Researched and written by Sharon Mawer

There were six number one albums in 1961, two by The George Mitchell Minstrels, one by Cliff Richard & The Shadows, the debut solo album by The Shadows, one by Elvis Presley and the final few weeks at the top for the Soundtrack to South Pacific. The George Mitchell Minstrels had made a brief appearance in the final six weeks of 1960 but in 1961, their LP spin off to accompany the TV series The Black And White Minstrel Show, really took off. The LP spent the entire year jumping around the chart positions in the top 6, moving up to no.1 at the end of July, spending 7 weeks at the top during 1961 and not leaving the chart until March 1963, by which time it had enjoyed a resurgence of popularity and another couple of weeks at no.1 in 1962 and 1963. As well as the 7 weeks at no.1, The Black And White Minstrel Show also had 9 weeks in the runner up position and by November they had released the follow up album, a second volume called Another Black And White Minstrel Show, which took over at the top on the 11th of November and remained at no.1 for the next eight weeks until the end of the year, giving the George Mitchell Minstrels both the top 2 positions going into 1962.

It is hard to believe now just how popular the Black And White Minstrel Show was. It started as a one off television special in 1957 with the male singing roles taken by the Mitchell Minstrels, named after George Mitchell, the musical director and the Television Toppers, a female dance troupe. The following year, a series was launched and lasted for 20 years on prime time Saturday night television. The Black And White Minstrels, so called as the men continued a century old tradition of blacking their faces, although the make up was actually red to look more authentic on black and white television. It featured both solo and group minstrel music numbers, mainly from the American Deep South, but also Music Hall and Vaudeville, Show tunes and comedy interludes with guest stars Don Maclean, Leslie Crowther and Keith Harris while solo numbers were regularly performed by Tony Mercer, John Boulter and Dai Francis. The premise of the show was the Deep South of America in the 19th century where black slaves would break from working on the plantations to woo the unsuspecting white ladies. The Television Toppers did not black up and it was ultimately this caricaturing of black people, however innocent, that led to the show's demise and fall from grace. And innocent it was too. The programme producer George Inns and musical director George Mitchell, could hardly believe it when a complaint was lodged by the Campaign Against Racial Discrimination in 1967, which delivered a petition to the BBC that the show was racist and should be taken off the air. This was one of the BBC's most popular shows with a regular audience exceeding 18 million viewers. However, this was about the only show on television that portrayed black people and they weren't real. When colour television was introduced in 1967, this only seemed to make the matter worse. They attempted a "whiteface" version in the late 1960s titled Masquerade, using masks instead of black faces which made the situation even worse still, suggesting that black people were not real people and when the audience figures plummeted, they reverted to black minstrels. The writing was on the wall however, and by 1978, due a combination of continuing protests, the dated nature of the music and the movement away from light entertainment and variety on television, the show was finally cancelled, living on until 1987 as a live stage show, touring Butlin's holiday resorts.

The stage and television shows were equally popular. It was an obvious move to release an LP featuring songs from the show. The first LP, actually titled The George Mitchell Minstrels From The Black And White Minstrel Show included 8 tracks with medleys of 56 songs from the 1890s up to the present time, the medleys titled Meet The Minstrels with Oh Dem Golden Slippers, Camp Town Races and If You Were The Only Girl In The World, Your Requests, another medley with songs ranging from You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby, Daddy Wouldn't Buy Me A Bow Wow, Moonlight Bay, Ma He's Making Eyes At Me and I'm Looking Over A Four Leaf Clover, A Tribute To Al Jolson (the most famous blackface minstrel), Meet The Girls and the Grand Finale including Coal Black Mammy, Polly Wolly Doodle and When The Midnight Choo Choo Leaves For Alabam. The second volume titled The George Mitchell Minstrels From Another Black And White Minstrel Show was another series of seven medleys with a total of 49 individual songs similar to the first volume, another Meet The Minstrels medley including When The Saints Go Marching In and You Made Me Love You, In The Good Old Summertime medley, Western Style medley, Goodbye ee and more of Your Requests, re-using the titles for their medleys, including Singin In The Rain and My Blue Heaven.

