Here’s one we all know. (How Much is) That Doggie in the Window is more like a timeless nursery rhyme than a chart-topper. It is about as far removed from a 2017 number one as it’s possible to get, but children of every generation since have grown up with it and loved it, including my own young daughters. It was written by Bob Merrill, author of the tacky She Wears Red Feathers, number one by Guy Mitchell a month previously. Loosely based on a folk song called Carnival of Venice, an earlier version, The Doggie in the Window, sung by one of the most famous singers of the 50s, Patti Page, is still the most well-known, and hit number one on the Billboard charts in the US, selling millions. But it didn’t make it to number one in the UK. Enter Lita Roza.
Lita Roza hailed from Liverpool and was a singer with The Ted Heath Jazz Band. She regularly topped polls in the Melody Maker and the New Musical Express for best female singer. A creditable artist, she didn’t want to record a novelty record, but her A&R, Dick Rowe, nagged her until she relented. However, she insisted on singing it in only one take, and refused to ever perform it live. Roza claimed in a 2004 interview that she kept her word, and so she began a long tradition of artists who hate the song they become best known for. Nonetheless, it immortalised her as the first UK solo act to become number one. Listening to her cover alongside Patti Page’s (not something I can see myself doing more than once), I prefer Roza’s, as she sings with much less affectation than Page.
However, Roza clearly had some affection or appreciation for her sole number one, as when she died in 2008, she left £300,000 in her will to charities. £190,000 of this went to dog-related charities: Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association and The Cinnamon Trust.
(How Much is) That Doggie in the Window spent one week at the top, from 17 April, 1953. Six days previously, Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel, Casino Royale, was published, beginning an almighty cultural legacy.
Written by: Bob Merrill
Producer: Dick Rowe
Weeks at number 1: 1 (17-23 April)
Author Sebastian Faulks – 20 April