1950s EASY-POP Songs and Singers...on the verge of Rock 'n Roll
Popular Instrumentals recorded during the 50s
(The) Third Man Theme Anton Karas 1950 #1 and by Guy Lombardo 1950 #1
Laura Stan Kenton & orchestra 1951 #12
Blue Tango Leroy Anderson & orchestra 1951 #1
Delicado Percy Faith 1952 #1
April in Portugal Les Baxter & orchestra 1953 #2
(The) Song from ‘Moulin Rouge’ Percy Faith with Felicia Sanders 1953 #1
(The) High and the Mighty Les Baxter & orchestra 1954 #4
Melody of Love Billy Vaughn 1955 #2
Cherry Pink & Apple Blossom White Perez Prado & orchestra 1955 #1
Unchained Melody Les Baxter 1955 #1
Autumn Leaves Roger Williams 1955 #1
Lisbon Antigua Nelson Riddle 1956 #1
(The) Poor People of Paris Les Baxter & orchestra 1956 #1
Moonglow / Theme from ‘Picnic’ Morris Stoloff 1956 #1
Man With the Golden Arm Richard Maltby 1956 #14
Portuguese Washerwomen Joe ‘Fingers’ Carr 1956 #19
Around the World in 80 Days Mantovani 1957 #12
So Rare Jimmy Dorsey 1957 #2
Patricia Perez Prado 1958 #1
Manhattan Spiritual Reg Owen 1958 #10
(The) Happy Organ Dave ‘Baby’ Cortez 1959 #1
Quiet Village Martin Denny 1959 #4
(Theme from) A Summer Place Percy Faith 1960 #1
1950s Instrumental Hits
For a decade that favored vocalists, the 1950s still welcomed instrumental music. The range of styles included Anton Karas’ zither and Les Paul’s electric guitar. Keyboard artists included Julliard-trained pianist Roger Williams, honky tonk pianist Joe ‘Fingers’ Carr, and happy organist Dave ‘Baby’ Cortez.
As the vocalists began to dominate popular music, big bands began a significant reduction in the size of their rosters to survive economically in the post-war years. Bebop with its small combos and lack of traditional pop structure took off from mainstream swing in one direction, while rhythm ‘n’ blues and all its components took off in another direction leading inevitably to rock ‘n’ roll. Still, rather than isolate certain musical styles as ‘out of the mainstream’ the decade of the 50s seemed open to anything and everything—and that’s just what it got.
Stan Kenton, with instrumental hits in the forties and fifties including Laura in 1951, was one of the first to add violins in his arrangements, blurring the distinction between a band and an orchestra. Les Baxter’s fiddle-laden Poor People of Paris (Jean’s Song) was a #1 hit in the mid-fifties.
Music from south of the boarder, Latin, tango, and mambo rhythms, became the latest-hot-thing in fifties instrumental pop music. Les Baxter’s April in Portugal had a cha-cha rhythm and Cuban bandleader Perez Prado’s exhilarating brass punctuated Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White.
Martin Denny brought exotic sounds, offering unusual explorations of music from foreign lands. In his Quiet Village, birdcalls and resonant vibes placed sounds of the jungle into a jazzy palatable setting. Les Paul popularized a dense sound created by overdubbing his electric guitar and overdubbing the vocals from his wife, Mary Ford. Percy Faith, Nelson Riddle, and Billy Vaughn brought their talents as arrangers to instrumental hit recordings of their own.