As well as the mambo craze of 1955, Britain was also in love with cowboys and country and western music. Slim Whitman’s Rose Marie held the top spot for 11 weeks, and the first ‘official’ country song to hit number 1 happened earlier that year – Tennessee Ernie Ford’s Give Me your Word (although, as I said here, it’s not really a country song, and you could argue that Frankie Laine’s Hey Joe should earn that honour).
That summer had seen the release of Western movie The Man from Laramie, starring James Stewart in the title role, as a stranger who causes ructions by working for the rival of a cattle baron. Lester Lee and Ned Washington had written the theme, and Al Martino performed the US version. He only just scraped into the top 20 in the US, but Jimmy Young, riding high off his previous number 1 with Unchained Melody, became the first homegrown artist to have two consecutive number 1s in the UK.
Young makes a better job of The Man from Laramie, than he did Unchained Melody. It’s a jolly, rickety old number, and I suppose it’s kind of catchy, but having said all this, I have no desire to ever hear it again.
Basically, it’s Young telling us all the ways in which the Man from Laramie is brilliant. His voice is better suited to this than his previous chart-topper, but he’s still bellowing, and the worst bit is the cringeworthy way he changes his voice to sing smarmily:
‘He had a flair for ladies
Now the ladies loved his air of mystery’
The fact Young is so fondly remembered for his career as a DJ rather than his music suggests he was right to switch careers. He became a disc jockey that year on Housewive’s Choice, but sensing the music climate was changing following Elvis’s success, he decided to go full-time, working for Radio Luxembourg and the BBC.
In 1967 he was one of the original band of DJs on the fledgling Radio 1. Considered too ‘square’ by some of the station’s bosses, he proved them wrong and his morning show proved very popular. He switched to Radio 2 for the lunchtime show in 1973, and stayed with the station, becoming a national institution, loved for his charm and relaxed style. He was just as nice in person as on the air, by all accounts, and was mourned by millions when he died peacefully in his sleep on 7 November 2016, aged 95.
Written by: Lester Lee & Ned Washington
Producer: Dick Rowe
Weeks at number 1: 4 (14 October-10 November)
Presenter Timmy Mallett – 18 October
Songwriter Harry Parr-Davies – 14 October