Culture

10 Songs of the Korean War Era

Editor’s Note: See the first two installments in Allston’s wonderful new series: “10 Classic Songs from the World War II Era” and “10 More World War II-Era Classic Songs.” And please leave your suggestions in the comments.

June 25, 1950, and the North Koreans (backed by the Soviets and the Chinese) were suddenly invading the south, pushing their novice Army (and our sole Division stationed there) back, and back, and back again, until they were caught within the Pusan Perimeter, backs to the sea. Things looked desperate.

Until Dougie Mac showed ‘em at Inchon. You may count America as down, but never out. The music of this era shows our optimism and determination, we were not on the ropes, not by any means.

The Ames swept to top billing in January, 1950, with this, their first hit song. Shortly after, they began to appear as regulars on the Arthur Godfrey show, as well as on the original Ed Sullivan (then known as “Toast of the Town”). Later, they began the highly popular Ames Brothers Show in 1956.

1. Ames Brothers – “Rag Mop” (1950)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aa77lBHciRQ

The theme song to the Orson Welles film of the same name, this was a surprising hit on the airwaves.

2. Anton Karas – “The Third Man” (1950)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2oEsWi88Qv0

Page’s signature song, it became one of the most popular in music. It’s also one of nine official songs for the state of Tennessee.

3. Patti Page – “Tennessee Waltz” (1950)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Ek3eCbfqp0

If there is a superlative to describe the music of Nat King Cole, it is, indeed, “unforgettable.”  I suspect those musically-inclined will be able to identify him a full century from now. Others? “Justin who?”

4. Nat King Cole – “Unforgettable” (1951)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fy_JRGjc1To

With a wry sense of humor – and a sly dig against Truman about MacArthur.

5. Jackie Doll and his Pickled Peppers – “When They Dropped the Atomic Bomb” (1951)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7V4tOdboWAA husband/wife duo, the two sold over 6 million albums in 1950 alone. From 1954-55 they had their own TV show, “Les Paul & Mary Ford At Home.”

6. Les Paul and Mary Ford – “How High the Moon” (1951)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UOzB7I2y7Ic

Beginning his career with Earl Hines’ Grand Terrace Orchestra in 1939, until he started his own act in 1944, a band that would become a “finishing school” for all manners of future greats, such as Dizzy Gillespie, Dexter Gordon, Miles Davis, Art Blakey, Charlie Parker, and Fats Navarro, as well as vocalist Sarah Vaughan.

7. Billy Ekstine – “Kiss of Fire” (1952)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Xm_T1ZrTyI

Named, obviously, after the Cajun/Creole dish, this song achieved number one status in 1952, and remained there for 14 weeks. I bet the ChiComs were just thrilled to hear this wafting over the hills and valleys of Korea.

8. Hank Williams – “Jambalaya on the Bayou” (1952)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xnKOVPXhlnE

This version reached number one on the charts.  It has also bee performed by Dinah Shore, Stan Kenton and, New Orleans style, by Doctor John.

9. Percy Faith – “Delicado” (1952)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1qDlsnSTIbY

Another surprising entry, this song – originally used for the radio show, then as the theme for the hugely popular television series, made number two on the charts in 1953. Comprised of two parts, the “Main Title” and “The Dragnet March.”

10. Ray Anthony – “Dragnet” (1953)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9mBDS0FsqmI