Biggest Hits of the 1950s

National charts did not begin in Canada until the launch of RPM Magazine in 1964. Below, from Oh Canada What a Feeling A Musical Odyssey by Martin Melhuish are lists of popular songs in Canada through the 1950s. We have also included  big hits by Canadian artists that made the year-end charts of U.S. Billboard Magazine with their year-end positions on the chart.


Guy Lombardo & His Royal Canadians: Enjoy Yourself, The Third Man Theme, Dearie, Our Little Ranch House, All My Love, Harbour Lights, Tennessee Waltz.

Daddy’s Little Girl, Dick Todd

I’m Movin’ On, Hank Snow


Guy Lombardo & His Royal Canadians: If, Because of You


Cry, Johnnie Ray & The Four Lads (#3)

Delicado, Percy Faith (#10)

Please Mr. Sun, Johnnie Ray & The Four Lads (#30)

Guy Lombardo & His Royal Canadians: Crazy Heart, Blue Tango, Auf Wiederseh’n Sweetheart, Half as Much

Gisele MacKenzie: La Fiacre, Adios, Don’t Let the Stars Get In Your Eyes.


The Song from Moulin Rouge, Percy Faith (#1)

Norman Brooks: Hello Sunshine, You Shouldn’t Have Kissed Me the First Time, Somebody Wonderful

Seven Lonely Days, Gisele MacKenzie

‘Til I Waltz Again with You, Dick Todd


Sh-Boom, The Crew-Cuts (#4)

Hernando’s Hideaway, Guy Lombardo & His Royal Canadians

I Don’t Hurt Anymore, Hank Snow


Moments to Remember, The Four Lads (#17)

Hard to Get, Gisele MacKenzie (#26)

My Boy Flat Top, Dorothy Collins

The Crew-Cuts: Earth Angel, Ko Ko Mo, Don’t Be Angry, Chop Chop Boom, A Story Untold, Gum Drop, Angels in the Sky

The Man in the Raincoat, Priscilla Wright


No, Not Much, The Four Lads (#20)

Standing on the Corner, The Four Lads (#29)

Seven Days, Dorothy Collins

The Crew-Cuts: Mostly Martha, Seven Days

The Diamonds: Why Do Fools Fall in Love, The Church Bells May Ring, Love Love Love, Soft Summer Breeze, Ka-Ding-Dong

The Four Lads: My Little Angel, A House with Love In It, The Bus Stop Song

Graduation Day, The Rover Boys


Little Darlin’, The Diamonds (#3)

Diana, Paul Anka (#24)

Young Love, The Crew-Cuts

The Diamonds: Words of Love, Zip Zip, Silhouettes

The Four Lads: Who Needs You, I Just Don’t Know, Put a Light in the Window


The Stroll, The Diamonds (#48)

Paul Anka: You Are My Destiny, Crazy Love, Let the Bells Keep Ringing, The Teen Commandments

The Diamonds: High Sign, Kathy-O, Walking Along

The Four Lads: There’s Only One of You, Enchanted Island, The Mocking Bird

The Swingin’ Shepherd Blues, Moe Koffman

Jack Scott: My True Love, Leroy, With Your Love, Goodbye Baby


Lonely Boy, Paul Anka (#5)

Put Your Head On My Shoulder (#12)

