Popular Songs of 1952

rosemary clooney
Rosemary Clooney

1. Cry – Johnnie Ray
2. Unforgettable – Nat King Cole
3. Wheel of Fortune – Kay Starr
4. You Belong To Me – Jo Stafford
5. The Glow Worm – Mills Brothers
6. Auf Wiederdseh’n Sweetheart – Vera Lynn
7. Please, Mister Sun – Johnnie Ray
8. A Guy Is A Guy – Doris Day
9. Heart and Soul – Four Aces
10. Tenderly – Rosemary Clooney
11. Anytime – Eddie Fisher
12. Why Don’t You Believe In Me – Joni James
13. Botch-A-Me (Ba-Ba-Baciami Piccina) – Rosemary Clooney
14. Lawdy Miss Clawdy – Lloyd Price
15. Here In My Heart – Al Martino
16. Slow Poke – Pee Wee King
17. A Kiss To Build A Dream On – Louis Armstrong
18. Delicado – Percy Faith
19. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus – Jimmy Boyd
20. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – Guy Mitchell
21. Jambalaya (On The Bayou) – Hank Williams
22. Night Train – Jimmy Forest
23. Night Train – Buddy Morrow
24. High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me) – Frankie Lane
25. I Wish You Were Here – Eddie Fisher
26. 5-10-15 Hours – Ruth Brown
27. It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels – Kitty Wells
28. Kiss Of Fire – Georgia Gibbs
29. Blue Tango – Leroy Anderson
30. I Went To Your Wedding – Patti Page
31. I’m Yours – Eddie Fisher
32. Heart And Soul – The Four Aces
33. Here In My Heart – Vic Damone
34. Maybe – Perry Como & Eddie Fisher
35. Be My Life’s Companion – The Mills Brothers
36. Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me – Karen Chandler
37. Half As Much – Rosemary Clooney
38. I’ll Walk Alone – Don Cornell
39. To Know You – Perry Como
40. Have Mercy Baby – The Dominoes

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.

Most importantly, the list is weighted by lasting popularity and a particular recording’s impact on the course and future of popular song. For example, Percy Faith’s Delicado out-charted and out-sold quite a few of the songs listed higher (it reached #1 on the Billboard charts), but has not had the lasting popularity of many others on this roster.

Commentary…country crossover Hank Williams is represented twice on this list, once with Jambalaya and again with Rosemary Clooney’s recording of his song, Half As Much. It was typical of the time for a softened “cover” recording to outsell popular r & b and c & w hits. Two notable exceptions in 1952 were Jimmy Forest’s Night Train and Kitty Wells’ It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels.

Buddy Morrow’s cover recording of Night Train only enjoyed modest success on the pop charts, while Forest’s ruled the r & b charts. Interestingly enough, it is Morrow’s cover version that has endured through the years — definitely not the norm for cover records. Both version are ranked consecutively in the chart above; feel free to change the order if you’d like. It really is a toss-up.

As far as the Kitty Wells tune, It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels. it is most likely that pop music producers had their eye on this, but it was understood that popular songs could not feature God in the title unless they were inspirational songs. This was akin to “taking the Lord’s name in vain,” which at the time was displayed as part of the Ten Commandments in virtually every school room in the nation. The barrier wouldn’t be broken until the 1966 release of the Brian Wilson penned God Only Knows. It certainly wasn’t something to attempt in 1952 — particularly in a title that gave equal billing to honky tonks!

A couple of other things to note here…Johnnie Ray commanded the charts for months with Cry, but it was really Eddie Fisher’s year. His hits either topped the charts or lurked near the top throughout 1952, but only Anytime has reallyshown much staying power over time. Truth be told Eddie’s Lady of Spain could also be in this top forty, as it is he’s got 10% of the chart.

Rosemary Clooney has three tunes ranked, and fans will agree that Tenderly was her biggest and most lasting. Oddly enough it was only a modest seller by Clooney standards in ’52. The almost embarrassing Botch-A-Me was her biggest chart and sales success of the year. Hmmm…how’d this happen? Just a few years later Tenderly was selected to be the theme song for her TV show…and has had a lasting presence as a signature Rosemary Clooney song.

Here in My Heart charted nicely for both Al Martino and Vic Damone, and was recorded by other artists as well. It was commonplace at this time for “competing” singles to be on the charts, and listeners simply didn’t mind hearing both versions played regularly — sometimes one after the other. Remember that there wasn’t a huge library of recorded music that sounded good. “Oldies” were scratchy or sounded hollow. Even recordings from just ten years earlier were not of the same sound quality; radio DJs felt it better to play two versions of the same song than fill out their time slots with dated sounds.

Similarly, quite a few versions of High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me) were popular in 1952. In fact it was Tex Ritter’s that won an Academy Award, but Frankie Laine’s received more pop airplay over the years.

Chart Movements

Over time the editors review each of these lists, and evaluate changes in popularity as certain songs enjoy a resurgence in popularity for whatever reason. Since the original publication of this list, two songs that have moved up are A Kiss to Build a Dream On by Louis Armstrong, and Here in My Heart by Al Martino.