“I always liked that kind of music. It's honest music, and
I never missed hearing the Grand Ole Opry" -- Ray Charles
By 1962, rock and roll had been homogenized to better fit into the music mainstream. Teen idols led by newcomers such as Bobby Vinton and Johnny Tillotson continued to have a major presence on the charts. The Brill Building song writers continued to produce a “whiter” sound to rock and roll with great success. Howard Greenfield and Carole King wrote “Crying in the Rain” for The Everly Brothers (#6). Gene Pitney wrote “He’s a Rebel” for the Crystals. King, with Gerry Goffin, wrote “The Locomotion” (#1) for Little Eva. Greenfield teamed with Neil Sedaka to produce Sedaka’s #1 hit, “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do.” And Carole King had her personal debut as a singer with “It Might as Well Rain Until September” (#22). However, the harder sound of rock and roll could still be heard in recordings such as “Party Lights” by Claudine Clark and Roy Orbison’s “Dream Baby.”

The softer side of rock and roll had a great deal of success in 1962. Somewhat sappy love songs such as “Sealed With A Kiss” by Brian Hyland (#3) and “It Keeps Right On A-Hurtin’” by Johnny Tillotson (#3) met with chart success. The genre was led by Bobby Vinton’s first number one record, “Roses are Red” which was #1 for four weeks and was Billboard’s #4 record for the year. Similar to 1960, the most popular song of the year was an instrumental ballad. Just as “Theme From A Summer Place” by Percy Faith had found the top spot in 1960, Mr. Aker Bilk’s “Stranger on the Shore” was the top record of 1962. It was the #1 record on May 25th and would be in the top 40 for 15 weeks. It received the year end #1 spot by both Billboard and Gilbert & Theroux, while Cashbox had it #2 (“The Twist” was #1). It was originally recorded in England as the theme for a children’s television show.

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Perhaps the greatest soft rock success of 1962 came from an unsuspected source. In April, Ray Charles released a different album for ABC-Paramount Records -- it was a decided departure from his rhythm and blues oriented recordings. The album was a collection of country music songs that Charles gave a soul slant. The result was a top ranked LP and four charting singles. “I Can’t Stop Loving You” was the most popular. It had been recorded by Don Gibson in 1958 and was part of a double-sided hit country single along with “Oh, Lonesome Me.” Ray Charles’ version was #1 in June of 1962 for five weeks. Another cut from the album, “You Don’t Know Me” was released in August and reached #2 on the Billboard chart.

Elvis Presley’s presence on the 1962 charts was also heavily slanted towards the soft rock sound. In February a holdover from the Blue Hawaii soundtrack of 1961, “Can’t Help Falling In Love With You” reached #2, and in March an Elvis melody “Good Luck Charm” became the top Billboard song. He also had top ten songs with the soft sound of “She’s Not You” in May (#5) and the more rock and roll “Return To Sender” (#2 in November).

Presley had come close to having two number one records; there would only be one recording act that would actually accomplish two number ones in 1962 and that would be the new group, The Four Seasons. The quartet had been together since 1959, but had been mainly singing background vocals for Bob Crewe on his label, Topix. Finally, in 1961, the group was given their own recording session and produced “Sherry” that was eventually released by Vee-Jay records. The Seasons were the first white group to be recorded at Vee-Jay and the single shot up the charts, reaching #1 on September 15th. They followed that success with “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and it also made #1 (on November 17th). Others that came close to multiple #1 records: the previously mentioned Ray Charles songs, Chubby Checker with “The Twist” (#1) and Limbo Rock (#2), Dion with “Lovers Who Wander” (#3) and “The Wanderer” (#2), Gene Pitney with “Only Love Can Break a Heart” (#2) and “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” (#4), and Brenda Lee with “Break It To Me Gently” (#4) and “All Alone Am I” (#3).

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While The Four Seasons were definitely the most successful new recording artists of the year, there were several others that would get their start in 1962 and continue with recordings success in future years. The Crystals had three top 20 records with “He’s A Rebel” going to #1 in November; they would have two more top ten records in 1963. Tommy Roe’s “Sheila” was a number one record and Roe would continue to score top 40 hits for the next ten years. Mary Wells got her recording career started with “The One Who Really Loves You” (#8) and “You Beat Me To The Punch” (#9). But the only act that would eventually rival the success of The Four Seasons was the Beach Boys who’s “Surfin’ Safari” reached #14.

Neil Sedaka was far from a newcomer, having already scored three top ten records, but he had his biggest successes in 1962 as “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do” reached #1, while “Next Door To An Angel” (#5) and “Happy Birthday Sweet 16” (#6) were also top ten hits. The Marvelettes followed up their 1961 #1 song “Please, Mr. Postman” with two top 20 songs, “Playboy” (#7) and Beechwood 4-5789 (#17). Sam Cooke remained a favorite with four top 20 hits, the highest rank going to his contribution to the twist craze, “Twistin’ the Night Away” (#9). The Everly Brothers reported for duty with the army, but were still on the charts with two top 10 rankings, “Crying in the Rain” (#6) and “That’s Old Fashioned” (#10). Bobby Vee’s fortunes waned a little as he had three top 20 songs, but none in the top 10.

