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Frank Sinatra once sang 'they all laughed when Edison recorded sound'. It's unlikely that they did laugh at Thomas Alva Edison when he patented the phonograph on Christmas Eve, 1877, but it's equally unlikely that they ever envisioned a time when a single song recorded onto a 12-ich wax-coated zinc disc (which later replaced Edison's cylinder) would sell around the world in its millions.
The first artiste accredited with reaching the magic million mark is the famous operatic tenor Enrico Caruso, whose recording of Vesti La Giubba (On With The Motley) from the opera Pagliacci was recorded by Victor (USA) in 1903, although Caruso had made an earlier recording in Milan (in 1901) for the Gramaphone Co. of London.
In 1951 the recording was re-released, (the original recording made clearer by modern equipment), after the release of the feature film 'The Great Caruso', starring Mario Lanza.
Million sellers in the first half of the 1900's were not as uncommon as one might think, although they increased greatly after the introduction of talking movies as fans clamoured to take home with them the soundtrack of their favourite Hollywood musical. However, it was only after the war, in 1946, that they became more commonplace. The man with the golden touch in that year was undoubtedly Al Jolson (the first person to be heard in a commercially released talking movie), with no fewer than 5 million sellers.
On the pages that follow we'll look at the million selling records and recording artistes from 1950 to 1959. Use the navigation menu to view each year individually.