Monday, July 20, 2009
Your Hit Parade...sounds from the past
My 12-year-old grandson is always playing some rock or rap song on his radio or CD player. I’m not a fan of his music styles, but I remember how it was when I slunk my way through the teens. We wouldn’t miss the Saturday night radio show, Your Hit Parade, for fear of banishment. It featured the week’s top songs, sung by people like “Wee” Bonnie Baker, Lanny Ross and Bea Wain. We’d stop by the drug store and pick up a sheet that listed the week’s top hits, along with their lyrics. For those we didn’t already know, we promptly memorized the words.
That was before portable radios, so we had to gather in somebody’s house around something like my parents Atwater Kent, a long box with a separate speaker. We’d try to guess which song would be in the top spot. The year 1939 was particularly memorable. The top song of the year, which spent many weeks on Your Hit Parade, was Glenn Miller’s signature Moonlight Serenade.
It also brought such zany ditties as Kay Kyser’s Three Little Fishies, with the nonsense lines “Boop boop dit-tem dat-tem what-tem Chu!” It was the year that highlighted God Bless America, popularized by Kate Smith, and the still-heard-around-Octoberfest oompah song Beer Barrel Polka. For jazz buffs there was Woody Herman’s Woodchoppers Ball.
Two more Glenn Miller songs made the list, In the Mood and Sunrise Serenade, as did Judy Garland’s most famous number, Over the Rainbow. Then there was one of my favorite songs to play on the piano, back when I could still play the piano, Deep Purple. Rounding out the year was another favorite of mine, the haunting Blues in the Night, called by one critic “probably the greatest blues song ever written.”
Blues in the Night was a collaboration between Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen. When researching Your Hit Parade, I found at one point during this period, Mercer had five of the top ten songs on the program. He sang on the show at one point and was a prolific song writer for years, penning scores of hits.
Two Nashville singers went on to fame from spots on the show, Dinah Shore and Snooky Lanson. Your Hit Parade was popular with teens in the thirties and continued into the forties and fifties as a TV show. Frank Sinatra was once on the TV segment. The sponsor was always Lucky Strike cigarettes. One of the features was a tobacco auctioneer who chanted away for a commercial. One, L. A. “Speed” Riggs of Goldsboro, NC became a household name during the run of the program.
I’ll sign off this trip down Memory Lane with the show's familiar closing theme, So Long for A While:
So long for a while.
That's all the songs for a while.
So long to Your Hit Parade,
And the songs that you picked to be played.