Paul Anka: My Heart Sings, I Miss You So, It’s Time to Cry

She Say, The Diamonds

The Way I Walk, Jack Scott

Jean-Pierre Ferland

Born: 1934, Montreal
Debut: 1959
Genre: Folk, Pop / Rock
Biggest Hits:
–  “Feuilles de gui”
–  “Je reviens chez nous”
–  “T’es mon amour, t’es ma maîtresse”
–  “Les Immortelles”
–  “Fleurs de macadam”
–  “Ton visage”
–  “Rue Sanguinet”
–  “Avant de m’assagir”
–  “Le Petit roi”
–  “Ste-Adèle P.Q.”
–  “Un peu plus haut, un peu plus loin”
–  “Marie-Claire”
–  “Quand on aime on a toujours 20 ans”
–  “Androgyne”
The All Music Guide calls Jean-Pierre Ferland “one of the great singer/songwriters Quebec has produced, second only to Félix Leclerc and Gilles Vigneault”. The Canadian Music Encyclopedia calls him “a romantic singer par excellence”. 
Ferland began his musical career as a clerk for CBC Montreal in the 50s when his workmates encouraged him to develop his already-gifted vocal talent. After leaving his desk job, he began performing as a folk singer and made his recording debut in 1959, appearing that same year as a singer on the show “Music Hall”. In 1962, Ferland’s song “Feuilles de gui” won awards at home and abroad (the grand prize at the Gala Internationale de la Chanson in Brussels). That year he performed a show in Paris and co-hosted a CBC program at home. In 1963, Jean-Pierre won the best singer prize at an international song festival in Poland. For the remainder of the ’60s, he put on a number of concerts, performed on TV, and kept winning various awards. His “Je reviens chez nous” in ’68 became a classic throughout the French-speaking world.
Legend has it that Jean-Pierre Ferland attended Robert Charlebois’ 1968 cult event, L’Osstidcho, and left in tears, acknowledging that the great Québécois chanson would never be the same. But Ferland himself began a major shift in musical style that manifested itself with the release of the pop-rock classic Jaune in 1970. Ferland performed at the International Expo in Osaka, Japan and, by the end of the year, Jaune had sold 60,000 copies. One rock critic calls Jaune “a brilliant art rock album that redefined the Quebec recording industry; it is Quebec’s own Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. Incidentally, this album appears as the only one from a francophone soloist in Bob Mersereau’s controversial “Top 100 Canadian Albums”, resulting from his survey of 600 music journalists, deejays, retailers, and musicians of all ages from all over Canada.
Ferland’s aesthetic change was confirmed with his psychedelic rock release, Soleil, the following year. In 1974, he recorded “T’es mon amour, t’es ma maîtresse” with Ginette Reno.
Two years later, Jean-Pierre began working on films as an actor, writer, and musician, the first being Chanson pour Julie. With four other Quebec superstars, he performed in Quebec city during their Heritage Week and then in Montreal for the St-Jean-Baptiste celebrations. He was featured in a 1978 CBC English TV super-special called “Between Chopin and William Tell”.
During the 80s, Jean-Pierre Ferland slowed down as a composer and focused on hosting TV programs. He made a triumphant comeback in the mid-90s when he released Écoute Pas Ça, a critical and commercial success. Having composed over 450 songs and released over 30 albums, Ferland was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1996 and is now considered one of the best singer/songwriters, not only in Quebec but in the entire French-speaking world. In 2007, he was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. He performed with Celine Dion on the Plains of Abraham in 2008.

Paul Anka

Born: 1941, Ottawa, Ontario
Debut: 1955
Genres: Pop / Adult Contemporary / Jazz
–  Canadian Music Hall of Fame
–  Canadian Walk of Fame
–  Hollywood Walk of Fame
–  Juno Award in 1975 for Composer of the Year
–  Wrote over 400 songs
–  3 Number One Hits, 13 Top Ten Hits, 25 Top Thirty Hits
Biggest Hits:
“Diana” (1957)
–  Peaked at #1 on the charts.
–  2nd biggest-selling single of all-time worldwide.
“Lonely Boy” (1959)
–  Peaked at #1 on the charts.
–  4th biggest single of the year in Canada.
–  5th biggest single of the year in the U.S.
Top 20 Hit Singles:
<Peak Chart Position in the Billboard Hot 100>
–  “Crazy Love” (1958) <#15>
–  “Let the Bells Keep Ringing” (1958) <#16>
–  “You Are My Destiny” (1958) <#7>
–  “My Heart Sings” (1959) <#15>
–  “It’s Time to Cry” (1959) <#4>
–  “Put Your Head On My Shoulder” (1959) <#2>
–  “My Home Town” (1960) <#8>
–  “Puppy Love” (1960) <#2>
–  “Summer’s Gone” (1960) <#11>
–  “Dance On Little Girl” (1961) <#10>
–  “Tonight My Love, Tonight” (1961) <#13>
–  “The Story of My Love” (1961) <#16>
–  “Eso Beso (That Kiss!)” (1962) <#19>
–  “Love Me Warn and Tender” (1962) <#12>
–  “A Steel Guitar and a Glass of Wine” (1962) <#13>
–  “You’re Having My Baby” (1974) <#1>
–  “I Don’t Like to Sleep Alone” (1975) <#8>
–  “I Believe There’s Nothing Stronger” (1975) <#15>
–  “One Man Woman/One Woman Man” (1975) <#7>
–  “Times of Your Life” (1976) <#7>

Peak Positions in the Canadian RPM charts (from mid-1964 onward):

