1961’s Top 100 Hot Pop Songs & Music Hits
1961’s Top 100 Hot Pop Songs & Music Hits
1. At Last – Etta James
Etta James was born Jamesetta Hawkins (January 25, 1938 – January 20, 2012) Etta’s most popular song, it never even cracked the Billboard Top 40.
2. Crazy – Patsy Cline
Virginia Patterson Hensley (September 8, 1932 – March 5, 1963) Patsy was the first, and one of the biggest, Country/Pop crossover female artists.
3. Let’s Twist Again – Chubby Checker
Written by Dave Appell and Kal Mann, this was the followup to the massive success of The Twist, which would lead to even more widespread success in 1962!
4. Bristol Stomp – Dovells
Kal and Dave wrote many hits in the early Rock ‘N Roll Era, and the Bristol Stomp was one of the first group dance hits of the 1960s.
5. Please Mr. Postman – Marvelettes
Who was the first Motown Records artist to reach #1 on the Billboard Charts? That would be The Marvelettes, with ‘Please Mr. Postman’.
6. Hit The Road Jack – Ray Charles
Backed with The Raelettes vocalist Margie Hendricks, the song also won a Grammy for Best Rhythm and Blues Recording.
7. Stand By Me – Ben E. King
Benjamin Earl King (September 28, 1938 – April 30, 2015). After he had a handful of successful hit in the band with an ever-changing lineup, The Drifters, Ben went solo and had a string of moderate hits, but this was his biggest, and became his Signature Song.
8. Runaround Sue – Dion
Dion’s biggest hit, and also the most dancable ‘Cheating Song’ of the 1960s.
9. The Lion Sleeps Tonight – the Tokens
Recorded and interpreted by many artists, The Tokens created the most popular version of this song, originally called ‘Mbube’ and recorded by Solomon Linda with the Evening Birds in 1939.
10. Tossin and Turnin – Bobby Lewis
Bobby Lewis was born on February 17, 1933 in Indianapolis, Indiana. This was his biggest hit, and was featured in the 1978 film, Animal House.
11. Pretty Little Angel Eyes – Curtis Lee
Curtis Lee (October 28, 1939 – January 8, 2015) Curtis co-wrote this with Tommy Boyce, who went on the be half of the songwriting force behind The Monkees.
12. Shop Around – The Miracles
Written by Smokey Robinson and Berry Gordy.
Question: What was the first million-selling single on the Motown Label?
Answer: Shop Around by The Miracles.
13. Some Kind Of Wonderful – The Drifters
Rudy Lewis (August 23, 1936 -May 20, 1964) was the lead singer for the group for this Top 40 Hit. He was found dead in his room the night before he was to record ‘Under the Boardwalk’ which then was sung by (former) lead Drifters vocalist Johnny Moore.
14. Blue Moon – Marcels
Blue Moon was written as a ballad by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart in 1934, and the multi-racial Marcels recorded it in two takes, according to Rock Lore. DJ Murray the K got an early recording of the song and played it 28 times on air. Those wacky AM Deejays!
15. Will You Love Me Tomnorrow – Shirelles
Shirley Owens, Addie “Micki” Harris, Beverly Lee, and Doris Coley were discovered at a talent show at their high school.
Will You Love Me Tomorrow was written by Gery Goffin and Carole King. They also wrote ‘Some Kind of Wonderful’ by The Drifters and hundreds of other hits. Hundreds, not Dozens!
16. There’s A Moon Out Tonight – Capris
The Capris are often listed as a One Hit Wonder (because they were) they are probably best known for the 1982 song ‘Morse Code of Love’ which sounds far older than it really is.
17. Runaway – Del Shannon
Del Shannon was born Charles Weedon Westover (December 30, 1934 – February 8, 1990) He stayed busy, with some hits through the 60s, and even worked with the likes of Tom Petty and Dave Edmunds. Suffering from depression, he took his own life.
18. A Little Bit Of Soap – Jarmels
Although the group was by all definitions a One Hit Wonder, they toured with other acts on the strength of this song for decades.
19. Cupid – Sam Cooke
Cupid was a hit for several other artists. Sam was a talented singer, and this song showed he was a talented songwriter as well.
20. Quarter To Three – Gary U.S. Bonds
Gary was initially presented as ‘U.S. Bonds’ but many thought it was the name of a group. They added his first name to avoid any confusion.
