As 1954 began, Frankie Laine was finally relinquishing his grip on the charts. He wouldn’t peak at the top again until 1956, and that would be his last. On 8 January, trumpeter Eddie Calvert, from Preston in Lancashire, took over from Laine with his cover of Oh Mein Papa.
Oh Mein Papa was, as the title suggests, a German song. It was written by Swiss composer Paul Burkhard in 1939 for the musical Der Schwarze Hecht and became his most successful tune. It concerned a young woman remembering the days her father worked as a clown. Yes, really. These days, you’re most likely to know it from an episode of The Simpsons, in which Krusty the Clown sings it with Rabbi Hyman Krustofsky in the episode Like Father, Like Clown.
Calvert was born into a family who loved brass band music, but became particularly interested in the trumpet. Following World War Two, he graduated from amateur to professional dance orchestras. He earned the nickname ‘The Man with the Golden Trumpet’ (aren’t they all?) after appearing on the TV with the Stanley Black Orchestra, and the name stuck for the rest of his career. He was a BBC radio and TV star by the time he cut his chart-topping version of Oh Mein Papa.
Oh Mein Papa did as well as Frankie Laine’s initial run at the top with I Believe, remaining there for nine weeks. Impressive, and somewhat bizarre, all things considered, but it’s only just 1954 and musical tastes didn’t just suddenly improve. Progress took its time. Although classed as an instrumental, a choir occasionally sing the song’s title. Other than Calvert’s trumpet, there is an incredibly dated-sounding organ. It’s certainly of it’s time. Interestingly, in the charts at the same time, was Eddie Fisher’s vocal version. Despite his previous success, he was unable to beat Calvert, whereas in the US, the opposite occurred.
Calvert was the first artist to receive a gold disc for an instrumental record. It was also the first number one to be recorded at the legendary Abbey Road Studios, which was a good few years off becoming the go-to studio for the likes of Cliff Richard.
Meanwhile, on 12 February, a report was issued by the British Medical Committee suggesting a link between smoking and lung cancer. Smoking was still considered cool for a long time to come though, especially in the music world.
Written by: Paul Burkhard
Weeks at number 1: 9 (8 January-11 March)
Writer Iain Banks – 16 February
Actor Anthony Head – 20 February
Snooker player Willie Thorne – 4 March
Swimmer David Wilkie – 8 March
Actor Sydney Greenstreet – 18 January
Royal Navy Captain Ronald Niel Stuart – 8 February