–  “Goodnight My Love” (1969) <#23>
–  “Do I Love You” (1972) <#16>
–  “You’re Having My Baby” (1974) <#1>
–  “Let Me Get to Know You” (1974) <#13>
–  “I Believe There’s Nothing Stronger” (1975) <#1>
–  “I Don’t Like to Sleep Alone” (1975) <#1>
–  “One Man Woman, One Woman Man” (1975) <#4>
–  “Make It Up to Me in Love” (1977) <#34>
Hits He Wrote for Others*:
–  “My Way” (1969) – for Frank Sinatra
–  “She’s a Lady” (1971) – for Tom Jones
–  Theme of the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1962)
* Although he composed these for other singers, for some of them, he sang his own version as well.
David Cobb in Canadian Magazine quoted a Parisian reviewer commenting about Paul Anka after seeing him perform in Paris: “A finger of Johnnie Ray, a touch of Frankie Laine, the zest of Elvis Presley, several drops of the Platters – shake and serve. That’s the Paul Anka cocktail.”
Simply put, Paul Anka was Canada’s first international rock and roll superstar, first teen-idol, and should be regarded as the godfather of Canadian pop.
He was born into a tightly-knit family in the Canadian capital of Ottawa. His parents owned a two-storey restaurant and lounge, The Locanda, which was a popular hangout for the city’s Lebanese community and offered free meals to singers who performed there. When Paul became a teenager, he knew he wanted to be a singer and in show business. His father felt that show business was not legit and that he should become a proper businessman. But through the support of his mother, his dad gradually softened up. He studied some piano and sang in the St. Elijah Syrian Orthodox Church choir.
He began to sing everywhere and assembled a vocal group called the Bobbysoxers. Among the venues where they performed was a local topless club. Anka says he was too young to be there, so they made him remain in the dressing room when he wasn’t on stage. Even gutsier was his practice of secretly borrowing his mother’s car, before he was old enough to obtain a license, to drive across the river to Hull, Quebec to perform. One night, the car broke down on the bridge and he kept pushing it on in first gear until the piston shot through the hood.
In those days, New York City was the end-all and be-all of the world’s entertainment industry. Anka dreamed of going. He discovered a contest put on by Campbell’s Soup of collecting labels, the victor winning a free trip to New York. He spent three months’ collecting the soup labels and won the contest. He was mesmerized by the city and vowed to return.
In the summer of 1956, Anka went to Los Angeles to visit his uncle. He worked at a playhouse selling snacks during intermissions. Everyday he would go through the yellow pages and call record companies to ask for an audition. One day his uncle drove him to Modern Records / RPM and he performed a song he wrote called “Blau-Wile Deveest Fontaine”. He was signed onto this same label as B.B. King and John Lee Hooker, among others. The song became the flipside of “I Confess” and was released as a single that year. It did not become as successful as Anka had hoped.
When he returned home, at only 14 years of age, he was invited to appear on CBC TV’s shows “Pick the Stars” and “Cross-Canada Hit Parade”. His parents suggested that, in case his career in singing fails to take off, he should have a backup plan of something more practical. So, while still writing songs, Anka took some journalism courses and landed a job with the Ottawa Citizen (newspaper). Whenever there was a rock concert in Ottawa—Fats Domino, The Platters, Chuck Berry*—Anka was there, always attempting to make it backstage to meet the stars. He succeeded in sneaking into Domino’s dressing room to get his autograph. Manager Irving Feld caught him and kicked him out but not before Anka suggested that he take down his name so he could hire him for one of his shows one day. During those days in Ottawa, Anka also met and befriended such Canadian acts as The Diamonds and The Four Lads.
*A piece of trivia: apparently Chuck Berry was inspired to write his song “Sweet Little Sixteen” after seeing an Ottawa fan.
Breakthrough … More Like Smashthrough
Later that year, Paul’s parents gave him $100 to return to New York to visit record companies with some of the new songs he had written. He stayed at the President Hotel with the group The Rover Boys who introduced him to ABC-Paramount producer Don Costa. Anka sang to him a song he wrote about a former babysitter. The song’s name was “Diana”. Costa liked it and the song was recorded. At 16, Paul was too young to sign the recording contract, so his father came down to New York to sign on Paul’s behalf. The song was sent to radio stations around the English-speaking world. Everyone sat back and watched it scale the charts, higher and higher, on both sides of the Atlantic. When it reached number one, Paul Anka was now an international pop star and teen idol. “Diana” went on to sell over 10 million copies, becoming the second biggest of all-time after Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas”.
Promoters began to ring up Anka expressing their desire to send him on a world tour. As fate would have it, the man who’d kicked Anka out of Fats Domino’s dressing room, and who’d been told by Anka to take down his name in case he needed him in the future—Irving Feld—arranged Anka’s tour and became his manager. In late 1957, Paul Anka embarked on a 91-city tour of Canada, the U.K., and the U.S.. Later in 1958, he toured Japan and then, with Buddy Holly, Australia. He also became the first pop star from North America to play behind the Iron Curtain. Feld ended up saving Anka from the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly as is explained in Canada’s Jam Pop Encyclopedia:
[Paul Anka] also did a set of concert dates at the Olympia in Paris, breaking all previous attendance records. It was in 1959 that Anka appeared in Feld’s biggest rock n’ roll show of all [The Winter Dance Party Tour]—it featured Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper, Ritchie Valens, Dion and the Belmonts, and others. Fate sidestepped Anka when Feld told him the he wanted him to stay because he’d promised his father he’d keep an eye on him, thus missing the fateful plane crash of February 3, 1959 that killed Holly, the Big Bopper and Valens.
Prior to Holly’s demise, Anka wrote a #1 hit song for him that became one of his last: “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore”. “Diana” was followed up with several more songs that did well on the charts: “It’s Time to Cry”, “My Heart Sings”, “You Are My Destiny”, “Crazy Love”, “Put Your Head On My Shoulder”, “Puppy Love”, “My Home Town”, and “Dance on Little Girl”. Reminiscing about his string of hits, Don Costa said in 1975, “He just couldn’t write a bad song”.
He was also invited to appear in a couple of motion pictures in addition to writing songs featured in them. These included The Private Lives of Adam and Eve (with Mickey Rooney) and Girls Town. Though both films are considered by most as turkeys, the song “Lonely Boy”, featured in the latter film was another number one hit and the 4th biggest song of the year 1959 (5th in the U.S.).
Shedding Hair
