Random Runners-Up: ‘From a Jack to a King’, by Ned Miller

Time to step away from our regular parade of #1 singles, and to shine a light on some songs that never quite made it. Yes, it’s Random Runners-Up Week – five posts on five randomly chosen number two hits. The dates used can range from the start of the singles chart in 1952 right up to our current location in time (mid-1986)… And these songs genuinely were chosen at random, and not because I like them (which I hope will become abundantly clear when you see what tunes the date generator threw up this time…)

First up, then…

‘From a Jack to a King’, by Ned Miller

#2 for 3 weeks, from 11th Apr-2nd May 1963, behind ‘How Do You Do It?’

…a simple country ditty. From a Jack to a King, From loneliness to a wedding ring… It’s a ultra-country premise: love as a card game, with lots of references to ‘lady luck’ and ‘winning a queen’. A guitar strums out a simple riff, then plucks out a simple solo, and the backing singers see-saw a simple melody back and forth. Simple, and sweet.

I think I may have overused the word ‘simple’ in that there paragraph. But there’s no better word for this tune, especially when I compare it with the era I’ve been writing about in recent months (the over-produced eighties…) It sounds almost prehistoric by comparison. In fact, this song sounds dated even for 1963!

And that’s because it was actually from 1957. It hadn’t charted – hadn’t even been released at the time – but for reasons I cannot pinpoint it made the Top 10 over five years later. The early sixties were a hot-bed of retrospective and re-released hits, though. And this is a significant #2, because it sat behind the very first Merseybeat #1 from Gerry & The Pacemakers. It’s easy to view the moment that ‘How Do You Do It?’ hit the top as a turning point, as the moment the sixties began to swing, which it was. But things clearly didn’t turn overnight, with Ned Miller crooning away just behind…

Once this record had belatedly become a hit, it quickly became a country standard, covered by Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Mud. It also ensured that Ned Miller had a fairly succesful career on the US country charts for the rest of the decade. He is so very nearly a UK one-hit wonder, though. His only other single to chart made #48 a few years later…

Another #2 up tomorrow – one that gives us a big ol’ change of tone…


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