Our Top 10 Santo & Johnny Songs list presents the best Santo & Johnny Songs like “Sleepwalk,” “And I Love Her,” “Tear Drop” and many more. Brothers Santo Farina and Johnny Farina were best known as Santo & Johnny, a musical duo that hailed from Brooklyn, New York. As rock and roll instrumentalists, the two became local heroes in the regional music scene which earned them a devout fan following. The span of Santo & Johnny’s career ran from 1959 until 1978. Santos, who was born on October 24, 1937, was the man behind the steel guitar while Johnny, born on April 30, 1941, performed rhythm guitar.
Santo and Johnny came of Italian descent, born to Anthony and Josephine Farina in Brooklyn, New York. Their father was drafted to the United States Army when they were still children and was stationed for a while in Oklahoma. While there, he heard a steel guitar performance on the radio and urged his wife by written letter to have the boys learn how to play it.
When Anthony Farina returned from serving on behalf of the American military in World War II, arranged for a music teacher to give his sons steel guitar lessons. When he was a teenager, Santo got his hands on an acoustic guitar from a local music store. He modified it so it could play like a steel guitar. Two years later, he was performing in amateur shows with a Gibson six-string steel guitar. He was also receiving guitar lessons from a teacher that learned his craft from Hawaii.
By the time Santo was fourteen years old, he learned how to compose his own songs. It was also at this time he recruited a drummer and another guitarist to form an instrumental trio. During their time together they performed at local dances and parties that featured a mix of Hawaiian standards and original music. As soon as he was able to afford to, Santo purchased a triple-necked Fender steel guitar. This new instrument allowed him to experiment with musical compositions even more.
As for Johnny Farina, as soon as he became twelve years old he began to perform with Santo. For him, he used a standard electric guitar. As soon as these two brothers teamed up as a duo they became popular in school as performers. This led to performing different events throughout New York. As soon as he turned sixteen years old he informed his father he was dropping out of high school so he can pursue a career as a rock star.
The Dynamic Duo
On one particular night when Santo and Johnny had trouble sleeping, they opted to simply jam the night away. This resulted in the recording of “Sleep Walk,” a song that would become the duo’s signature hit. This was also the same year the quality of Santo & Johnny as a musical duo earned them a contract with Canadian-American Records. Although “Sleep Walk” was performed by the brothers, it was Santo’s wife, Ann, who was given the credit as the song’s composer.
Together, Santo & Johnny Farina were able to take their musical act beyond New York City’s border as they embarked on a musical tour in Australia, Mexico, and Europe. At one point, they also had their own television show in Italy. In that nation, they were also later inducted into the Hall of Fame. On television, they also appeared on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, as well as The Perry Como Show.
On an international level, Santo & Johnny became a very popular act.
Santo & Johnny Today
In 2002, Santo & Johnny were inducted into the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame. In total, Santo & Johnny have twenty-two albums to their credit as recording artists, at least in North America. On a global level, the duo has over forty albums that have been recorded and released so far. Today, Santo continues to perform off and on while Johnny currently tours and records music with his own band. The younger of these two brothers also serves as president of Aniraf, Inc. That is an international record company that’s based in New York City.
Top 10 Santo & Johnny Songs
#10 – Bullseye!
“Bullseye!” became the final hit for Santo & Johnny that would earn a spot on the US Billboard Hot 100 as a duo. On this official music chart, it peaked as high as number forty-nine. This song’s theme focused on the importance of hitting the bullseye in order to keep moving forward as a champion. This is a great tune for listeners not wanting to settle for anything less than the best in whatever they choose to do. While this instrumental performance doesn’t go into the lyrics that make this statement, this speedy tune still painted the picture that speed and precision were of the essence.
#9 – Twistin’ Bells
1962’s “Twistin’ Bells” was an alternate instrumental version of “Jingle Bells” that was performed by guitarists Santo & Johnny as their contribution to Christmas music. This rhythmic alternative to the holiday season classic still gives an entertaining approach to celebrating one of America’s most festive occasions. If you’re looking for some twisty Christmas tunes that break away from the conventional, “Twistin’ Bells” should definitely be on that song list.
#8 – Alabamy Bound
From the album, Encore, “Alabamy Bound” was a fast-paced song that stood out with strings and a vocal chorus. For Santo & Johnny, this was a tune that stood out from the rest of their musical material as recording artists. This 1924 original was a Tin Pan Alley tune that was written by Ray Henderson, Buddy DeSylva, and Bud Green. Successful recordings of this song began in 1925, thanks to performances by Paul Whiteman, Isham Jones, and instrumentalist Fletcher Henderson. Blossom Seeley turned “Alabamy Bound” into a number two hit on the US Billboard Hot 100 with her vocal performance.
