Chapters

Les Baxter - Unchained Melody. The first million seller for Les Baxter was written for the film Unchained in which it was sung by Todd Duncan.

Chuck Berry - Maybellene. The first big hit for Charles Edward Berry was co-written with Alan Freed and Russ Fratto. Born on 15 January 1931 in San Jose, California, Berry spent most of his youth in St Louis where he first performed at the age of 16. His co-writer Freed is the man who is credited as having invented the term Rock n' Roll. After releasing this single on the Chess label, Berry toured the United States with Bill Haley and Little Richard as well as appearing on TV and Rock n' Roll movies. The song is also known as 'Mabelline'.

Pat Boone - Ain't That A Shame. The first of Boone's many million sellers was written by Dave Bartholomew and Fats Domino. Pat Boone was born Charles Eugene Boone on 1st June 1934 in Jacksonville, Florida. He first came to notice in 1954 after winning a talent contest for the prize of a professional recording contract. This led to several network TV shows of his own and a million-dollar film contract. On record he became one of America's hottest properties rivalled only by Elvis Presley. He graduated from Columbia University three years after this hit with a B.S. degree in speech and English.

Don Cherry - Band of Gold. Reached number 6 in the UK charts in 1956 and 22 weeks in the US bestsellers.

Fats Domino - Thinking Of You. This was a good year for Domino with no fewer than five of his releases eventually going gold taking him up to 13 million sellers. The other records were: Ain't That A Shame; All By Myself; I Can't Let Go and Poor Me.

Lonnie Donegan and his Skiffle Group - Rock Island Line. The King of Skiffle was how Lonnie Donegan was billed and it was no idle boast. Born in Glasgow, Scotland on 29 April 1932, Anthony Donegan showed an early interest in folklore and folk music. At 17 he bought his first guitar and also discovered jazz music. After doing his National Service he joined the Ken Colyer Band, which is credited with introducing skiffle into the UK -the sound being based on making music out of homemade instruments, developed by black American's who wanted to play but couldn't afford to buy professionally made equipment. In 1951 Donegan formed his own group before joining forces with jazz musician Chris Barber on the album 'New Orleans Joys' (1953), for which Donegan received a fee of £2.10s (£2.50 in today's money). Donegan began building a reputation for himself and eventually found himself booked at the Royal Festival Hall on the same bill as US blues artist Lonnie Johnson. Donegan soon changed his first name to that of his idol's. Rock Island Line was Donegan's first big hit, having previously appeared on the Barber LP and played by Donegan at the Festival Hall gig. It came to the attention of the US record buying public in 1954 and was reissued as a single in 1955 when it became a hit on both sides of the Atlantic. In 1956 Donegan left Barber to go solo and by 1959 won the unique distinction of being the first Briton to earn three US gold discs for million sellers. His style of music was copied up and down both countries by anyone and everyone who couldn't afford to buy their own instruments and his influence on future musicians, and therefore music itself is incalculable -although it should be noted that around this time in Liverpool a young lad, named John Lennon, with a desire to play music formed a skiffle group of his own...

Rusty Draper - Shifting, Whispering Sands. Second million seller for Rusty

The Dream Weavers - It's Almost Tomorrow. The only million seller for this group.

Tennessee Ernie Ford - Sixteen Tons. Born on a farm outside Bristol, Tennessee on 13th February 1919, Ford worked as a disc jockey in Pasadena before entering the Airforce in 1941. In 1949 he joined the 'Hometown Jamboree' show as a singer where one night he was heard by a Capitol representative. Three days later he was signed to a contract. This single, his first million seller was written in 1947 by Merle Travis, a Kentucky coal-miners son from Beech Creek who wanted to record some coal-miners songs but discovered to his dismay that there were precious little about. So -he wrote some himself and the pithy cynicism of his lyrics ('you move sixteen tons and what do you get, another day older and deeper in debt') were appreciated by many American's who all 'owed their soul to the company store' a reference to living on credit. The single, recorded by Ford, was released in October 1955 and sold over 400,000 copies in it's first eleven days.

The Four Aces - Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing. 5th million seller for this quartet. From the film of the same name and the 1955 Best Film Song Oscar winner.

