(Music: "Blue Moon" by The Marcels)
April 3, 1961 - April 23, 1961
When Rodgers and Hart wrote "Blue Moon" in 1934, their wildest dreams couldn't have produced the 1961 version by The Marcels. It's doubtful that lyricist Hart would have added "dang-a-dang-dang, dinga-dong-ding" to any of his songs.
"Blue Moon" was the only song by Rodgers and Hart to become a hit without originating in a stage or screen musical. Actually, "Blue Moon" was the third revision of a song that was intended to be in a show. After writing successful Broadway shows like The Garrick Gaieties (1925), A Connecticut Yankee (1927) and Present Arms (1928), Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart moved to Hollywood in 1931 to write a score for Paramount. They stayed for three years. In 1933, they wrote several songs for a movie starring Jean Harlow, including "Make Me a Star." Harlow and the song were dropped from the film. Hart wrote new lyrics for Rodgers' melody and the song became "The Bad in Every Man." The song was given to MGM for Manhattan Melodrama but was rejected. But MGM had their own publishing company, Robbins Music, and Jack Robbins liked the melody, too. He asked for new lyrics, and within one day he had "Blue Moon" on his desk.
The song was a hit, and appeared in several motion pictures, including Words and Music in 1948, Malaya in 1949, East Side, West Side in 1950 and With a Song in My Heart in 1952. Elvis Presley recorded a standard version of it in 1954, seven years before The Marcels released their version on Colpix.
The Marcels were a quintet from Pittsburgh. The group, named after a popular hair style, consisted of lead singer Cornelius Harp, first tenor Ronald Mundy, second tenor Gene Bricker, baritone Dick Knauss, and bass singer Fred Johnson.
Their repertoire consisted of 1950s R&B songs when they met Colpix staff producer Stu Phillips. Stu had orders to devote all his time to another new artist on the label, but he believed in the Marcels enough to defy his boss and bring them into the studio at 8 p.m., after everyone else had gone home.
The Marcels had three songs to record and needed one more. Phillips didn't like any of the other songs the group chose, except for one excerpt from a song that had the same chord changes as "Heart and Soul" and "Blue Moon." Stu asked them if they knew "Heart and Soul," and they didn't, but one of The Marcels knew "Blue Moon." "So I gave him an hour to teach it to the others," Stu says.
The group learned the middle section of the melody wrong, but they recorded it anyway. The excerpt Stu liked became the intro to "Blue Moon." It was completed in two takes, both without stopping.
A new Colpix promotion man heard the tape and asked for a copy. Stu obliged, not realizing it would be given to Murray the K at WINS radio in New York. He loved it and played it 26 times on one show. The next day Stu was called in to his boss' office to explain how Murray the K had an "exclusive" on The Marcels.
"Blue Moon" went to number one in America and Britain. In 1980, producer/director Jon Landis used all "moon" songs in the soundtrack of An American Werewolf in London. Bobby Vinton's "Blue Moon" was heard over the opening credits and The Marcels' version over the closing credits.
Reprinted from The Billboard Book of Number 1 Hits, copyright © 2003 by Fred Bronson.