1962 Billy Vaughn A Swingin’ Safari
Bert Kaempfert topped the Hot 100 in 1961 with the instrumental Wonderland By Night, a song written by Klaus Günter Neumann. He continued to record and release music, but never again achieved that level of success. He wrote several songs that charted in 1961, none of which got any higher than #31. The year wasn’t a total loss; Bert auditioned and hired an unknown group in Hamburg to back up Tony Sheridan on the album, My Bonnie. The group was the Beatles, and Bert also produced the Beatles playing two songs on their own, Ain’t She Sweet and Cry For A Shadow (an instrumental written by John and George). Those became the first commercially available Beatles records. Brian Epstein first heard about the Beatles when a man came into his record store and tried to buy a copy of My Bonnie, and that led to Brian becoming their manager.
In 1962, Bert wrote and released the single A Swingin’ Safari, but it completely failed to chart. Music experts point to a lot of similarities between the recording and The Tokens’ hit from that year, The Lion Sleeps Tonight, but I don’t hear it. Billy Vaughn released a nearly identical cover version of the song later that year and reached #13 on the Hot 100 and #5 on the Adult Contemporary chart.
When the television show The Match Game premiered in late 1962, it used the Billy Vaughn version of A Swingin’ Safari as its theme song for the pilot episode. Beginning with the next episode, the show switched to the Bert Kaempfert version. A new theme song replaced it from 1967 to the end of the show’s first run in 1969. Copies of fewer than a dozen episodes of the show from 1962 to 1969 still exist, so it’s unlikely you ever saw them use A Swinging Safari on the show unless you saw the show live in the sixties. They wrote yet another theme song when they rebooted the show in 1973, and that is the theme song most viewers are familiar with.
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