Best Songs From 1956

As rock and roll started to gain popularity, the pop charts quickly adapted to this new style of music. When mixing that in with the various other musical styles and genres, 1956 had some great songs.

Let’s take a walk down memory lane and listen to some top songs from 1956.

1.“Heartbreak Hotel” By Elvis Presley

Song Year: 1956

One of Presley’s most influential songs, “Heartbreak Hotel,” changed pop music overnight. This reverb-heavy blues track broke barriers and dominated the pop and country charts in 1956.

“Heartbreak Hotel” had a monumental impact on many other musicians from John Lennon to Keith Richards. If you had to choose one song to represent Elvis, “Heartbreak Hotel” would be his masterpiece. 

2. “Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)” By Doris Day

Song Year: 1956

Written by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, Doris Day performed a unique rendition of “Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be) in 1956. The song was successful after its use in Alfred Hitchcock’s film, “The Man Who Knew Too Much.”

The song peaked at number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and won an Academy Award for best original song in 1956. It also popularized the phrase, “Que Sera, Sera” in the English language.

3. “Blue Suede Shoes” By Carl Perkins

Song Year: 1956

While you might think of Elvis when you hear “Blue Suede Shoes,” Carl Perkins scored a big hit with the song in 1956 before Presley released his version. Perkin’s version is considered one of the first rockabilly records and mixes blues, country, pop, and rock music.

Lasting 16 weeks on the Cashbox best sellers charts, “Blue Suede Shoes” is an all-time classic. Release the same year, Presley scored a hit with the song as well. 

4. “The Great Pretender” By The Platters

Song Year: 1956

The Platters recorded many inspiring and successful songs in the 1950s. “The Great Pretender” is one of the biggest songs for this 1950s band. The song reached number 1 on the US charts and found success in the UK as well.

Claiming to write the song in less than 20 minutes, The Platters’ manager, Buck Ram, is credited with writing credits on “The Great Pretender.”

5. “Memories Are Made of This” By Dean Martin

Song Year: 1956

Originally recorded by The Easy Riders, “Memories Are Made of This” found commercial success after Dean Martin used his signature voice to transform the track.

“Memories Are Made of This” was an instant hit upon release and spent 6 weeks at number one on the Billboard charts. It also found success across the pond and spent 4 weeks atop the UK Singles charts in the same year.

6. “Moonglow and Theme From Picnic” By Morris Stoloff

Song Year: 1956

Recorded for the film “Picnic”, “Moonglow and Theme From Picnic” hit the top of the Billboard charts in 1956.

Originally written in 1933 by Will Hudson, Irving Mills, and Eddie DeLange, the song found success thanks to its inclusion in the film “Picnic.” This version was helmed by Morris Stolof and his orchestra.

7. “Don’t Be Cruel” By Elvis Presley

Song Year: 1956

We’ll be hearing a lot from Elvis on this list, and “Don’t Be Cruel” is his second chart-topper of 1956. Upbeat and danceable, “Don’t Be Cruel” was Presley’s biggest-selling record and sold over six million copies by 1961.

Still popular today, “Don’t Be Cruel” was recently inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2004 and ranked as the 197th greatest song of all time by Rolling Stone Magazine.

8. “(The) Rock and Roll Waltz” By Kay Starr

Song Year: 1956

While rock and roll gained popularity, Shorty Allen and Roy Alfred wrote a waltz version of rock and roll. The mix of waltz triple meter and rock and roll bass combine flawlessly to create a unique tune and sound that fits perfectly in the pop music scene of the 1950s.

The most popular version of the song featured Kay Starr on vocals. Her version peaked at number 1 and spent 6 weeks at the top of the chart.

9. “Lisbon Antigua” By Nelson Riddle

Song Year: 1956

Originally recorded in 1937, “Lisbon Antigua” found popularity in 1956 after the Nelson Riddle orchestra released their version.

 Riddle crafted a new modern arrangement and included himself on the piano. Topping the Billboard charts for 4 weeks, “Lisbon Antigua” was also used as the theme song for the film “Lisbon” in 1956.

10. “My Prayer” By The Platters

Song Year: 1956

Originally released in 1939 by violinist Georges Boulanger, “My Prayer” found pop success in 1956 after The Platters recorded a doo-wop version. The Platters hit the top of the pop and R&B charts with their rendition.

An all-time classic, “My Prayer” is often featured in films and TV shows. You might remember the song from “Twin Peaks” or “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.”

