Popular Songs of 1948

1. Buttons and Bows – Dinah Shore
2. Nature Boy – Nat King Cole
3. I’m Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover – Art Mooney
4. A Tree In The Meadow – Margaret Whiting
5. Ballerina – Vaughn Monroe
6. Manana (Is Soon Enough For Me) – Peggy Lee
7. Twelfth Street Rag – Pee Wee Hunt
8. Woody Woodpecker – Kay Kyser
9. You Call Everybody Darlin’ – Al Trace
10. You Can’t Be True, Dear – Ken Griffin
11. Love Somebody – Doris Day
12. Sabre Dance – Woody Herman
13. Cool Water – Vaughn Monroe & The Sons of The Pioneers
14. My Happiness – Jon & Sondra Steel
15. It’s Magic – Doris Day
16. Red Roses For A Blue Lady – Vaughn Monroe
17. Because – Perry Como
18. I Love You So Much (It Hurts Me) – The Mills Brothers
19. Baby Face – Art Mooney
20. You Were Only Fooling – Ink Spots
21. Little White Lies – Dick Haymes
22. On A Slow Boat To China – Kay Kyser
23. Hair of Gold, Eyes of Blue – Gordon MacRae
24. Bewildered – Red Miller Trio
25. Toolie Oolie Doolie – The Andrews Sisters
26. Serenade of the Bells – Sammy Kaye
27. Now Is The Hour – Bing Crosby
28. Golden Earrings – Peggy Lee
29. I’ll Dance at Your Wedding – Ray Noble
30. My Heart Belongs To You – Arbee Stidham
31. Far Away Places – Bing Crosby
32. All I Want For Christmas is my Two Front Teeth – Spike Jones
33. Beg Your Pardon – Francis Craig
34. Underneath the Arches – Primo Scala
35. So Tired – Russ Morgan
36. My Happiness – The Pied Pipers
37. I’m My Own Grandpa – Guy Lombardo & The Guy Lombardo Trio
38. Confess – Patti Page
39. I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm – Les Brown
40. Far Away Places – Margaret Whiting

You may notice that the list above doesn’t quite agree with “Top 40” or other lists you’ve seen; that’s because it takes more facts into consideration, along with a few intangibles. For example, I’m Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover scores higher on this list than A Tree In The Meadow — yet the latter stayed at #1 longer and spent more time on the Top 40 charts in 1948. Time has been good to Four Leaf Clover, but for some reason Margaret Whiting’s Tree hasn’t had sustained airplay over the decades since 1950. As trends change, as old standards are slotted into new movie soundtracks, this list can and will change with those trends. Each of these annual charts are re-evaluated every 6-8 months. Had this list been prepared in the mid 1960s, for example, Manana would probably be on top — even though Buttons & Bows is one of the all-time #1 songs, having spent 10 weeks at the top spot. In the years since, the overwhelming airplay and re-recordings of that song have restored it to its rightful place at the top of this 1948 chart.

Aram Khachaturian’s Sabre Dance is one of those songs that was played and played all over the country, yet for some reason it didn’t sell at the level of other top songs. We’re debating whether this should be moved higher than #12. Probably should, however, the songs above it sold so strongly at the time. There have been so many popular versions — sounding quite similar — over the years that it is hard not to give Woody Herman more credit on this particular list.

One of the all-time top songs to feature multiple, competing versions on the charts was My Happiness. Two versions are shown above, mainly based on sales and chart position. Oddly enough the version that is best remembered is Ella Fitzgerald’s, which hit the charts at the same time but didn’t fare quite as well as other versions in 1948. Jon & Sondra Steel bubbled just under the number one spot, stalling at #3. The Pied Pipers took their version to #4. Either probably would’ve made it if not for the competing versions. It’s interesting to note that the highest chart position for this song was achieved by a Connie Francis version in 1959, which stopped at #2. A little more trivia: This is supposedly the first song Elvis ever recorded. Legend has it that he made a $4 acetate (about $30 today) as a present for his mother.

Another top hit was Far Away Places, which Bing Crosby rode to #3 and Margaret Whiting took to #4 in December. A version by Perry Como would score a month later in January 1949. Although it only reached #6, it seems these days that Como’s may indeed be the best remembered. This was nothing new to Der Bingle, who would see many of his hits charted and re-recorded through the years. His friend and movie partner, Bob Hope, saw his 1947 hit vaporize when it was re-recorded by Dinah Shore — a little ditty called Buttons and Bows. It was Hope’s all time best selling record, but was crushed by Shore’s monster hit version. The song had been prominent in Bob Hope’s feature film Paleface, a comedy hit in 1947.

The biggest story of course in 1948 occurred when Musician’s Union boss James Petrillo called for another strike. After a powerful strike in 1942, the Union received a better royalties deal. But with the rise of television, Petrillo felt that performances would be broadcast around the country, and the musicians would again be shortchanged. The strike resulted in hugely popular acapella recordings, and a search for groups that could harmonize and replicate musical sounds on record. The “oooh ooh wooo wooo” of the popular Mills Brothers fit this perfectly; their hit I Love You So Much (It Hurts Me) didn’t even need the permitted guitar in the background. In fact most people need to be told first, then listen closely to this tune to realize that there are no instruments! Another hit in this manner was The Ink Spots’ You Were Only Fooling. This also kick-started the career of the Ames Brothers. Decca Records didn’t really have a strong vocal group to match the Mills Brothers, so the Urick brothers from Massachusetts were brought in, renamed, and put to record.

Certain instruments were permitted, or could be played by the vocalist (the guitar on the Mills Brothers 1948 recordings, for example). Such was the sound of Art Mooney, who used everything but the kitchen sink and the prohibited instruments. I’m Looking Over a Four-Leaf Clover echoed the Dixieland sound, and lived on in shows, theme parks, skiffle bands, barbershop quartets — you name it — for over 20 years after 1948.

Some artists, like Perry Como, had very little “in the can” and thus had a relatively quiet 1948. But by and large the record companies did have a lot of pre-recorded material to fall back on — probably a lesson learned from the 1942 strike — and were able to churn out enough unheard records to satisfy the public. One such song, recorded in November 1947 and set aside specifically when the strike loomed, was Dinah Shore’s Buttons and Bows. And so the strike was short lived.