March 5

The Song that Heated up the Charts, “North to Alaska”

“North to Alaska” is a 1960 top hit ballad recorded by Johnny Horton. The movie, North to Alaska, featured this track. Throughout Horton’s career, several of his songs became soundtracks in a movie. However, this song was special because it was the first one that was featured in the opening titles.

Written by Mike Phillips, “North to Alaska” topped Billboard magazine’s Country Singles chart. The song even peaked at number four on the Billboard Hot chart and eight on Norway Singles Chart. Given the popularity of the song, members of the Western Writers of America chose it as one of the Top 100 Western songs of all time.

The Movie

North to Alaska is a 1960 comedic Western and Northern film directed by Henry Hathaway and John Wayne (uncredited). The movie stars Wayne along with Stewart Granger, Ernie Kovacs, Fabian, and Capucine. If you know the play Birthday Gift by Ladislas Fodor, the writer got his inspiration from it. The set for the play was during the Nome gold rush.

Setting up an introduction to the movie, the song’s lyrics during the opening titles were featured. The story is about Sam McCord, George and Billy Pratt left Seattle in 1892. The characters cross Yukon River to find gold. They found the bonanza gold below that old White Mountain just a little southeast of Nome. By 1901, as they find more gold, Sam got the nickname “a mighty man”. On the other hand, his partner named George was so in love with his girlfriend Jenny. George tells Sam that he would trade all the gold for Jenny’s wedding ring. Knowing George to be a very romantic guy and that he has found his “true love”, he says this. In addition, he declares that he will build Jenny a honeymoon home below the same mountain where they discovered gold.

In the movie, we can also hear the instrumental part of the song being played on the piano. It is at the scene at the saloon when Sam and Angel arrive in Nome.

During 1960, Horton had two other successes with “Sink the Bismarck” and “North to Alaska”. Both of these are for John Wayne’s movie, North to Alaska.

Johnny Horton died in an automobile accident on the 5th of November 1960. This happened shortly after the release of the song.


Johnny Horton, movie, north to alaska

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