21. Barbara-Ann – The Regents
The Beach Boys did this song in 1996. The original, by the Regents, is just as good. Ernie Maresca was the lead vocalist. Ernie didn’t writ this, but he did write hits like ‘Runaround Sue’ and ‘The Wanderer’ for Dion.
22. Travelin’ Man – Ricky Nelson
Question: What was the first music video made for television?
Answer: ‘Travelin’ Man by Ricky Nelson. There was nothing like a cable music channel in 1961. The video was produced as part of The Ozzie and Harriet Show.
23. Dedicated To The One I Love – Shirelles
The Shirelles were the first ‘Girl Group’ of the 1960s.
24. Hello Mary Lou – Ricky Nelson
This was the B-SIDE of the single for ‘Travelin’ Man’, and reached #9 on the Billboard Charts.
25. Daddy’s Home – Shep & the Limelites
James ‘Shep’ Sheppard, Clarence Bassett and Charles Baskerville were the trio singing this, a follow-up to 1956’s ‘A Thousand Miles Away’ by Shep’s old group, The Heartbeats.
26. Take Good Care of My Baby – Bobby Vee
Bobby Vee’s biggest hit, written by the husband and wife team of Gerry Goffin and Carole King. BTW – When you see two names credited to a song, the first credit is usually for the music, and the second is for the lyrics.
27. Heart and Soul – The Cleftones
Written by Hoagy Carmichael and Frank Loesser, and originally published in 1938. The Cleftones made an original and permanent impression with their version.
28. Please Love Me Forever – Cathy Jean & the Roommates
16 year-old Cathy Jean Giordano was not a regular member of the band, but she did help them make their only Top 20 Hit.
29. Take Five – Dave Brubeck Quartet
Over the decades this tune has become (arguably) the best known ‘smooth jazz’ song of all time. We say arguably because ‘The Girl From Ipanema’ may have the title.
30. Spanish Harlem – Ben E. King
Released in late 1960, it was written by Jerry Leiber and Phil Spector, and produced by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Jerry nad Mike were legends by the time this song was released. You’ll hear more about Phil in the next few years.
31. Calendar Girl – Neil Sedaka
Howard “Howie” Greenfield (March 15, 1936 – March 4, 1986) co-wrote this and many of Neil’s other hits. They worked in the Brill Building, 1619 Broadway on 49th Street in the New York City borough of Manhattan, famous as a songwriting mecca and music company headquarters.
32. Mother In Law – Ernie K-Doe (Ernie K. Doe)
Ernest Kador, Jr. (February 22, 1936 – July 5, 2001) Benny Spellman did the deep bass vocal part.
33. Hurt – Timi Yuro
Rosemary Timothy Yuro (August 4, 1940 – March 30, 2004). More than a song, it was performance. You can hear the sadness in her voice.
34. Crying – Roy Orbison
Contrary to what many think, Roy was never blind, but he did have poor vision and needed thick corrective glasses.
35. Glory Of Love – The Roommates
‘The Glory Of Love’ was written by Billy Hill, and originally recorded by Benny Goodman in 1936. Many artists recorded the song, and this is the most popular version of the Rock ‘N Roll Era.
36. Raindrops – Dee Clark
Delectus Clark (November 7, 1938 – December 7, 1990) co-wrote and/or wrote most of his own songs, including ‘Raindrops’ – his biggest hit.
37. Hats Off To Larry – Del Shannon
Written by Del, it was the follow-up song to Runaway, and solidified his position as a consistent singer/songwriter up to the pre-British Invasion era.
38. I Fall to Pieces – Patsy Cline
Ten years after her untimely death, in 1973, Patsy became the first female solo artist inducted to the Country Music Hall of Fame.
39. The Second Time Around – Frank Sinatra
This was Frank’s first release on his own record label, Reprise.
40. Let There Be Drums – Sandy Nelson
This was Sandy’s second (and last) Top Ten Hit. He continued as a session musician, and his own recordings. If you are looking for a drum-heavy version of ‘The Stripper’ check out his 1969 version.
41. Little Sister – Elvis Presley
Written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman and covered by many artists, including Jesse and the Rippers.
42. Who Put The Bomp (In The Bomp, Bomp, Bomp) – Barry Mann
Barry was a successful songwriter and co-writer, with many partners, including his wife, Cynthia Weil, in his songwriting endeavors. Bomp was a commentary on some of the simplistic lyrics of the era.
