Amazingly, some really great singing groups and artists produced only one hit. In this “One Hit Wonder” post, we have identified 43 groups or artists:
Bruce Channel, Buffalo Springfield, Caroline Crawford, Debbie Dean, Mark Dinning, Gale Garnett, Astrude Gilberto, Rosie Hamlin (& The Originals), Eddie Holman, Iron Butterfly, Mercy, Curtis Lee, Julie London, Laurie London, Motherload, The Brooklyn Bridge (& Johnny Maestro), The Cascades, The Champs, The Contours, The Crystals, The Exciters, The Gentrys, The Hollywood Argyles, The Impalas, The Jamies, The Monotones, The Penguins, The Poni-Tails, The Reflections, The Rip Chords, Ronald & Ruby, Joanie Sommers, The Silhouettes, The String-A-Longs, The Teddy Bears, Doris Troy, Robin Ward, Singing Sammy Ward, Maurice Williams, Kathy Young, Zager and Evans and ? & The Mysterians.
The Elegants was an American doo-wop vocal group, that started in 1958 by Vito Picone, Arthur Venosa, Frank Tardogno, Carman Romano and James Moschello in South Beach, Staten Island, New York. Before their nursery rhyme inspired song, “Little Star” (https://youtu.be/HCPqcJmK8y8) (RQ 10), became a number one hit, the band usually performed informally under the boardwalk by their homes. “Little Star” was the only million seller for the group, and was written by Venosa and Picone. It spent 19 weeks in the Billboard Hot 100, earning gold disc status.
The Reflections was the name of a number of musical groups. Perhaps the best known were a blue-eyed soul/doo-wop group from Detroit, Michigan. They had one hit single in 1964 called “(Just Like) Romeo and Juliet” (https://youtu.be/sfWwUWkyUAw) (RQ 10) written by Bob Hamilton and Freddie Gorman. The song was produced by Rob Reeco on Golden World Records. The disc reached #6 on the BillboardHot 100 chart and #9 on the Cash Box magazine chart. The record was even more popular in rhythm and blues locations, reaching #3 on that Cashbox chart, and was featured on “American Bandstand” as a “spotlight dance”. A cover version by new wave band Mental As Anything hit #27 on the Australian charts in 1980.
The Penguins were an American doo-wop group of the 1950s and early 1960s, best remembered for their only Top 40 hit, “Earth Angel” (https://youtu.be/-j6OAEOcNCE) (RQ 10), which was one of the first rhythm and blues hits to cross over to the pop charts. The song peaked at #8 on the BillboardHot 100 chart, but had a three-week run at #1 on the R&B chart, later used in the Back to the Future movies. The group’s lead singer (a tenor) was Cleveland Duncan.
The Poni-Tails were formed in a suburb of Cleveland (Lyndhurst), Ohio, United States, the Poni-Tails – Toni Cistone, Karen Topinka and Patti McCabe (Patricia Ann McCabe, July 6, 1939 – January 17, 1989) – started singing at Brush High School, which they all attended. Tom Ilius, a music publisher, had them signed to a local record label, Point Records, which released their first single, “Your Wild Heart” b/w “Que la Bozena” (the latter of which was written by the group). “Your Wild Heart” (https://youtu.be/DO_rTDx7eao) (RQ 9) was covered by the then-15-year-old Joy Layne and became a nationwide hit. The next release was “Can I Be Sure” on Marc Records, which was not a success; following this release Topinka left the group and was replaced by LaVerne Novak. Soon after this, the group signed to ABC-Paramountand released “Just My Luck to Be Fifteen”, a flop. Following this was “Come on Joey, Dance With Me” b/w “Born Too Late” (https://youtu.be/p64nDdoniIA) (RQ 10). The B-side was the one that caught the attention of radio DJs and became the group’s biggest hit, reaching #11 on the U.S. R&B singles chart and #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1958. Follow-ups “Seven Minutes In Heaven” (#85 Pop) and “I’ll Be Seeing You” (#87 Pop) fared less well, and the group’s last single, 1960’s “Who, When And Why”, did not chart. ABC-Paramount attempted to sign the group to a further five-year contract, but they turned it down. The members left the music industry and pursued careers in other fields in Ohio. They reunited to play a Cleveland festival, Moon Dog Coronation ball, in 1997. A CD released by Poni Records with 12 tracks credited to the Poni-Tails contains only one Poni-Tails song (“Born Too Late”) and 11 tracks recorded by other groups.
The Rip Chords were an early-1960s American vocal group, originally known as the Opposites, composed of Phil Stewart and Ernie Bringas. The group eventually expanded into four primary voices, adding Columbia producer Terry Melcher and co-producer Bruce Johnston (best known as a member of the Beach Boys). This group came to be associated with the hot-rod and surf genres of that day, although their first single (“Here I Stand”) did not reflect those styles. They recorded for Columbia Records in Hollywood from 1962 to 1965. The group placed five singles on the Billboard Hot 100 , although they only charted: 28, 51, 88 and 96. So, really they fall into the one-hit wonder category for their number-four single: “Hey Little Cobra” (https://youtu.be/oc6FmZCT0Zc).