There comes a time in every young man’s life, when, with impending hair loss, hormone deceleration, and a mutating metabolism, the realization takes hold that one cannot be a teen machine forever. Anka found that the strenuous rock and roll grind was repressing rather than utilizing his talents, and began to change his style and image into a lounge act. He debuted at the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas and became the youngest artist to headline the Copacabana in New York. It was June 1960; Anka was 20 years old and a millionaire. Instead of resting on his laurels and sailing off into the sunset, he continued catering to the adult market and scoring songs for movies in which he starred. Such films included Look In Any Window (1961) and The Longest Day (1962). His theme-song for the latter film was nominated for an Oscar.
In 1962, Anka left ABC-Paramount, which sent shockwaves through the recording industry. He also stunned everyone by making a bold but incredibly smart business move: he bought the rights to all his songs. The record company settled on a quarter-million dollars and told him he was nuts. But with countless reissues and covers of his songs over the years, he made a fortune. Anka felt strongly about owning the rights to his own songs, so he made a landmark deal with his new record company—RCA Victor—in which he produced his own masters through his own company for release on RCA. His new songs, however, became only moderate hits. Perhaps his biggest success was composing the theme song for The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson which debuted in 1962.
Rock stars are notorious for attracting women and, by this point, you are probably wondering about Paul’s love life. He had written the song “Puppy Love” for Mouseketeer and actress Annette Funicello. The two were dating but their hectic careers presented too much of a strain for them to continue with their relationship. Anka ended up marrying a European model named Anne DeZogheb. They tied the knot in Paris in 1963.
The British invasion, with the Beatles leading the march, was blamed for stalling the careers of many North American singers like Paul Anka. He later commented that he saw the Beatles perform in Paris and bought some of their records but didn’t think they’d wipe everyone in the U.S. and Canada off the charts. But that’s exactly what they did.
Anka did manage three or four noteworthy hits after the British Invasion in the 60s. He must have figured that if the Europeans could storm the American charts, why can’t North Americans score on the European charts. He spent considerable time performing in Europe, and his song “Ogni Volta” was the first multi-million seller in Italian history. When in North America, he worked primarily in Las Vegas hanging out with the “Rat Pack” and Frank Sinatra.
I’ll Do It My Way
What ultimately turned Anka’s career around in the U.S. and Canada was a string of events at the end of the decade that began during a visit to France in 1968. Paul was listening to the radio and heard the Claude Francois song “Come d’Habitude”. He felt there was something to the song and sought to buy the rights. He succeeded at no cost.
Later on, Paul was having dinner with Frank Sinatra and a few friends. Sinatra told him he was quitting the business, that he was sick of it. Anka was devastated. He really looked up to Sinatra and couldn’t believe he was retiring. He decided he had to do something.
At one o’clock in the morning in his New York apartment during a thunderstorm, Paul Anka sat down at his piano, pulling out the song he’d heard in France. He subtly reworked the melody and began to think up some English lyrics. “What would Frank say if he were singing this melody?” he thought while playing it on the piano over and over again. And the words began to come out. “And now the end is near, and so I face the final curtain…”. Wikipedia quotes Paul as saying:
I read a lot of periodicals, and I noticed everything was “my this” and “my that”. We were in the “me generation” and Frank became the guy for me to use to say that. I used words I would never use: “I ate it up and spit it out.” But that’s the way he talked. I used to be around steam rooms with the Rat Pack guys – they liked to talk like Mob guys, even though they would have been scared of their own shadows.
He finished off the song at 5AM. He called up Sinatra who was at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas and played him the song. Sinatra was blown away and wanted to record it immediately. Apparently, Anka’s record company was furious, thinking that he should have kept the song for himself. But Anka had written it for Sinatra. Frank Sinatra recorded the song in only two takes in less than half an hour. He rang up Paul in New York and played it for him over the phone. Anka says, “I started crying. It was the turning point of my career.” The song, of course, was “My Way” and was released in 1969. Not only did it pull the plug on Frank Sinatra’s plans of an early retirement, it became his signature song. It saved the careers of both Anka and Sinatra. The song has been covered by countless artists over the years, including Elvis Presley, Tom Jones, and Nina Simone.
An interesting bit of trivia is that David Bowie had been asked to pen English lyrics to “Comme d’Habitude” in 1968. He came up with “Even a Fool Learns to Love”. But because Anka had already bought the rights to the original French version, Bowie’s was never released. “Life on Mars” became Bowie’s riposte to losing out on the fortune.
Paul Anka also wrote “She’s a Lady” for Tom Jones in 1971 which became the Welsh singer’s biggest hit.
Comeback and Glide
In terms of his own recordings, after 1963, Anka had hit the Top 40 only once through the remainder of the 1960s (“Goodnight My Love” in 1969). In the 1970s all that changed when he began recording ballads. He teamed up with songstress Odia Coates and released “You’re Having My Baby”. Not only was it a number one hit, it finished in 7th place in RPM’s Top 100 singles of the year. Follow-up singles “I Don’t Like to Sleep Alone” and “I Believe There’s Nothing Stronger” topped the charts as well. He was awarded a Juno Award in 1975 as composer of the year. In 1980, Paul Anka was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.
Gliding on the successes of those songs, he recorded less frequently, though continually, after 1975. In 1983, Anka teamed up with Peter Cetera and momentous Canadian producer David Foster and released “Hold Me ‘Til The Morning Comes”. His 1998 album Body of Work features duets with such singing giants as Celine Dion, Patti LaBelle, Tom Jones, and Frank Sinatra. In 2005, he recorded the album Rock Swings, which is—you guessed it—swing versions of classic rock songs like Van Halen’s “Jump”, Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger”, Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, and others. Its success prompted the 2007 follow-up Classic Songs: My Way, consisting of more big-band arrangements of contemporary standards (Bryan Adams’ “Heaven”, Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now”, Foreigner’s “Waiting for a Girl Like You”) and featuring duets with Jon Bon Jovi and Michael Buble.
In 2005, Paul Anka was awarded a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame in Toronto. He has also been given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (the American equivalent). A street in Ottawa is named “Paul Anka Drive” in his honour.