As for Santo & Johnny, their combined guitar performance in 1960 kept the popularity of “Alabamy Bound” going as it reached a new wave of fans that still consider this song a classic favorite. Speaking from personal experience, closing the eyes while listening to “Alabamy Bound” has a tendency to paint the picture of a steam train adventure.
#7 – Blue Moon
As a song, “Blue Moon” is already a legendary classic. As a Santo & Johnny performance, their combined guitar talents made this song an easy fan favorite. From the Farino’s debut album, their 1959 version of “Blue Moon” was just as stellar as the hits that came from The Marcels. The Ventures also performed an instrumental version of this song, which became a minor hit for them at number fifty-four on the US Billboard Hot 100 after it was released in 1961.
#6 – Summertime
George Gershwin’s “Summertime” was a 1934 composition that was performed in the 1935 opera, Porgy and Bess. This popular song became a jazz standard that immortalized Gershwin as one of the best composers in the music industry. Although “Summertime” does have lyrics, which were written by DuBose Heyward, the steel guitar performance by Santo & Johnny easily made this number just as dramatic as an instrumental favorite. “Summertime” was released as one of the tracks featured on Santo & Johnny, the debut album of the Farina brothers while they were signed to the Canadian-American Records label.
#5 – Caravan
On the US Billboard Hot 100, “Caravan” became a number forty-eight hit for Santo & Johnny. This song came from the brothers’ self-titled debut album, which was released in 1959. This American jazz standard was first composed by Juan Tizol and Duke Ellington, then first performed by Ellington in 1936. Although there are lyrics to “Caravan” it’s rarely performed as the exotic instrumental performance seemed to be enough to make this song a cult classic without the need for a vocal performance.
“Caravan” remains immensely popular with nearly four hundred versions of this song recorded by a long list of musical artists. The Mills Brothers performed a cappella version of this song that used their voices to behave as instruments. It’s also been used in several movies and television programs, including Woody Allen’s Alice and Sweet and Lowdown.
Despite the numerous recordings, it was Santos & Johnny Farina that turned “Caravan” into a hit on the US Billboard Hot 100 with their combined performance.
#4 – Tear Drop
“Tear Drop” was the follow-up single that was released after “Sleep Walk” made its impression on the US Billboard Hot 100. On the album Encore, this 1959 release of this song was titled “Teardrop.” On the US Billboard Hot 100, “Tear Drop” became a number twenty-three hit. This emotional tune, even as an instrumental, continues to have the ability to deliver a soulful performance as the guitar genius behind Santo & Johnny came through loud and clear.
#3 – And I Love Her
In Mexico, the 1965 release of “And I Love Her” was a Beatles cover that became a number one hit in Mexico for Santo & Johnny. Their guitar instrumental version of this classic also earned the brothers a Golden Kangaroo Award in Mexico, thanks to their star-quality performance into a song that remains a cult favorite to this day.
The genius behind Santo & Johnny was taking a beautiful song with splendid lyrics and turning it into an instrumental musical masterpiece. “And I Love Her” already became a cult classic just after it was first released by The Beatles in 1964. This song has been covered many times over by a number of recording artists but none have captivated the Mexican audience as powerfully as Santo & Johnny.
#2 – Godfather Theme
In 1973, Santo & Johnny recorded their version of the “Godfather Theme” and it became a certified gold seller by the Recording Industry Association of America. In Italy, this tune was a number one favorite for twenty-six weeks. This was a new record for a song to hold the nation’s top spot on the official music charts at that time.
This Nino Rota original composition was first featured in the iconic 1972 movie, The Godfather, as well as its soundtrack. Inspired by what was originally titled “Love Theme from The Godfather,” Santo & Johnny put their guitar performance to good use which earned them a gold record that currently hangs on Johnny Farina’s wall. It’s accompanied by the gold record “Sleep Walk” also achieved.
#1 – Sleep Walk
“Sleep Walk” was recorded in Manhattan, via Trinity Records. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it climbed to the top of its charts in 1959 and was a number four hit on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. It also became certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America. In Canada, “Sleep Walk” charted as high as number three while in the U.K. it became a number twenty-two hit.
This was the song that was used in the death procession scene in the 1987 movie La Bamba. Today, it still remains a favorite musical piece for commercials, movies, and television. The need for melancholy or nostalgia in musical form can be found in “Sleep Walk” with enough drama to make an everlasting impression. Although the brothers did write lyrics for this song, they opted not to use them, letting the guitars do the storytelling instead.
In 1999, “Sleep Walk” earned the BMI Millionaires Award after receiving two million plays on the radio. There is also a 1999 version of “Sleep Walk” that was performed by Brian Setzer that earned a Grammy Award for Best Instrumental. The popularity of “Sleep Walk” continues to receive steady radio airplay and is often used for commercials, movies, and television.
Feature Photo: Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
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