In the last of Babe’s letters I transcribed, he told his parents, “Right now, I am listening to the news, which will be followed directly by some good old music from the U.S.A. Last night, I fell asleep right in the middle of the Bob Hope program.”
It got me wondering: What was the “good old music” from the United States. As it turned out, it’s not exactly my taste. The No. 1 hit the week Babe wrote that letter was “Pistol Packin’ Mama” by Al Dexter. I’ve never heard of the song or the artist until now. If you ask me, the song was pretty forgettable. But it turned into a hit later for Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters, too, apparently.
Dexter only held the No. 1 spot for that one week, however. Before him that year, Bing Crosby had a death grip on the top spot. According to Wikipedia’s rundown of the Billboard charts, Crosby had the No. 1 song in nine weeks of that year. The first two weeks (carrying over from December 1942) was “White Christmas.” Then, just before “Pistol Packin’ Mama,” Crosby had seven weeks at No. 1 with “Sunday, Monday, or Always.”
Clearly, the crooners and the big band leaders were on top. When Babe shipped off for the army, Harry James had a No. 1 hit with “I Had the Craziest Dream,” followed by Tommy Dorsey with “There Are Such Things.”
I’m a little embarrassed to admit that there’s very few No. 1 songs in 1943 I know. Besides “What Christmas,” I only recognized “That Old Black Magic” by Glenn Miller’s orchestra.