US smash-hit musical western Calamity Jane was first released in November 1953. Loosely based on the life of the title character and her alleged romance with notorious folk hero “Wild Bill” Hickok, it starred Doris Day and Howard Keel in the central roles.
Doris Day, born Doris Mary Kappelhoff on 3 April 1922 was one of the most well-known singers and actresses of the era. Originally she wanted to be a dancer, but an accident at the age of 15 forced her out of action and she discovered a talent for singing, with Ella Fitzgerald her idol.
She took singing lessons, and caught the attention of jazz musician Barney Rapp. Kappelhoff began working with him, but he understandably felt she needed a new stage name. Admiring her rendition of Day After Day, he suggested Doris Day.
The sugary timbre of her voice and film-star looks soon captivated radio, film and television audiences, right from her first hit, Sentimental Journey, back in 1945.
Her first UK singles success came in 1952, with a Frankie Laine duet, Sugarbush, and the following year she duetted with Johnnie Ray on the number four hit Let’s Walk That-a-Way.
On 16 April, 1954, UK singles buyers saw sense and decided that this track from Calamity Jane was more deserving of the number 1 spot than the execrable I See the Moon by The Stargazers. The ballad was written by composer Sammy Fain, with Paul Francis Webster providing the lyrics that describe the joy of finally being able to tell the world of a love kept under wraps.
Day was visibly moved when Fain visited her to play it for the first time. The day of the recording, she warmed-up her voice, cycled to the studio and announced to musical director Ray Heindorf that she would only perform one take of her vocal. Despite understandable misgivings, Heindorf was ecstatic after the take, agreeing that she could never outdo herself.
It would seem this song had special meaning for Day, she clearly loved it and it shows in that one-take performance. A cut above other songs of this ilk, her authentic vocal turns from typically sweet to barely-contained delight at times. The stirring strings replicate the chorus and add to its hit factor.
Secret Love gave Day her fourth US number one, and won the Academy Award for Best Original Song on 25 March. However she caused controversy by refusing to perform it at the ceremony. The subsequent bad press saw Day housebound with depression for some time afterwards. Nonetheless, a few weeks later it became her first UK number 1.
In a clear display of how mad the British record-buying public can often be, I See the Moon returned to the top after only a week. Not for long though, and on 8 May, Secret Love toppled Johnnie Ray’s Such a Night, beginning eight weeks as best-selling single.
Written by: Sammy Fain & Paul Francis Webster
Producer: Ray Heindorf
Weeks at number 1: 9 (16-22 April, 8 May-1 July) *BEST-SELLING SINGLE OF THE YEAR*
Footballer Trevor Francis – 19 April
Entertainer Gary Wilmot – 8 May
Mathematician Alan Turing – 7 June
29 May: Diane Leather became the first woman to break the five-minute mile.
29 June: The IRA returned after a long period of inactivity.