Another artist new to the no.1 position was The Shadows with their eponymous debut album, indeed they reached the top of the LP charts six weeks before Cliff Richard, who enjoyed his first no.1 LP with 21 Today together with The Shadows, back as a backing band for just one week in November. Cliff Richard began the year at no.3 with Me And My Shadows, by May, he had had his third no.2 LP Listen To Cliff and by the end of the year just entered the top 10 with the Soundtrack to the film The Young Ones.

Originally Cliff Richard's backing band, The Shadows began recording on their own in 1960. Guitarists Ken Pavey, Norman Mitham, bassist Ian Samwell and drummer Terry Smart were not considered good enough musicians by Norrie Paramor, the director of recordings at Columbia records and he set off for the Two I's coffee shop, famed for its live skiffle performers and found Hank Marvin and Bruce Welch. Hank looking not unlike Buddy Holly, had his own distinctive style of guitar playing which could be heard on Cliff's earliest recordings. Soon, Samwell and Smart were moved aside to make way for a new rhythm section Jet Harris and Tony Meehan and this was the line up that began recording in their own right. Starting as a vocal group with the singles Feelin Fine and Don't Be A Fool For Love, they moved on to instrumentals and covered the Jerry Lordon track Apache which became one of the biggest hit singles of 1960. The debut album was mostly filled with trademark instrumentals, Shadoogie, Blue Star, Sleep Walk and Theme From A Filleted Place but also included Hank Marvin singing lead vocals on That's My Desire, Baby My Heart and a cover version of the Kingston Trio's All My Sorrows.

Listen To Cliff began with a Ray Charles cover, What'd I Say. This fast moving rocker did not set the tone for the rest of the LP which was filled with cover version ballads, Blue Moon, Unchained Melody, Idle Gossip, Sentimental Journey and We Kiss In A Shadow. Producer Norrie Paramor, having guided Cliff towards ballads, did not want his protégée to be typecast however and songs such as Beat Out Dat Rhythm On A Drum, Temptation and Lover were fast and furious. In the liner notes Paramor states that "Cliff felt that he wanted to give you something unusual this time". He did.

Cliff's first no.1 LP, 21 Today was released on his 21st birthday and opens with the Shadows playing Happy Birthday To You with a party going on in the background. The LP moves along with tracks falling into three distinct categories, either mid tempo ballads with the Shadows backing like Catch Me and Shame On You or slow ballads with orchestral strings backing How Wonderful To Know, 50 Tears For Every Kiss, Outsider and To Prove My Love For You, or Rock n Roll numbers like Forty Days, Tough Enough and Without You. There are a couple of surprising tracks on 21 Today, a cover of Gene Austin's 1920s My Blue Heaven, a very laid back version of Tea For Two and Y Arriva, a Mexican influenced track written by Hank Marvin and Bruce Welch.

The best selling LP of 1961 was Elvis Presley's GI Blues which like the Black And White Minstrel Show had entered the chart in the final weeks of 1960. GI Blues moved up to no.1 in the second week of 1961 to become Elvis's 5th no.1 LP, remained at the top throughout January and February, had another three weeks at no.1 in March and a further twelve weeks between April and June, spending a total of 22 weeks at no.1. With four no.1 singles during the year, Elvis Presley was, by quite a distance, the best selling artist of 1961 and this year, he also enjoyed a no.2 LP with Something For Everybody, a no.3 with the Gospel LP His Hand In Mine and right at the end of the year, released the LP that would go on to dominate the first half of 1962, Blue Hawaii.

