Popular Songs of 1951

patti page
Above, Patti Page at the peak of popularity

1. Tennessee Waltz – Patti Page
2. Too Young – Nat King Cole
3. On Top Of Old Smokey – Weavers
4. Mockingbird Hill – Patti Page
5. Come On-a My House – Rosemary Clooney
6. Because of You – Tony Bennett
7. Sentimental Journey – Les Brown & the Ames Brothers
8. Jezebel – Frankie Laine
9. Be My Love – Mario Lanza
10. My Heart Cries for You – Guy Mitchell
11. Fool, Fool, Fool – The Clovers
12. How High The Moon – Les Paul & Mary Ford
13. Sin (It’s No Sin) – Eddy Howard
14. If – Perry Como
15. So Long (It’s Been Good To Know Ya) – Gordon Jenkins
16. The Lullaby of Broadway – Doris Day
17. Sixty Minute Man – Billy Ward and His Dominoes
18. Aba Daba Honeymoon – Debbie Reynolds & Carleton Carpenter
19. In The Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening – Frankie Laine and Jo Stafford
20. The Little White Cloud That Cried – Johnnie Ray
21. Kisses Sweeter Than Wine – Weavers
22. Cold, Cold Heart – Tony Bennett
23. Shanghai – Doris Day
24. Mockingbird Hill – Les Paul & Mary Ford
25. Rocket 88 – Jackie Brentson and his Delta Cats
26. Flamingo – Earl Bostic & His Orchestra
27. Detour – Patti Page
28. Sweet Violets – Dinah Shore
29. The Glory Of Love – The Five Keys
30. Rose, Rose, I Love You – Frankie Laine
31. Down Yonder – Del Wood
32. Bad, Bad Whiskey – Amos Milburn and his Aladdin Chickenshackers
33. Hello, Young Lovers – Perry Como
34. I’m In The Mood – John Lee Hooker
35. The Syncopated Clock – Leroy Anderson & his Orchestra
36. Mister And Mississippi – Patti Page
37. That’s My Boy – Stan Freburg
38. My Heart Cries for You – Vic Damone
39. Would I Love You (Love You, Love You) – Patti Page
40. Tell Me Why – The Four Aces

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.

The listing of Tennessee Waltz is bound to creat some confusion on this chart, as most sources list it as a 1950 song. Fact is it spent 8 weeks at number one in 1951, and received its greatest airplay during ’51. It spent a couple weeks at the top position in 1950, but competed with Christmas music at that time. With the bulk of its airplay and popularity during 1951, we have to call Tennessee Waltz the most important song of the year.

And so Patti Page has five songs on this list, and would probably have more if it was strictly by sales. Time and time again we’re asked who was the most important female vocalist in the history of American Popular Song. Barbra Streisand was more of a diva. Dinah Shore sang more “perfectly.” Doris Day became a bigger all-around star. Rosemary Clooney and Ethel Merman had more panache. Ella Fitzgerald started it all. But time and time again it goes back to Patti Page, who out-sold and out-charted all of them. As of this writing, she hasn’t become a pop deity like Ella or Rosemary, but eventually Patti will receive the attention and honor she so richly deserves.

One artist who has certainly achieved legend status is Hank Williams Sr., but mostly in regards to country music. While the Nashville crowd claims him, the song scholar should be aware of the huge influence Williams Sr. had on the pop charts during his meteoric success. While Bennett’s version of Cold, Cold Heart lacks the grittiness of the original, it was number one in the nation during 1951. Williams’ popularity and the rise of Mitch Miller in the Columbia ranks (after his Mercury success with Patti Page and Tennessee Waltz) definitely brought a “country” twang to the airwaves; other country-influenced sounds on the chart above include Mockingbird Hill and On Top of Ol’ Smokey, two of the biggest hits of the year.

Other than its obvious country/western undertones, Mockingbird Hill is a typical song of the late 1940s and early 1950s in that it spent time on the charts in multiple versions by competing artists. Les Paul & Mary Ford’s version is today regarded as “better” than Patti Page’s, however, the styles are so different that any comparison is inaccurate. Guy Mitchell and Vic Damone were both on the charts with My Heart Cries for You, but it was simply par for the course. Artists had a mild competition between one another, but it was seldom acrimonious.

Imagine the gangsta rap stars of today having to share the top ten with competing versions of their own songs. How about the pop divas? Patti Page and Dinah Shore took it in stride, and often sang together on television and special appearances.

Speaking of Dinah, Sweet Violets was one of her last huge hits. It was sort of a cultural phenomenon at the time, as the twists and turns of the lyrics were quite attention getting. It inspired plenty of imitators and alternate versions, including one by the aptly named Sweet Violet Boys. Although it was originally written in 1882, the melody was obviously timeless — Dinah put the song to #3 on Billboard and #1 on Cashbox. It’s surprising that the song hasn’t been successfully re-recorded over the years.

That recording was knocked off the top of the Cashbox charts by Come-on-a-my-House by Rosemary Clooney. Although Rosemary is better known today for her legacy of soulful vocals like Tenderly, it really was the quirky, catchy songs like this and the later Botch-A-Me that best captured her straightforward style. Sadly, some historians can’t accept this, and try to pigeonhole Clooney as just a “torch” singer or even a jazz singer. She was so much more.

A couple of artists were at the peak of their careers in 1951, including The Weavers and Les Paul and Mary Ford. Two artists that were on the rise were Tony Bennett and Vic Damone, both of whom would carry the banner for “crooners” through the next few decades. The Weavers would drop from the charts within a year or two as “subversives” or “anti-Americanism.” You’ll be pleased to know that they continued to sing simple folk songs and songs of freedom long after the persecuting politicians all died off.