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Forces' sweetheart Vera Lynn
Forces' sweetheart Vera Lynn
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WEARSIDERS welcomed in the new year of 1952 with a mix of big band sounds and dance band classics.

Al Flush and His Orchestra were still pulling in the crowds at the New Rink in 1952, while the Blue Rockets Dance Orchestra reigned supreme at Seaburn Hall.

Times, however, were changing.

The year 1952 proved a turning point for the UK’s music industry thanks to music newspaper NME – which launched the first official British singles chart in November.

This made the United Kingdom the first country in the world to have an official singles chart, paving the way for others, including America in 1958, to follow suit.

The first official charts, however, were slightly dull. Al Martino topped the first one on November 8 with Here in My Heart – and remained in the No 1 position until the end of the year.

Other hit songs included Wheel of Fortune by Kay Starr, Auf Wiederseh’n Sweetheart by Vera Lynn, You Belong to Me by Jo Stafford and I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus by Jimmy Boyd.

The year 1952 was also marked by the birth of one musician with Wearside connections, and the death of another.

September 2 saw the birth of Dave Stewart, a Bede schoolboy who would go on to form one of the most successful pop-rock duos of all time with former girlfriend Annie Lennox – the Eurythmics.

His neighbour while growing up in Ettrick Grove, former Japanese prisoner of war Len Gibson, proved a strong influence in young David’s decision to make a career in the music business.

“He didn’t tune his guitar in the normal way. He tuned it to strange chords. I remember watching and trying to understand his playing,” Dave later recalled in an interview with the Echo.

“Because he was unconventional, I sort of learned to tune my guitar chords like that and became unconventional pretty early on.”

Wearside’s second musical link to 1952 was the death of Matilda Alice Powles – better known as Vesta Tilley, the most famous and well paid male impersonator of her day.

Tilley, who was famous both in Britain and America, laid the foundation stone of Sunderland Empire Theatre on September 29, 1906, and took to the stage on July 1, 1907, to declare it open.

Her death made headlines in the Echo on September 16, when readers were told: “The darling of the music hall has died. She was 88 and had been ill for four years.”

Other musical events of 1952 included the first rock and roll riot on March 21, which broke out at the Moondog Coronation Ball in Cleveland, Ohio. Teenage excitement was blamed for the frenzy.

Sun Records, later home to Elvis Presley, began operation in March this year too, while Bill Haley and His Saddlemen changed their name to become Bill Haley & His Comets in September.