In the film GI Blues, Elvis Presley plays Tulsa McLean a GI stationed in Germany and dreaming of running his own nightclub when he finally leaves the army. He bets that his friend, Dynamite can chat up and spend the night with a club dancer Lily, but when Dynamite is transferred, Tulsa has to take up the bet himself, and in the process of chatting up Lily, falls in love with her for real. Musical numbers move along with the story, Tonight Is So Right For Love, What's She Really Like, Shoppin Around and the ballad written by Bert Kaempfert Wooden Heart. There is also a newly recorded version of Blue Suede Shoes as if to show that Elvis was still capable of rocking.

Something for Everybody included the rockers I'm Coming Home, Judy, I Slipped I Stumbled I Fell and Put The Blame On Me as well as the ballads There's Always Me, It's A Sin and In Your Arms. His Hand In Mine is Elvis' first full length Gospel LP following his Peace In The Valley EP, four years ago. His backing singers on this LP included the Swan Silvertones and The Golden Gate Quartet and they greatly influence Elvis' lead singing. This was Elvis back to his original musical roots where he had heard Gospel music in black churches in the 1940s. Joshua Fit The Battle and Swing Down Sweet Chariot sound as if they could have been performed in a church and the LP ranged between the quartet ballad songs, His Hand In Mine, In My Fathers House, Known Only To Him and He Knows Just What I Need, to Rock n Roll, Milky White Way, and Working On The Building.

On the first week of the year, South Pacific soundtrack was no.1 and it finally left the top position for the last time on 16th September, having spent an unequalled 115 weeks at no.1 in total, nine of those during 1961 which also included 29 weeks at no.2 of its total of 54 weeks in the runner up position.

On the one hand, 1961 was a year that new, young pop stars broke through to the LP charts for the first time, the previously mentioned Shadows and also Adam Faith with Adam and Billy Fury with Halfway To Paradise, but it was also the year that saw the first appearances in the LP chart for such old hands as Frankie Laine with Hell Bent For Leather and even Glenn Miller with Plays Selections From The Glenn Miller Story.

Adam Faith entered the top 10 on the first week of 1961 and climbed to no.5. He was born Terence Nelhams in London and was another of the singers who performed at the Two I's coffee bar. He came to the attention of Jack Goode and John Barry and was given guest appearance slots on the TV series Oh Boy and Drumbeat. He was signed to the EMI Parlophone label where he immediately enjoyed chart success with his first single What Do You Want, at Christmas 1959. He followed this up in early 1960 with Poor Me, another number one and four further top 5 hit singles before releasing the first LP, Adam. None of these singles appeared on the LP, but most of the tracks were recorded in a similar style to the hits with pizzicato strings and Adam's voice sounding as if he was hiccoughing through the numbers, even on his versions of Summertime, Turn Me Loose and Singin In The Rain, although I'm A Man was an attempt at a more uptempo rocking number. With his career following a similar path, Ronald Wycherely was born in Liverpool and like so many of his contemporaries, began playing in a skiffle group until being discovered by impresario Larry Parnes who renamed this new potential star, Billy Fury. His singles were nowhere near as successful as Adam Faith's but after appearances on the Oh Boy television series, he recorded the albums Billy Fury which did not chart and The Sound Of Fury as a 10" LP which reached no.18 in a recently expanded top 20 listing. The third LP, Halfway To Paradise named after the first and title track, reached no.5 and included his own composition Fury's Tune as well as cover versions of Don't Worry and A Thousand Stars.

Another singer with a large string of hit singles behind him but making his first ever appearance in the LP charts was Frankie Laine. He had been on the very first singles chart back in 1952 with High Noon and since then had achieved four no.1 singles and sixteen other top 10 hits. Frankie Laine was born in Chicago in 1913 and had become famous for singing western style songs, not least the theme tune to the film High Noon, but also number one singles in the US in the late 1940s That Lucky Old Sun and Mule Train. When the charts were launched in Britain, he was at the peak of his popularity, enjoying 27 weeks at no.1 during 1953. Hell Bent For Leather was his 19th LP release and revisited his old hits High Noon (Do Not Forsake Me), Cry Of the Wild Goose, Rawhide, Cool Water and Mule Train and also included western style cowboy themes Wanted Man, Gunfight At The OK Corral, Along The Navajo Trail and The Hanging Tree.