11. “The Wayward Wind” By Gogi Grant

Song Year: 1956

One of the most memorable country songs of 1956, “The Wayward Wind,” is an anthem for wandering spirits. Gogi Grant’s version of “The Wayward Wind” was the biggest seller and peaked at number 1 on Billboard’s charts.

Grant sings of a man dreaming of traveling while living near passing trains. While the traveler lives a lonely life, it’s the only life for him.

12. “Hound Dog” By Elvis Presley

Song Year: 1956

The year of Elvis, “Hound Dog” was another major hit for Presley. Originally recorded by Big Mama Thornton, the song was successful in 1952 and shaped the sound of rock and roll in the 1950s.

Presley improved on Thornton’s version and brought “Hound Dog” into the mainstream. Selling over 10 million copies, “Hound Dog” dominated the charts and spent 11 weeks at the top of the chart. This record latest 36 years.

13. “The Poor People of Paris” By Les Baxter

Song Year: 1956

This instrumental tune from Les Baxter found success in the United States and spent 4 weeks at the top of the Billboard charts. 

Baxter’s arrangement included strings, brass, snapping, whistlers, and light percussion. After its initial release, “The Poor People of Paris” found success again after Lawrence Welk recorded a version. Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, and several others gave vocal renditions of the song in later years.

14. “I Almost Lost My Mind” By Pat Boone

Song Year: 1956

Originally recorded in 1950, Joe Hunter hit the R&B charts with his rendition of the song in the same year. Pat Boone rerecorded “I Almost Lost My Mind” in 1956. It went on to become the most popular and best-selling version of the tune.

Other notable versions of “I Almost Lost My Mind” include recordings by Chubby Checker, Nat King Cole, and Fats Domino.

15. “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You” By Elvis Presley

Song Year: 1956

Elvis was the King of love songs as well. “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You,” made countless women weak in the knees every time he sang the song.

Released in May of 1956, the song was Presley’s second number 1 country song and reached number 3 on the Billboard Top 100. While not as big a hit as his other songs released in the same year, “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You” is still one of the best songs from 1956.

16. “Love Me Tender” By Elvis Presley

Good Music From 1956

Song Year: 1956

The theme song to Presley’s first film, “Love Me Tender” is a love song dedicated to a soldier’s mother and bride after his return from the Civil War. 

The ballad was an instant smash hit after Presley performed the song on “The Ed Sullivan Show” while promoting his film. Since then “Love Me Tender” has had an everlasting legacy and is featured in countless films and shows.

17. “Hot Diggity (Dog Ziggity Boom)” By Perry Como

Song Year: 1956

Written by Al Hoffman and Dick Manning, “Hot Diggity (Dog Ziggity Boom),” found success in 1956 once Perry Como recorded his version of the song. Como’s version of the song peaked at number 1 on Billboard’s pop music charts in 1956.

While the lyrics are nonsensical, the song is about a man’s love for his woman. He’s excited and having a hard time explaining his feelings.

18. “Canadian Sunset” By Eddie Haywood & Hugo Winterhalter

Song Year: 1956

Originally released with lyrics in 1956, “Canadian Sunset” found success after Haywood and Winterhalter recorded an instrumental version of the song. The instrumental version of “Canadian Sunset” peaked at number 2 on the Billboards charts in 1956.

Since its release, “Canadian Sunset” is now known as an essential jazz standard. Cover versions by Wes Montgomery, Dean Martin, Etta Jones, and Earl Klugh also found success in later years.

19. “Green Door” By Jim Lowe

Song Year: 1956

It’s been almost 70 years and we still don’t know what’s behind the “Green Door.” Recorded by Jim Lowe in 1956, “Green Door” is a story about a guy trying to get into an exclusive club with a green door.

The honky-tonk song reached number 1 on the Billboard Charts. The song had a lasting cultural impact. Recently “Green Door” was included in Quentin Tarantino’s film “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.”

20. “No, Not Much” By The Four Lads

Song Year: 1956

The Four Lads pour their hearts out as they profess their love during “No, Not Much.” Written by Robert Allen and Al Stillman, The Four Lads’ version peaked at number 2 on the US Disk Jokey charts in 1956.

Other popular versions of “No, Not Much” includes recordings by Bing Crosby and Robert Palmer.

21. “Honky Tonk” By Bill Doggett

Song Year: 1956

This instrumental by Bill Doggett became his most influential and popular piece. “Honky Tonk” reached number 2 on the Billboard pop charts and was the biggest R&B song of 1956.

