Songs of Summer: A Secret History, 1950-1959

Written by Music

Popdose looks back at some of the best summer hits from the ’50s.

Summer. It turns me upside down. But it seems with every Northern Solstice we’re delivered the same shopworn list of “summer songs.” I’m not saying “Surf City,” “Summer in the City” and “Hey Ya” aren’t great Summer Songs; just that we’ve seen this list time and again. It’s gone a bit stale. So let’s shake it up, decade by decade, with a list of classic Summer Songs that might not be obvious choices, and surely won’t be found in UsPeople Magazine’s annual regurgitation.

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As the post-atomic world dawned in the United States, memories of the 1940s remained, echoing through the sounds of summer. Dance bands and crooners ruled the charts, but as the 1950s progressed, the spirit of American youth began to exert itself. The sound of rhythm & blues – and soon thereafter, rock & roll – prepared to shape the world, as well as the Sound of Summer. As the American teen realized its influence, the Summer Song began to come into its own. But even as youngsters anticipated the end of school and the lure of beach parties, America’s adult hi-fi set dreamed of tropical shores as the exotica movement bloomed over stereo systems across the nation.

La Vie en Rose – Bing Crosby (charted 8/5/50)
Mona Lisa – Nat King Cole (charted 6/10/50, peaked 7/8/50)
Sixty Minute Man – The Dominoes (charted 8/25/51, peaked 9/22/51)
Castle Rock – Frank Sinatra with Harry James Orchestra (charted 9/1/51)
In the Good Old Summertime – Les Paul and Mary Ford (6/21/52, peaked 7/19/52)
Indian Love Call – Slim Whitman (charted 7/26/52, peaked 9/20/52)
Watermelon Weather – Perry Como & Eddie Fisher (charted 6/14/52)
Fractured – Bill Haley with Haley’s Comets (charted 8/15/53)
C’est Si Bon – Eartha Kitt (charted 7/18/53, peaked 8/15/53)
Cherokee – Clifford Brown Sextet (recorded 8/28/53)
Shake, Rattle and Roll – Joe Turner (charted 8/14/54)
Hernando’s Hideaway – Archie Bleyer (charted 5/22/54, peaked 7/17/54)
Gee – The Crows charted (4/10/54)
Maybelline – Chuck Berry (charted 8/20/55, peaked 9/10/55)
Cherokee – Max Roach and Clifford Brown (1955)
Little Girl of Mine – The Cleftones (charted 4/28/56, reached no. 57)
Fever – Little Willie John (charted 7/7/56, peaked 8/18/56)
Be-Bop-A-Lula – Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps (charted 6/16/56, peaked 7/28/56)
Tonight You Belong to Me – Patience and Prudence (charted 8/4/56, peaked 10/6/56)
Can’t Wait for Summer – Steve Lawrence (charted 5/27/57, 11 weeks on charts)
Little Darlin’ – The Gladiolas (charted 4/6/57)
Cool Shake – Del Vikings (charted 7/15/57, 13 weeks on charts)
Cocoanut Woman – Harry Belafonte (charted 6/3/57)
One Summer Night – The Danleers (charted 6/30/58, 13 weeks on charts)
Ooh! My Soul – Little Richard (charted 6/9/58)
Summertime, Summertime – The Jamies (charted 8/18/58, reached no. 26)
Summer’s Love – Richard Barrett and The Chantels (charted 7/20/59)
Taboo – Arthur Lyman (charted 6/15/59, 6 weeks on charts)
You’re so Fine – The Falcons (charted 4/20/59, peaked 7/13/59, 20 weeks on charts)
Broken-Hearted Melody – Sarah Vaughn (charted 7/20/59, reached no. 7, 19 weeks on charts)
Sugaree – Rusty York (charted 7/20/59)
Martinique – Martin Denny (charted 7/20/59)
Summer Dreams – McGuire Sisters (charted 4/27/59, 7 weeks on charts)
Sea of Love – Phil Phillips (charted 7/6/59, peaked 8/24/59, reached no. 2)