Song: “Wooden Heart (Muss I Denn)” by Joe Dowell
Reached #1: August 28, 1961 (his first, 1 week)
When I conceived this project, I set two ground rules – one song per day, and I’d only poach a song from another day if there were no #1 hits on that day. That left me open for the possibility that I’d have a day where there was one or two obscure #1 hits where I couldn’t track down any information.
So I pulled the list from Bullfrog’s Pond and set to work. For the most part, I wasn’t too worried.
Then I looked at Day 241. August 28. There was one #1 song that day – Joe Dowell’s “Wooden Heart (Muss I Denn)”. My first reaction wasn’t printable. My second was a quick trip to Google, which yielded the clip above and a link to Dowell’s website (also above).
I won’t retell the whole story – go to joedowell.com for it – but Dowell’s success is due, almost entirely, to Elvis Presley’s movie career.
It seems that a lot of artists had the same idea – figure out which songs from Elvis’ soundtracks weren’t likely to be released as singles, cover them, and rush them out while the movie was still in theatres.
Dowell chose Presley’s recording of a reworked version of a German folk song, “Muss i’ denn zum Städtele hinaus”. The song was partially translated into English by – among others – Bert Kaempfert (memorialized as the guy with the “mad hits” by Barenaked Ladies in “One Week”) as “Wooden Heart”. Presley sang it with mixed English and German lyrics, so Dowell did as well, frantically trying to learn the lyrics quickly before the recording session in Nashville.
Dowell did a small tour to promote the single – and that apparently was enough to get the song to #1 on the Billboard charts for one week. Dowell went on to release two minor hits, fight with his record label, and leave music for advertising.
Tomorrow, the question to the answer “absolutely nothing”.
No other songs reached #1 on August 28.