The Decade of the Most Instrumentals
The decade of the 60’s was great for pop music and also for instrumentals. This decade saw the most instrumentals recorded and to rank on the Billboard Hot 100 chart with 559 songs, which is the most for any decade from the 1890’s through the 2010’s. So, this ten year period was something very special. Some of these tunes became the backdrop for famous TV commercials.
To come up with the top ten best-selling instrumentals of the sixties, there has to be a source to use for the rankings. The source we used was Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. They rank the records by airplay and sales, which is the fairest way for finding the top ten songs.
Check out the top 100 instrumentals from 1960-1969. There is some trivia and other information concerning the decade of the sixties.
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- Criteria Used In Ranking The Songs
- The Top Ten Instrumentals
- Shop Top Ten Instrumentals
Criteria Used In Ranking The Songs
The following criteria were used in determining the final rankings of the top ten:
- Highest peak position reached
- Total number of weeks record stayed at the peak position
- Total number of weeks record stayed in the top ten
- Total number of weeks record stayed in the top forty
- Total number of weeks record charted on the Hot 100
The above was used in breaking any ties at the peak position. For example; if a record was #1 for 5 weeks, it would rank higher than any record that was #1 for four weeks or less. Similarly, if two records peaked at #1 for 5 weeks, the record with the most weeks in the top ten would be ranked higher and so on until all ties are broken.
The Top Ten Instrumentals
The top ten records will be listed in reverse order from number ten to number one, just like on the radio when they would countdown the top 10 each week. Turn up the volume, here we go!
Last Date – Floyd Cramer #2 (4) 1960 T10=10 T40=15 Charted=20
Floyd Cramer was born in Shreveport, Louisiana on October 27, 1933, and died on December 31, 1997.
The song was recorded by Floyd Cramer in 1960 on the RCA Victor label. The instrumental was recorded using a new concept for piano playing known as the “slip note” style.
Described as a slip-note style, it was familiar to guitar and steel guitar players, who would slide a half tone. Cramer however was using a whole-tone slur, hitting a note and sliding almost simultaneously into the next. He explained it gave more of a lonesome cowboy sound.
The song was released in October, 1960, and reached the number two position on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart on November 28, 1960, and stayed there for 4 weeks.
The record sold over one million copies and is certified Gold by the RIAA.
By the way, you can hear Floyd Cramer playing the piano on Elvis’s hit “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” which prevented his song from topping the chart.
Take a listen:
Last Date #10
The Stripper – David Rose #1 (1) 1962 T10=9 T40=13 Charted=17
An instrumental song composed by David Rose, recorded by the Joe Loss Orchestra in 1958, and released in 1962. He was born in London, England on June 15, 1910, and died on August 23, 1990.
The song came into prominence just by chance. David Rose recorded “Ebb Tide” as an A-side of a record. His record company MGM Records wanted to get that song marketed quickly, and discovered they had no B-side for it. An MGM office boy was given the task of browsing through all of Rose’s tapes of unreleased material for the B-side cut. He chose “The Stripper”, which became his only pop #1 hit single of his career.
The song went to number one on July 7, 1962, for one week on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. The song also hit #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart on the same date, and stayed there for two weeks.
You may remember a famous Noxzema shave-cream advertising campaign developed by the William Esty Advertising Agency used the piece as background music for a television commercial that featured Swedish model Gunilla Knutson telling men to “Take it off! Take it all off!”
Take a listen:
Stranger On The Shore – Acker Bilk #1 (1) 1962 T10=11 T40=15 Charted=21
This song is a clarinet piece written by Acker Bilk for his daughter named “Jenny” and was going to name it after her. The song was originally released in the UK with a new title “Stranger on the Shore” for the BBC television series with the same name, in 1961. The song peaked at #2 on the UK charts.
Bernard Stanley “Acker” Bilk was born in Pensford, Sumerset, England on January 28, 1929, and died on November 2, 2014.
The song was released in the United Stated on March 17, 1962, and went to number one on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart on May 26, 1962, and stayed there for one week. The song also topped the Adult Contemporary chart on April 21, 1962, and stayed there for seven weeks. This song was Acker Bilk’s only top ten hit and number one single of his career.
Bilk was the second British artist to have a number one single on the American charts, Vera Lynn was the first with her single “Auf Wiederseh’n Sweetheart” in 1952, before the Beatles invasion in 1964.
