1950s EASY-POP Songs and Singers...on the verge of Rock 'n Roll
Spoken Word Recordings of the 50s and 60s
Shifting, Whispering Sands Rusty Draper 1955 #3 and by Billy Vaughn’s orchestra 1955 #5 Narration: Ken Nordine
What Is a Wife Steve Allen 1955 #56
(The) Ship That Never Sailed David Carroll 1957 #65 and by Billy Vaughn’s orchestra 1957 #95 Narration: Ken Nordine
What Is a Teenage Girl? Tom Edwards 1957 #57
What Is a Teenage Boy? Tom Edwards 1957 #96
Ten Commandments of Love Harvey & the Moonglows 1958 #22
(The) Teen Commandments Paul Anka, George Hamilton, and Johnny Nash 1959 #29
(The) Three Stars Tommy Dee 1959 #11
(The) Three Stars Ruby Wright 1959 #99
Big Bad John Jimmy Dean 1961 #1
Old Rivers Walter Brennan 1962 #5
P.T. 109 Jimmy Dean 1962 #8
Ten Commandments of Love James MacArthur 1963 #94
(The) Men in My Little Girl’s Life Mike Douglas 1966 #6
Gallant Men Senator Everett Dirksen 1966 #29
We Love You, Call Collect Art Linkletter 1969 #42
Popular Spoken Word Recordings
In addition to the novelty records there were a series of ‘talking’ or ‘spoken word’ recordings released during the fifties. In this genre, the artist would deliver the lyrics/dialog in a speaking voice, backed by an appropriate orchestral arrangement and chorus. While novelty songs tend to be light, amusing, and irreverent, spoken word recordings tend to be more serious, personal, and sentimental. Shifting, Whispering Sands was so successful in 1955 that two different versions made the top-five. Searching for the secrets of the settlers and miners in the desert, it tells of the mystery known only to the shifting, whispering sands. If you want to know the secret—listen to the sands. Country singer, Rusty Draper’s version climbed to #3 on the charts and Billy Vaughn and his orchestra with narration by Ken Nordine, the ‘guru of word jazz,’ reached #5 in the same year.
The Three Stars was a tribute to the three young singers, Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and the Big Bopper who were killed in a tragic plane accident near Mason City, Iowa on February 3, 1959. The Three Stars was released a month later. The most popular version had narration by Tommy Dee and singing by Carol Kay and the Teen-Aires.
Old Rivers was a huge hit for veteran film character actor, Walter Brennen. The three-time Academy Award winner appeared in more than 100 motion pictures. On the TV show ‘The Real McCoys’ (1957-1963), he was Grandpa, the porch-rockin’, gol-darnin’, consarnin’ old codger with the wheezy voice. Old Rivers is the story of a close relationship between a dog and an old man. His “Old Rivers and me” recording placed in the top-five in 1962.
Jimmy Dean’s 1962 recording P.T. 109 was an account of president John F. Kennedy’s 1943 heroism in World War II after his torpedo boat was destroyed. Even politicians like the gravely voiced United States Senator from Illinois, Everett McKinley Dirksen, released spoken word recordings. Gallant Men, an ultra patriotic salute to the United States Armed Forces, was a top-thirty hit in December of 1966.