Boom! (Sh-Boom that is)….
The earliest weekly survey sheet from Denver’s KIMN radio station I have run across is from June 26th, 1954 – The Top 10 from that week looked like this:
|1||Kitty Kallen||Little Things Mean A Lot|
|2||Four Aces||Three Coins In The Fountain|
|4||Frank Weir||The Happy Wanderer|
|6||Patti Page||Cross Over The Bridge|
|7||Archie Bleyer||Hernando’s Hideaway|
|8||Four Knights||I Get So Lonely|
|9||Kay Starr||If You Love Me|
All was very well in the world – except for one little minor detail: There was very little rock and roll in our little ‘cow town’ of Denver, Colorado and there wouldn’t be much for a few years more…
Kids who were born in the mid to late 1930’s were buying the records as well as their parents – for the most part – not to exclude those who came along just ahead of the ‘Baby Boom’ generation in 1946 – such as my sister who was hatched in 1942. She and her friends were very content to pick up an Eddie Fisher disc or spend their allowance on a beginning-to-age significantly Frank Sinatra (he was nearly 40 in 1954 and his ‘bobby sock’er’ hoards were settling down to the realities of life) leaving my sister and her sort of nerdy friends to take up the slack.
KIMN’s Top 10 remained relatively squeaky clean for a time – Yes, there were warning signs – For instance the Crew-Cuts topping the KIMN charts on September 4th, 1954 with a curious “Sh-Boom”. In Denver we would only learn many, many years later to our astonishment that the song was released in May of ’54 by the R&B group “The Chords”.
We were indeed sheltered as the Chords’ version didn’t make an appearance on mainstream A.M. in Denver but was still very successfully nationally going all the way to number 9 on Billboard’s Hot 100 (the Canadian Crew-Cuts held the top spot in the U.S. for a full nine weeks!).
And later down the road – while the Crew-Cuts’ rendition was used in the TV smash hit sit-com “Happy Days” and was included in the motion pictures “Road House” – 1989; “Clue” from 1985 – savvy Hollywood types would display their hipness placing the Chords’ song in the motion pictures “Cry Baby” – 1990; “The Super” – 1991; “Lipstick on Your Collar” – 1993; “The Sum of Us” – 1994; “Liberty Heights- 1999; “Two Of Us” – 2000; and “Hearts in Atlantis” – 2001.
What we don’t know is whether or not the Chords realized any financial gain – We know that three of the original five members passed away before any of these films or programs took place – and now all five are no longer with us.
Just a note: Elvis entered the national charts in March of 1956 with “Heartbreak Hotel” (#1) – But Bill Haley and His Comets broke through clear back in May of 1953 when “Crazy Man Crazy” went all the way to number 12. Haley would place two more big hits on the national charts before “Rock Around the Clock” came around – those being “Shake, Rattle and Roll” (number 7 in 1954) followed by “Dim Dim The Lights” (number 11 also in 1954).
Fats Domino charted 11 times on the R&B charts with his first one being “The Fat Man” clear back in early 1950 – He would have to wait until May of 1955 for his first Hot 100 charting song “Ain’t It A Shame” which hit number 10.
Brenston & Carter
Then there is the age-old discussion – first rock and roll record – Most cited is Jackie Brenston’s “Rocket 88” from May of 1951 – a song which topped the R&B charts for five weeks. Others say it is Goree Carter’s “Rock-Awhile” from way back in 1949 – Others say this and others say that….
Surveying the Teen Scene in Denver
It is difficult to locate weekly radio surveys from 1954 – ’55 or even 1956 in Denver – Quite likely KIMN didn’t yet print surveys for placement in the retail music stores. Until rock and roll took hold, stations weren’t yet marketing hard to the newly arrived very young teen audience – eager to part with their allowance – and for the most part didn’t expand the weekly listings to more-than-10 chart positions.
I located a Denver AM radio station June 4th, 1956 – again only Top Ten featured and the closest thing we have to a rocker would be the Fontaine Sisters singing “Rollin’ Stone” holding the number 7 position. That song was an R&B hit for the Marigolds in 1955.
The earliest KIMN survey sheet I have located in paper form is my own copy of the November 18th, 1957 sheet. Even KIMN’s tribute web site lists nothing earlier.
I do have a copy of KIMN’s “All-Time Top 300” from 1955 through 1966. Here is how – up to that point in time – things worked out:
Number 1 at that point in time (1966) was – naturally “I Want to Hold Your Hand” – You have to scroll down quite a ways to find a 1955 entry – but there is “The Great Pretender” from November of that year at number 37 just one notch below Colorado’s Astronauts and their big local hit “Baja”.
The KIMN All Time Top 10
- I Want to Hold Your Hand – The Beatles
- Satisfaction – The Rolling Stones
- Louie, Louie – The Kingsmen
- Gloria – Them
- You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feelin’ The Righteous Brothers
- Yesterday – The Beatles
- Downtown – Petula Clark
- Mrs. Brown (You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter) – Herman’s Hermits
- Can’t Stop Loving You – Ray Charles
- Wooly Bully – Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs