From the Land of Band Box Records

Million Sellers

The Early “Global” Million Selling Records

In the beginning – “Gold Record” awards in the United States, was determined by record companies tracking their own sales.  The first “Gold Record” was Glenn Miller’s 1942 release of “Chattanooga Choo Choo”.  Elvis would be recognized by RCA for his 1956 smash hit of “Don’t Be Cruel”.


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Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)

Things changed in 1958, when the RIAA began recognizing both 45 and LP sales basing the program on dollars in sales vs. units sold.  This significantly changed the landscape for future comparison.  And the RIAA did not take into account an global sales – only U.S.

Then the “Platinum” award came into being in 1976, reserved for singles or LP’s achieving one million units in sales.  And “Gold” was redefined as “500,000” units sold – abandoning dollar accumulation.

Perry Como’s “Catch a Falling Star” was certified as the first RIAA recognized “Gold” 45 and this was closely followed by the long play sound track “Oklahoma” as the first so-recognized long-play (no wonder there are so many of those LP’s crowding the old vinyl record bins).


Ironically, some recordings from the pre-RIAA days, were later recognized with these RIAA awards – sometimes decades later.

The Joseph Murrells’ Guide – “Million Selling Records from the 1900’s to the 1980’s


I recently was provided a copy of a book called “Million Selling Records from the 1900’s to the 1980’s – An Illustrated Directory”.

The Very First Million Seller – The Great Caruso

What I like about this publication is that it examines tracks (and long plays) for total global sales as the basis for recognizing “Million Sellers”.  So because of the global aspect the book, many recordings suddenly find themselves in the company of the biggies such as Presley, the Beatles, Bing Crosby and more.  A great feature of this guide is the research for million sellers going all the way back to what is reported as being the first million seller, 1903’s “Vesti La Giubba (On With the Motley)” by the great Enrico Caruso from Naples, Italy.  Caruso was RCA’s first superstar, accruing over 3.5 million dollars in recording royalities during his lifetime.


Russ Conway & Emile Ford

As an example of formerly neglected tracks not being presented in “million seller” listings, here we have shining examples such as British star Russ Conway’s 1959 hit “Side Saddle” which sold over one million copies mostly in the U.K.  It charted number 1 in the U.K. for three weeks and had a 30-week best seller run there.  The single failed to chart altogether in the U.S.

Another Brit – Emile Ford – backed by The Checkmates – achieved million unit status with “Why Do You Want to Make Those Eyes at Me?” tracks which topped the U.K. charts for six weeks.  Has anyone in the U.S. ever heard of this record?  It did not make a single dent on the Hot 100.

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Who Let the Dogs Out?

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And that brings us to the 1955 monster track “Jingle Bells” by those oh-so-annoying “Singing Dogs”.  The track was the brain child of Don Charles from Denmark who recorded five puppies to achieve the final product.

There are some strange notations on this release.  Murrells reports that “Jingle Bells” on RCA Victor Extended Play 6344 sold 500,000 copies in the U.S.  That is probably true – but “Jingle Bells” did not chart in the U.S.  Billboard lists “Oh! Susanna” one of the other three tracks – as the charting tune – topping off at number 22 in December of 1955.  Seems a little suspicious.

In the U.K. “Jingle Bells”.  Murrell reports that the track sold 450,000 copies in a single week in the U.K.!  Combined global sales was well over one million.

The dogs weren’t through in the U.S. and “Jingle Bells” was not a lost cause – It would enter the Holiday charts on Billboard in 1971, 1972, 1973, 1983 and finally (thank God) in 1984.

To rub salt in the wound – the “Singing Dogs” actually had publicized names and a bit of promotion: They were “Pussy”, “Pearl”, “Dolly”, “King”, and “Caesar”.

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The Early “Rockers” – One Million Units or More

What I have compiled here is a listing of the earliest recordings to achieve global million unit selling status purporting tracks leaning strongly toward rock ‘n’ roll.  You will see that most of the earliest were actually rhythm and blues.  Sort of a fun exercise.

Here are the forerunners – presented when possible – on 78 rpm format.

Fats Domino

1948 – “The Fat Man” – His first of many million sellers – and cited by some as the first rock ‘n’ roll recording!
1952 – “Goin’ Home”
1953 – “Goin’ to the River” – “You Said You Loved Me” – “Please Don’t Leave Me” -“I Lived My Life”
1954 – “Love Me” – “Don’t Leave Me This Way”
1955 – “Thinking of You” – “Ain’t That a Shame” -“All By Myself” – “I Can’t Go On” – “Poor Me”

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John Lee Hooker

1948 – “I’m in the Mood” & “Boogie Chillun”


Roy Brown

1949 – “Hard Luck Blues”


Ivory Joe Hunter

1949 – “I Almost Lost My Mind”


Joe Turner

1951 – “Chains of Love”
1953 – “Honey Hush”
1955 – “Flip, Flop and Fly”

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Ruth Brown

1952 – “Five, Ten, Fifteen Hours”
1953 – “Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean” (with the Rhythm-Makers)

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Lloyd Price

1952 – “Ladwy, Miss Clawdy”


Faye Adams

1953 – “Shake a Hand”


The Drifters

1953 – “Money, Honey” (with Clyde McPhatter on lead vocal)


The Orioles

1953 – “Crying in the Chapel”


Hank Ballard & The Midnighters

1954 – “Work With Me Annie”



The Four Tunes

1954 – “I Understand Just How You Feel”


Bill Haley & The Comets

1954 – “Shake, Rattle & Roll” – “Rock Around the Clock” (This recording is said to have sold over 100 millions copies)

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The Penguins

1954 – “Earth Angel”


Chuck Berry

1955 – “Maybellene”


B.B King

1955 – “Every Day (I Have the Blues)”


Little Richard

1955 – “Tutti Frutti”


The Platters

1955 – “Only You (And You Alone)”


The Charms

1955 – “Hearts of Stone”


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