The song resurfaced in the 1970s after James Brown released a version with his band The J.B.s in 1972.

22. “Sixteen Tons” By Tennessee Ernie Ford

Song Year: 1956

The working man’s anthem, “Sixteen Tons” is one of the most memorable songs of 1956. The song focuses on the story of a coal miner and the hardships he endures to survive.

Tennessee Ernie Ford’s version of “Sixteen Tons” found pop success in 1956. His recording sold over 1 million copies and dominated the country music charts for 10 weeks.

23. “Just Walkin’ in the Rain” By Johnnie Ray

Song Year: 1956

Written by 2 prisoners at Tennessee State Prison, Johnny Bragg and Robert Riley found the idea for the song after walking across the courtyard of the prison during the rain.

While Bragg released a version, the song wasn’t a hit until Johnnie Ray released his version in 1956. Ray’s version of “Just Walkin’ in the Rain” reached number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100.

24. “Allegheny Moon” By Pattie Page

Song Year: 1956

Patti Page recorded her hit version of “Allegheny Moon” in 1956. Her version found success and reached number 2 on the Billboard charts in June of the same year.

Written by Al Hoffman and Dick Manning, Bing Crosby, Guy Mitchell, and Anne Murray also recorded versions of the song.

25. “I’m in Love Again” By Fats Domino

Song Year: 1956

One of the biggest R&B songs of the year, Fats Domino crossed over onto the pop charts with his hit, “I’m in Love Again.” The song spent 7 weeks at the top of the R&B charts and reached number 3 on the pop charts.

This groovy and soulful tune had a lasting impact and influence throughout rock music. Future versions of the song included recordings by Paul McCartney, Pat Boone, and Bonnie Raitt.

26. “Tonight You Belong to Me” By Patience and Prudence

Song Year: 1956

Originally recorded in 1926, Patience and Prudence revived “Tonight You Belong to Me” in 1956. While recorded by several other artists during the era, the Patience and Prudence version reached number 4 on the pop charts.

The song is still incredibly popular and was recently used in commercials and films. The television show “American Horror Story” featured “Tonight You Belong to Me” in 4 episodes in 2011.

27. “Be-Bop-a-Lula” By Gene Vincent

Song Year: 1956

One of the first popular rockabilly songs, Gene Vincent recorded “Be-Bop-a-Lula” in 1956. Thanks to their inclusion in the film, “The Girl Can’t Help It,” Vincent’s version was an instant success. After release, the song went on to peak at number 7 on the Billboard charts and number 8 on the R&B charts.

“Be-Bop-a-Lula” is still an influential song and was covered by a wide range of artists including The Beatles, The Everly Brothers, and The Stray Cats.

28. “Why Do Fools Fall in Love” By Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers

Song Year: 1956

Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers had a big R&B hit on their hands with “Why Do Fools Fall in Love.” Released in 1956, the song peaked at number 1 on the R&B charts while reaching number 6 on the pop singles chart.

The song has a lasting legacy and Rolling Stone added it to their 500 greatest songs of all time list. Versions by The Beach Boys and Diana Ross found success in later decades as well.

29. “Standing on the Corner” By The Four Lads

Song Year: 1956

Our second pick from the Four Lads, “Standing on the Corner” is their second hit of 1956. Peaking at number 3 on the Billboard charts, The Four Lads offer a nostalgic tune that transports you to an easier time.

The song tells the story of a guy who dreams of having a girlfriend but he can’t afford to have one. He can watch from afar but is afraid to take a chance on his dreams.

30. “The Flying Saucer” By Buchanan & Goodman

Song Year: 1956

A novelty comedy record, “The Flying Saucer” is a weird mix of songs, news reports, and interviews while flying saucers land on Earth.

During the recording, you’ll hear a mix of samples from popular records including tracks by The Platters, Elvis Presley, and Little Richard. In between the samples, you get sports scores, interviews with Aliens, and news reports.

31. “Ivory Tower” By Cathy Carr

Song Year: 1956

Recorded by several artists in 1956, Cathy Carr’s version of “Ivory Tower” was the biggest hit. Her slow-moving ballad version of the song reached number 2 on the Billboard charts while also charting in Australia.

Otis Williams also found success with his R&B version of the song in the same year.

Top Songs From 1956, Final Thoughts

There were so many good songs and artists in 1956. It was hard to decide who should be on this list of good music from 1956. Hopefully, we didn’t leave off your favorite rock song or love ballad. Let us know about your best songs from 1956.

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