Kathy Young, a native of Southern California, was born on October 31, 1945 in the Orange County seat, Santa Ana. She rose to stardom in 1960, when producer Jim Lee of Indigo Records chose a Sun Valley-based band, The Innocents, to sing back-up vocals for her on a cover version of The Rivileers’ 1954 recording of “A Thousand Stars” (https://youtu.be/2yesRVy3s98) (RQ 9). Two years earlier Lee had organized The Innocents for an appearance on Wink Martindale’s pop music TV show. In December 1960, two months after her 15th birthday, Kathy Young and The Innocents peaked at No. 6 on the R&B Singles chart, and at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100. Young’s follow-up, “Happy Birthday Blues”, peaked at No. 30 on the Hot 100 in 1961. Subsequent singles, such as “Magic Is the Night” and “The Great Pretender”, failed to chart in the Top 40. In July 1961 she appeared on DJ Alan Freed’s highly publicized American road show. In 1962 she followed Jim Lee to Monogram Records, recording solo and with Chicano rock singer Chris Montez. Still a teenager, she saw her promising career slowing to a standstill and, in 1964, traveled to London. There she married American singer-songwriter John Maus, aka John Walker, founder of The Walker Brothers. Her marriage to Maus lasted from 1965 to 1968. Kathy returned to the US in 1969, remarrying two years later. Over the next 20 years she raised children and helped manage the family citrus ranch in Central California. Following a move back to Los Angeles in 1994, she began working for a major international company, while also returning to her original passion, music. In the 2000s she performed at numerous rock shows at venues such as the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles and New Jersey’s Izod Center at the Meadowlands Sports Complex. Kathy Young was inducted into the Doo-Wop Hall of Fame, presided over by Harvey Robbins. on October 12, 2014. at the North Shore Music Theater, in Beverly, Massachusetts.
The String-A-Longs were an American instrumental group from Plainview, Texas, United States, known for their hit single, “Wheels” (https://youtu.be/f6uIbv1UFt0) (RQ 10+) produced by Norman Petty on Warwick Records. The band consisted of Richard Stephens and Jimmy Torres alternating lead guitars, Keith McCormack on rhythm guitar, Aubrey de Cordova, bass guitar and Don Allen, drums. They began recording in Amarillo, Texas, as the Rock’n Rollers, under their first manager Johnny Voss, Keith McCormack’s Uncle. Their first single was on the Ven label. In the later fifties they began recording in Clovis, New Mexico, under Norman Petty as “The Leen Teens” but Petty suggested the name “String-A-Longs”. They had several releases before recording their big hit “Wheels”. “Wheels” was released in December 1960 and hit in 1961. The tune peaked at number 3 on the BillboardHot 100 and was the number 8 single of 1961 according to Billboard. The track reached number 8 in the UK Singles Chart. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. Warwick Records paid few royalties to the band and they declared bankruptcy as they were being sued to avoid paying more. The writers of the song did receive their royalties, including Norman Petty.
Motherlode was a Canadian pop rock groupformed in 1969 in London, Ontario. The group scored some success in the US with their single, “When I Die”, which hit #1 in Canada and #18 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1969. “When I Die” (https://youtu.be/8MyPSFnyaTQ) (RQ 10+, one of the best technical recordings within my blog!) was produced by Doug Riley and Terry Brown did not make any headway on the radio. A reciprocal deal in the US with Buddah Records made the song a hit reaching Number 18 on the charts. The song sold more than 500,000 copies and it eventually climbed to Number 1 in the Canadian charts.
Mercy is an American pop group from Florida. The group’s 1969 single “Love (Can Make You Happy)”, written by Jack Sigler, Jr., soared to No. 2 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 singleschart, and also peaked at No. 2 on the Adult Contemporary chart. “Love (Can Make You Happy)” (https://youtu.be/j4A9Fffo-jM) (RQ 8) was released in April and had sold over one million copies by July 15, earning a gold record from the R.I.A.A., although the group did not receive the award until October 2009.
Jackie Ward (born Jacqueline McDonnell, 1941), better known as Robin Ward, is an American singer, regarded as a “one-hit wonder” of 1963 million-selling song “Wonderful Summer” (https://youtu.be/KCRdUB_ASTc) (RQ 8). However, using her real name she was highly accomplished and successful singing in groups. Ward’s voice is heard in U.S. television series, motion pictures, advertisements, and pop records. She is one of the real singers of the hits attributed to The Partridge Family.
Bruce Channel performed originally for the radio program Louisiana Hayride and then joined with the harmonica player Delbert McClinton, singing country music. Channel wrote “Hey! Baby” (https://youtu.be/ik9dxkKriV0) (RQ 10) with Margaret Cobb in 1959 and performed the song for two years before recording it for Fort Worth record producer Bill Smith. It was issued originally on Smith’s LeCam label, but as it started to sell well, it was acquired for distribution by Smash Records, a subsidiary of Mercury. The song went to number one in the US in March 1962 and held that position for three weeks. Besides topping the U. S. popular music charts, it also became number two in the United Kingdom. It sold more than one million copies and was awarded a gold disc. Channel had four more singles on the Billboard Hot 100, including “Number One Man” (which peaked at number 52), “Come On Baby” (number 98), “Going Back to Louisiana” (number 89), and “Mr. Bus Driver” (number 90), but none of them was as successful as “Hey! Baby”, and he is considered a one-hit wonder.
