This time around, we are going pop for this classic single. Also, it’s not a classic 45, but rather a classic 78. The song “Ballerina” was one of the top hits of 1948, with four versions becoming hits. Vaughn Monroe, Buddy Clark, Bing Crosby, and Jimmy Dorsey.
Up through the 1950’s, it was common to see multiple versions on the market of a popular song. It was very common in Pop music, but also common in R & B and Country music, as well. What is interesting is how the two major chart tabulators, Billboard and Cashbox handled them. Billboard charted each record individually. Cashbox would lump all of the versions together for one position. More on the charts, later.
“Ballerina” was written in 1947 by Carl Sigman and Sidney Keith Russell. The song is about a ballerina who gives up love for her career, and now, her heart aches for that lost love. According to the website Songfacts.com, the composers gave the song to their publisher, a man named Redd Evans. Initially, Evans gave it to Jimmy Dorsey, but after his version failed to garner any interest with the public, he gave it to Vaughn Monroe. The story is that he initially passed on Monroe, as they were apparently not getting along. However, after Dorsey’s version tanked, he ultimately gave it to Monroe. According to the liner notes in the RCA album “This Is Vaughn Monroe”, he cut his version in August, 1947. As noted, he was not the only artist recording the song. Both Bing Crosby and Buddy Clark, among others, would record versions before the year was over.
Monroe’s record hit first, charting on Billboard, November 8, 1947. It ascended to number one on the December 13th edition of
their Best Sellers In Stores chart, and stayed there for 10 weeks. The versions by Bing Crosby and Buddy Clark debuted on Billboard in the January 10, 1948 issue, with Clark’s climbing as high as 5, while Crosby’s would peak at 10. One week later, the previously mentioned Jimmy Dorsey version debuted, and peaked at 10.
In Cashbox, “Ballerina” debuted on the October 20, 1947 chart. On December 20, “Ballerina” hit number one, the first of 10 weeks. Versions listed in Cashbox, that week, also included Mel Torme’, Enric Madreguera, and the Jerry Shelton Trio.
For Vaughn Monroe, “Ballerina” was his second longest stay at number one in Billboard, topped only by his 1949 hit “Riders In The Sky”, which spent 12 weeks on top. For Buddy Clark, who’s version of “Ballerina” was the 2nd most popular behind Monroe, the song continued the momentum he gained in 1947. He had scored 2 number one hits (“Linda” w/Ray Noble’s Orch. and “Peg O’ My Heart”) and 4 top ten hits, that year, his first major chart hits. He would score another number one (“Love Somebody”), along with two more top tens, plus two top tens in 1949. Sadly, on October 1, 1949, he died in a plane crash in California, at the height of his popularity.
A final note about the classic hit. After it’s success in 1948, it would return to prominence, 9 years later, 1957, when Nat King Cole brought it back into the top twenty.
Mike the Country Musicologist is a lifelong music and radio fanatic, lover of vintage agriculture, and big sports fan, including the Colts, Reds, Hurricanes, Pacers, Purdue & Butler Universities. He has collected records since childhood, and focuses on classic country and top 40 oldies music. He convinced Vincennes University to give him an Associate’s Degree in broadcasting. He’s worked for several stations in Indiana and North Carolina. Be sure to follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.