I’m into another rotation of my non-classical music collection, and this time I’m making a list of my favorite songs with the intention of eventually making a USB drive for my portable music player that will play all the time, wherever I am, when I’m not in the office or the car.
Following are the first five on my list, the only ones from before 1960.
“The Wayward Wind” by Gogi Grant, 1956—My youngest uncle was still living at home and going to college when my wise old grandmother adopted me. This was one of his favorite songs, and although we became estranged from each other in 1994, I still love this song.
“I Walk The Line” by Johnny Cash, 1956—I heard through the grapevine that I used to sit in the backseat of the car and sing along with Johnny Cash whenever this song came on the radio.
“Tom Dooley” by The Kingston Trio, 1958—This was one of my wise old grandmother’s favorite songs. She had it on a vinyl 45, which she gave to me in 1994 when she moved from her home of 57 years into an assisted living facility, called nursing homes back then.
“Soldier’s Joy” by Hawkshaw Hawkins, 1959—Each day I go through a couple of pages of Joel Whitburn’s “Top Pop Singles” book looking for songs that I like but for some reason missed. This is one such song that I discovered.
Interestingly, according to the Library of Congress, “Soldier’s Joy” is one of the oldest and most widely distributed tunes in the English-speaking world, showing up in sheet music on both sides of the Atlantic from the late eighteenth century.
Also interestingly, soldier’s joy can also refer to morphine, although morphine was not isolated until the early 1800’s. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean people didn’t know that they could get a natural high from poppie.
“The Battle of New Orleans” by Johnny Horton, 1959—I first heard this song in February 1974 at Mardi Gras in New Orleans. In the following months I discovered much more in the Johnny Horton catalog.