In May 1969, the crew of Apollo 10 took “Stranger on the Shore” on their mission to the moon.
Take a listen:
Stranger On The Shore #8
Grazing In The Grass – Hugh Masekela #1 (2) 1968 T10=7 T10=10 Charted=12
He was born Hugh Ramopolo Masekela in Witbank, South Africa on April 4, 1939. He is a South African trumpeter, flugelhornist, cornetist, composer, and singer.
Grazing In The Grass is an instrumental that was composed by Philemon Hou. The song is performed by Hugh Masekela who played the trumpet. The song was inspired by an earlier Masekela recording, “Mr. Bull No. 5”. Hou who is an actor and singer, came up with the melody while the backing track was already being recorded. On the recording you hear Bruce Langhorne on guitar, Al Abreu on alto sax, William Henderson on piano, Henry Franklin on bass, and Chuck Carter on the drums. The song was recorded at the Gold Star Studios in Hollywood.
The record was released on June 8, 1968, and reached number one on July 20, 1968, and stayed there for two weeks. The song also hit number one on the R&B chart on July 13, 1968, and stayed there for 4 weeks. The record sold over 4 million copies.
Take a listen:
Grazing In The Grass #7
Love Theme From Romeo & Juliet – Henry Mancini #1 (2) 1969 T10=8 T40=12 Charted=14
He was born Enrico Nicola “Henry” Mancini in Cleveland, Ohio on April 16, 1924 and died on June 14, 1994, at the age of 70. He was an American conductor, composer and arranger and is best remembered for his film and television scores.
The instrumental “Love Theme from Romeo & Juliet” is also known as “A Time for Us”. The song was rearranged by Henry Mancini from Nino Rota’s music that was written for the film “Romeo and Juliet”.
When the song was released on May 10, 1969, it was competing with songs from the Beatles and the Rolling Stones on an Orlando, Florida radio station and it started to spread from there across the United States. The song went to number one on June 28, 1969, and stayed there for two weeks. The song went to number one on June 7, 1969, on the Adult Contemporary chart and stayed there for 8 weeks.
This song was Mancini’s only top ten and number 1 song of his career even though he recorded over 90 albums in his lifetime in many music formats. He also wrote songs for television shows like, Mr. Lucky, Newhart, Hotel, Remington Steele, Ripley’s Believe It or Not, and films Breakfast At Tiffany’s, Days of Wine and Roses, The Pink Panther, just to name a few.
Take a listen:
Love Theme From Romeo and Juliet #6
Calcutta – Lawrence Welk #1 (2) 1961 T10=9 T40=13 Charted=17
Lawrence Welk was born in Strasburg, North Dakota on March 11, 1903, and died on May 17, 1992, at age of 89. He was an American musician, accordionist, bandleader, and television host of his weekly “The Lawrence Welk Show” from 1951 to 1982. His style of music became known as “champagne music“.
Calcutta is a German pop song. The instrumental version was recorded by TV host Lawrence Welk on Dot records in 1961.
The tune was written by Heino Gaze in 1958. The original song title was “Tivoli Melody”, and was retitled many times until it became known as “Calcutta”. Hans Bradtke wrote the German lyrics, which made reference to the Indian city of Calcutta (Kolkata).
Welk did not like the tune and was reluctant to record it. But, his musical director George Cates said that if Welk did not wish to record the song he (Cates) would. Welk replied, “Well if it’s good enough for you, George, I guess its good enough for me”. The main lead instrument on the recording is the harpsichord which is Welk’s signature instrument for most of his instrumental recordings after the release of Calcutta.
The song was released on December 12, 1960, and reached number one on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart on February 13, 1961, and stayed there for two weeks. The song is a certified million seller by the RIAA with over a million copies sold.
This was Welk’s only number one song and top ten hit on the popular charts.
Take a listen:
Telstar – Tornados #1 (3) T10=8 T40=13 Charted=16
The Tornados were an English instrumental group of the sixties and provided backup for many recordings of record producer Joe Meek.
The record was named after the Telstar communications satellite was launched on July 10, 1962. The song was written and produced by Joe Meek. It features either a clavioline, or the similar Jennings Univox, both are keyboard instruments that have distinct sounds.
