Give Me Your Word, by Tennessee Ernie Ford, became number 1 on 11 March. Written by bandleader George Wyle and lyricist Irving Taylor, it’s considered the first country song to top the charts, although it isn’t really. All the ingredients of 50s romantic, overwrought ballads are present and correct. The only thing remotely ‘country’ about it is the drawl of Tennessee Ernie Ford.
Ford, born Ernest Jennings Ford in Bristol Tennessee on 13 February 1919, had added the state to his stage name when he became a radio disc jockey during the 40s, and taken on the character of a wild, crazy hillbilly. Before then, the bass-baritone had served as a local radio announcer before becoming a First Lieutenant in the US Air Corps during World War Two. When the war ended, he was back on the radio.
But soon he was releasing singles, and doing very well out of fast-paced boogie-woogie like The Shotgun Boogie. He also recorded slower-paced duets with the likes of jazz singer Kay Starr, who had been number 1 in 1953 with Comes A-Long A-Love.
How did Give Me Your Word achieve the same feat? Let alone, for seven weeks? This is a mystery, lost in the mists of time. I’m not much of a country fan, so I may be biased, but like I said above, this isn’t much of a country song. It had been a B-side originally, to River of No Return in 1954. That’s where by rights it should have stayed. It’s no How Soon Is Now? by The Smiths, for example, where the sheer brilliance of the tune demands it to be promoted from the flip side. To be fair to Ford, he made up for this bland, soppy rubbish when Sixteen Tons became his second number 1 in January 1956.
Written by: George Wyle & Irving Taylor
Producer: Lee Gillette
Weeks at number 1: 7 (11 March-29 April) *BEST-SELLING SINGLE OF THE YEAR*
Poet John Burnside – 19 March
DJ Janice Long – 5 April
Bacteriologist Sir Alexander Fleming – 11 March
5 April 1955: Prime Minister Winston Churchill announced his retirement. The following day, his deputy for 15 years, Anthony Eden, replaced him in Downing Street. Highly regarded as a man of peace, world events would soon tarnish his reputation and have a lasting impact on his legacy.