Caroline Crawford (born: 1949) is an American rhythm and blues and disco singer and actress, who recorded as Carolyn Crawford for Motown Records in the early 1960s, and for other labels later in her career.
In 1963, at the age of about 13, she won a talent contest held by Detroit radio station WCHB, the prize for which was a contract with Motown Records. She recorded three singles for the label, an unsuccessful first release of “Forget About Me” (Motown 1050) being followed by “My Smile Is Just a Frown” (https://youtu.be/vGOkUkBU7e4()) (RQ 8) (Motown 1064), written by Smokey Robinson. The record reached # 39 on the Billboard rhythm and blues chart. She also sang backup vocals for some of the Motown artists. Her final record for Motown, “When Someone’s Good To You” (Motown 1070), released in December 1964, failed to chart and her contract was not renewed, although the record later became a favorite among British soul fans.
A few years later, she joined a girl group, Hodges, James, Smith and Crawford, put together in 1972 by William “Mickey” Stevenson. She released two singles with them, “Nobody” and “Let’s Pick Up The Pieces”, before leaving the group (which went on to achieve some success as Hodges, James and Smith. She then joined the group Chapter 8, but left them in 1976 to start a solo career; she was replaced in the group by Anita Baker.
In the late 1970s, and through the early 1980s, she was featured vocalist on several of Hamilton Bohannon’s singles and six of his albums, including his biggest US single hit “Let’s Start the Dance”. She also signed a solo contract with Mercury Records (using the spelling Caroline), and released a single “Coming On Strong” which reached # 66 on the R&B chart at the start of 1979. In addition she released two albums, My Name Is Caroline (1978) and Nice And Soulful (1979), both produced by Bohannon.
In 1989 (using the spelling Carolyn) she joined Ian Levine’s Motorcity project and recorded the album Heartaches, including the single “Timeless” which later became a favourite on the UK Northern soul circuit. She was reported to be still performing (as Caroline Crawford) in Detroit clubs in 2007.
Crawford has also worked as an actress in recent years. She voiced the character of Mrs. Lovat in the 2009 stop-motion film Caraline and appeared in the TV series Leverage.
Several of her earlier recordings, including recordings for Motown which went unreleased at the time, have been included on later compilation albums.
Her best known recording,”My Smile Is Just a Frown” (https://youtu.be/vGOkUkBU7e4) is featured in the UK-Irish drama-documentary Dreams of a Life, released in December 2011.
Reba Jeanette Smith (February 1, 1928 – February 17, 2001), known professionally as Debbie Dean, was an American singer who was the first white solo artist to record for Motown. Debbie was from Corbin, Kentucky. She was the fourth child of Walter B. Smith, a railroad engineer by his wife, Alma, a housewife. Dean recorded as Penny Smith and Debbie Stevens at various labels before arriving at Motown in the early 1960s, and was Motown’s first white female solo recording artist, signed by Berry Gordy.
Unlike most of the early Motown recording artists, she was neither an R&B or blues singer. Her first single at Motown was “Don’t Let Him Shop Around” (https://youtu.be/D-tqAiyE0N8) (1961) (RQ 8) an answer record to the Miracles #1 R&B and #2 pop hit, “Shop Around.” Dean’s perky vocals with a noticeable southern twang barely reached Billboard’s Hot 100 charts with the song.
Subsequent singles were even less successful and at the age of 34 (significantly older than most Motown acts at the time), she was dropped from the label. Several years later, after a meeting with Motown producer/writer Deke Records, Dean rejoined the Motown roster as a writer/singer, and collaborated with Richards (born Dennis Lussier) on songs for the Supremes, Temptations, Smokey Robinson, Martha and the Vandellas, Edwin Starr, and other Motown artists. She later co-wrote and recorded “Why Am I Lovin’ You” (https://youtu.be/SVkqw30ukFM) (RQ 7) on Motown’s V.I.P. label. The song has since become a Northern soul favourite.
“Teen Angel” (https://youtu.be/IE-AcC53OYY) (RQ 8) is a teenage tragedy song that was written by Jean Dinning and performed by Jean’s brother, Mark Dinning. It went on to become a #1 hit on February 8, 1960. Mark Dinning never recorded another hit song and died of a heart attack in 1986 at the age of 52, in Jefferson City, Missouri. Strangely enough, the song was included in the soundtrack to the movie American Graffiti, begging the question, “Why didn’t this artist go any further?”
American pop singer Mark Dinning was named Max Edward Dinning at birth and was born on August 17, 1933 in Manchester, Oklahoma. He and his family moved to Kansas and then to a farm near Nashville, Tennessee. Mark was the youngest of nine children and came from a musically-inclined family. His own sisters Ella Lucille (“Lou”), Jean and Virginia (“Ginger”) eventually achieved recognition in their own right as the traditional pop trio The Dinning Sisters. In 1957, he pursued his own music career, signing a record contract from MGM Records which was to him offered by record producer Wesley Rose.
