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.


In an era bookended by crippling depression and a devastating world war, the Summer Song was perhaps not at top of mind in the 1940s. And really, it wouldn’t be until the next decade – with rocketing U.S. economic prosperity and the rise of youth culture – that the iconic image of “summer fun” intertwined with a musical ear popsicle would begin to form the persistent pop culture meme we recognize today.

There’s something about the Summer Song that demands mobility; a listening experience in a fast-moving car or in front of slowly rolling waves. It’s enjoyed outside. But the 1940s weren’t known for mobile audio fidelity. The car stereo had yet to become a popular fixture, and the transistor radio wouldn’t be glued to teenage ears for another decade. But for the sake of the list, we can imagine a group of young Southern Californians untouched by war, driving off the the beach to grill Nathan’s hot dog sandwiches, toting a Gramophone in the back seat of their Packard.

One note about this decade’s list; release dates are difficult to come by for some songs in this era, and chart information is less than reliable in many cases. Some educated guesses were made. In other words, the release and chart dates were unavailable, and it may be included simply because it “sounds like a Summer Song.” But for the most part, only tunes released between May and September were considered for inclusion.


In the Mood – Glenn Miller (July, 1940)
Indian Summer – Glenn Miller (1940)
Misirlou – Harry James (1941)
Take the A Train – Duke Ellington (1941)
Midnight Special – Leadbelly (1941)
I Don’t Want To Set The World On Fire – Ink Spots (1941)
Perfidia – Xavier Cugat (1941)
Drum Boogie – Gene Krupa (1941)
Flying Home – Lionel Hampton (1942)
Salt Peanuts – Dizzy Gillespie (1942)
Strip Poker – Kay Kyser (1942)
Five Guys Named Moe – Louis Jordan (1943)
Paper Doll – The Mills Brothers (1943)
Straighten Up and Fly Right – Nat King Cole (peaked 7/1/44)
Tico Tico – Andrews Sisters (charted 7/8/44)
Til Then – Mills Brothers (charted 8/26/44)
Groovin’ High – Dizzy Gillespie (1945)
On the Sunny Side of the Street – Jo Stafford (charted 7/7/45)
It’s Only a Paper Moon – Ella Fitzgerald & The Delta Rhythm Boys (charted 8/25/45)
(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66 – Nat “King” Cole (charted 8/17/46)
Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah – Johnny Mercer (charted 12/7/1946)
Nuages – Django Reinhardt & Stephanie Grappelli (1946)
Hey! Ba-Ba-Re-Bob – Lionel Hampton (charted 3/2/46)
Cement Mixer (Put-Ti, Put-Ti) – Slim Gaillard Trio (charted 5/25/46)
That’s My Desire – Sammy Kaye & His Orchestra (Vocal Don Cornell) (charted 5/24/47)
Choo Choo Ch’Boogie – Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five (charted 8/31/46)
One O’Clock Boogie – Count Basie & His Orchestra (charted 6/28/47)
Peg O’ My Heart – Harmonicats (charted 4/26/47)
Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette) – Tex Williams & The Western Caravan (charted 7/5/47)
Milestones – Miles Davis (charted 8/14/47)
Move it on Over – Hank Williams (1947)
Scrapple from the Apple – Charlie Parker (1948)
Well You Needn’t – Thelonious Monk (1948)
Boogie Chillun – John Lee Hooker (1948)
Eddy Arnold – Bouquet Of Roses (charted 6/19/48)
Rambling Rose – Perry Como (charted 7/31/48)
Some Enchanted Evening – Jo Stafford (charted 5/14-7/16/49)
Bali Ha’i – Peggy Lee (charted 5/14-8/20)/49
Drinking Wine, Spo-Dee-O-Dee, Drinking Wine – Stick McGhee & His Buddies (charted 8/27/49)
That Lucky Old Sun – Frankie Laine (charted 8/27-10/1/49)

Next: Summer Fun in the Atomic Age