DEAR JERRY: The 1960s is sometimes called "the decade of the singer-songwriter." The implication is that the stars from the preceding decade may not have been as multi-talented. Can you quantify the difference between the '50s and '60s in this regard?
Justin Dugger, Portsmouth, Ohio
DEAR JUSTIN: The '60s deserves to be known as the decade of the singer-songwriter. It was the first decade where there were multiple No. 1 tunes written, or co-written, by the recording artists, every year.
From 1960 to 1969, the total number of singer-songwriter chart-toppers is 95, resulting in an annual average of nearly 10 percent about four times more than in the 1950s.
Surprisingly, half of the decade (1950; 1951; 1954; 1955; and 1956) didn't have any singer-songwriters atop the charts.
Credit this in part to the significant increase in the number of groups; the greater the number of members, the better the chance for a homegrown song.
There are only three 1950's groups that reached No. 1, and coincidentally each is a trio: the Crickets (1957); Teddy Bears (1958); and Fleetwoods (1959). Compare that to the 152 No. 1 hits by two or more member acts in the next decade.
Chronologically, with performing and writing credits taken directly from the original single, these are the folks who accomplished what very few could in the 1950s:
"Blue Tango" by Leroy Anderson Pops Concert Orchestra (instrumental)
Writer: Leroy Anderson (Decca 9-27875)
"Slow Poke" by Pee Wee King and His Band Featuring Redd Stewart
Writers: Pee Wee King - Redd Stewart (RCA Victor 47-4603)
"It's in the Book (Parts 1 & 2)" by Johnny Standley with Horace Heidt and His Musical Knights
Writer: Johnny Standley (Capitol F2249)
"Eh, Cumpari" by Julius La Rosa with Orchestra Conducted by Archie Bleyer
Writers: "Adaptation by Julius La Rosa and Archie Bleyer" (Cadence 1232)
"St. George and the Dragonet" by Stan Freberg with Orchestra
Writers: [Stan] Freberg - [Daws] Butler - [Walter] Schumann (Capitol F2596)
"Party Doll" by Buddy Knox with the Orchids backed with "I'm Stickin' With You" by Jim Bowen with the Orchids
Writer (Side 1): Buddy Knox (Triple-D 797)
Writers (Side 2): Jim Bowen - Buddy Knox (Triple-D 798)
This first issue did not chart in 1956, and is here for reference only. In early 1957, after being picked up for distribution by Roulette Records, "Party Doll" zoomed up the charts, becoming the first No. 1 R&R hit written by the artist.
"Party Doll" artist credit changed to: Buddy Knox with the Rhythm Orchids
Writers now: Bowen - Knox (Roulette R-4002)
For this single, the B-side is "My Baby's Gone," and Jimmy Bowen's "I'm Stickin' With You" was a completely different release (Roulette R-4001).
"Diana" by Paul Anka with Orchestra and Chorus Conducted by Don Costa
Writer: Paul Anka (ABC-Paramount 45-9831)
"That'll Be the Day" by The Crickets
Writers: Jerry Allison - Buddy Holly - Norman Petty. Allison and Holly were Crickets (Brunswick 9-55009)
"Raunchy" by Bill Justis and His Orchestra (instrumental)
Writers: [William] Justis - [Sidney] Manker (Phillips P-309)
"Tequila" by The Champs (instrumental)
Writer: Chuck Rio, of the Champs (Challenge 1016)
"Witch Doctor" by The Music of David Seville
Writer: R. Bagdasarian (a.k.a., David Seville) (Liberty F-55132)
"The Purple People Eater" by Sheb Wooley
Writer: Sheb Wooley (M-G-M K12651)
"Patricia" by Perez Prado and His Orch. (instrumental)
Writer: Perez Prado (RCA Victor 47-7245)
"Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu (Nell-Blue Dee-Peento De Blue) (Volare)" by Domenico Modugno with Fonit Orchestra
Writers: F. [Franco] Migliacci - Domenico Modugno (Decca 9-30677)
"Little Star" by The Elegants
Writers: [Arthur] Venosa - [Vito] Picone. Both were Elegants with Picone being the lead singer (APT 45-25005)
"It's Only Make Believe" by Conway Twitty
Writers: [Conway] Twitty - [Jack] Nance (M-G-M K12677)
"To Know Him, Is to Love Him" by The Teddy Bears
Writer: Phillip Spector, one of the Teddy Bears (Dore 45-503)
"The Chipmunk Song (Alvin, Theodore & Simon)" by The Chipmunks with the Music of David Seville
Writer: Ross Bagdasarian (a.k.a., David Seville) (Liberty F-55168)
"Stagger Lee" by Lloyd Price with Don Costa Orchestra
Writers: [Leon Gross] Archibald - [Lloyd] Price - [Harold] Logan (ABC-Paramount 459972)
"Come Softly to Me" by The Fleetwoods
Writers: [Gary] Troxel - [Gretchen] Christopher - [Barbara] Ellis, all three Fleetwoods (Dolphin No. 1)
"The Happy Organ" artist credit is Featuring at the Organ Dave 'Baby' Cortez (instrumental)
Writers: [Ken] Wood - [David Cortez] Clowney - [James] Kriegsmann (Clock C-1009)
"Lonely Boy" by Paul Anka (Arranged and Conducted by Don Costa)
Writer: P. [Paul] Anka (ABC-Paramount 45-10,022)
"Sleep Walk" by Santo & Johnny (instrumental)
Writers: [Santo] Farina - [Johnny] Farina - [Ann] Farina (Canadian American 103)
IZ ZAT SO? Another way to quantify the difference between the two decades is by comparing the total No. 1 songs for each, and the percentage of those that are by singer-songwriters.
1950s: Of 154 total No. 1 hits, 23 (14.9 percent) were created in-house, as documented above.
1960s: Of 256 No. 1 hits, 95 (37.1 percent), more than double the 1950's total, were created by the performing artists.