Gale Zoë Garnett (born 17 July 1942) is a New Zealand–born Canadian singer best known in the United States in 1964 for her self-penned, Grammy-winning folk hit: “We’ll Sing in the Sunshine” (https://youtu.be/4ZeRVUUxV_k) (RQ10+) hit. She would qualify for my “One Hit Wonder”singer category. Garnett has since carved out a career as an author and actress.
Astrud Gilberto born Astrud Evangelina Weinert, March 29, 1940) is a Brazilian Samba and Bossa Nova singer. She became popular in the 1960s after her performance of the song “The Girl from Ipamema” (https://youtu.be/c5QfXjsoNe4) (RQ 7). Astrud is the daughter of a Brazilian mother and a German father, in the state of Bahia, Brazil. She was raised in Rio de Janeiro. Her father was a language professor and she became fluent in several languages. She married Joao Gilberto in 1959 and had a son, Marcelo Gilberto. She has another son from a second marriage, Gregory Lasorsa. Later she began a relationship with her husband’s musical collaborator, American jazz saxophone player Stan Getz. She emigrated to the United States in 1963, residing in the U.S. from that time. Astrud and João divorced in the mid-1960s. She sang on two tracks on the influential 1963 album Getz/Gilberto featuring João Gilberto, Stan Getz, and Antonio Carlos Jobim, despite having never sung professionally before this recording. The 1964 single version of ”The Girl from Ipanema” taken from the 1963 album, omitted the Portuguese lyrics sung by João Gilberto, and established Astrud Gilberto as a Bossa Nova singer. It sold over one million copies and was awarded a gold disc.
In 1962, Eddie Holman made his first record, “What You Don’t Know Won’t Hurt You” on Leopard Records. It was in the Philadelphia soul scene that he began to develop his trademark style. While still in college, he recorded his first minor hit, “This Can’t Be True” (1966-Jan 15), which reached #17 on the Billboard chart. Other songs began to follow: “Am I A Loser From The Start” (1966), “I Love You” (1969), “Don’t Stop Now” (1970), and “Cathy Called” (1970). Holman finally struck personal gold in 1970 with his ballad, “Hey There Lonely Girl” (https://youtu.be/0tSpZnVnSLQ) (RQ 10+) peaked at number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The track peaked at number 4 in the UK singles chart in November 1974. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc from R.I.A.A. in March 1970. Originally, “Hey There Lonely Boy” (https://youtu.be/I5viDgtJX_4) a Top 30 hit, was recorded in 1963 by Ruby and the Romantics. // British journalist Tony Cummings once wrote, “Eddie Holman’s voice, an astonishing precision instrument which can leap octaves with the speed of mercury and bend notes into shapes unimagined by lesser singers, has assured its possessor a place in soul history.
Curtis Lee (October 28, 1939 – January 8, 2015) was an American singer of the early 1960s, who twice was one of the beneficiaries of 1961 productions by Phil Spector. His best known hit was: “Pretty Little Angel Eyes” (RQ 9) (US#7) (https://youtu.be/fG_AWUkj8ks). Without Spector’s influence, Lee’s hits dried up. He went into the construction industry with his father in 1969. He died from cancer on January 8, 2015 in Yuma, Arizona, aged 75.
Julie London (at birth: Peck; September 26, 1926 – October 18, 2000) was an American singer and actress whose career spanned more than 40 years. A “torch” singer noted for her sultry, languid contralto vocals, London recorded over thirty albums of pop and jazz standards between 1955 and 1969. Her recording of “Cry Me a River“, a track she introduced on her debut album, was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2001. She sang this song in the movie “The Girl Can’t Help It” in 1956. She was an actress in 24 films. In addition to her musical notice, London was nominated for a Golden Globe Award in 1974 for her portrayal of nurse Dixie McCall in the television series Emergency!. Her debut single “Cry Me a River” reached number nine on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1955. In June 1957, it would also peak at number twenty-two on the UK Singles Chart. “Cry Me a River” (https://youtu.be/gCGNYJOrebA) (RQ 10) became London’s most successful and highest-selling single of her musical career. The single would sell three million copies in total. She did record another 28 songs which only a couple others charted (the highest of which was 110).
Laurie London was born in Bethnal Green, East London. At the age of thirteen, whilst a pupil at The Davenant Foundation Grammar School in Whitechapel Road, he made an up-tempo version of “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” (https://youtu.be/cqb3NSiSwoc) (RQ 9) with the Geoff Love Orchestra for Parlophone Records (45-R4359) which was picked up by its co-owned American sister label Capital Records (F3891). In April 1958, it reached number 1 on Billboard’s “Most Played by Jockeys” chart and remained there for four weeks, but it was to be his only hit record. It was the most successful record by a British male in the 1950s in the United States, topping the chart. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc by the RIAA in 1958.
Joanie Sommers (born Joan Drost, Buffalo, N.Y. February 24, 1941) is an American singer and actress with a career concentrating on jazz, standards and popular material and show-business credits. Once billed as “The Voice of the Sixties”, and associated with top-notch arrangers, songwriters and producers, Sommers’ popular reputation became closely tied to her biggest, yet most uncharacteristic, hit song, “Johnny Get Angry” (https://youtu.be/wcLXs3Np93s) (RQ 10).