The Four Lads - Moments To Remember. Like The Crew Cuts before them, The Four Lads attended the Cathedral Choir School in Toronto. They also backed Johnny Ray on his single 'Cry'.

Bill Hayes - The Ballad of Davy Crockett. Hayes only million seller recorded as the theme tune to Disney's TV series for ABC-TV in the USA. A hit on both sides of the Atlantic.

Al Hibbler - Unchained Melody. Born in Little Rock, Arkansas on 16th August 1915, Hibbler was blind from birth and became interested in music at Little Rock's school for the blind, where he joined the choir. He was later 'discovered' by Duke Ellington and toured the world with 'the Duke' and his band for 8 years.
B.B. King - Every Day. Riley B. King was born on 16th September 1925 in Itta Bona, Mississippi. He was raised on a plantation in the heart of the cotton producing bottomlands of the Mississippi Delta where some of the greatest blues artistes have come from. He spent his early youth like the rest of his family, working in the fields, learning to play guitar and singing in the gospel choir. From such humble beginnings B.B. King became the undisputed 'King of the Blues' but it wasn't until the late 1960s when English stars such as Eric Clapton began performing polished blues numbers that King and his music reached an appreciative white audience. Until 1968 he had still been playing one-night performances in dirtwater roadhouses and big-city ghetto clubs. The following year he performed in front of a 6,000 strong audience at London's Royal Albert Hall.

Little Richard - Tutti Frutti. Richard Penniman was born on Christmas Day 1935 in Macon, Georgia and started as a soloist in his local church at the age of 14. Determined to make a showbiz career for himself he sung, danced and sold a herbal tonic at a medicine show before winning a talent contest in Atlanta, Georgia. His first recording contract with Victor Records didn't reap the success he hoped for and he returned home dejected, but soon joined the Temple Toppers group, who made discs for another company. Once more his career seemed to be going nowhere so he made a private tape and sent it to Specialty Records. Among the records was a collaboration between D La Bostrie, R Penniman (Richard) and Joe Lubin;- Tutti Frutti. He was immediately offered a five year contract and the song, arriving in the record stores just in time for the birth of Rock n' Roll, establishing Little Richard as one of the genre's founding father's. By 1968 his total disc sales exceeded 32 million.

Julie London - Cry Me A River. Actress/singer Julie London was born June Webb in Santa Rosa, California and worked as a lift attendant in a department store before being discovered by Sue Carol. This haunting song, covered many times since -but never with the same degree of sultriness, is her only million seller, written by Arthur Hamilton in 1953 and featured superbly and with great atmosphere a year after its release in the movie The Girl Can't Help It.
Mitch Miller - Yellow Rose of Texas. U.S. Civil War song from around 1864 when it was known as 'The Gallant Hood of Texas', a favourite with the soldiers under the command of General John B. Hood. Adapted here by Don George.

The Platters - Only You. First million seller for the four boys; Tony Williams, David Lynch, Paul Robi, Herbert Reed and one girl; Zola Taylor. Reputedly the first disc to sell a million copies in France, 'Only You' catapulted The Platters from obscurity (the boys were all working as parking lot attendants in Los Angeles) to the very pinnacle of success. By 1965 they had achieved nine gold discs.

Perez Prado - Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White. No, not an advertisement for a household cleaner, but an adapted French hit ('Cerisier Rose et Pommer Blanc') to become the first million seller for Prado aka 'King of the Mambo'.

Frank Sinatra - Love and Marriage. 17 weeks on the bestseller chart for 'Ole Blue Eyes'.

Cyril Stapleton and his Orchestra - Blue Star. Theme tune for the U.S. TV series 'Medic'.

Gale Storm - I Hear You Knocking. Gale Storm was an actress who starred in the U.S. TV series 'My Little Margie'. This was her only million seller.

Joe Turner - Flip Flop and Fly. Standard rhythm and blues number that sold a million for Joe and became a part of Elvis Presley's later stage repertoire.

Caterina Valente - The Breeze and I. Valente was a popular singer born in Paris of Italian parents who established herself in the USA. She was a popular star in Britain, too.

Roger Williams - Autumn Leaves. First million seller for Williams and the Kapp label. Williams was voted (in 1962) as 'the most played' and 'favourite solo instrumentalist' by a poll of U.S. disc jockey's.