43. Rama Lama Ding Dong – The Edsels
The group originally called themselves the Essos (after the oil company, now Exxon), and changed thier name to match the latest Ford car, the Edsel. One Hit Wonder, written by lead singer George “Wydell” Jones Jr.
44. Running Scared – Roy Orbison
Roy’s first #1 Hit record. The backbeat is based on Ravel’s Boléro.
45. A Certain Girl – Ernie K. Doe (Ernie K-Doe)
Played often in the decades after it was released, it never cracked the Top 40. Warren Zevon’s version in 1980 did slightly better on the charts.
46. Ya Ya – Lee Dorsey
Irving Lee Dorsey (December 24, 1924 – December 1, 1986). Before he was an R&B/Pop star, Lee boxed under the name ‘Kid Chocolate ‘.
47. Does Your Chewing Gum Lose It’s Flavor (On The Bedpast Over Night)? – Lonnie Donegan
Anthony James Donegan (29 April 1931 – 3 November 2002) He used ‘Lonnie’ in tribute to blues musician Lonnie Johnson. Although this ‘Chewing Gun’ is a novelty tune, most of his music would be more mainstream, if not eccentric.
48. Pony Time – Chubby Checker
Written by Don Covay and John Berry (a member of Covay’s earlier vocal group, the Rainbows), and originally recorded in 1960 by Covay with his group the Goodtimers. It became Chubby’s second #1 Dance Hit. Little did they know that many songwiters were writing followups to Chubby’s big hit, The Twist for next year, 1962.
49. Let’s Get Together – Hayley Mills
From the Disney movie ‘The Parent Trap’ starring Hayley Mills and Haley Mills.
50. I Love How You Love Me – The Paris Sisters
Priscilla Paris, Albeth Paris and Sherrell Paris made up the first of Phil Spector’s girl groups.
51. Those Oldies But Goodies (Remind Me of You) – Little Caesar and the Romans
Carl (Little Caesar) Burnett sang the lead, and band member David Johnson performed the spoken-word portion.
52. Big Bad John – Jimmy Dean
Jimmy Ray Dean (August 10, 1928 – June 13, 2010) Although things didn’t look good for Big Bad John at the end of the song, he was rescued in 1962 by ‘The Cajun Queen’, also sung by Jimmy.
53. Gee Whiz (Look At His Eyes) – Carla Thomas
The daughter of Rufus Thomas, Carla Venita Thomas (born December 21, 1942) has the title “The Queen of Memphis Soul’.
Gee Whiz went Top 10 in the Charts, and in 1963, her father reached the Top 10 with Walking the Dog.
54. (Ghost) Riders In The Sky – The Ramrods
Drummer Claire Lane (born Claire Litke) put the band together her brother Rich Litke.
Other members included Vinny Lee, Gene Moore, Russ Cook, Bernie Moore and George Sheck.
‘(Ghost) Riders in the Sky: A Cowboy Legend’ is a cowboy-styled country/western song written in 1948 by American songwriter Stan Jones.
It has also been titled ‘Riders in the Sky’ and ‘Ghost Riders in the Sky.’ Most would agree it’s a ‘Western’ not a ‘Country’ Song.
55. Surrender – Elvis Presley
Elvis’s #1 Hit for 1961. #13 in all so far, if you are keeping score.
56. Calcutta – Lawrence Welk
You may have thought that all the instrumental #1 Hits from the 1950s were enough. No. Lawrence had to squeeze in another one. His first was in 1944.
57. The Boll Weevil Song – Brook Benton
#2 song on Billboard and the 22nd most popular song of 1961. Brook wrote it with Clyde Otis.
58. Michael – The Highwaymen
Based on Michael, Row the Boat Ashore, sung by slaves in the early 1860s.
59. Rock-a-Bye Your Baby With A Dixie Melody – Aretha Franklin
Originally written by Jean Schwartz, Sam M. Lewis and Joe Young and introduced in the Broadway musical ‘Sinbad’ in 1918. Recorded by many, including Jerry Lewis.
60. Wonderland By Night – Bert Kampfert
Berthold Heinrich Kämpfert, (16 October 1923 – 21 June 1980) Another #1 soft instrumental; Bert was more of a song writer, but had his own orchestra. The Barenaked Ladies referenced him in “One Week” – “Bert Kaempfert’s got the mad hits.”
