Georgia on My Mind / Ray Charles – 58.82% (3rd round) Only the Lonely / Roy Orbison – 58.82% (3rd round) Wake Up Little Susie / The Everly Brothers – 58.82% (6th round) Runaway / Del Shannon – 52.94% (2nd round) That’ll Be the Day / The Crickets – 52.94% (5th round) Green Onions / Booker T & The M.G.’s – 52.94% (1st round) You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me / The Miracles – 52.94% (1st round) I Fall to Pieces / Patsy Cline – 47.05% (2nd round) Tutti Frutti / Little Richard – 47.05% (8th round) Wonderful World / Sam Cooke – 47.05% (3rd round) Love Me Do / The Beatles – 47.05% (1st round) The Wanderer / Dion – 41.17% (2nd round) Sherry / The Four Seasons – 41.17% (1st round) Mack the Knife / Bobby Darin – 35.29% (4th round) You Don’t Know Me / Ray Charles – 35.29% (1st round)
Eliminated from the ballot
Runaround Sue La Bamba / Ritchie Valens – 29.41% (5th round) Please Mr. Postman / The Marvelettes – 23.52% (2nd round) I Can’t Stop Loving You / Ray Charles – 23.52% (1st round) Miserlou / Dick Dale and the Del-Tones – 17.64% (1st round) If I Had a Hammer / Peter, Paul and Mary – 17.64% (1st round) The Loco-Motion / Little Eva – 11.76% (1st round) Telstar / The Tornados – 11.76% (1st round) He’s a Rebel / The Crystals – 11.76% (1st round)
1952! The second stop on our voyage to discover and enshrine the truly elite rock ‘n’ roll songs: The Hall of Songs.
Both politically and culturally, 1952 was a year of change and unrest. Harry Truman decided not to seek a second term and Dwight Eisenhower was elected President. In the United Kingdom, King George VI died and Queen Elizabeth succeeded to the Throne. We’re starting to see a tug-of-war develop as the Greatest Generation makes way (or not) to the Baby Boomer Generation.
Musically, the U.S. charts are still a mess and trying to keep up with the times while the UK charts are born. Greater access to radio means more music and more varied music.
There’s still a transition underway between the “old” sounds of jazz and pop standards and the more raucous rock ‘n’ roll sound that is evident in our six Hall of Songs nominees for 1952. There’s some blues, some jazz, some country and a lot of the “new” rock sound.
Our 1952 nominees:
“Night Train” as performed by Jimmy Forrest
Written by Oscar Washington, Lewis P. Simpkins and Jimmy Forrest, recorded November 1951, released March 1952
“Rock and Roll Blues” as performed by Anita O’Day
Written by Anita O’Day, recorded 1950(?), released March 1952
“Have Mercy Baby” as performed by Billy Ward and His Dominoes
Written by Billy Ward and Rose Marks, recorded January 1952, released April 1952
“Lawdy Miss Clawdy” as performed by Lloyd Price
Written by Lloyd Price, recorded March 1952, released April 1952
“It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” as performed by Kitty Wells
Written by J. D. “Jay” Miller, recorded May 1952, released June 1952
“Mean Old World” as performed by Little Walter
Adapted by Little Walter, Originally written by T-Bone Walker and Marl Young, recorded October 1952, released December 1952
Check out the full episode to learn more about these songs and why they’re so great, and come back on March 7, 2021, when we discuss our nominees from 1953.
When we sat down to do a podcast about the greatest songs in history, it never would have occurred to me that the first song we talked about in any (albeit brief) detail in Episode 1 would be “John Deere Green” by Joe Diffie, a song that topped out at Number 5 on the country charts. But, after thinking about it for a bit, I think it fits into our ambitious project pretty well.
First, Joe Diffie himself – he had a solid career with some chart success, including two Number 1 country songs. But, except to those of us who spent the 90s listening to country radio while driving a Ford Ranger, he’s not a household name in the 2020s. Sadly, I was reminded of his songs (after years of him not crossing my mind) when he passed away from COVID in March 2020, one of the first notable names taken by the pandemic. He was a talented country vocalist who recorded with some more well-known names, including the legendary George Jones.
Like many of his bigger hits – including his biggest chart success, “Pickup Man” – “John Deere Green” is intended to make you chuckle – the tale of a high school romance between Billy Bob and Charlene. Intending (successfully) for the entire town to know his affections, Billy Bob paints a giant heart – not in red, but in the color of his tractor. Although it’s not what I would call deep, it actually holds up pretty well – there’s no punching down and it does feel like Diffie sings the lyrics from the heart.
“John Deere Greene” was written by Dennis Linde, another Nashville staple with quite a career. His first big hit as a songwriter was none other than “Burning Love,” by Elvis and his last major contribution was writing “Goodbye Earl,” a controversial gold single for (the also controversial) The Chicks.
In short, we have a well-penned, well-received, country hit resulting from the combination of two music business lifers who were always looking to make a smash and who both occasionally succeeded. In the journey through rock and roll history that we’re about to start, there are thousands more songs like this than there are eternally-loved Number 1s. But it’s songs like this that make us love music and keep coming back searching for those special songs.
Jan. 24, 2021: Welcome to Hall of Songs! Here’s our introduction episode, in which we unveil the concept, discuss just what kinds of songs we’ll be nominating, and establish some parameters … you know, so you don’t have to keep asking us later.
Next episode: On Feb. 7, 2021, we’ll begin with our Hall of Songs nominees in 1951.