Doris Troy (born Doris Elaine Higginsen; January 6, 1937 – February 16, 2004) was an American R&B singer and songwriter, known to her many fans as “Mama Soul”. Her biggest hit was “Just One Look” (https://youtu.be/GI3OYR_XM0w) (RQ 9) a top 10 hit in 1963. She was also one of the four female back up singers on The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd.
James T. Woodley (December 21, 1929 – November 20, 1996), who performed as Singin’ Sammy Ward, was an American rhythm and blues singer who recorded for Motown Records and had a R&B hit with “Who’s The Fool” (https://youtu.be/Lf3kZjc4RpQ) (RQ 9) written by Smokey Robinson in 1961. He grew up in the Ensley area of Birmingham, Alabama, before moving to Detroit Michigan, where he was established as a club singer by the late 1950s. He was named “Singin’ Sammy Ward” by Berry Gordy’s wife Raynoma, “Miss Ray”, and first recorded for Motown in 1960, on a duet with Sherri Taylor, “Lover” / “That’s Why I Love You So Much”. He then moved to the Tamla label as a solo singer, and recorded “That Child Is Really Wild”, co-written by Gordy and Robinson. The original B-side, “What Makes You Love Him”, was changed to another song, Robinson’s “Who’s The Fool” (https://youtu.be/Lf3kZjc4RpQ), which became Ward’s only chart success, reaching no. 23 on the Billboard R&B chart in August 1961. The record was only the fourth successful chart hit for Motown. According to record producer Ian Levine, Robinson also wrote “You Really Got a Hold On Me” for Ward, but Gordy insisted that Robinson recorded it himself, with The Miracles.
A bluesy singer who drew comparisons with Bobby Bland, Ward released several more singles on Tamla, including “Big Joe Moe” written by William “ Mickey Stevenson and Brian Holland, and “Someday Pretty Baby” (https://youtu.be/IXJhR_umHGU) featuring Stevie Wonder on harmonics, both in 1962, and then one on the subsidiary Soul label. However, the records were commercial failures, and Ward left Motown, disillusioned by his lack of success compared with others on the label, by the mid-1960s.
Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs were an American doo wop vocal group in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Originally the Royal Charms, the band changed its name to the Gladiolas in 1957 and the Excellos in 1958, before finally settling on the Zodiacs in 1959.
18 Groups or Bands:
? and the Mysterians (also rendered Question Mark and the Mysterians) are an American garage rock band from Bay City and Saginaw in Michigan who were initially active between 1962 and 1969. Much of the band’s music consisted of electric-driven garage rock and an enigmatic image inspired by the 1957 Japanese science fiction film The Mysterians. In addition, the band’s sound was also marked by raw-resonating lead vocals of “?” (Question Mark, the stage name of Rudy Martín), making Question Mark and the Mysterians one of the earliest groups whose musical style is described as punk rock. Through their music, the group was recognized as a template for similar musical acts to follow.
The band was signed to Pa-Go-Go Records (based in San Antonio, Texas and run by Rudy “Tee” Gonzales) in 1966 and released its first and most acclaimed single, “96 Tears” (https://youtu.be/R7uC5m-IRns) (RQ 9) in the early part of the year. “96 Tears” became a number one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 and propelled the group to a 15-month period of national prominence. Their debut album, 96 Tears, followed. Though Question Mark and the Mysterians were unable to replicate their success with their later recordings, and are thus deemed a “one hit wonder”, they did manage to reach the singles charts on five occasions. In 1968, their label, Cameo-Parkway, was shut down for stock manipulation by the Securities and Exchange Commission, taking the band’s money and contract with them. Though they disbanded in 1969, the band has regrouped and released additional material over the years. “96 Tears” was listed at number 210 on the 2004 Rolling Stone list the greatest 500 songs of all time.
Iron Butterfly is an American rock band best known for the 1968 hit “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida“, (https://youtu.be/UIVe-rZBcm4) (RQ 10+) providing a dramatic sound that led the way towards the development of hard rock and heavy metal music. Formed in San Diego, California, among band members who used to be “arch enemies”, their heyday was the late 1960s, but the band has been reincarnated with various members with varying levels of success, with no new recordings since 1975. The band’s seminal 1968 album “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” was a best-seller. Iron Butterfly was the first group to receive an In-House platinum album award from Atlantic Records.
Ronald & Ruby were an American interracial pop vocal duo, best known for their 1958 hit single, “Lollipop” (https://youtu.be/VtzWruzNWnU) (RQ 9).
The duo’s members were the black Ronald Gum and the white Beverly “Ruby” Ross; interracial pop groups were unusual at the time, and the group did not appear in public or in major press and television outlets. They had previously worked together as songwriters; among their credits are “Young and Hungry for Love”, “Frankenstein Rock”, “Fat Pat”, “Soul Mates”, “Don’t Come to My Party”, and “The Ghost of Love.” In 1958, they released a single together entitled “Lollipop”. It became a hit in the U.S., reaching No. 20 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song was covered to greater chart success by both The Chordettes and the Mudlarks. // They released several further singles, including “Love Birds”, none of them hits. Ross continued as a songwriter, recording nearly 200 songs with BMI, including “Candy Man” (for Roy Orbison) and “Judy’s Turn to Cry” (for Lesley Gore).