The Diamonds

Formed: 1953, Toronto, Ontario
Last Hit: 1961
–  Dave Somerville (lead)
–  Phil Levitt (baritone) – Replaced by Mike Douglas 1957
–  Bill Reed (bass) (died 2004) – Replaced by John Felten 1958 (died 1982)
–  Ted Kowalski (tenor) – Replaced by Evan Fisher 1958
Genre: R&B
Achievements: Canadian Music Hall of Fame
Biggest Hit:
“Little Darlin’” (1957)
–  Peaked at #2 on the charts
–  6th biggest single of the year (Cashbox)
Some Other Hit Singles:
–  “Why Do Fools Fall In Love” (1956)
–  “The Church Bells May Ring” (1956)
–  “Words Of Love” (1957)
–  “Zip Zip” (1957)
–  “Silhouettes” (1957)
–  “The Stroll” (1957)
–  “Kathy-O” (1958)
–  “Walking Along” (1958)
Canada‘s third and final famous quartet in the 50s was The Diamonds. Like the Four Lads and Crew Cuts, they were also from Toronto; unlike those two, the members were not from St. Michael’s Boys Choir. Their road to fame was similar to the Crew Cuts as we’ll see in a minute.
The band’s founding member Levitt said the beginnings of the Diamonds came when he was vacationing with a friend one summer at Crystal Beach on Lake Erie. Some girls heard them singing and encouraged them to continue. That autumn, Levitt entered the University of Toronto and met Ted Kowalski. Later on, they went to the CBC to audition for a local talent show where they met sound engineer Dave Somerville who decided to give them vocal training. He joined them as their lead singer when they were invited to sing for a Christmas party at a local church. It was then that the Diamonds were born.
The group began to work on radio shows for the CBC and Nat Goodman became their manager. He got them an appearance on the same show that launched The Crew Cuts’ career—Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Show—in Cleveland, U.S.A.. They tied with another contestant and their prize was to perform as guests of the show for a week. This led to a recording contract with Coral Records. Four songs were released but did little to bring fame to the group.
In 1955, they played the Alpine Village Club in Cleveland and were discovered by the same deejay as The Crew Cuts—Bill Randle. Like the Crew Cuts, Randle got them signed onto Mercury Records who asked them to do cover tunes, converting R&B songs to pop. These covers became big hits and included Frankie Lymon And The Teenagers’ “Why Do Fools Fall In Love” (#12 on the U.S. charts), The Willows’ “Church Bells May Ring” (#14), and their biggest hit, which reached #2 on the charts, The Gladiolas’ “Little Darlin’”. The latter was listed as the 6th biggest single of 1957 according to Cashbox. On December 30th, 1957, they released an original song, “The Stroll” which peaked at #4 on the charts, made them a dance sensation on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, and launched a dance craze of the same name. In the late-50s, The Diamonds appeared with a number of big-name acts on TV: Elvis Presley, Perry Como, Tony Bennett, Steve Allen and Jimmy Dean. They were also featured in the movie musical The Big Beat and sang the theme song for Kathy-O. The band scored their last hit in 1961.
With a number of personnel changes and the expiration of their record contract, the group focused on touring for the next few decades. Apparently they made it to the country charts in 1987. They were inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.