61. The Mountain’s High – Dick & DeeDee
Mary Sperling and Richard Gosting changed their names to Deedee Sperling (then Phelps) and Dick St. John and had several hits through the 1960s. They never dated, since we know you were wondering.
62. Wooden Heart – Joe Dowell
Bert Kampferft co-wrote this #1 hit. Actress Marlene Dietrich and Elvis Presely also sang it.
63. A Hundred Pounds of Clay – Gene McDaniels
Eugene Booker McDaniels (February 12, 1935 – July 29, 2011). Not a lot of people could make a Top Five (#3) song telling the story of Adam Eve, but Gene McDaniels did.
64. Moody River – Pat Boone
50s mega-Popstar had one more #1 Hit record in him, and this was it. Also one of the few Pop Songs about a suicide. The honky tonk piano creates an interesting dichotomy.
65. Goodbye Cruel World – James Darren
“Oh, goodbye cruel world, I’m off to join the circus, gonna be a broken-hearted clown; paint my face with a good-for-nothin’ smile.” That explains the Calliope music.
66. I Like It Like That – Chris Kenner
Written by Chris Kenner and Allen Toussaint. The song was recorded by several artists over the next decade. Allen was a writer/producer/musician who was responsible for a large part of the New Orleans R&B sound.
67. Wheels – The String-A-Longs
Catchy pop instrumental by Richard Stephens, Jimmy Torres, Keith McCormack, Aubrey de Cordova and Don Allen, from Plainview, Texas.
68. Exodus – Ferrante and Teicher
#2 on Billboard, and Grammy winner for ‘Record of the Year’. Also the duo’s biggest hit.
69. Fool # 1 – Brenda Lee
Brenda was the Katy Perry of her day. Or maybe Taylor Swift. She was heard on the radio (and jukeboxes) A LOT.
70. Last Night – Mar-Kays
The Mar-Keys were the studio session ‘House Band’ for Stax Records, in Memphis, Tennessee. Steve Cropper was the guitarist for the group, and he later joined the Blues Brothers. By ‘guitarist’ we mean one of the greatest guitarists of all time. He is also a fantastic songwriter.
71. My True Story – The Jive Five
The original Five included Eugene Pitt, Jerome Hanna, Richard Harris, Thurmon Prophet, and Norman Johnson.
72. Where The Boys Are – Connie Francis
From the film of the same name, starring Connie Francis and George Hamilton. It was a hit in several languages: German, French, Japanese, Italian, Neapolitan and Spanish.
73. Don’t Worry – Marty Robbins
52 studio albums offered 100 singles between the country and pop charts, giving Marty 17 #1 Hits in the country Billboard charts and 13 Top 40 Hits on the Pop charts.
74. Apache – Jorgen Ingmann
Jørgen Ingmann (26 April 1925 – 21 March 2015) The Sugarhill Gang used this riff in 1982’s ‘Apache’.
75. I’ve Told Every Little Star – Linda Scott
Linda Joy Sampson was born on June 1, 1945. The song was written by Oscar Hammerstein II and Jerome Kern for the1932 production ‘Music In The Air‘.
76. Moon River – Henry Mancini
Grammy winning Song of the Year and Record of the Year, from the film ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’. Andy Williams sang it with vocals in 1962.
77. On The Rebound – Floyd Cramer
Floyd Cramer (October 27, 1933 – December 31, 1997). Floyd was known for his ‘slip note‘ piano style.
78. You’re The Reason – Bobby Edwards
Bobby Edwards was born Robert Edward Moncrief (January 18, 1926 – July 31, 2012). He released ‘What’s the Reason’ in 1962, a rework of the same song.
79. Walk On By – Leroy Van Dyke
In 1994 ‘Walk On By’ (1961) was named by Billboard magazine as the biggest country single of all time, based on sales, plays and weeks in the charts. It peaked at #5 on the Pop charts.
80. Once In a While – The Chimes
Although Doo Wop peaked in the late 1950s, several hits carried the banner into the early 1960s. This is one of those hits. This ballad was written by Michael Edwards and Bud Green in 1937.
81. Sad Movies (Make Me Cry) – Sue Thompson
Sue Thompson was born Eva Sue McKee on July 19, 1925. The song was written by John D. Loudermilk.
