Every New Zealand #1 single…
Lovesick Blues by Frank Ifield
Topped the NZ chart: 10 January 1963 for 1 week.
The early 1960s are notable for a power vacuum in rock and roll. Many stars of the 1950s saw their careers stall. Buddy Holly died in a plane crash, Little Richard joined the clergy, and Elvis joined the army.
This power vacuum left space for other genres to dominate. The lighter sounds of The Chiffons and Cliff Richard both topped the NZ charts in early 1963. Artists like Andy Williams and Frank Ifield hit number one with records that sounded like rock and roll had never happened.
Frank Ifield was born in Coventry to Australian parents. Returning to Australia he lived in the country, listening to hillbilly music while milking the cow. He launched a recording career while still living in Australia.
His career took off when he returned to the UK in 1959. ‘I Remember You’ was his first big hit. It showcased his kooky crooning, prone to breaking into falsetto. He enjoyed four number one hits over 1962 and 1963, and performed at the Royal Variety Performance.
The song ‘Lovesick Blues’ dated back to Tin Pan Alley. It was first recorded in 1922, but Emmett Miller’s 1925 version is better known. Miller cross-pollinated country and swing. It was also covered in a celebrated country version by Hank Williams in 1948.
Ifield splits the difference between Miller’s and Williams’ version. There’s a swing arrangement but his croon and yodelling are country-inspired. While his vocal prowess is impressive, it feels gimmicky to modern ears.
In at least some places, it was a double a-side with ‘She Taught Me To Yodel’.