Not really a chart oriented artist with either singles or albums in the UK, was Glenn Miller who was born in 1904 in Iowa. His US chart career mainly centred on the years 1939-1944 after years of playing trombone in various bands including the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra and eventually finding his trademark sound of reeds, clarinets and saxophones and hitting the US charts with 13 unofficial no.1s in one year from July 1939 and a further 7 official no.1s once the sales charts began in July 1940. When the LP charts started in 1945, he enjoyed the third no.1 album, a compilation of 78 rpm records. In June 1944, he took his band to England and from there travelled to Paris, but the plane was lost and he was missing presumed dead. Over the years, RCA have re-released many compilations of his works and Plays Selections From The Glenn Miller Story in 1961, his first UK chart LP included most of his famous tracks featured in the semi fictional film starring James Stewart, In The Mood, Tuxedo Junction, Chattanooga Choo Choo, Elmers Tune, String Of Pearls, Kalamazaoo and Moonlight Serenade.

Another new LP filled with old songs was Dorothy Provine's The Roaring Twenties, songs from the TV series. Dorothy Provine was a star of the stage appearing in productions around the Seattle and Washington areas and was also the co-host of a local TV quiz programme and it was on television that she made her name on the series The Alaskans, followed by The Roaring Twenties. Another surprising television related top 10 album was the cast recording of music from the animated show Huckleberry Hound. Huckleberry Hound was a cartoon character, a blue dog, created by Hanna-Barbera, and the star of the late 1950s animated series. The show had two supporting segments, both of which would become equally as popular as Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear with Boo Boo and their adventures attempting to outwit the ranger in Jellystone Park and the mice Pixie and Dixie also attempting to outwit the cat Mr Jinks. Huckleberry Hound, voiced by Daws Butler spoke with a southern drawl, and most of the cartoons revolved around Huck attempting to find employment in such varied fields as a policeman to a dog catcher, always backfiring and always singing his trademark out of tune melody Oh My Darling Clementine. An LP of music featured on the cartoons was released and reached no.10 in the UK charts.

More conventional cast recordings featuring the London stage and Broadway casts were The Music Man, Oliver, Stop the World I Want To Get Off and The Sound Of Music. Oliver had entered the chart in September 1960 and didn't reach its peak until October 1961, over a year later. Stop The World I Want To Get Off featured Anthony Newley who also charted with his solo album Tony. The Sound Of Music was in the charts by both the London and Broadway casts, the London version peaking one place higher at no.3.

Meredith Wilson's The Music Man is the musical most famous for the song 76 Trombones and tells the story of America in the early 20th century with brass bands, barbershop quartets and Professor Harold Hill, a conman, travelling from town to town, selling musical instruments and offering lessons to the town's children to form or join local bands. Stop the World, I Want to Get Off was written by and starred Anthony Newley. A rags to riches story of a tea boy who became a millionaire and looks back on his life singing the songs that made him what he is today, Lumbered, Gonna Build A Mountain, Once In A Lifetime and What Kind Of Fool Am I, all sung in Newley's typically cockney accent. Anthony Newley was born in Hackney in 1931 and was evacuated during the war to a foster home. He made his own way to Brighton and met George Pescud who introduced him to Music Hall and performing on both the stage and in films. Still virtually a child actor in 1948, he landed the role of the Artful Dodger in the film Oliver. His own solo LP, Tony, his second album included oldies Yes We Have No Bananas, Pack Up Your Troubles, Bye Bye Blackbird and even Pop Goes The Weasel.

