New York State of Mind

ELDER MUSIC: 1954 Again

Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

What happened in 1954?

  • Elvis Costello was born
  • Lord of the Rings was published
  • The first flight of the Boeing 707 (well, a prototype)
  • The Vietnam War ended with Vietnam beating the French (stay tuned)
  • The first transistor radio went on sale
  • Rear Window was released
  • Footscray were premiers (Yay!! – Their first and, alas, so far their only premiership)

Let Me Go, Lover was written by Jenny Lou Carson and Al Hill (that latter name is a pseudonym for three other people). It was first featured on TV, sung by Joan Weber, and it caught the public's attention.

Her version sold heaps, possibly the first time TV was used successfully to promote a song. TERESA BREWER recorded it and she sold a lot as well, and that's the one we have today.

Teresa Brewer

♫ Teresa Brewer - Let Me Go, Lover

FRANK SINATRA was back with a vengeance by 1954.

Frank Sinatra

Frank was the first to record the song Young at Heart which was a huge hit at the end of 1953 and spilled over into, and kept selling in, 1954.

♫ Frank Sinatra - Young At Heart

We know there have been rock & roll tunes before but this next song, along with Bill Haley's Rock Around the Clock, really kickstarted the genre. Bill also covered this one, but the original by BIG JOE TURNER is still the one.

Big Joe Turner

The song is Shake, Rattle and Roll. It was written especially for Joe by Jesse Stone.

♫ Big Joe Turner - Shake, Rattle & Roll

The song Skokiaan is imprinted on my tiny brain. We went to the beach for our annual post Christmas holidays that year and, as normal, at least back then, there was a carnival in town. It seemed to me that they played this song about every 10 minutes the entire time we were there.

The song was originally written and performed by a Rhodesian (now Zimbabwe, of course) musician called August Musarunwa. The version that's become an integral part of my brain is by THE FOUR LADS.

The Four Lads

♫ The Four Lads - Skokiaan

ROY HAMILTON seemed to follow the lead of Al Hibbler (as did the Righteous Brothers later on) and record the same songs.

Roy Hamilton

Ebb Tide is another of those songs and he does a fine job of it.

♫ Roy Hamilton - Ebb Tide

DORIS DAY had been making records for about a decade but this is her first visit to these columns.

Doris Day

The song is If I Give My Heart to You and it made the pointy end of the charts this year.

♫ Day - If I Give My Heart To You

I Don't Hurt Anymore started its musical life as a country song written and performed by Hank Snow. DINAH WASHINGTON got to it and changed it into a soul song (before soul music was invented).

Dinah Washington

I've always thought of Dinah as a jazz singer but there was more to her than that.

♫ Dinah Washington - I Don't Hurt Anymore

I don't want to creep you out but I'm going to play Misty for you. Those who saw that film will know what I'm talking about. I'll also use the same version. Here is ERROLL GARNER playing Misty for you, a tune he wrote himself.

Erroll Garner

♫ Erroll Garner - Misty

Cross Over the Bridge was written and published in 1945 and as far as I can tell just sat around until PATTI PAGE recorded it in 1954.

Patti Page

In a reversal of the usual policy at the time, a black group, The Chords (responsible for the original version of Sh-Boom) recorded it after Patti. Their version pretty much went nowhere, unlike Patti's.

♫ Patti Page - Cross Over The Bridge

LES PAUL AND MARY FORD make their first appearance even though they had been recording and having hits for some years. I guess I overlooked them.

Les Paul and Mary Ford

Here they perform I'm a Fool to Care with the wonderful voice of Mary and the equally wonderful guitar playing from Les.

♫ Les Paul and Mary Ford - I'm a Fool to Care

You can find more music from 1954 here.

1955 will appear in two weeks' time.


Peter - a great selection of music representing that year. So many of these were some of my favorites yet now they carry bitter-sweet memories because contemporary pop like this was on its way to the gallows and at the time we were completely unaware of that fact. We all were about to be swept up into a new music phenomenon which would completely overshadow this cherished genre of music that was near and dear to us at the time. Not unlike the demise of the Big Band Era I suppose.

Apparently Joe Turner had some inside information about what was coming… you think?

It's possible that Skokiaan by The Four Lads is the worse song I've ever heard.


Holy Cow! Mary Ford's voice!![faints] I don't recall many of these songs but I can sure appreciate the artistry of Dinah Washington singing, 'I don't hurt anymore'. Thanks for the selection!

Although I am very familiar with all of these selections and with the artists I still am not hearing the melody as I know it really sounds. Most discouraging.

Although I love Erroll Garner and still have many of his recordings and Misty is one of my favorite pieces, I know I am not hearing it correctly. Sadly, I am giving up trying. After all these years it is too painful to continue.

As my swan song I will agree with Alan. I know I will sound like and old fogie, but after the 50's music went down hill and instead of being melodic became a beat. Sure it's toe tapping, but how many of today's renditions will people be singing 50 years from now?

I love the old Cole Porter songs and will tap my feet to "In the Mood."

Thanks for the memories, Peter. You and Norma are musicologists par excellence.

OMG! Was that really 1954?? What a wonderful time, what wonderful music. Oh I miss those days...........altho' I do most always agree with Darlene, I think there was some other good music after that, but it's true, mostly not as memorable. I'm feeling the nostalgia & it ain't so bad. Thank you & the music lady for another wonderful Sunday. Dee :)

About that time, Dixieland swept the college campus shortly after I arrived. It was the best of times! We had these great pop songs plus the Dixie jazz to supply us with an unending array or great music. Thanks for your usual excellent selections, Peter.

Each generation cherishes its own musical genre. Our parents thought that the posted songs were terrible! if I recall correctly. Will there ever be a generation that doesn't believe that the kids are going to hell in a hand basket and that their music is just noise?

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