Instrumentals were popular in the Fifties and remained so well into the Sixties. “Sleepwalk” was the sixth number one instrumental of the rock era and the second in 1959. Instrumentals continued to be popular throughout much of the Sixties, but after about 1967, they were rare. Today, they are virtually non-existent.
“Sleepwalk” was written by two brothers from Brooklyn, New York named Santo and Johnny Farina. They had some help from their sister Ann Farina, so her name is listed on the writing credits, also. Santo was the older of the two brothers, being born in 1937. Johnny came along six years later in 1943. When Santo was nine years old he learned to play the steel guitar and as the two grew, he taught his brother, Johnny how to play as well. Johnny also learned the rhythm guitar.
According to Dick Clark on American Bandstand, Santo woke up at 2 in the morning and came into Johnny’s room and woke him to tell him that he had an idea for a song. The two of them sat down right there in the middle of the night and wrote “Sleepwalk.” They went to Trinity Music in Manhattan and recorded the song to tape. Their Uncle Mike Dee played drums on the recording, so this was a true family affair.
A new record label called Canadian-American had just started up and they somehow heard the recording and decided to release it. I’m pretty sure that the album Santo & Johnny which contained “Sleepwalk” was the first recording to come out of the new label.
Santo and Johnny were as close to one-hit wonders as you can get without actually achieving it. They had one other hit, in December of 1959 called “Tear Drop” (which peaked at number 23) and then were never heard on the charts again. Today, they are both still alive. Santo is semi-retired and plays occasionally. Johnny tours with his own band.
“Sleepwalk entered the Billboard pop chart on August 17, 1959. It took eight weeks to get to number one where it stayed for two weeks.