EVERY UK NUMBER ONE SONG: ‘Hernando’s Hideaway’ – The Johnston Brothers

What was the number one song in the UK on 11th November 1955?

By Hayley Beasley Dye

The Johnston Brothers were a British vocal group and were at number one with Hernando’s Hideaway for 2 weeks.

The song is originally from the musical The Pajama Game and how do I know this, I don’t hear you ask. Well, because I was also in this musical many years ago. Boring facts aside, I quite like this one. I’m entirely convinced by the vocals, but it’s a catchy tango tune with impressive strings throughout (possibly the best thing about it). It makes me want to get up and pretend I’m on Strictly doing the tango. Olé!


“Hernando’s Hideaway” is a tango show tune, largely in long metre, from the musical The Pajama Game, written by Jerry Ross and Richard Adler and published in 1954. It was sung in the stage and film versions of the musical by Carol Haney.

The most successful recording of the song was done by Archie Bleyer, the record reaching No. 2 on the Billboard chart in 1954. A version by Johnnie Ray hit #14. A rendition by Enoch Light was featured prominently on Command Records’ Provocative Percussion as well as the Command test record. It has also been covered by David Clayton Thomas, and is often played by breakbeat DJs. The R&B singer Debelah Morgan sampled it (with different lyrics and a new middle section) on her international pop hit “Dance With Me” released in 2000. The instrumental section of The Johnston Brothers’ 1955 recording (a No. 1 UK hit that year) was used as the theme for Brick Top Polford in the movie Snatch.

A live recording (from Carnegie Hall in 1954) by Ella Fitzgerald can be found on the Verve/Polygram release Jazz at the Philharmonic, the Ella Fitzgerald Set, with Ray Brown on bass and Buddy Rich on drums.

The Pajama Game is set in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Hernando’s Hideaway was a raunchy dive in East Dubuque, Illinois, perched on a high cliff overlooking the highway between Dubuque and Galena. The movie was based on the stage play of the same name which, in turn, was based on the book; it is only in the original book that there is information about where the story takes place. A number of places around the world today are named Hernando’s Hideaway, evidently based on the popularity of the song.


“I know a dark secluded place
A place where no one knows your face
A glass of wine a fast embrace
It’s called
Hernando’s Hideaway
All you see are silhouettes
And all you hear are castanets
And no one cares how late it gets
Not at Hernando’s Hideaway
At the Golden Fingerbowl or any place you go
You can meet your Uncle Max and everyone you know
But if you go to the spot that I am thinking of
You will be free
To gaze at me
And talk of love
Just knock three times and whisper low
That you and I were sent by Joe
Then strike a match and you will know
That you’re in Hernando’s Hideaway
Oh just knock three times and whisper low
That you and I were sent by Joe
Then strike a match and you will know
That you’re in Hernando’s Hideaway.”

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Every UK Number One Song

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