The List: Billboard hit songs from 1960

From the album "Twist with Chubby Checker" From the album “Twist with Chubby Checker”
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Chubby Checker celebrates his 70th birthday on MondayOct. 3. Mr. Checker was best known for his cover of the Hank Ballard single “The Twist” and for his subsequent hit “Let’s Twist Again.” The accompanying dance routine made the songs iconic to the rock ‘n’ roll style of the 1960s and changed the dance floor forever. There were 20 No. 1 Billboard hits in 1960, including Mr. Checker’s smash. To honor Mr. Checker, the List this week looks at the best 10 No. 1 hits from that year.

  • 10. The Theme From “A Summer Place” (Feb. 22-April 24) Percy Faith & his Orchestra — The song ran for nine weeks at No. 1 and remains the longest-running No. 1 instrumental in the history of the chart. The film “A Summer’s Place” starred Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue. Percy Faith died at age 67 on Feb. 9, 1976.
  • 9. Cathy’s Clown (May 23-June 26) The Everly Brothers — Before the Beach Boys and Simon & Garfunkel, there were the wonderful harmonies of the Everly Brothers. “Cathy’s Clown” was the duo’s biggest single and fourth and final No. 1. Don Everly, 74, and Phil Everly, 72 are still going strong.
  • 8. The Twist (Sept. 19-25) Chubby Checker — This song holds the record for being the only single to reach No. 1 on two different chart runs. It resurfaced and topped the chart again on Jan. 13, 1962 (two weeks). In 2008, “The Twist” was named the biggest chart hit of all time by Billboard magazine. There’s no word on whether Mr. Checker has had a hip replacement, but at 69, he’s still performing. ?I have the No. 1 song on the planet,? Mr. Checker told the South Carolina newspaper the State last week.
  • 7. Stay (Nov. 21-27) Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs — This doo-wop song was written by Mr. Williams when he was 15. It remains the shortest single (1 minute and 37 seconds) to reach the top of the charts. Jackson Browne’s version of the song in 1978 is also a classic. Mr. Williams, 73, and the Zodiacs are still performing concerts. Mr. Williams lives in Charlotte, N.C.
  • 6. Georgia on My Mind (Nov. 14-20) Ray Charles — The song was written in 1930 by Hoagy Carmichael (music) and Stuart Gorrell (lyrics). Gorrell wrote the lyrics for his sister Georgia. He became a banker and never wrote another lyric in his life. The song became the official state song of Georgia in 1979. Ray Charles died in Beverly Hills, Calif., on June 10, 2004 at the age of 73.
  • 5. El Paso (Jan. 4-17) Marty Robbins — The song is a classic in the genre of the country-western ballad. The opening lines are memorable: “Out in the west Texas town of El Paso, I fell in love with a Mexican girl.” Mr. Robbins died in Nashville, Tenn., at the age of 57 on Dec. 8, 1982.
  • 4. I’m Sorry (July 18-Aug. 7) Brenda Lee — The little lady with a huge voice became the hottest singer of 1960 with this hit. Ms. Lee was just 15 when this song hit No. 1. She was so popular that the Beatles once opened for her. “I’m Sorry” sold 15 million copies. Ms. Lee, 66, is still performing, and her marriage to Ronnie Shacklett has lasted 42 years.
  • 3. Save the Last Dance for Me (Oct. 17-23) the Drifters — The group has featured 60 vocalists over the years, but Ben E. King was the lead singer on this hit before he left the band that year to go solo. The 72-year-old Mr. King, who lives in Teaneck, N.J., is still performing.
  • 2. Are You Lonesome Tonight? (Nov. 28-Jan. 8, 1961) Elvis Presley — The song was written in 1926 by vaudeville performer Lou Handman and lyricist Roy Turk. It became a huge hit for Presley and was Col. Tom Parker’s wife’s favorite song. Presley often changed the spoken verse part. During a performance in Las Vegas in 1969, instead of singing: “Do you gaze at your doorstep and picture me there,” he sang: “Do you gaze at your bald head and wish you had hair.” He died in 1977. He was just 42.
  • 1. It’s Now or Never (Aug. 15-Sept. 18) Elvis Presley — One of Elvis’ greatest songs. The melody is adapted from the Italian tune “O Sole Mio.” Aaron Schroeder and Wally Gold wrote the lyrics for the song in 30 minutes. It became Presley’s biggest hit, selling 25 million copies worldwide over the years. The song spent an unsurpassed eight weeks at the top of the charts in the United Kingdom.
  • Bonus track: Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini (Aug. 8-17) Brian Hyland — This novelty tune, sung by bubble-gum-pop and puppy-love songster Brian Hyland, was called a “money machine” by co-writer Paul Vance, who earned “millions” from it. Mr. Hyland’s other big hit was “Sealed With a Kiss” in 1962. Mr. Hyland, 67, continues to tour, and Mr. Vance, 82, is still around, despite a false obituary written in 2006.

The other nine No. 1 hits of 1960 were: Why, Frankie Avalon (Dec. 28, 1959-Jan. 3); Running Bear, Johnny Preston (Jan. 18-Feb. 7); Teen Angel, Mark Dinning (Feb. 8-21); Stuck on You, Elvis Presley (April 25-May 22); Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool, Connie Francis (June 2-10); Alley-Oop, Hollywood Argyles (July 11-17); My Heart Has a Mind of Its Own, Connie Francis (Sept. 26-Oct. 9); Mr. Custer, Larry Verne (Oct. 10 -16); and I Want to Be Wanted, Brenda Lee (Oct. 24-Nov. 13).

Compiled by John Haydon

Sources: digitaldreamdoor.com, the Billboard book of Top 40 Hits, Associated Press, Wikipedia, Romford Recorder, Contemporary Musicians Vol. 38 and the State (Columbia, South Carolina).

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