82. Hello Walls – Faron Young
Faron Young (February 25, 1932 – December 10, 1996) Faron was the ‘Hillbilly Heartthrob’.
83. Rubber Ball – Bobby Vee
Written by Gene Pitney (Gene Orlowski) and by Aaron Schroeder. Lover’s rebound song.
84. Wings Of a Dove – Ferlin Husky
Ferlin Eugene Husky (December 3, 1925 – March 17, 2011) was born in Cantwell, Missouri.
85. (I Don’t Know Why) But I Do – Clarence Henry
Clarence “Frogman” Henry was born March 19, 1937. “But I do’ was written by Paul Gayten and Bobby Charles (as Robert Guidry). Clarence opned for the Beatles in thier 1964 American Tour.
86. Wonderland By Night – Louis Prima
Louis Prima (December 7, 1910 – August 24, 1978) started with a jazz band in the 1920s. This was his last pop hit. He later performed the hit song “I Wan’na Be like You” on Disney’s Jungle Book soundtrack.
87. Take Good Care Of Her – Adam Wade
Adam Wade was born Patrick Henry Wade,March 17, 1935. Wade worked for a time as a lab assistant with Dr. Jonas Salk on the polio research team, sang and hosted CBS’s game show ‘Musical Chairs’.
88. Tonight I Fell In Love – The Tokens
The success of this song led to appearing on American Bandstand, leading to the #9 song on this list – ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight.’
89. Mexico – Bob Moore
Bob Loyce Moore was born on November 30, 1932. Bob worked with Elvis, Roy Orbison and Roger Miller, among others. He was a member of The Nashville A-Team, a group of session musicians in Nashville, Tennessee who earned wide acclaim in the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s.
90. My Kind Of Girl – Matt Monro
Matt Monro (1 December 1930 – 7 February 1985) was born Terence Edward Parsons in Shoreditch, London.He was called the ‘Man With the Golden Voice’, mainly because he did have a golden voice, although much unappreciated because the swingy, Sinatra-esque sound was waning at the time.
91. Asia Minor – Kokomo
‘Kokomo’ was actually James J. “Jimmy” Wisner (born December 8, 1931). The melody was adapted from Edvard Grieg’s 1868 ‘Piano Concerto in A Minor’.
92. Gypsy Woman – The Impressions
Written by group member Curtis Mayfield. Curtis went on to solo success in the 1970s, and Brian Hyland made this song his on in 1970.
93. Don’t Bet Money Honey – Linda Scott
Last year it was 16 year old Brenda Lee who was a success. This was Linda Scott’s turn. She later retired from music and earned a Theology Degree from Kingsway Christian College and Theological Seminary in Des Moines, Iowa.
94. Sea of Heartbreak – Don Gibson
Don had a string of hits that he performed himself, but he was just as busy as a (mostly country) songwriter.
95. I Understand (Just How You Feel) – The G-Clefs
The background melody is ‘Auld Lang Syne’
There were four brothers and one other person in the band. Which member was NOT from the same family?
A. Teddy Scott
B. Chris Scott
C. Tim Scott
D. Ilanga Scott
E. Ray Gipson
96. Just Out Of Reach (Of My Two Open Arms) – Solomon Burke
James Solomon McDonald (March 21, 1940 – October 10, 2010) had many well-earned nicknames:’The King of Rock ‘N Soul’, ‘The Bishop of Soul’, ‘King Solomon’, ‘The Wonder Boy preacher’ and Lord Solomon’.
97. Portrait Of My Love – Steve Lawrence
Steven “Steve” Lawrence (born July 8, 1935) spend nearly his whole entertainment career with his wife Eydie Gormé (August 16, 1928 – August 10, 2013). Almost every appearance had the pair together – ‘Steve and Eydie.’
98. Missing You – Ray Peterson
Ray Peterson (April 23, 1939 – January 25, 2005) This was his last Top 40 Hit, but he toured while not performing his duties as a Baptist Church minister.
99. The Fly – Chubby Checker
Chubby’s 6th dance oriented tune #1 The Twist, #2 The Hucklebuck, #3 Pony Time, #4 Dance This Mess Around, #5 Let’s Twist Again, #6 The Fly. Oh, and The Twist returns in 1962…
100. Baby Sittin’ Boogie – Buzz Clifford
Buzz Clifford was born Reese Francis Clifford III on October 8, 1941. Although a novelty song, it has been very influential in Pop Music style.