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Wartime tune ‘Smoke on the Water’ a hit in 1945

Wartime tune ‘Smoke on the Water’ a hit in 1945

April 13th, 2012 by Doug Davis in Opinion Editorial

This week in 1945, U.S. troops landed in Okinawa, the last stop before Japan, the U.S. resumed relations with Argentina, the Soviet Union renounced a neutrality pact with Japan, and a fiddle player from Kosse, Texas, had his first No. 1 record.

According to Zeke Clements, the idea for the 1940’s hit song, “Smoke On The Water,” came from a passage in the Bible.

Clements commented, “The Bible passage stated that when God put a rainbow in the sky, the world would not be destroyed by water again—but would be destroyed by fire. I started thinking that the war might consume the world with fire—just as the Bible said it would. So I met with Earl Nunn and we wrote that song together and we titled it “Smoke On The Water.”

“In the mid-1940’s—a Los Angeles  newspaper carried a story about a bunch of sailors that had returned to San Diego. Those guys were on the first ship that was hit by a “kamikaze.” The sailors were asked about their thoughts when the ship was hit and one sailor replied, “I was thinking about that song I had heard on the radio about “Smoke On The Water.”

“Smoke On The Water” became Red Foley’s first chart single. It entered the country music charts Aug. 26, 1944 and also became his first No. 1 record. It stayed in the No. 1 spot for 13 weeks and was on the charts for 27 weeks.

“Smoke On The Water” was also a No. 1 for Bob Wills—making the charts March 24, 1945. His version stayed at the top of the charts for two weeks. It was on the charts for 15 weeks and was Will’s 4th charted song.

The song also scored a No. 7 hit for Boyd Heath in 1945 and was his only chart record.


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Doug Davis & The Good Ole Boys will perform at 10 a.m. today at Reunion Plaza.