Popular Songs of 1958

Peggy Lee publicity photo from the Fever era

1. Fever – Peggy Lee
2. Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu (Volare) – Domenico Modugno
3. All I Have to Do is Dream – The Everly Brothers
4. Tequila – The Champs
5. Come Fly With Me – Frank Sinatra
6. It’s All in the Game – Tommy Edwards
7. Sugartime – The McGuire Sisters
8. Catch a Falling Star – Perry Como
9. Don’t – Elvis Presley
10. Tom Dooley – The Kingston Trio
11. Poor Little Fool – Ricky Nelson
12. It’s Only Make Believe – Conway Twitty
13. To Know Him Is to Love Him – Teddy Bears
14. Patricia – Perez Prado
15. You Are My Destiny – Paul Anka
16. Oh Oh I’m Falling in Love Again – Jimmie Rodgers
17. 16 Candles – The Crests
18. Little Star – The Elegants
19. Purple People Eater – Sheb Wooley
20. Twilight Time – The Platters
21. Who’s Sorry Now? – Connie Francis
22. Witch Doctor – David Seville
23. Teacher’s Pet – Doris Day
24. He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands – Laurie London
25. Return To Me (Rittorna A Me) – Dean Martin
26. Magic Moments – Perry Como
27. Stardust – Pat Boone
28. Bird Dog – The Everly Brothers
29. Left Right Out Of Your Heart – Patti Page
30. Rawhide – Frankie Laine
31. The Chipmunk Song – David Seville
32. Everybody Loves a Lover – Doris Day
33. Summertime, Summertime – The Jamies
34. Tea for Two (Cha Cha) – Tommy Dorsey Orchestra
35. Secretly – Jimmie Rodgers
36. Donna – Ritchie Valens
37. Whatever Lola Wants – Georgia Gibbs
38. Kewpie Doll – Perry Como
39. Stupid Cupid – Connie Francis
40. Are You Really Mine? – Jimmie Rodgers

Before reviewing the 1958 chart too closely, it helps to review the text between the two versions of the PopularSong.org 1957 chart. It describes how, after 1958, songs that are patently “rock and roll” will not be included in charts from 1958-1970 (1970 is the last year covered in this format).

Rock and Roll…or Popular Song?

It is a matter of judgement, and you can be sure that some songs are difficult to place. Many of the songs listed above are not “popular song” in the traditional sense that they fit the mold of a Rodgers & Hart composition, or Irving Berlin, or whatever. So the question becomes, should the canon of American popular song be limited to that sound? If so, the list above would be much shorter, and populated by a couple of recordings you’re scarcely familiar with.

One of the main purposes of PopularSong.org is to demonstrate how the genre goes “on and on,” just like the snippet from Neil Diamond’s American Popular Song.

The litmus test used at PopularSong.org is the Perry Como/Dinah Shore/Mills Brothers/Glenn Miller test. It goes like this: For any given song, could one of the above artists have performed that song, and stayed true to their style? For a male vocal, we use Como. Female vocal, Shore; group vocal, we use the Mills Brothers. And for instrumentals, we imagine Glenn Miller giving it one of his perfect arrangements. In short, could one of those artists “pull it off?”

Well, we can’t imagine Mr. C. doing justice to Hard Headed Woman or Ritchie Valens’ Let’s Go, but we sure wouldn’t mind his stylings on Elvis’ Don’t or Valens’ Donna. As for Tequila, long regarded as a rock party song, the melody line is so much a part of American culture that Miller would have no problem sorting it in with American Patrol. Likewise, the Crests bill themselves as early rock and rollers, but you know the Mills Brothers could’ve done 16 Candles with nary a rehearsal.

So we’ll take a moment, and list a few of the hit songs that don’t make the chart above.

  • Breathless – Jerry Lee Lewis
  • Let’s Go – Ritchie Valens
  • Get a Job – The Silhouettes
  • Great Balls of Fire – Jerry Lee Lewis
  • Johnny B.Goode – Chuck Berry
  • Maybe Baby – Buddy Holly
  • Rave On – Buddy Holly
  • Rock And Roll Is Here To Stay – Danny & the Juniors
  • Rockin’ Robin – Bobby Day
  • Summertime Blues – Eddie Cochran
  • Short Shorts – Royal Teens
  • Sweet Little 16 – Chuck Berry

Virtually all of those songs have had a lasting impact on the course of rock music, and as such, their influence is felt in the popular song arena as well. It is quite likely that — given enough time — a few of them will move into the realm of “standards.” For now they remain “rock and standards.” While Perry might’ve worked out Rock and Roll is Here to Stay as a fun little number, it’s doubtful that Summertime Blues would’ve graced one of his NBC specials. Actually,
he could’ve made it work, and it is probably a safe bet that the Mills Brothers took a crack at it. But unfortunately any of this would be overshadowed by The Who’s rendition at Woodstock, which places it firmly in the rock canon.

So did rock and roll kill off American Popular Song as so many are prone to claim? The answer is no, it simply re-directed it. It would take another five years before a true rock and roll song would top the annual chart. Of the 40 songs on the list at left, only 15 of them might be considered rock and roll crossovers. But the influence is there; up and comers like Connie Francis and Jimmie Rodgers would never be mistaken for rock and rollers, but they certainly had more of a rock sound than Doris Day or Frank Sinatra in ’58.

A bit of a sentimental inclusion on this list: The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra had a hit record five years after Tommy passed away. It wasn’t quite a hit to the extent that the late Jimmy Dorsey had a year earlier with So Rare, but it was a hit none the less. Although the real heyday of the big band was long gone, it is a fact that a few surviving bands — as well as some smaller, “college” acts — were making the rounds of theatres and smaller venues. Television was stiff competition, but the acts who scaled back were able to make a living.

Rock and roll may have been here to stay in 1958, but traditional pop wasn’t going away.