Movies and television continued to have a role on the music charts in 1962, the most obvious contribution being Shelley Fabares’ #1 hit, “Johnny Angel.” Shelley Fabares did not consider herself a singer and was “terrified” at the prospect of recording, but consented to do so as part of her “Mary” character on the Donna Reed Show. The producers of the show wanted to capitalize on their young stars appeal and scheduled her and costar Paul Peterson for a recording session on Columbia’s sound stage. The session didn’t go very well, and Stu Phillips was called in from the east coast to work with the material. He came up with the song, “Johnny Angel” for Fabares. Using The Blossoms (a group headed by Darlene Love that had “filled in” for The Crystals), the record was recorded at a smaller studio, United Recorders. It was released in February of 1962 when Ms. Fabares performed the song in an episode of the show, “Donna’s Prima Donna.” On April 7th it became the top song in the nation. Paul Peterson’s first effort didn’t do quite as well -- “She Can’t Find Her Keys” topped out at #19..

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Richard Chamberlain also capitalized on his television presence with “The Theme For Dr. Kildare” which reached #1. Johnny Crawford parlayed his role as Mark McCain on “The Rifleman” into a top ten single, “Cindy’s Birthday.” Walter Brennan (“The Real McCoys”) reached #5 with his recording of “Old Rivers.” And of course, Ricky Nelson, now known as Rick Nelson, continued his role on “The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet” and took two songs to #5 in 1962, “Teenage Idol” and “Young World.”

The movies didn’t provide much success in the singles domain, but Gene Pitney did have “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence” which made it to #4. Elvis Presley’s movie career continued to produce charting songs. While “Kid Galahad” didn’t generate any singles, “Girls, Girls, Girls” produced “Return to Sender” which reached #2 and the title song from “Follow That Dream” achieved a #15 ranking.

LP’s continued to be the provence of movie soundtracks with “West Side Story” leading all sales and “Blue Hawaii,” “Camelot,” and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” also in the top ten. The previously mentioned “Modern Sounds in Country & Western Music” by Ray Charles was the highest selling non-movie LP. Tony Bennet’s “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” was also a top ten album. The most unique album of 1962 was Vaughan Meader’s “The First Family,” a spoof of President Kennedy. It was released in November of 1962 and would win a Grammy in 1963 as best album. When President Kennedy was asked if he found the album annoying, he said, “I listened to Mr. Meader’s record and, frankly, I thought it sounded more like Teddy than it did me. So, now he’s annoyed.”

Outside of the Ray Charles recordings, country music’s contribution to the pop charts of 1962 wasn’t as great as previous years. Patsy Cline did reach #15 with “She’s Not You” and Burl Ives reached the top ten with both “A Little Bitty Tear” (#9) and “Funny Way of Laughin’” (#10). The most successful country crossover was Claude King’s “Wolverton Mountain” which reached #6 and was the 16th song of the year for Billboard.

Other notables from 1962:

• Bobby Boris Picket produced a #1 song “Monster Mash,” which would become a Halloween standard.
• David Rose’s recording of “The Stripper” went to #1 and would become a common high school band number.
• Bruce Chanel’s “Hey, Baby” also reached #1 -- by the 1990’s it would also be a standard among high school pep bands with members joining in on the chorus.
• With the success of “Duke of Earl” (#1), Gene Chandler would later don a monocle, cape and top hat and change his recording name to “Duke of Earl”
• The Chad Mitchel Trio produced two comedy singles “Lizzie Borden” and “Super Skier”

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Carole King released her first recording in 1962, "It Might As Well Rain Until September." But she had already had great success as a song writer with such credits as "Go Away Little Girl," "Take Good Care of My Baby," and "Will You Love Me Tomorrow,"
Mr. Aker Bilk's style was called "trad jazz" and it was a rarity, a smash hit in England that succesfully translated into success in the US.
Executives at ABC Paramount Records didn't want Ray Charles to do an album of country songs, but Charles insisted and the result was a #1 record, "I Can't Stop Loving You." Ray Charles said, "There's only two kinds of music: good and bad."
"Follow That Dream" is considered one of Elvis's better movies and the title cut from the soundtrack is one of his better songs, but it only reached #15. Perhaps part of the reason was that it was never released as a single, but got air play as part of an "EP."
The Four Seasons had been knocking around record labels for years under various names (The Varietones, The Village Voices, and the Four Lovers). Their 1962 record, "Sherry" launched a career that would span the next two decades.
The Beach Boys had their first top 40 hit with "Surfin Safari."
Shelley Fabares didn't want to sing, but her recording of "Johnny Angel" was one of the most popular of 1962.
Walter Brennan starred in the tv series "The Real McCoys" in 1962. His exposure on television helped him take his recording of "Old Rivers" to #5. It was a recitation record with backing vocals by The Johnnie Mann Singers.
"The First Family" was a comedy spoof of the Kennedy White House with Vaughn Meader impersonating JFK.
"Ahab the Arab" by Ray Stevens, "My Boomerang Won't Come Back" by Charlie Drake, and Bobby Boris Picket's "The Monster Mash" are all novelty songs that did well in 1962. "The Monster Mash" was by far the most successful.