The Crew Cuts

Formed: 1952, Toronto, Ontario
Disbanded: 1964
–  John Perkins (lead)
–  Rudi Maugeri (baritone)
–  Ray Perkins (bass)
–  Pat Barrett (1st or high tenor)
Genre: Pop
Achievements: Canadian Music Hall of Fame, Juno Lifetime Achievement Award.
Biggest Hit:
“Sh-Boom” (1954)
–  Peaked at #1 on the charts
–  5th biggest song of the year (Cashbox)
Some Other Hit Singles:
–  “Crazy ‘Bout Ya Baby” (1954)
–  “Gumdrop” (1955)
–  “Earth Angel” (1955)
–  “Angels In The Sky” (1955)
–  “Mostly Martha” (1955)
–  “Don’t Be Angry” (1955)
–  “Young Love” (1957)
Like the Four Lads, The Crew Cuts’ members also attended the St. Michael’s Choir School in Toronto. They gave up their provincial government jobs when they began making money with their singing. They were asked by Toronto deejay Barry Nesbitt to sing on his weekly teen show and began performing gigs in local clubs around Niagara Falls. When they had saved some money, they drove down to New York City and entered the Arthur Godfrey Talent contest, finishing in second place. But this led them nowhere. They did record a song—“Chip, Chip Sing a Song Little Sparrow”—with a minor label but this did nothing to improve their lot and they continued performing at more shabby clubs.
In March, 1953, the band returned to Toronto and opened for singer Gisele MacKenzie at the Casino Theatre. She raved about them to her record label but failed to remember the group’s name. The following winter, the band was playing at a club in Sudbury one night. It was 40 below. Their agent contacted them saying that they had been invited to appear on the Gene Carroll television show in Cleveland (U.S.). Hoping that this was the break they were awaiting, they hopped into their car and drove nearly a thousand kilometers without a heater. They thawed themselves out I suppose and managed to perform three times.
The Crew Cuts had been going by different names at the time and Bill Randle, a local disc jockey in Cleveland, was the one who, after seeing their unique hairstyles, came up with the band’s permanent name. He booked them for an audition with Mercury Records. Mercury was blown out of the solar system and immediately signed them.
The Crew Cuts’ scored their first hit, the original “Crazy ‘Bout You Baby” in 1954; it made the Top Ten. They recorded a cover of The Chords’ “Sh-Boom” beefing it up with a big-band orchestration. And it lunged up the charts all the way to number one. It was to become the 5th biggest song of the year according to Cashbox, doing far better than the original version. The band recorded a number of original songs and cover tunes. Interestingly, their cover tunes, which were usually pop treatments of former R&B songs, tended to do well in the U.S.; whereas, their original songs became big hits in Canada.
After their huge success, the band returned to Toronto where they were greeted with a full-blown ticker-tape parade. They continued breaking into the Top 20 for the next few years. Their cover of The Penguins’ “Earth Angel” went to number three in 1955. Their last Top 20 hit in the U.S. was “Young Love” in 1957; a country version by Sonny James was also a hit. The following year, the group moved from Mercury to RCA Victor where they stayed for six years, disbanding in 1964. In addition to their singles, they released nine albums. They received a Juno Lifetime Achievement Award in 1984 and were inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.

The Four Lads

Formed: 1947, Toronto, Ontario
First Single Release: 1952
Disbanded: 1977*
–  Bernie Toorish (lead / second tenor)
–  James Arnold (first tenor)
–  Connie Codarini (bass)
–  Frank Busseri (baritone)
Genre: R&B
Achievements: Canadian Music Hall of Fame, Juno Lifetime Achievement Award.
Biggest Hit:
“Moments to Remember” (1955)
–  Peaked at #2 on the Pop Charts
Some Other Hit Singles:
–  “The Mockingbird” (1952)
–  “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” (1953)
–  “Skokian” (1954)
–  “No, Not Much!” (1956)
–  “Standing on the Corner” (1956)
Experts at a capella and harmony, and influenced by spirituals and gospel music, the Four Lads formed in Toronto after the friends learned to sing as members of the St. Michael’s Choir School. (Two of them were to found the rock and roll band The Crew Cuts later on.) The Four Lads’ lead vocalist Bernie Toorish (born 1931) had grown up in a musical family and had begun performing from the age of three.
They went through a series of name changes, including The Four Dukes, which they were asked to change when told another group had taken that name, and they finally settled on The Four Lads. After debuting in 1949 on CBC radio, they began performing for some 30 weeks at New York’s Le Ruban Bleu dinner club. They signed with Columbia Records and performed backing vocals for Jonny Ray’s hits “Cry” and “The Little White Cloud That Cried” in 1951. Both were huge hits with sales exceeding five million copies. They began veering away from spirituals and recording pop songs.
Their first release, “The Mockingbird”, came in 1952. Their first gold record came out the following year—“Istanbul (Not Constantinople)”. From there, they racked up many hits, their biggest being “Moments to Remember” (1955) which reached #2 on the U.S. pop charts. “No, Not Much” the following year was a million-seller as well. Their expert and closely harmonized singing was well received, labeled as “polished, crisp, with an overlay of vibrato on the long notes” (AMG). The Four Lads also released a number of albums, five them going gold. They made a number of TV appearances in the 50s, and, though performing primarily in the U.S., made the occasional appearance in Canada.
Their last hit came in 1961. The following year, they made some changes in membership. Over the course of their career, The Four Lads, have sold some 50 million recordings. They received a Juno lifetime achievement award and have been inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.
* Although the group disbanded in 1977 when Toorish became an insurance underwriter, after their induction into the Music Hall of Fame in 1984, enough interest was generated to prompt him to reactivate the group and they began performing at clubs and on cruises.