The song was recorded in Meek’s studio in a small flat above a shop in Holloway Road, North London. The song hit number one in the UK.
The song was released in the United States on November 3, 1962, and went to number one on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart on December 22, 1962, and stayed there for three weeks.
The song sold over five million copies worldwide.
Take a listen:
Please note: The song below (YouTube) is not the original recording, but a remake by the group. The original can be purchased using the link in the shop section below.
Wonderland By Night – Bert Kaempfert #1 (3) T10=10 T40=15 Charted=17
Bert Heinrich Kaempfert was born in Hamburg, Germany on October 16, 1923 and died on June 21, 1980. He was a German orchestra leader and songwriter. He wrote “Strangers in the Night” and “Moon Over Naples”, which were popular hits by other artists.
Kaempfert’s own first hit with the orchestra was in 1960, with “Wonderland By Night”. He submitted this song in Germany and they would not even listen to it. He brought the track to Decca Records in New York, and it was released in America on November 14, 1960, and the song went to number one on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart on January 9, 1961, and stayed there for three weeks.
The song features Charly Tabor on trumpet. This song is Kaempfert’s only #1 hit and top ten song on the popular charts of his career. He had a song that peaked at #11 on the pop charts titled “Red Roses For A Blue Lady” in 1965.
Take a listen:
Wonderland By Night #3
Love Is Blue – Paul Mauriat #1 (5) 1968 T10=10 T40=15 Charted=18
Paul Mauriat was born in Marseille, France on March 4, 1925, and died on November 3, 2006 at the age of 81. He was a French orchestra leader of Le Grand Orchestre de Paul Mauriat that specialized in easy listening music.
The French title of “Love Is Blue” is “L’amour est bleu”. The music was composed by Andre Popp and the lyrics were written by Pierre Cour, in 1967.
Mauriat recorded the song in late 1967. It was released in the United States and debuted on the Hot 100 on January 6, 1968. The song reached number one on February 10, 1968, and stayed there for five weeks. The song also went number one on the Adult Contemporary chart on February 17, 1968, and stayed there for eleven weeks. The record sold over one million copies and is certified Gold by RIAA.
This is the only number one instrumental single on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart to be recorded in France.
Take a listen:
Love Is Blue #2
The Theme From A Summer Place – Percy Faith #1 (9) T10-12 T40=17 Charted=21
Percy Faith was born in the city of Toronto, Canada, on April 7, 1908 and died on February 9, 1976 at the age of 67. He became an American citizen in the 40’s. He was a Canadian bandleader, orchestrator, composer and conductor. He is known for his lush arrangements of pop and Christmas standards. He is often credited with popularizing the “easy listening” or “mood music” format.
The song with lyrics was written by Max Steiner, written for the film “A Summer Place” in 1959, which stared Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue.
Percy Faith recorded the most popular version of the tune in the Columbia 30th Street Studio in New York City. The song debuted on the Hot 100 chart on January 11, 1960, and went to number one on February 22, 1960, and stayed there for 9 weeks.
The song won a Grammy award for the Record of the Year, in 1961. He also remains the only artist to have the best-selling single of the year during both the pop singer era (“Song From Moulin Rouge” in 1953) and the rock era (“The Theme From A Summer Place” in 1961); and is one of only three artists to have the best-selling record of the year twice. The other two are Elvis Presley, and the Beatles.
To date, the song remains the longest running number one instrumental on the Hot 100 chart. The first issue of the Hot 100 chart was on August 4, 1958.
Songs released prior to this date, were ranked on multiple charts. The song “Frenesi” by Arti Shaw went to number one in 1941 for thirteen weeks, the most of any instrumental prior to the rock era.
Take a listen:
Theme From A Summer Place #1
Shop Top Ten Instrumentals
You can shop the top ten instrumentals for the decade of the sixties. The CD contains seven of the top 10 hits plus others. The 45’s are for individual songs that are not on the CD.
Pop Memories Of The 60’s: Instrumental Gold
45vinylrecord Telstar/Jungle Fever (7″/45 rpm)
theme from a summer place Percy Faith 45 rpm single
Henry Mancini and His Orchestra 45 RPM The Windmills of Your Mind / Love Theme From Romeo & Juliet
Go back to The Best Selling Instrumentals of the Sixties topics.
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