Popular Songs of 1950

nat king cole playing piano

1. Goodnight, Irene – Gordon Jenkins and the Weavers
2. Mona Lisa – Nat King Cole
3. Daddy’s Little Girl – Mills Brothers
4. Music! Music! Music! – Teresa Brewer
5. Harbor Lights – Sammy Kaye
6. Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy – Red Foley
7. Sentimental Me – Ames Brothers
8. I Can Dream, Can’t I? – Andrews Sisters
9. I’m Moving On – Hank Snow
10. Peter Cottontail – Gene Autry
11. If I Knew You Were Comin’ I’d Have Baked A Cake – Eileen Barton
12. Third Man Theme – Anton Karas
13. Rag Mop – Ames Brothers
14. All My Love (Bolero) – Patti Page
15. Cry of the Wild Goose – Frankie Laine
16. The Thing – Phil Harris
17. Nevertheless – The Mills Brothers
18. I Wanna Be Loved – the Andrews Sisters
19. A Bushel and a Peck – Perry Como and Betty Hutton
20. Play A Simple Melody – Bing and Gary Crosby
21. Can Anyone Explain? (No, No, No!) – The Ames Brothers
22. Hoop-Dee-Doo – Perry Como
23. Bewitched – Doris Day
24. Double Crossing Blues – Little Esther
25. Dream a Little Dream of Me – Frankie Laine
26. Enjoy Yourself – Guy Lombardo
27. Blue Light Boogie – Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five
28. It Isn’t Fair – Sammy Kaye with Don Cornell
29. Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo – Perry Como
30. Sentimental Me – Russ Morgan
31. No Other Love – Jo Stafford
32. Patricia – Perry Como
33. Pink Champagne – Joe Liggins and His Honeydrippers
34. With My Eyes Wide Open I’m Dreaming – Patti Page
35. Goodnight, Irene – Frank Sinatra
36. Music, Maestro, Please – Frankie Laine
37. Someday – The Mills Brothers
38. My Foolish Heart – Gordon Jenkins
39. Nevertheless – Paul Weston
40. Are You Lonesome Tonight? – Al Jolson

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. You may notice that the Ames Brothers’ Sentimental Me scores higher on this list than Rag Mop — yet the latter scored much higher on the Top 40 charts at the time. Time has been good to Sentimental Me, but for some reason Rag Mop didn’t have 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. Think of this more as a “lasting popularity and importance” list than a Top 40 type chart.

The absence of Tennessee Waltz is bound to create some confusion on this chart, as most sources list it as a 1950 song. As a late release, its greatest sales and airplay happened during 1951, so we address Patti’s big song on the 1951 page. (No pun intended)

1950 was certainly the year of the brother and sister acts. The Mills Brothers put four on this list, the Ames Brothers three, the Andrews Sisters two. Add in the Fontaine Sisters — who appeared on three of Perry Como’s four big hits in 1950 — and the brother/sister groups have a dozen of the top 40. Argument could be made for some other 1950 songs by the Brothers Ames and Mills, a couple of which have had nice staying power on greatest hits collections through the years.

You might notice a couple songs on this list with more than one version: Sentimental Me and Nevertheless — from the Ames Brothers and Mills Brothers, respectively. Quite a few of the songs listed, in fact, had “competing” versions that scored on the charts.

The top song of the year of course was Good Night Irene, which had competing versions all around. The Weavers recorded it on May 26, and it was pressed on Decca records and on the charts by the end of June. It spent 25 weeks on the Billboard chart, peaking at #1 and becoming one of the all-time monsters among pop standards. Whenever a song took off, competing record companies rushed to put copies on the shelves. Columbia Records tapped Frank Sinatra, who took a version to #12 on the charts. RCA had Dennis Day, who reached #22; Capitol put out a version by Jo Stafford which hit #26. Decca enjoyed so much success with the song that it cranked out yet another version, tailored specifically to the country & western market. The combo of Ernest Tubb and Red Foley reached #1 on the country charts for Decca. Foley of course had his own hit with Chattanoogie Shoeshine Boy, a rare country crossover that blasted to the top of the pop charts.

As noted earlier in this article, songs will move up and down on this chart as the years go by. One such song to note is Eileen Barton’s If I Knew You Were Comin’ I’d Have Baked A Cake. This fun little number was known to young and old alike well into the 1970s, but has since tailed off in popularity. The two country crossovers on the chart have fared much better. The aforementioned Chattanoogie Shoeshine Boy has enjoyed a strong resurgence over the years; it would’ve easily been placed down in the 20s or 30s back when Baked A Cake was still widely sung. The other country crossover, I’m Moving On has been played into standard-hood if you will — Hank Snow’s indefatigable Opry act kept that tune in the public eye for almost half a century. But Snow didn’t exactly force it on the public; fans demanded the song at every show he did. It was number one for almost six months in 1950, which is why it ranks higher than some of the pop standards on the pop standards list. (Try and figure that one out).

Two songs stand out on this list for later re-recordings that became bigger hits than the original. The most obvious is Al Jolson’s Are You Lonesome Tonight?, which became a number one single for Elvis Presley. The other is Frankie Laine’s Dream a Little Dream of Me. Although recorded by a number of artists before and since, Laine’s was the first to make any real impact on the charts. Doris Day was the first to sing it at a slow tempo, scoring a minor hit in 1957. In 1968 the little tune soared to new heights with a rendition by Cass Elliott. Mama Cass’ version hit number one and sold over 7,000,000 copies.

The Mills Brothers recording of Daddy’s Little Girl was the top song for the father/bride dance at wedding parties for over 30 years. Although other songs have become more in vogue, it is still something of a wedding standard after more than a half century.

A Final Comment. 1950 marked the swan song for the “post-war” sound. A look ahead to 1951 does reveal any huge differences, but they’re there. Vocal stars like Frank Sinatra, Dinah Shore, Bing Crosby, Perry Como and the Andrews Sisters would give way to Tony Bennett, Johnnie Ray, and Eddie Fisher. Sinatra and Crosby fell more and more into movie work to maintain their stardom, while Dinah stepped into our living rooms with The Dinah Shore Show. The Andrews Sisters lingered a bit, but were quickly becoming a nostalgia act. The only one to rebound quickly back to the top was Como, who embraced a new, uptempo sound within a couple years. Sinatra’s hits would return in the late 1950s. Orchestras and swing groups like Guy Lombardo and Sammy Kaye would never again enjoy such stellar chart success, although some like the Jimmy Dorsey Band would enjoy a final hit during the decade. The fabulous fifties had arrived.

Nat King Cole public domain photo from the William P. Gottlieb collection at the Library of Congress.