The Brooklyn Bridge (& Johnny Maestro) is an American musical group, best known for their 1968 million-selling rendition of Jimmy Webb’s “Worst That Could Happen” (https://youtu.be/kRDRX4Gyq6I) (RQ 10+). The song reached No. 3 on the Billboard pop chart. It sold over one and a quarter million copies, and was awarded a gold disc by the R.I.A.A.
The Cascades got their start in the San Diego, CA area as the band members served in the nearby Navy on the ship USS Jason. Their first band name was called The Silver Strands. Their first and only recording was an instrumental called “Thunder Rhythm.” The group was influenced by the Beach Boys and their use of vocal harmony. After getting out of the Navy, they signed with Valiant Records and soon afterward changed their name to The Cascades (the origin of the name came from using a like-named dishwashing detergent). After another failed attempt on recording a second song “There’s A Reason,” they began thinking about a song they (John Gommoe) wrote while listening to a thunderstorm while aboard their ship. This is the origin of the their one and only million selling record called: “Rhythm of the Rain.” (https://youtu.be/bQstQST1GiM) (RQ 10+). The hit was released in November of 1962. While this song was extremely successful world-wide (reaching a Billboard rating in the U.S. of No3), the group was limited in the future by only singing in local clubs no longer writing new music.
The Champs were an American rock and roll band, most famous for their Latin-tinged instrumental “Tequila” (https://youtu.be/Uyl7GP_VMJY) (RQ 6). The group took their name from the name of Gene Autry’s horse, Champion, and was formed by studio executives at Autry’s Challenge Records to record a B-side for the Dave Burgess single, “Train to Nowhere”. The intended throwaway track became more famous than its A-side, as “Tequila” went to No. 1 in just three weeks, and the band became the first group to go to the top spot with an instrumental that was their first release. The song was recorded at Gikd Star Studios in fall 1957, and in 1959 won the Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc by RIAA.
Joe Billingsley (born November 14, 1937) and Billy Gordon founded a singing group called the Blenders in their native Detroit, Michigan in 1959. They completed the group with Billy Hoggs and Billy Rollins, who had responded to an ad placed in the local newspaper by Billingslea. The group soon added Leroy Fair (in place of Billy Rollins), and bass singer Hubert Johnson and changed the name to “The Contours“. In the fall of 1960, the group auditioned for Berry Gordon’s Motown Records. Gordy turned the act down, prompting the group to pay a visit to the home of Johnson’s cousin, R&B star and Gordy associate Jackie Wilson. Wilson in turn got the Contours a second audition with Gordy, at which they sang the same songs they had at the first audition, the same way, and were signed to a seven-year contract.
Each artist at Motown Records received its own guitarist. Huey Davis was the guitarist assigned to the Contours. The group’s first single, “Whole Lotta Woman,” was released in January 1961 and failed to chart. Within months of its release, Leroy Fair was replaced by Benny Reeves, brother of Martha Reeves. Shortly thereafter, Benny Reeves left to serve in the United States Navy and he was replaced by Sylvester Potts. In 1961 the group’s second single, “The Stretch”, was released and it also failed to chart. In early 1962, Gordy had the Contours record “Do You Love Me,” (https://youtu.be/3EoI-6lQFIE) (RQ 9) a composition allegedly originally meant for The Temptations. But, in a 2008 interview for MOJO Magazine, original Contour Joe Billingslea stated that this was not the case. In the article, Billingslea stated to author Phil Alexander that the song’s author, Motown founder Berry Gordy, offered the song to the Contours first, only intending to give The Temptations the song after he saw that the Contours were having trouble with it. However, after practicing the tune again, Gordy gave the nod—and the song—to the Contours.
The resulting record, with its shouted lead vocals from Billy Gordon, hit No. 1 on Billboard’s R&B chart and crossed over to No. 3 on the Hot 100 in 1962. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.
The Crystals were based out of New York City. The original group members were: Barbara Alston, Mary Thomas, Delores Kenniebrew, Myma Giraud and Patricia Wright. The were active between 1960-1967. While they recorded at least 14 singles, they really had one great recording “Then He Kissed Me” in 1963 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iG88R5SwQRw) (RQ 9). This hit reached a chart rating of 6 in the U.S. and 2 in the UK. While they produced two other hits (“He’s a Rebel” in 1962 and “Da Doo Ron Ron” in 1963), when “Then He Kissed Me” plays on the radio today it simply stands out.
Brenda Reid, Carolyn Johnson, Lillian Walker, and Sylvia Wilbur formed The Exciters while at high school together in Queens, New York City in 1961. They were originally called the Masterettes, as a sister group to another group called the Masters, and released their first recording, “Follow the Leader”, in early 1962. Wilbur then left the group to be replaced by Penny Carter, and they auditioned for Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Penny Carter left, and was replaced by Herb Rooney, a member of the Masters; Reid and Rooney later married.
