1961: A year of radio hits that have stood the test of time

1961 was chockfull of songs that still get airplay on radio stations. Was it the greatest year in music?

The Beach Boys introduced themselves to the world with their debut single “Surfin.'” The year’s biggest songs included Del Shannon’s “Runaway,” Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me,” “Let’s Twist Again” by Chubby Checker and “Blue Moon” by The Marcels. There was a lot of jazz action, with multiple records from Miles Davis’s projects and Ornette Coleman’s Free Jazz. Philadelphia’s The Dovells chronicled a new dance step that was popular in the suburbs called “Bristol Stomp,” and Etta James was etched into eternity with “At Last.”

On stage, Judy Garland performed a concert at Carnegie Hall that has been called “the greatest night in show business history,” later released as Judy at Carnegie Hall, and Luciano Pavarotti made his operatic debut in Italy.

The list goes on and on; 1961 is a strong contender for the greatest year in music.


Judy at Carnegie Hall – Judy Garland
My Favorite Things  – John Coltrane
Come Swing With Me!  – Frank Sinatra
Lonely and Blue – Roy Orbison
Shirley Bassey – Shirley Bassey
Tonight’s the Night – The Shirelles
Free Jazz – Ornette Coleman
Sunday at the Village Vanguard – Bill Evans Trio
Dexter Calling – Dexter Gordon
Sometime My Prince Will Come – Miles Davis Sextet
Steamin’ With the Miles Davis Quintet – Miles Davis
This is Our Music – Ornette Coleman
King of the Delta Blues Singers – Robert Johnson

“Runaround Sue” – Dion
“The Wanderer” – Dion
“Hit the Road Jack” – Ray Charles
“Crazy” – Patsy Cline
“I Fall to Pieces” – Patsy Cline
“Please Mr. Postman” – The Marvelettes
“Quarter to Three” – Gary US Bonds
“Shop Around” – The Miracles
“Stand By Me” – Ben E. King
“Spanish Harlem” – Ben E. King
“The Lion Sleeps Tonight” – The Tokens
“Town Without Pity” – Gene Pitney
“Mother-In-Law” – Ernie K Doe
“Marie’s the Name (His Latest Flame)/Little Sister” – Elvis Presley
“Runaway” – Del Shannon
“Hello Mary Lou” – Rick Nelson
“Moon River” – Henry Mancini
“Let’s Twist Again” – Chubby Checker
“Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” – The Shirelles
“Dedicated to the One I Love” – The Shirelles
“Blue Moon” – The Marcels
“I Can’t Help Falling In Love” – Elvis Presley
“Crying” – Roy Orbison

Category: 60s


Article by: Julie Miller