During the decades of the 1950s and 1960s, there were only 13 recording artists or groups that managed to reach one of the top three positions on the Billboard Magazine’s pop music charts, only to never achieve another single that attained Billboard Hot 100 status.
Therefore, all of them are considered one-hit-wonders, and most of those high-charted recordings are quite familiar to fans of oldies pop music. But what else did these artists sing in later failed attempts to regain the magic of their huge success? This article focuses on the immediate follow-ups to the gigantic hits, and readers can form opinions as to why those follow-ups failed to receive sufficient sales or airplay.
Seven of those artists reached the No. 1 position with their only chart single, and a previous column about those recordings can be viewed by clicking here.
This article takes a look at the five artists that reached No. 2 with their lone hit, along with the one artist (Napoleon XIV) who had a No. 3 single but no other significant records.
Following are capsule summaries of each of those failed follow-up singles, and to hear any of them — or to hear the No. 2 or No. 3 songs included in the descriptions — simply click on the song title.
- “MANHATTAN ROMANCE” (Morris Stoloff Orchestra, 1956): The Philadelphia composer and conductor was music director for Columbia Pictures, and he won Academy Awards for film scores for “Cover Girl” (1944), “The Jolson Story” (1946) and “Song Without End” (1960). His orchestra hit the No. 2 position on the Billboard pop charts with “Moonglow and Theme From Picnic”, but most of his other recordings were in the form of long-play albums. The huge hit incorporated the theme from “Picnic” starring William Holden and Kim Novak, and this follow-up was the theme from a later film.
- “EDUCATED ROCK AND ROLL” (Bill Parsons, 1959): This was the real Bill Parsons, not a record recorded by Bobby Bare and credited to Bill Parsons. Even though Parsons was erroneously credited for singing “All American Boy” (No. 2 in 1959), he is considered a one-hit wonder. Some may question whether the listed artist is a true one-hit wonder because, in actuality, the singer was Bare, who had Top 40 hits with “Shame On Me” (1962), “Detroit City” (1963) and “500 Miles Away From Home” (1963). The big hit — a parody of Elvis Presley’s rise to fame and induction into the Army — was erroneously credited to Parsons, who co-wrote the song with Bare, by the officials at Fraternity Records. But the real Parsons had three actual releases. In addition to this one on Fraternity, he had two insignificant issues on the Starday label.
- “VERDIE MAE” (Phil Phillips, 1959): Despite one of the most-remembered hits of the ’50s (“Sea Of Love”), the singer born Phillip Baptiste in Lake Charles, La., never came close to another Billboard Hot 100 item. This was his second release on the Mercury, and as was the case with his big hit, he was backed by The Twilights. The lifetime resident of Lake Charles had no chart impact with this follow-up or any subsequent issues.
- “KEEP AN EYE ON HER” (Jaynetts, 1963): The well-remembered “Sally Go ‘Round The Roses” went to No. 2 on the Billboard pop charts for a Bronx girl group assembled by producer Zell Sanders. Core members of the group were Lezli Valentine, Marie Hood and Louise Murray, while other backup singers on the recording sessions were Johnnie Richardson (formerly of Johnnie and Joe), Ethel Davis, Mary Sue Wells, Yvonne Bennett and Ada Ray. No one seems to know the true meaning of the lyrics, sung in unique fashion with up-and-down reverb, and this follow-up received little attention.
- “I PUT A SPELL ON YOU” (Crazy World of Arthur Brown, 1968): This group’s leader was born Arthur Wilton in Whitby, England, and the band included drummer Carl Palmer, later a member of Emerson, Lake and Palmer. After reaching the No. 2 position on the Billboard pop charts with the frenetic single “Fire”, this cover of a 1956 song by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins was the follow-up single. This bizarre psychedelic recording artist was discovered by Pete Townshend of The Who. The big-hit single spent 13 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, was his first release and his only charting single in either the U.S. or England.
- “I’M IN LOVE WITH MY LITTLE RED TRICYCLE” (Napoleon XIV, 1966): It’s little wonder that this follow-up to “They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!” didn’t have what it took to be a successful chart item. The big hit and a string of failed follow-ups were recorded and performed by Jerry Samuels, a singer-songwriter-producer from New York City. Samuels played his own drum and tambourine on the recordings, recorded under the moniker Napoleon XIV. His well-remembered single peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, and it sold more than one million copies.
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