Félix Leclerc

Born: 1914, La Tuque, Quebec,
Debut: 1951
Died: 1988
Genre: Folk
Some Hit Songs:
–  “Notre Sentier”
–  ”Moi, mes souliers”
–  ”Le tour de l’Île”
–  ”P’tit Bonheur”
–  ”Litanies du Petit Homme”
–  ”Alouette en Colère”
–  ”Train du Nord”
Multi-talented Leclerc was a singer-songwriter, actor, poet, novelist, and playwright. His father was a grain and lumber dealer and he had ten siblings. The whole family was a musical one; all sang and played various instruments. As a child he fell in love with Mozart and Schubert.
Leclerc composed his first song, “Notre Sentier” at age 18 when he began studying at the University of Ottawa. But the Great Depression hit hard, and he was forced to abandon his educational pursuits. He proceeded to a small town near  Trois-Rivières where he worked as a farmhand. After several jobs, Félix became a radio announcer and scriptwriter. During this time he picked up the guitar.
In 1939, he settled in Montreal where he worked as a scriptwriter for Radio-Canada. His series were extremely popular. He introduced some of his songs on these series. One has to remember that television was not yet in the homes of the populace and radio plays were the primary form of entertainment. Leclerc did some on air acting in a few of these drama series. Because of their popularity, he was able to sell collections of his stories and poems, and he gradually rose to fame through the 40s.
In 1950, the Parisian Jacques Canetti, artistic director of Philips Records, heard Leclerc perform in Montreal and immediately offered him an engagement in Paris. His debut performance was very well received and he was offered a recording contract and invited to tour throughout France, Belgium, and Switzerland. He stood out amongst other stars with his unique style: performing earthy folk songs on the guitar, singing in a robust baritone voice, and dressed in a checkered lumberjack shirt. Leclerc pretty much became an overnight superstar. In early 1951 he was awarded the Grand prix du disque in Paris for his song “Moi, mes souliers”. Beneath his name, printed in large letters on the billboards, was “le Canadien”.
Félix Leclerc was for all intents and purposes, the first international Canadian superstar. Canada was not to produce its first anglophone international superstar for another six years. As such, Leclerc really was the one who laid the groundwork for all the chansonniers to come.
In 1953, he returned to Montreal to partake in the city’s music festivals, and he was given a hero’s welcome. Five years later, he was awarded his second Grand Prix du disque and his third in 1973. In 1974, he appeared with fellow male singers Gilles Vigneault and Robert Charlebois at the Superfrancofête in Quebec City. Leclerc appeared in five feature films. He was awarded an honourary doctorate in 1982.
Leclerc invoked a unique and critically-acclaimed musical style that is best summed up by the Canadian Music Encyclopaedia:
In 160 songs (146 original songs and 14 covers), Félix Leclerc distinguishes himself from his French-speaking European and Quebec predecessors by his combination of carefully chosen verse and the unique style of musical setting for acoustic guitar. Among his characteristic traits are the guitar’s lowered tuning (all strings one or one-and-a-half tones below standard) and the placement of the right hand over the high range of the fingerboard. In the right hand, the integration of artificial harmonics (as in ‘Hymne au printemps’), the rapid strumming of the thumb on the strings (‘La Drave’), the quick arpeggios executed with the thumb and index finger imitating the pick (‘Les 100 000 façons de tuer un homme’), and the combination of arpeggios and classical tremolo (‘Le tour de l’Île’) are noteworthy. In the left hand, there are occasional thumb barrés in the bass as well as occurrences of diminished seventh chords and major chords with added sixths.
Quebec was shocked and shaken by Leclerc’s death, gathering by the thousands to commemorate their foremost singer-poet. Messages were sent from around the globe, including from the government of France. Countless, streets, parks, schools, buildings, and places in the Province now bear his name. The Félix Awards, given to Quebec musicians, are named after him. In 2000, the Canadian Government honoured him by putting his image on a postage stamp.

