
Dion DiMucci stated that “Quarter to Three” was the inspiration for his hit “Runaround Sue”, which was written by Dion and Ernie Maresca.
Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones covered this song for his 1976 solo album Stone Alone.
The song was sung regularly by Bruce Springsteen as a show closer on the Born to Run tours and the Darkness Tour appearing on the Hammersmith Odeon London ’75 concert document and, as performed in 1979, the No Nukes film.
The song was sung for Clarence Clemons in 1992 at the concert of Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band.
“Quarter to Three” appears on The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll list.
“Moody River” is a number-one Billboard Hot 100 song from June 1961 performed by Pat Boone. It was written by and originally performed by country rockabilly singer Chase Webster (real name Gary Daniel Bruce, not to be confused with Gary Bruce of the Knack). Webster was a labelmate of Boone’s at Dot Records.
This was the title track from one of Boone’s better-selling albums. Boone sang this song as if he were in pain. It was covered some years later by Johnny Burnette in 1962, also Frank Sinatra and Johnny Rivers. In August 2009, John Fogerty covered the song in the album entitled The Blue Ridge Rangers Rides Again.
“Running Scared” is a 1961 American pop song written by Roy Orbison and Joe Melson and sung by Orbison. An operatic rock ballad, the song was released as a 45rpm single by Monument Records in March 1961 and went to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. “Running Scared” also reached #9 in the UK chart. The song was included on Roy’s 1962 album “Crying” as the final track on the album.
Noted for being a song written without a chorus, the song builds in the lyrics, the arrangement and vocals to a climax that, without vibrato, demonstrates the power of Orbison’s clear, full voice. It is written in the bolero style; Orbison is credited with bringing this to the rock genre. Fred Foster producer of the session and of Monument Records did not want the powerful high note that ends the song to end in falsetto but in full or natural voice. According to Foster (quoted on website Clevelandmagazine.com November 2006), the last note that ends the song is actually G above High C in full natural voice. Few female sopranos can even hit High C in natural voice!  This note has even been noted as A over High C.
While “Running Scared” was an international hit, the B-side “Love Hurts” also picked up significant airplay in Australia. Consequently, chart figures for Australia show “Running Scared”/”Love Hurts” as a double A-side, both sides peaking at number five. This makes Orbison’s recording of “Love Hurts” the first version to be a hit. “Love Hurts” later became better known in a version by rock band Nazareth, who had an international hit with it in 1975.
“Travelin’ Man” is an American popular song, best known as a 1961 hit single sung by Ricky Nelson. Singer-songwriter Jerry Fuller wrote it with Sam Cooke in mind, but Cooke’s manager was unimpressed and did not keep the demo, which eventually wound up being passed along to Nelson. His version reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Its b-side, “Hello Mary Lou”, reached No. 9 on the same chart.
The song details the loves of a world traveler with an eye for beautiful women. Songwriter Fuller has described it as a “girl in every port” song. The women in each locale are referenced by a word or phrase associated with the location. The women were: a “pretty señorita” in Mexico, an Eskimo in Alaska, a fräulein in Berlin, a china doll in Hong Kong, and a Polynesian in Waikiki. There were others as well, “in every port … at least one,” mentioned obliquely during the opening verse. The song was produced by Joe Johnson who was also famous for The Champs recording of “Tequila”. Joe was the owner of 4 Star Record Company and Challenge Records in Nashville.
“Mother-in-Law” is a 1961 song recorded by Ernie K-Doe. It was a number-one hit in the U.S. on both the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B charts. The song was written and produced by Allen Toussaint, who also played the piano solo. It was issued by Minit Records.
After several unsuccessful takes, Toussaint balled up the composition and threw it away as he was leaving the room. One of the back-up singers, Willie Hopper, thought that it was such a good song that he convinced Ernie K-Doe to give it one more try.
“Runaway” is a number-one Billboard Hot 100 song made famous by Del Shannon in 1961. It was written by Shannon and keyboardist Max Crook, and became a major international hit. It is No. 472 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, compiled in 2010.
Singer-guitarist Charles Westover and keyboard player Max Crook performed together as members of “Charlie Johnson and the Big Little Show Band” in Battle Creek, Michigan, before their group won a recording contract in 1960. Westover took the new stage name “Del Shannon”, and Crook, who had invented his own clavioline-based electric keyboard called a Musitron, became “Maximilian”.
After their first recording session for Big Top Records in New York City had ended in failure, their manager Ollie McLaughlin persuaded them to rewrite and re-record an earlier song they had written, “Little Runaway”, to highlight Crook’s unique instrumental sound. On January 24, 1961, they recorded “Runaway” at the Bell Sound recording studios, with Harry Balk as producer, Fred Weinberg as audio engineer and also session musician on several sections- session musician Al Caiola on guitar, and Crook playing the central Musitron break. Other musicians on the record included Al Casamenti and Bucky Pizzarelli on guitar, Milt Hinton on bass, and Joe Marshall on drums. Bill Ramall, who was the arranger for the session, also played baritone sax. After recording in A minor, producer Balk sped up the recording to pitch just below a B-flat minor. “Runaway” was released in February 1961 and was immediately successful. On April 10 of that year, Shannon appeared on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand helping to catapult it to the number one spot on the Billboard charts where it remained for four weeks. Two months later, it also reached number one in the UK. On the R&B charts, “Runaway” peaked at number three. The song was #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 Year-End Chart in 1961. Appearing on David Letterman in 1986, Shannon reprised his hit backed by Paul Schaeffer and the band. He was introduced as having sold as much as 80,000 singles of ‘Runaway’ per day, at its height.
Del Shannon re-recorded it in 1967 as “Runaway ’67”. This version was issued as a single but failed to make the Hot 100.
