The Number One Hits Of 1961

Nov 28, 1960 – Jan 8, 1961
Elvis Presley
Are You Lonesome Tonight?
Elvis Presley, known as the “King of Rock and Roll,” served in the U.S. Army from 1958 to 1960.
The song was written by Roy Turk and Lou Handman in 1926, and Elvis’ version became one of his signature ballads.
Jan 9, 1961 – Jan 29, 1961
Bert Kaempfert
Wonderland by Night
Bert Kaempfert was a German orchestra leader, composer, and music producer who helped launch The Beatles’ career.
This instrumental song was composed by Klaus-Günter Neumann and was Kaempfert’s first hit in the U.S.
Jan 30, 1961 – Feb 12, 1961
The Shirelles
Will You Love Me Tomorrow
The Shirelles were an influential all-female vocal group founded in the late 1950s, consisting of Shirley Owens, Beverly Lee, Addie Harris, and Doris Coley.
The song, written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin, is considered a landmark in the evolution of the girl group sound.
Feb 13, 1961 – Feb 26, 1961
Lawrence Welk
Lawrence Welk was an American musician, bandleader, and television impresario known for hosting The Lawrence Welk Show from 1955 to 1982.
This instrumental song was composed by Heino Gaze and became Welk’s biggest hit.
Feb 27, 1961 – Mar 19, 1961
Chubby Checker
Pony Time
Chubby Checker, born Ernest Evans, is known for popularizing the dance style called “The Twist.”
“Pony Time” was written by Don Covay and John Berry and became Checker’s second chart-topping hit.
Mar 20, 1961 – Apr 2, 1961
Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley was a talented actor, starring in 31 feature films and two concert documentary films.
“Surrender” is an adaptation of the Italian song “Torna a Surriento” and was a hit in multiple countries.
Apr 3, 1961 – Apr 23, 1961
The Marcels
Blue Moon
The Marcels were a doo-wop group from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, named after a popular hairstyle, the Marcel wave.
Their version of “Blue Moon” was a doo-wop rendition of the classic song written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart.
Apr 24, 1961 – May 21, 1961
Del Shannon
Del Shannon, born Charles Weedon Westover, was an American rock and roll singer-songwriter known for his falsetto voice.
“Runaway” was co-written by Shannon and keyboardist Max Crook, featuring a unique Musitron sound.
May 22, 1961 – May 28, 1961
Ernie K-Doe
Ernie K-Doe, born Ernest Kador Jr., was an American rhythm and blues singer known for his flamboyant stage persona.
“Mother-in-Law” was written and produced by Allen Toussaint, becoming K-Doe’s biggest hit.
May 29, 1961 – June 4, 1961
Ricky Nelson
Travelin’ Man
Ricky Nelson, born Eric Hilliard Nelson, was also an actor, starring in the popular TV series “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” alongside his family.
“Travelin’ Man” was written by Jerry Fuller and became one of Nelson’s biggest hits, featuring a catchy guitar riff.
June 5, 1961 – June 18, 1961
Roy Orbison
Running Scared
Roy Orbison was known for his distinctive voice and emotional ballads, often referred to as the “Caruso of Rock.”
“Running Scared” was written by Orbison and Joe Melson, showcasing Orbison’s wide vocal range.
June 19, 1961 – June 25, 1961
Pat Boone
Moody River
Pat Boone, an American singer and actor, was one of the biggest teen idols of the 1950s and 1960s.
“Moody River” was written by Gary D. Bruce and became one of Boone’s most successful songs.
June 26, 1961 – July 9, 1961
Gary U.S. Bonds
Quarter to Three
Gary U.S. Bonds, born Gary Anderson, is an American rhythm and blues singer known for his energetic performances.
“Quarter to Three” was co-written by Bonds, Gene Barge, and Frank Guida and became a dance craze hit.
July 10, 1961 – August 27, 1961
Bobby Lewis
Tossin’ and Turnin’
Bobby Lewis, an American rock and roll and rhythm and blues singer, was known for his high-energy performances.
“Tossin’ and Turnin'” was written by Ritchie Adams and Malou Rene, featuring catchy saxophone and piano lines.
August 28, 1961 – September 3, 1961
Joe Dowell
Wooden Heart (Muss I Denn)
Joe Dowell was an American pop singer who enjoyed a brief period of success in the early 1960s.
“Wooden Heart (Muss I Denn)” is a cover of a German folk song, which was also featured in Elvis Presley’s movie “G.I. Blues.”
September 4, 1961 – September 17, 1961
The Highwaymen
The Highwaymen were an American folk group consisting of Dave Fisher, Steve Butts, Bobby Burnett, Chan Daniels, and Steve Trott.
“Michael” is a folk song, AKA “Michael, Row the Boat Ashore,” which originated as a spiritual African-American work song.
September 18, 1961 – October 8, 1961
Bobby Vee
Take Good Care of My Baby
Bobby Vee, born Robert Thomas Velline, was an American pop singer who became a teen idol in the early 1960s.
“Take Good Care of My Baby” was written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin, becoming one of Vee’s most successful songs.
October 9, 1961 – October 22, 1961
Ray Charles
Hit the Road Jack
Ray Charles, a pioneer of soul music, was also an accomplished pianist and composer.
“Hit the Road Jack” was written by Percy Mayfield and featured Margie Hendrix on backing vocals.
October 23, 1961 – November 5, 1961
Runaround Sue
Dion DiMucci, known simply as Dion, was a prominent American rock and roll singer-songwriter from the Bronx, New York.
“Runaround Sue” was co-written by Dion and Ernie Maresca, featuring catchy doo-wop backing vocals and a memorable saxophone solo.
November 6, 1961 – December 10, 1961
Jimmy Dean
Big Bad John
Jimmy Dean was an American country singer, television host, and entrepreneur known for founding the Jimmy Dean sausage brand.
“Big Bad John” is a narrative ballad written by Dean and Roy Acuff, telling the story of a heroic miner.
December 11, 1961 – December 17, 1961
The Marvelettes
Please Mr. Postman
The Marvelettes were a Motown girl group founded in 1960 featuring Gladys Horton, Katherine Anderson, Georgeanna Tillman, and Wanda Young.
“Please Mr. Postman” was written by Georgia Dobbins, William Garrett, Freddie Gorman, Brian Holland, and Robert Bateman, becoming Motown’s first No.1 hit.
December 18, 1961 – January 12, 1962
The Tokens
The Lion Sleeps Tonight
The Tokens were an American doo-wop vocal group from Brooklyn, New York, consisting of Jay Siegel, Hank Medress, Mitch Margo, and Phil Margo.
“The Lion Sleeps Tonight” is an adaptation of the South African song “Mbube” by Solomon Linda, and was reworked by George David Weiss, Hugo Peretti, and Luigi Creatore.

The Biggest Pop Artists of 1961 include:
Adam Wade, Ben E. King, Bobby Bland, Bobby Lewis, Bobby Rydell, Bobby Vee, Brenda Lee, Brook Benton, Chubby Checker, Connie Francis, Del Shannon, Dion, The Dovells, Elvis Presley, Ernie K-Doe, Etta James, The Everly Brothers, Fats Domino, Hank Ballard & the Midnighters, Ike & Tina Turner, Jackie Wilson, James Brown, Jimmy Reed, Gary U.S. Bonds, Linda Scott, Ray Charles, Ricky Nelson, Roy Orbison, The Shirelles, The Tokens

(HPS music data is compiled from charts, including Billboard’s Pop, Rock, Airplay, R&B/Dance, and Singles Charts. The Hot 100 is the primary chart used for this list.)

Scroll to Top