We have made it to the last number one of 1958. We’ve seen David Seville before. He had the number one hit “Witch Doctor” earlier in 1958. This time he is with three rambunctious cartoon chipmunks who sing the biggest Christmas song of 1958. This song was so big, that you still hear it today. Also, the Chipmunks were so popular that their Saturday morning cartoon show ran well into the Eighties.
David Seville’s, real name, of course, is Ross Bagdasarian. Ross, after the success of “Witch Doctor,” wanted to do something else, but nothing came to mind. Until, that is, one day he was driving through Yosemite, California when an actual chipmunk ran out in front of his car. The little guy just sat there in the middle of the road and wouldn’t move. Ross didn’t want to run over him and so, he waited him out. Eventually the chipmunk darted away and Ross had a new idea for a song.
He named the three chipmunks after people at Liberty Records where he recorded. Alvin was named after Al Bennett, president of Liberty Records. Simon was named after Bennett’s partner Si Waronker and Theodore was named after Ted Keep, a recording engineer. He based the personality of Alvin (you know what I mean,) after his own son, Adam, who was a very mischievous boy. Adam was always asking when Christmas was coming. He would start asking in September and it kind of drove Ross crazy, so he incorporated that into the song.
The single was released on November 22, 1958 and within two weeks had sold over two and a half million copies. In the spring of 1959, Ross Bagdasarian won three Grammy Awards for the song, Best Recording for Children, Best Comedy Performance and Best Engineered Record. The biggest problem with “The Chipmunk Song” was that it typecast Ross Bagdasarian. He wanted to do serious music and he was locked in to recording novelty records. He decided to retire the chipmunks in 1967, but the world wouldn’t let them go.
Alvin and the Chipmunks became a national icon and made Ross Bagdasarian rich. Ross died of a heart attack in 1972, but in 1980 his son Ross Bagdasarian Jr. revised the franchise with new shows. They still are playing in some form today.
“The Chipmunk Song” or as it’s sometimes known as “Please Christmas, Don’t Be Late” entered the charts on December 8, 1958 and ended the year, 1958 by staying at number one for four weeks.
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