Percy Faith

Born: 1908, Toronto, Ontario
Debut: 1950
Died: 1976
Genre: Easy Listening
Biggest Hit:
“Theme From a Summer Place” (1960)
–  Peaked at #1 on the U.S. Charts
–  Peaked at #2 on the U.K. Charts
–  Peaked at #4 on the Canadian Charts
–  #1 single of the year in the U.S. (Billboard)
–  Won Grammy (1961) Award for Record of the Year
Some Other Hits:
–  “Delicado” (1952)
–  “Song from the Moulin Rouge” (1953)
–  “Theme for Young Lovers” (1960)
Percy Faith, conductor, arranger, pianist, and composer, was born in Toronto in 1908. He was to become Canada’s second easy listening musician (after Guy Lombardo), helped tremendously by recording the biggest single of the year 1960 on the U.S. Billboard charts—“Theme from a Summer Place”. He also arranged hits for other artists including Johnny Mathis, Burl Ives, Doris Day, and Tony Bennett. His band-leading career began at the height of the brass-dominated swing era which he rearranged into softer mood music by introducing large string sections.
At age seven, Faith began taking violin lessons; piano followed three years later. From 1920 on, he performed as an accompanist for silent films in Toronto cinemas. In 1923, at age 15, he gave his first recital in Toronto’s prestigious Massey Hall and was considered a prodigy. His career as a concert pianist was destroyed, however, when he injured his hands in a fire three years later.
Undeterred from pursuing his desired career in music, he turned to arranging, first for hotel orchestras, and then for radio. It was during this time that he developed his lush pop instrumental style, and he became a staple for the CBC live-music broadcasting in the 1930s. At the end of the decade “Music by Faith” was also being aired in the United States, and he was offered a job as director of “The Carnation Contented Hour” on NBC radio Chicago, which he accepted. He composed piano, choral, and orchestra works and won a $1,000 prize in 1943 for his operetta “The Gandy Dancer”. During these years, he often visited Canada to conduct concerts and CBC TV special broadcasts.
After five years in Chicago, he was offered a job with NBC in New York which he took in 1945. Percy Faith’s real recording and arrangements for popular singers began in 1950 when he joined Columbia Records as musical director and recording artist. He arranged pop and folk songs for other singers and pioneered easy listening mood music with the release his own albums. He was the first to record albums consisting solely of songs from Broadway shows and was one of the first to experiment with Latin rhythms.
He wrote Guy Mitchell’s first (and number one) single, “My Heart Cries for You” and he arranged three big hits for Tony Bennett. He scored his own first number one single in 1952, “Delicado”. His “Song from Moulin Rouge” also did well the following year. In the mid-50s, Faith began composing film scores, beginning with Love Me or Leave Me.
In 1960, Percy Faith scored his mega-hit, “Theme from a Summer Place”: #1 in the U.S., #2 in Britain, and #4 in Canada. It was the biggest song of the year in the U.S. according to their Billboard charts and it won a Grammy Award for record of the year. He won another Grammy Award in 1969 for his album, Love Theme from Romeo and Juliet. With the advent of harder rock in the late-1960′s, Faith’s music became gradually less popular, though he still recorded up until his death from cancer in 1976.

Birth of Canadian Rock ‘n Roll (1950s)

In the 1950s, Canada continued contributing new musicians to the world stage in the genres of country (Tommy Hunter), jazz (Moe Koffman, trumpeter Maynard Ferguson, and guitarist Lenny Breau), and classical (Pierrette Alarie, Lois Marshall, Louis Quilico, Léopold Simoneau, and contralto Maureen Forrester). Following in La Bolduc’s footsteps were Quebec artists who enriched the landscape of Canadian music by singing folk music in fabulous French. It wasn’t until Beatlemania swept Canada in the 1960s that Quebec artists began to perform pop and rock; for now, folk was the genre of choice. An important word on this is best summed up by the Canadian Music Encyclopedia: 

In Québec, the history of popular music unfolded quite differently. Instead of copying Americans, French Canadians created their own style of pretty and simple poetry inspired by traditional folk songs and played on the guitar by chansonniers (“songmakers” or singer-songwriters).

First and foremost among these chansonniers was the inspired genius of Félix Leclerc, who deservedly became Canada’s first international folk superstar. Second in rank to him was Jean-Pierre Ferland who started out as a folk musician in the 50s, but in the 70s switched to pop/rock releasing some critically-acclaimed albums. Other chansonniers included Yves Albert and Jacques Labrecque. In 1956, Raymond Lévesque scored a big hit with his “Quand les hommes vivront d’amour”. Its message of brotherhood and search for justice, its folky guitar and jazzy piano made it, amongst changing pop styles, a timeless classic of chanson québécoise. The song has been performed by many French singers.  

Percy Faith became Canada’s second easy listening star (after Guy Lombardo). In the following decade he scored a massive hit with his “Theme from a Summer Place”, the number one single of the year on 1960′s Billboard chart. 

Nearly-forgotten Winnipeg songstress Gisele MacKenzie (no relation to Bob and Doug, eh), after getting her own CBC radio show, recorded some songs of her own which became hits in 1955. 

Prior to American Bill Haley’s revolutionary comet-clocking chart-topper, Canada had already set itself up to usher in the rock ‘n roll era with its hit R&B group The Four Lads. Following suit were The Crew Cuts and The Diamonds. These three Toronto-based quartets launched the rock era in Canada by converting some American R&B tunes into rock and by creating some original selections of their own.  

With all this activity in the 1950s, Canadians would never have believed what was to happen in 1957. Their first anglophone international pop superstar arrived from within the nation’s capital. And he was of neither European nor African descent, but Asian. He released a single that rocketed up to Number One on both sides of the Atlantic and became the second best-selling single of all-time (after Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas”). He was Canada’s first real teen-idol, scored several more chart-toppers in the late 50s, became a millionaire while still a minor, switched from rock to adult contemporary in the 60s, wrote the theme for the Tonight Show, composed Tom Jones’ biggest hit, foiled Frank Sinatra’s plans of an early retirement by writing his signature song, and rekindled his own singing career with several chart-toppers in the 70s. To date, he has written some 400 songs. He should be regarded as the godfather of Canadian pop. And his name is Paul Anka.