The Sound Of Music was the story of Maria, an apprentice nun who is sent to look after the children of the Von Trapp family after the death of their mother. She eventually falls in love, first with the children and finally with the children's father, Captain Von Trapp and in the process brings the sound of music back to a formally unhappy household. Together the whole family flee from the Nazis after the Anschluss, when the Captain, a quintessential Austrian, is called up into the German army. Songs included How Can Love Survive, No Way To Stop It and An Ordinary Couple, all omitted when the film version was released, the rest of the songs retained including Maria, My Favourite Things, Do Re Mi, So Long Farewell, Climb Every Mountain, Edelweiss and Sixteen Going On Seventeen. In 1961, both the Broadway and London Cast recordings were in the top 10 but the film soundtrack version 4 years later would eclipse the sales of both of these combined.

New film soundtracks in the charts of 1961 were Seven Brides For Seven Brothers and Song Without End. Still making the occasional appearance in the top 10 throughout the year were Oklahoma and The King And I. Seven Brides For Seven Brothers starred Howard Keel as Adam Pontipee who decides that it is time for him to take a wife, so he goes into town and convinces Milly, played by Jane Powell, to marry him. The problems start for Milly when she realises that she will also have to care for his six brothers who also live in one house in the backwoods. The brothers agree that Adam's way of getting a wife was a good idea so they also go into town, but kidnap six young women and bring them forcibly to the house which is then cut off for the entire winter. Famous for its spectacular dance sequences, Seven Brides also includes the songs Bless Your Beautiful hide, Wonderful Day, I'm A Lonesome Polecat, June Bride and Spring Spring Spring. Song Without End tells the life story of Franz Liszt, the Hungarian composer from the 19th century. Dirk Bogarde takes the lead role in what Columbia Pictures were hoping was going to be a film as successful as their earlier Song To Remember about Frederic Chopin.

Frank Sinatra showed no sign of slowing down as he placed six new LPs in the top 10 during 1961, Nice n Easy, When Your Lover Has Gone, Sinatra's Swinging Sessions, Sinatra Plus, Sinatra Swings and Ring A Ding Ding.

Nice n Easy was a such an easy LP, far removed from his swing LPs, arranged by Nelson Riddle and including the tracks That Old Feeling, I've Got A Crush On You, Fools Rush In, Nevertheless, Mamselle and Someone To Watch Over Me. An album so slow that Frank Sinatra almost falls asleep in some of the numbers, let alone what he does to the listener. When Your Lover Has Gone includes the tracks What Is This Thing Called Love, The Same Old Song And Dance, Glad To Be Unhappy and Last Night When We Were Young. Returning to a swing collection, Sinatra's Swingin' Session is mostly a rerecording of his first LP Sing And Dance With Frank Sinatra, re-arranged and speeded up by Nelson Riddle, songs include When You're Smiling, It's Only A Paper Moon, My Blue Heaven, Always and September In The Rain. Sinatra Plus is a double LP featuring songs from 1939-1953, Birth Of The Blues, All Of Me, Ol Man River and Nearness Of You. Sinatra Swings includes the songs Lady Is A Tramp, I've Got You Under My Skin, My Funny Valentine and a reprise of Come Fly With Me. Ring-a-Ding Ding was his first LP on his own record label Reprise, and is a typical rat pack LP with Sinatra swinging and clicking fingers on Let's Fall In love, The Coffee Song, Let's Face The Music And Dance and Zing Went The Strings Of My Heart and singing ballads Be Careful It's My Heart, A Fine Romance and In The Still Of The Night.

Apart from Elvis Presley and Cliff Richard, 1961 was not a good year for the original Rock n Roll stars. Buddy Holly hit no.5 with a new compilation, That'll Be The Day and the 1959 LP The Buddy Holly Story made a re-appearance, now identified as Volume 1 as Volume 2 had also already been released. Duane Eddy reached no.5 with A Million Dollars Worth Of Twang. The Everly Brothers hit no.3 with A Date With The Everly Brothers. That'll Be the Day featured 11 tracks, mostly recorded in 1956 during Buddy Holly's Nashville sessions, therefore giving this LP, a country flavour. A Million dollars worth of twang was a compilation of Duane Eddy's early hits including Forty Miles Of Bad Road, Some Kinda Earthquake, Bonnie Come Back and also a couple of his newer recordings Pepe and the lush orchestral, Because They're Young. A Date with the Everly Brothers was their second LP for their new label Warner Brothers and included Cathy's Clown, one of the biggest hit singles from 1960 and a variety of song styles from the ballads Donna and Love Hurts to a rockin version of Little Richard's Lucille, with the Everly Brothers trademark harmonies. Riding high with the trad jazz revival were Chris Barber and Acker Bilk who recorded two albums together, The Best Of Barber And Bilk volumes 1 and 2. Volume one was the bigger of the two LPs and featured 11 tracks by Chris Barber including his hit single from 2 years ago, Petite Fleure and 12 tracks by Acker Bilk.

