1. (Ghost) Riders In The Sky – Vaughn Monroe
2. Mule Train – Frankie Laine
3. “A” You’re Adorable (the Alphabet Song) – Perry Como
4. You’re Breaking My Heart – Vic Damone
5. I’ve Got A Lovely Bunch of Coconuts – Freddy Martin
6. Some Enchanted Evening – Perry Como
7. A Little Bird Told Me – Evelyn Knight
8. Cruisin’ Down the River – Russ Morgan
9. Baby, It’s Cold Outside – Dinah Shore & Buddy Clark
10. That Lucky Old Sun – Frankie Laine
11. I’ve Got A Lovely Bunch Of Coconuts – Freddy Martin
12. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer – Gene Autry
13. Baby, It’s Cold Outside – Margaret Whiting & Johnny Mercer
14. Cruisin’ Down the River – Blue Barron
15. Someday (You’ll Want Me to Want You) – Vaughn Monroe
16. Forever and Ever – Russ Morgan
17. Dear Hearts & Gentle People – Bing Crosby
18. Bamboo – Vaughn Monroe
19. My Darling, My Darling – Jo Stafford & Gordon Mcrae
20. Dear Hearts & Gentle People – Dinah Shore
21. Powder Your Face With Sunshine – Evelyn Knight
22. For You My Love – Larry Darnell
23. She Wore A Yellow Ribbon – Eddie “Piano” Miller
24. Beans and Corn Bread – Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five
25. Slippin’ Around – Margaret Whiting & Jimmy Wakely
26. I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm – Les Brown
27. Buttons and Bows – Dinah Shore
28. The Huckle-Buck – Paul Williams and His Hucklebuckers
29. All She Wants To Do Is Rock – Wynonie Harris
30. Someday (You’ll Want Me to Want You) – Mills Brothers
31. Lavender Blue (Dilly Dilly) – Dinah Shore
32. Roomin’ House Boogie – Amos Milburn
33. Far Away Places – Perry Como
34. Saturday Night Fish Fry – Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five
35. Ain’t Nobody’d Business – Jimmy Witherspoon
36. Trouble Blues – Charles Brown Trio
37. A Dreamer’s Holiday – Perry Como
38. Deep In the Heart of Texas – Bing Crosby
39. Careless Hands – Mel Torme
40. You’re Breaking My Heart – The Ink Spots
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, Baby It’s Cold Outside scores higher on this list than That Lucky Old Sun — yet the latter scored much higher on the Top 40 charts at the time. Time has been good to Baby It’s Cold Outside, but for some reason Frankie Laine’s Lucky Old Sun 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 this annual charts are re-evaluated every 6-8 months. Had this list been prepared in the early 1960s, for example, Mule Train would probably be on top — even though Ghost Riders is one of the all-time #1 songs, having spent 13 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 1949 chart.
A song that may or may not belong on the 1949 list is Buttons and Bows by Dinah Shore. It’s really a 1948 song and is featured prominently on that list. But it’s here because it actually returned to the top spot after a hiatus. Plenty of other songs have dropped from and returned to the top spot, but this is one of the few that did it from one year to the next. The only recordings to ever fall completely off the charts and then return to the top spot in subsequent years were Bing Crosby’s first recording of White Christmas and Chubby Checker’s infectious The Twist.
Other than the virtual domination of the chart by Monroe, Laine, Shore, Crosby and Como, the notable thing about 1949 is the overwhelming popularity of the western or cowboy theme. Obviously Ghost Riders and Mule Train are cowboy songs; others include Deep In the Heart of Texas, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, and the aforementioned Buttons and Bows, which was sort of a cowgirl protest song. The popularity of stars like Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and Hopalong Cassidy was undeniable, and it prompted both Monroe and Laine to adopt a western image. Vaughn Monroe was an avid outdoorsman, so the western image fit easily. Frankie Laine — born Francesco Paolo LoVecchio — did it by sheer force, recording a number of TV and movie western themes through the ensuing years. Interestingly enough, Rawhide is probably the best known of Laine’s recordings today, mainly because of a version in The Blues Brothers movie. It was also played non-stop at the entrance to a popular Phoenix, AZ attraction, a western-theme town naturally called Rawhide. Laine’s last notable such song was the theme to Blazing Saddles, a fantastic vocal for the Mel Brooks film.
A little trivia concerning Laine from 1949…That Lucky Old Sun was number one for three weeks, then was knocked out of the top spot by Mule Train. With Sun lingering at number two, it is believed (but difficult to verify) that Laine was the first vocalist to hold the top two spots at the same time.
This was the heyday of “competing” recordings. Columbia would see a Decca hit rising up the charts, and rush to put a Sinatra version out. RCA would persuade Perry to record it. Capitol’s Johnny Mercer would try his hand, while Mitch Miller would use someone from the Mercury stable, usually Frankie Laine in 1949. Thus listeners might have as many as four versions of a song playing on the radio at any given time, while record buyers could choose between six or more versions on the shelves. It was common, and nobody thought much of it, although there was a “race” to record and press competing copies. But it was business, the records were made quickly and released.
Songs were finished in a take or two — Como usually nailed his on take one. The day of tweaking and re-recording version after version was still almost 20 years in the future, when Brian Wilson spent six months fine-tuning Good Vibrations in 1966.
One act that was perpetually in the Top 40 in 1949 was Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five. This high-energy act blended R & B with swing and laid the cornerstone for rock and roll. It was a raw, unpolished sound compared to Perry and Bing, but it did fit in. Even though the rock era would not officially kick off for another six years, music fans enjoyed a bit of “rowdiness” mixed in with the more soothing sounds. The more things change, the more they remain the same.