1. Mr Sandman – The Chordettes
2. Little Things Mean A Lot – Kitty Kallen
3. Sh-Boom (Life Could Be A Dream) – The Crew-Cuts
4. Secret Love – Doris Day
5. Hey There – Rosemary Clooney
6. Shake Rattle and Roll – Bill Haley and The Comets
7. Cry – Johnny Ray
8. Three Coins In The Fountain – The Four Aces
9. Oh! My Papa – Eddie Fisher
10. Make Love To Me! – Jo Stafford
11. Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight – The McGuire Sisters
12. This Ole House – Rosemary Clooney
13. Papa Loves Mambo – Perry Como
14. Wanted – Perry Como
15. Young At Heart – Frank Sinatra
16. Till Then – Hilltoppers
17. Sincerely – McGuire Sisters
18. Naughty Lady of Shady Lane – Ames Brothers
19. I Need You Now – Eddie Fisher
20. Let Me Go, Lover – Joan Weber
21. Smile – Nat King Cole
22. Answer Me, My Love – Nat King Cole
23. If You Love Me (Really Love Me) – Kay Starr
24. You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You – The Mills Brothers
25. Hearts Of Stone – The Fontane Sisters
26. Mambo Italiano – Rosemary Clooney
27. In the Chapel in the Moonlight – Kitty Kallen
28. Cross Over The Bridge – Patti Page
29. Sway – Dean Martin
30. Baubles, Bangles & Beads – Peggy Lee
31. If I Give My Heart to You – Doris Day
32. Opus One – The Mills Brothers
33. Such A Night – Johnny Ray
34. What It Was, Was Football (Parts I & II) – Andy Griffith
35. What a Dream – Patti Page
36. Darling, Je Vous Aime Beaucoup – Nat King Cole
37. Am I A Toy Or A Treasure – Kay Starr
38. I Cried – Patti Page
39. Whither Thou Goest – Les Paul and Mary Ford
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, Perry Como’s Wanted out-charted and out-sold quite a few of the songs listed higher — especially Como’s own Papa Loves Mambo, but it simply isn’t as well known today.
Commentary…Anyone who remembers 1954 does a sudden “oh yeah” whenever they hear the #2 song on this list, Little Things Mean A Lot. Vocalist Kitty Kallen positively grabbed the #1 spot on the pop charts from the end of May to the beginning of August. Were it not for the instant recognizability across generations of Mr. Sandman today, the order above would be reversed. But the fact is that most late generation baby boomers don’t know Little Things, although it is a much more powerful tune than the vivacious Mr. Sandman. So vivacious wins, and that’s not so bad…pop music today could use more vivacious and less attitude.
Kind of a tough year for Patti Page, who ruled the early 1950s, no question. No number ones, nevertheless she put three on this chart. Two other female vocalists did a back-and-forth at number one early in the year; Doris Day’s Secret Love was simply terrific, yo-yo-ing with Jo Stafford’s Make Love To Me until Mr. C’s Wanted started its seven week run at the top spot.
One oddball inclusion here is What it Was, Was Football, a comedy recording by Andy Griffith. If you ever questioned Griffith’s stature as an all-around entertainer, don’t. Success on stage, in film and on television were preceded by massive success as a comedian. This corn-pone interpretation of a football game recorded in 1953 sold over 900,000 records.
Had this list been made 30 years ago it would’ve looked quite different. At that time the influence of Sh-boom for being the first “bop” record to break through to a mainstream audience was still a widely-held opinion. Mr. Sandman hadn’t yet enjoyed its resurgence via movie soundtracks. Cry and Oh My Papa still had plenty of radio airplay on the various formats of the 1960s and 70s. Those two might’ve been first in a 1974 review of 1954, followed by Three Coins in the Fountain. Today all three are more or less relegated to “quaint.”
Bubbling just under this roster was a smooth country vocalist named Jim Reeves, Nashville’s answer to the fame enjoyed by pop “crooners.” His hit Bimbo would be on this list, but sadly time has relegated that song to almost-forgotten status.
In the deep south, an independent Memphis record company released a song called That’s Alright by a trio called “Elvis with Scotty and Bill.” The future was at hand.