Middle Of The Road Easy Listening LPs in the lower half of the top 10 were Shirley Bassey with Shirley, John Hanson with his recording of the songs from The Student Prince and The Vagabond King and The Temple Church Choir singing Christmas Carols. The Temple Church is one of the most historic and beautiful churches in London situated between Fleet Street and the River Thames and their choir recorded an album in 1961 of Christmas Carols. Shirley Bassey was born in Cardiff in 1937 and began her musical career singing at men's clubs after working during the day at a factory. She was given her big break by Al Read at a London Christmas show, promoted by bandleader Jack Hylton. This led to some hit singles in the late 1950s, early 1960s including two number ones As I Love You and Reach For The Stars backed with Climb Every Mountain, one of the big ballads from The Sound Of Music. Her debut LP, The Fabulous Shirley Bassey, just reached the charts at no.12, but the follow up Shirley was a top 10 hit and included the torch song ballads Every Time We Say Goodbye, I'm In The Mood For Love, In The Still Of The Night and Let There Be Love.

The US no1 LPs in 1961 included the cast recording of Camelot which would not reach the UK top 10 until 1964, Judy Garland's Judy At Carnegie Hall, peaking at no.13 in the UK and the Soundtrack to the film Exodus which reached no.17. There was no room in the UK charts at all for Bob Newhart's Button Down Mind Strikes Again, Bert Kaempfert-Wonderland By Night, Lawrence Welk-Calcutta, the Broadway cast recording of Carnival, the compilation Stars For A Summer Night and yet another US no.1 for Enoch Light And The Light Brigade, Stereo 35mm.

Two US top 3 LPs, Dave Brubeck's Time Out and the compilation Great Motion Picture Themes, reached nos.11 and 19 respectively but the Soundtrack to Never On Sunday, Mantovani's Music From Exodus And Other Great Themes, Johnny Mathis-Portrait of Johnny, Lawrence Welk-Yellow Bird, Henry Mancini's Breakfast At Tiffany's, Eddie Harris-Exodus To Jazz, Volume three of Persuasive Percussion by Enoch Light & Light Brigade, Mitch Miller-TV Sing Along With Mitch, two LPs by Harry Belafonte, Jump Up Calypso and Belafonte Returns To Carnegie Hall and three LPs by The Kingston Trio, Make Way, Goin Places and Kingston Trio Close Up, all failed to chart in the UK.

There were no LP chart entries for the no.1 single hitmakers of 1961, Johnny Tillotson, Petula Clark, The Marcels, Floyd Cramer, Del Shannon, Eden Kane, Helen Shapiro, John Leyton, The Highwaymen, Frankie Vaughan and Danny Williams.


Top albums of 1961
1 Elvis Presley - G.I. Blues
2 George Mitchell Minstrels - Black and White Minstrel Show
3 Soundtrack - South Pacific
4 Shadows - Shadows
5 George Mitchell Minstrels - Another Black and White Minstrel Show
6 Cliff Richard - Listen To Cliff
7 Cliff Richard - I'm 21 Today
8 Original London Cast - Sound Of Music
9 Original London Cast - Oliver
10 Bob Newhart - Button Down Mind Of Bob Newhart

(c) 2007 Text: Sharon Mawer / Contact: Sharon Mawer
(c) 2007 All chart information: The Official UK Charts Company

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