1950s EASY-POP Songs and Singers...on the verge of Rock 'n Roll
Popular Novelty Songs recorded in the 50s:
Rag Mop Ames Brothers 1950 #1
(The) Thing Phil Harris 1950 #1
If I knew You Were Comin’ I’d’ve Baked a Cake Eileen Barton 1950 #1 and by Georgia Gibbs 1950 #5
Orange Colored Sky Nat King Cole 1950 #5
Come On-A My House Rosemary Clooney 1951 #1
Sweet Violets Dinah Shore 1951 #3
John and Marsha Stan Freberg 1951 #21
It’s In the Book Johnny Standley 1952 #1
(The) Doggie in the Window Patti Page 1953 #1
St. George & the Dragonet Stan Freberg 1953 #1
Purple Cow Doris Day 1953 #25
This Ole House Rosemary Clooney 1954 #1
Mr. Sandman Chordettes 1954 #1
Somebody Bad Stole de Wedding Bell (Who’s Got de Ding-Dong) Eartha Kitt 1954 #16 and by Georgia Gibbs 1954 #18
What It Was, Was Football Andy Griffith 1954 #9
(The) Yellow Rose of Texas Mitch Miller 1955 #1
(The) Yellow Rose of Texas (Parody) Stan Freberg 1955 #16 Sixteen Tons (Work song) Tennessee Ernie Ford 1955 #1
Naughty Lady of Shady Lane Ames Brothers 1955 #3
Hot Diggity (Dog Ziggity Boom) Perry Como 1956 #1
Witch Doctor David Seville 1958 #1
(The) Purple People Eater Sheb Wooley 1958 #1
Beep Beep The Play-Mates 1958 #4
(The) Little Blue Man Betty Johnson 1958 #17
Short Shorts The Royal Teens 1958 #3
(The) Three Bells The Browns 1959 #1
Mr. Custer Larry Verne 1960 #1
Delaware Perry Como 1960 #22
1950s Novelty Songs
It is difficult to provide a specific definition for a novelty song. Any number of topics would lend themselves to novelty recordings during the fifties. The category includes songs that depend on nonsense syllables, plays-on-words, or unexpected misunderstandings of lyrics. Novelties can also include songs about imaginary creatures and childish human attributes to animals. The label ‘novelty song’ is a bit pejorative, it suggests music that amuses for just a moment and is then discarded. But memorable novelty recordings express a comic point of view with a longer lasting, universal appeal.
Novelty songs were not new in the fifties, they were just as popular, maybe more so, in the forties with: Woody Woodpecker; Mairzy Doats; Jingle, Jangle, Jingle; I’m My Own Grandpa; Chickery Chick; ‘A’ You’re Adorable; Huggin’ and Chalkin’; and I’m a Lonely Little Petunia (in an onion patch). Zany Spike Jones and his City Slickers displayed their eccentric, eclectic style with hits including parodies of pop ballads Cocktails for Two and Holiday for Strings and, taking aim at Adolph Hitler, their clever, satirical Der Fuehrer’s Face.
Novelty songs continued to be popular throughout the fifties, often resulting in a top-ten hit song. The Ames Brothers recording of Naughty Lady of Shady Lane leads the listener to believe that the song is about a ‘loose woman’ with phrases like “see the things they try to pin on her” and “she just needs someone to change her” when, in the last sentence of the song, it is revealed that they have been singing about a newborn baby.
Brilliant satirist Stan Freberg created several hit novelty records during the fifties including John and Marsha (a satirical look at radio soap operas); St. George and the Dragonet (based on the popular ‘Dragnet’ TV show); The Yellow Rose of Texas (a satire on Mitch Miller’s hit recording, with a confounding snare drummer drowning out the chorus); Banana Boat (a take on Harry Belafonte’s calypso hit Day-O); and Wun’erful, Wun’erful (a parody of popular bandleader Lawrence Welk).
Perry Como’s Delaware, set to a martial beat and sounding like a marching song, is a clever use of the names of states asking questions like:What did Della wear? (She wore a brand New Jersey); and What did Misa sip? (She sipped a Minni soda). It was written by tunesmith Irving Gordon, who wrote the Abbott and Costello comedy routine ‘Who’s on First?’ decades earlier. Doris Day’s I Said My Pajamas and I Put on My Prayers was another song based on a play-on-words.
Both Eartha Kitt and Georgia Gibbs had a top-twenty hit with the same novelty song Somebody Bad Stole de Wedding Bell (Who’s Got de Ding Dong) in 1954. Extraterrestrials, popular in films and TV shows in the fifties, were also the subject of several novelty songs including The Thing, The Little Blue Man, and The Purple People Eater. All three recordings made the top-twenty during the decade.