“Blue Moon” is a classic popular song written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart in 1934, and has become a standard ballad. It may be the first instance of the familiar “50s progression” in a popular song. The song was a hit twice in 1949 with successful recordings in the US by Billy Eckstine and Mel Tormé. In 1961, “Blue Moon” became an international number one hit for the doo-wop group the Marcels, on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and in the UK Singles chart. Over the years, “Blue Moon” has been covered by various artists including versions by Billie Holiday, Elvis Presley, the Mavericks and Rod Stewart.
Versions of this song are used liberally in the soundtrack of the 1981 horror-comedy film An American Werewolf in London.
“Surrender” is a #1 song recorded by Elvis Presley and published by Elvis Presley Music in 1961. It is an adaptation by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman of the music of a 1902 Neapolitan ballad by Giambattista and Ernesto de Curtis entitled “Torna a Surriento” (“Come Back to Sorrento”). It hit number one in the US and UK in 1961 and eventually became one of the best selling singles of all time. This was one of 25 songs Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman wrote for Presley. It has been recorded by many other artists.
“Pony Time” is a song written by Don Covay and John Berry (a member of Covay’s earlier vocal group, the Rainbows), and originally recorded in 1960 by Covay with his group the Goodtimers. The song achieved greater success when it was recorded by Chubby Checker the following year, becoming his second US #1 (after his 1960 single “The Twist.”) Chubby Checker’s recording of “Pony Time” was also a number one hit on the R&B charts.
The song introduced a new dance style, The Pony, in which the dancer tries to look like he or she is riding a horse. It was featured in the film “Hairspray”.
“Calcutta” is a German pop song. An instrumental version by American bandleader and TV host Lawrence Welk on the 1961 Dot Records album Calcutta! was a chart hit, the most successful of Welk’s career, and the only tango-based recording to hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.
The tune was written in 1958 by the composer Heino Gaze. The original title was “Tivoli Melody”, but it was re-titled several times, until it became known as “Calcutta”. Hans Bradtke wrote the German lyrics, which made reference to the Indian city of Calcutta (Kolkata). The American songwriting team of Paul Vance and Lee Pockriss later wrote English lyrics, celebrating the charms of the “ladies of Calcutta.”
Welk’s recording of the tune was something of a departure for him. It incorporated his recognizable “trademarks,” i.e., the harpsichord lead and an accordion but combined them with handclaps and a brisk rock rhythm.
“Calcutta” stayed atop the US pop chart for two weeks while the album, with its combination of easy listening tunes and covers of then-popular rock singles, charted at #1 for two weeks, spending three months on the chart. At the time “Calcutta” reached #1, Welk, who was 57, became the oldest artist to have a number one pop single in the U.S. (His record would be broken three years later by Louis Armstrong who at age 63 topped the singles charts with “Hello, Dolly!” in early 1964.)
Dancers Bobby Burgess and Barbara Boylan, cast members on Welk’s weekly TV show, worked up a dance routine to go along with “Calcutta”, which they performed numerous times on the Welk show over the years.
“Will You Love Me Tomorrow”, also known as “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”, is a song written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King. It was originally recorded in 1960 by The Shirelles, who took their single to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The song is also notable for being the first song by an all-girl group to reach No. 1 in the United States. It has since been recorded by many artists over the years, including a 1971 cover version by co-writer Carole King.
In 1960, the American girl group The Shirelles released the first version of the song as Scepter single 1211, with “Boys” on the B-side. The single’s first pressing was labelled simply “Tomorrow”, then lengthened later. When first presented with the song, lead singer Shirley Owens (later known as Shirley Alston-Reeves) did not want to record it, because she thought it was “too country.” She relented after a string arrangement was added. However, Owens recalled on Jim Parsons’ syndicated oldies radio program, Shake Rattle Showtime, that some radio stations had banned the record because they had felt the lyrics were too sexually charged. The song is in AABA form.
“Wonderland by Night” (German title “Wunderland bei Nacht”) is a popular song by Bert Kaempfert that was a Billboard number one hit for three weeks, starting January 9, 1961. The song was written by Klaus-Günter Neumann with English lyrics by Lincoln Chase. It was Kaempfert’s first hit with his orchestra. The song featured Charly Tabor on trumpet. The original version of “Wonderland by Night” also crossed over to the R&B chart where it peaked at number five. Another cover, recorded and released by Louis Prima, also charted in the same year, reaching #15 on the Billboard charts. Anita Bryant’s version reached #18 on the US Pop Chart. Engelbert Humperdinck also recorded a vocal version of the song in his 1968 album A Man Without Love.
“Are You Lonesome Tonight?” is a song which was written by Roy Turk and Lou Handman in 1926. It was recorded several times in 1927—first by Charles Hart, with successful versions by Vaughn De Leath and the duet of Jerry Macy and John Ryan. In 1950 the Blue Barron Orchestra version reached the top twenty on the Billboard’s Pop Singles chart.
In April 1960, after Elvis Presley’s two-year service in the United States Army, he recorded the song at the suggestion of manager Colonel Tom Parker; “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” was Parker’s wife, Marie Mott’s, favorite song. Its release was delayed by RCA Records executives, who thought the song did not fit Presley’s new (and publicized) style. When “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” was released in November 1960 it was an immediate success in the U.S., topping Billboard’s Pop Singles chart and reaching number three on the R&B chart. A month after the song’s release, it topped the UK Singles Chart. Presley’s version was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America in 1961 and upgraded to double platinum in 1992.
“Are You Lonesome Tonight?” was later recorded by several other artists, with versions by Donny Osmond and Merle Haggard becoming top-twenty hits on the pop and country charts respectively. Billboard ranked “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” number 81 on its “Hot 100 All-Time Top Songs” list in 2008.