The group’s name was changed to the Exciters, and their first hit record, arranged by George “Teacho” Wiltshire and produced by Leiber and Stoller for United Artists Records was “Tell Him” (https://youtu.be/G2sH6h0ViDg) (RQ 10+) which reached no. 4 on the U.S. pop chart in early 1963. The song had previously been released unsuccessfully, as “Tell Her”, by Gil Hamilton later known as Johnny Thunder. According to Jason Ankeny at AllMusic, the Exciters’ version of “Tell Him” “…boasted an intensity that signified a sea change in the presentation and perception of femininity in popular music.
The seven-member group of Treadwell High School (Memphis, TN) alumni included Bruce Bowles, Bobby Fisher, Jimmy Hart, Jimmy Johnson, Pat Neal, Larry Raspberry, and Larry Wall and also with another member, Karry Butler. The youths formed The Gentrys in May 1963 as a rock ‘n’ roll group for local dances, and were very successful playing for high school dates. In September 1964 they won third place in the Mid-South Fair Talent Competition and auditioned for the Ted Mack Amateur Hour. They soon became the most popular teenage band in the mid-South and in 1964 won the Memphis Battle of the Bands. In December 1964 the group was given a contract by local record label Youngstown Records, and made their first record of “Sometimes”, which was very popular locally in early 1965. After bubbling under the Billboard chart for a week, the Gentrys scored with the million-selling “Keep on Dancing” (https://youtu.be/VeEs6e0FdwU) (RQ 10+) which reached No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1965.
The Hollywood Argyles song “Alley Opp” (https://youtu.be/mjvOGqIY0jc) (RQ 8) was first played on WLS radio in Chicago on May 2, 1960 (when they changed their focus from farm programming to rock and roll). It was a true example of a one hit wonder. The Argyles producer for the song was Kim Fowley. The lead singer was Norm Davis. The song sold over a million copies and was awarded a gold disc by RIAA.
The Impalas were an American doo-wop group in the late 1950s, best known for their hit, “Sorry” (https://youtu.be/ufz4-fRCwwo) (RQ 8) The group formed in 1958 in Brooklyn, New York, and was composed of lead singer Joe “Speedo” Frazier, Richard Wagner, Lenny Renda and Tony Carlucci. They were a racially integrated group—Frazier was the only black member.
The Jamies were an American singing group, led by siblings Tom and Serena Jameson (lead vocals), based in Boston. Other members were: Jeanie Roy, Arthur Blair and Sherman Fuller. Tom Jameson died from cancer on July 19, 2009, at the age of 72.
The group’s 1958 single for Epic Records, “Summertime, Summertime,” reached #26 on the U. S, Billboard charts. Both “Summertime” (https://youtu.be/fJ7re_PkPss) (RQ 9) and its b-side, “Searching for You,” are often described as doo-wop, because of their time period and their a capella harmonies. However, both songs may also be described as pop versions of Sacred Harp styles. The group started as church singers or possibly an early example of baroque pop singers.
The Monotones were a six-member American doo-wop vocal group in the 1950s. They are considered a one-hit wonder, as their only hit single was “The Book of Love” (https://youtu.be/qIfuNPbBaaA) (RQ 9) which peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard Top100 in 1958. // The Monotones formed in 1955 when the seven originalo singers, all residents of the Baxter Terrace housing project in Newark, New Jersey began performing covers of popular songs. They were:
- Lead singer Charles Howard Patrick (born September 11, 1938 – September 11, 2020)
- First tenor Warren Davis (born March 1, 1939)
- Second tenor George Malone (January 5, 1940 – October 5, 2007)
- Bass singer Frankie Smith (May 13, 1938 – November 26, 2000)
- Second bass singer John Ryanes (November 16, 1940 – May 30, 1972)
- Batrtone Warren Ryanes (December 14, 1937 – June 16, 1982)
Charles Patrick’s brother James was originally a member, but he left soon after the group’s formation. John Ryanes and Warren Ryanes were also brothers.
They all began singing with the New Hope Baptist Choir, directed by Cissy Houston, who was related to the Patrick brothers. The group launched their career with a 1956 appearance on Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour television program, winning first prize for their rendition of The Cadillacs’ “Zoom”. Soon afterwards, Charles Patrick was listening to the radio and heard a Pepsident toothpaste commercial with the line “wonder where the yellow went.” From there he got the idea for the line, “I wonder, wonder, wonder who!, who wrote the book of love”, later working it up into a song with Davis and Malone. In September 1957, they recorded “The Book of Love”, which was released on the Mascot label in December that year. The small record company could not cope with its popularity, and it was reissued on Chess Records’ subsidiary Argo label in February 1958. It became a hit, eventually reaching No. 3 on the Billboard R&B chart and No. 5 on the pop chart. The record sold over one million copies. It also reached No. 5 in Australia; in the UK, the hit version was a cover version by The Mudlarks.
