Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: I have just discovered an interesting difference between my 78 rpm singles from the 1940s and my 45s from the '50s.

I don't think I have even one song on a 78 that fades out at the end.

Yet there are many songs on my 45s with a fade-out ending.

It's probably safe to say this anomaly has nothing to do with the difference in playing speed, and everything to do with changes in the recording industry.

Would you agree?

Was there a specific record or year when the fade-out ending was born?
—Al Fontaine, Golden, Colo.

DEAR AL: You are not the only one asking about endings that just fade into silence. Paul Zimmelman sent a similar question, and I hope he will also find today's column helpful.

I definitely agree about RPMs (revolutions per minute) playing no part in whether a song ends cold, fades away, or in some rare cases, has a cold (i.e., abrupt) ending that itself fades out.

Remember, though 45s were the dominate singles format in the 1950s, a huge percentage of those records were simultaneously on both 45s and 78s, regardless of how the music ends.

Since the first record with a fade-out didn't seem worthy of mention in any of the trade publications, we have no way to pinpoint that exact title.

I do, however, have an innovative way of evaluating the introduction and growth of fade-out endings.

Using just the two decades you mention, and only the No. 1 hits according to Billboard and Cash Box, we can easily identify the charter member of the fade-away club, plus all those that followed.

This analysis also provides a quantified reflection of the industry's gradual acceptance of having more than one way to terminate a track.

For the entire '40s decade, there were 140 No. 1 songs, though not until February 1947, and that decade's 96th chart-topper, did any of them fade out.

That nonconformist tune was "Open the Door, Richard!," by Count Basie, featuring Harry Edison and Bill Johnson (RCA Victor 20-2127).

Oddly enough, the immediate successor at No. 1 was the similarly titled "Open the Door, Richard," by the Three Flames, featuring "Tiger" Haynes, and this waxing does not fade out.

This is one of only two '40s or '50s occurrences where two versions of the same song reached No. 1, with one fading out and one ending cold. The other is "Young Love," in 1957.

Among the next 43 songs, there are only three that fade:
"Mañana (Is Soon Enough for Me)" (Peggy Lee with Dave Barbour and the Brazilians) (March 1948)
"Careless Hands" (Mel Tormé with Sonny Burke and His Orchestra) (April 1949)
"Mule Train" (Frankie Laine and the Muleskinners) (November 1949)

Overall, only four of 140 No. 1 hits in the 1940s ended with a fade. Now let's see how things changed in the 1950s.

For the first six years of the decade (1950-1955), the percentage of fades was not much different from what we found in the '40s.

All but these four ended cold:
"The Cry of the Wild Goose" (Frankie Laine) (March 1950)
"Music! Music! Music!" (Teresa Brewer) (April 1950)
"All My Love" (Patti Page) (October 1950)
"The Yellow Rose of Texas" (Mitch Miller) (September 1955)

Then in February 1957, "Young Love" by Sonny James, with a fade-out, topped the charts, only to be replaced one week later by Tab Hunter's "Young Love," with its cold ending.

Other fade-out hits in '57 are:
"Party Doll" (Buddy Knox) (April)
"Round and Round" (Perry Como) (April)
This is the first time for two or more consecutive fade-out tunes atop the charts. It will not be the last.
"Bye Bye Love" (Everly Brothers) (July)
"Diana" (Paul Anka) (September)
"Wake Up Little Susie" (Everly Brothers) (October)
"Jailhouse Rock" (Elvis Presley) (October)
"Raunchy" (Bill Justis) (December)
Bill Justis, who wrote "Raunchy," had the original; however, two cover versions were also in the Top 10. Ernie Freeman's fades out, but Billy Vaughn's ends cold

For the remaining two years of the decade, the pace of fade-out hits picks up considerably:
"The Stroll" (Diamonds) (February 1958)
"Get a Job" (Silhouettes) (February 1958)
"Witch Doctor" (David Seville) (April 1958)
"All I Have to Do Is Dream" (Everly Brothers) (May 1958)
"Yakety Yak" (Coasters) (July 1958)
"Bird Dog" (Everly Brothers) (August 1958)
"To Know Him Is to Love Him" (Teddy Bears) (December 1958)
"The Chipmunk Song" (Chipmunks) (December 1958)
"Stagger Lee" (Lloyd Price) (February 1959)
"Come Softly to Me" (Fleetwoods) (April 1959)
"The Happy Organ" (Dave "Baby" Cortez) (May 1959)
Instrumentals that fade are few and far between. This and "Raunchy" are the only two on our list that do not end cold.
"Kansas City" (Wilbert Harrison) (May 1959)
"The Battle of New Orleans" (Johnny Horton) (June 1959)
"Lonely Boy" (Paul Anka) July 1959)
"There Goes My Baby" (Drifters) (August 1959)
"A Big Hunk O' Love" (Elvis Presley) (August 1959)
Remarkably, the above seven faders, from April through August, are consecutive!
"Mr. Blue" (Fleetwoods) (November 1959)

For the 1950s there are 160 No. 1 songs, of which 29 fade out.

That's about 18% compared to less than .03% in the '40s.

All of which accounts for why your 78s are far more likely to end cold.

IZ ZAT SO? Of our two-decade total of 300 No. 1 hits, the only one that fades in is Eddie Fisher's "I'm Walking Behind You."

This July 1953 release takes about three seconds to reach its proper level ... and it does not fade out.

Okay, let's get this one out of the way before someone writes and asks if "Not Fade Away" does or does not fade away.

Whether by Buddy Holly (1957) or the Rolling Stones (1964), "Not Fade Away" does fade away.

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