Buffalo Springfield was a North American (Los Angeles) rock band active from 1966 to 1968 whose most prominent members were Stephen Stills (recorded over 35 million records after Buffalo Springfield broke up), Neil Young (recorded over 75 million records including 22 of which were certified gold or platinum by RIAA), and Richie Furay (he continued to perform with another band called Poco). The other original members were Bruce Palmer and Dewey Martin). Distrust in their management was at the heart of why the group was short lived. The group released three albums and several singles during its brief existence, including “For What It’s Worth” (https://youtu.be/gp5JCrSXkJY) (RQ 10+). My personal opinion is that this record is one of the best recordings of all time. They were elected into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fane in 1997 by Tom Petty.
The Silhouettes were an American doo wop/R&B group, whose single “Get a Job” (https://youtu.be/SzWkqfQ17Eo) (RQ 4) was a number 1 hit on the Billboard R&B singled chart and pop singles chart in 1958. The doo-wop revival group Sha Na Na derived their name from the song’s lyrics. “Get A Job”‘ is included in the soundtracks of the film American Graffiti, Trading Places and Stand By Me. The Silhouettes performed in the 1986 movie Joey.
Following graduation from Fairfax high school in Los Angles, CA, Phil Spector became obsessed with “To Know Him Is To Love Him“, (https://youtu.be/vrwf-sIcr0M) (RQ 9) a song he had written for his group, the The Teddy Bears. After a hasty audition at ERA Records, which offered to finance a studio session, the Teddy Bears – Phil Spector, Marshall Leib, Harvey Goldstein (who left the group early on), lead singer Annette Kleinbard, and last minute recruit, drummer Sandy Nelson – recorded the song at Gold Star Studios at a cost of $75. Released on ERA’s Dore label in August 1958, it took two months before “To Know Him Is to Love Him” began to get airplay.
It went on to become a global hit. The record stayed in the Billboard Hot 100 for 23 weeks, in the Top Ten for 11 of those weeks, and commanded the number 1 chart position for three weeks. It also reached number 2 in the UK Singles chart. It sold over two and a half million copies, and was awarded a gold disc by the RIAA. At 19 years old, Spector had written, arranged, played, sung, and produced the best-selling record in the country. Although subsequent releases by the Teddy Bears on the Imperial label were well-recorded soft pop, they did not sell, and within a year of the debut, Spector disbanded the group. Their demise was hastened by Kleinbard being seriously injured in 1960 in a car accident. //Following graduation from Fairfax high school in Los Angles, CA, Phil Spector became obsessed with “To Know Him Is To Love Him“, (https://youtu.be/vrwf-sIcr0M) (RQ 9) a song he had written for his group, the The Teddy Bears. After a hasty audition at ERA Records, which offered to finance a studio session, the Teddy Bears – Phil Spector, Marshall Leib, Harvey Goldstein (who left the group early on), lead singer Annette Kleinbard, and last minute recruit, drummer Sandy Nelson – recorded the song at Gold Star Studios at a cost of $75. Released on ERA’s Dore label in August 1958, it took two months before “To Know Him Is to Love Him” began to get airplay.
It went on to become a global hit. The record stayed in the Billboard Hot 100 for 23 weeks, in the Top Ten for 11 of those weeks, and commanded the number 1 chart position for three weeks. It also reached number 2 in the UK Singles chart. It sold over two and a half million copies, and was awarded a gold disc by the RIAA. At 19 years old, Spector had written, arranged, played, sung, and produced the best-selling record in the country. Although subsequent releases by the Teddy Bears on the Imperial label were well-recorded soft pop, they did not sell, and within a year of the debut, Spector disbanded the group. Their demise was hastened by Kleinbard being seriously injured in 1960 in a car accident.
Spector was not the only Teddy Bear who went on to a career after the group broke up. Harvey Goldstein became a certified public accountant. Annette Kleinbard continued to write and record songs, and changed her name to Carol Conners. Among her credits are the Rip Chords hit “Hey Little Cobra”, (https://youtu.be/-rXldHa212I) (RQ 10) and the Academy Awards nominated Rocky theme song, “Gonna Fly Now,” (https://youtu.be/MR6FXpaECY8) (RQ 10+) co-written with Ayn Ribbins. Leib joined the Hollywood Argyles, played guitar on some of Duane Eddy’s records and produced material recorded by the Everly Brothers amongst others.Spector was not the only Teddy Bear who went on to a career after the group broke up. Harvey Goldstein became a certified public accountant. Annette Kleinbard continued to write and record songs, and changed her name to Carol Conners. Among her credits are the Rip Chords hit “Hey Little Cobra”, (https://youtu.be/-rXldHa212I) (RQ 10) and the Academy Awards nominated Rocky theme song, “Gonna Fly Now,” (https://youtu.be/MR6FXpaECY8) (RQ 10+) co-written with Ayn Ribbins. Leib joined the Hollywood Argyles, played guitar on some of Duane Eddy’s records and produced material recorded by the Everly Brothers amongst others.
Zager and Evans was an American rock-pop duo active during the late 1960s and early 1970s, named after its two members, Denny Zager (born 1944, Wymore, Nebraska) and Rick Evans (born 1943, Lincoln, Nebraska, died 2018, Santa Fe, New Mexico). They are best known for their 1969 No. 1 hit single “In the Year 2525” (https://youtu.be/zKQfxi8V5FA) (RQ 10) which earned them one-hit wonder status.