Where Have You Gone, Wyatt McPherson?

Before I forget, here’s the final installment of the series on one-hit-wonders whose lone claim to fame peaked at Number 97 on the Hot 100. (The first part is here and the second part is here.)

“Mississippi Mama”/Owen B (3/14/70, two weeks on chart). Here’s an artist more obscure than Wyatt (Earp) McPherson, the first one-hit wonder to peak at Number 97. Even YouTube DJ Music Mike doesn’t know much, except that Owen B was from Mansfield, Ohio. “Mississippi Mama” sounds like Three Dog Night on a caffeine high, and it clocks in at a Creedence-like 1:58.

“Check Yourself”/Italian Asphalt and Paving Company (5/9/70, two weeks on chart). A Jersey doo-wop group called the Duprees scored a Top-Ten hit in 1962 with “You Belong to Me.” They continued to record into the 1970s, and were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2008. But in 1969, they cut an album under the name of the Italian Asphalt and Paving Company. It yielded “Check Yourself,” which was more soul than doo-wop.

“Suite: Man and Woman”/Tony Cole (11/11/72, four weeks on chart). The word “suite” suggests the song is going to run on for a bit, and it did, lasting 4:45. The assistant PD of KMPC in Los Angeles told Billboard at the time, “Too bad the record companies are releasing singles too long to play, thus forcing stations to edit them or ignore them.” KMPC did just the former, cutting “Man and Woman” to 3:45. What I can piece together about Tony Cole is that he was an ex-schoolteacher who got a shot on American Bandstand in the early 60s and later sang on an Australian TV variety show that counted a pre-stardom Olivia Newton-John among its cast members. Which is not much, but at least he’s not Wyatt (Earp) McPherson.

“After Midnight”/Maggie Bell (5/18/74, three weeks on chart). Maggie Bell, sometimes described as the British Janis Joplin, sang in the Glasgow group Stone the Crows. (If they’re remembered at all nowadays, it’s primarily for the on-stage electrocution death of guitarist Les Harvey in 1972.) After that, Atlantic signed her to a solo deal, and she spent a year preparing the album that became Queen of the Night, released in ’74 to great acclaim, and featuring “After Midnight.” The albums Suicide Sal and Great Rock Sensation followed, but she’s recorded only sporadically since 1977.

“All Roads (Lead Back to You)”/Donny Most (12/18/76, three weeks on chart). Today’s idea of marketing synergy requires stars to multi-task. It’s why Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers have TV shows in addition to singing careers, and why Beyoncé makes movies. But it’s not a new concept. Record companies often tried to parlay TV success into musical success, and never with greater gusto than in 1976. Theme songs from S.W.A.T. and Welcome Back Kotter were Number-One singles that year; themes from Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley made the charts as well, as did did singles by their stars. Most, who played Ralph Malph on Happy Days, got his shot with “All Roads.”

“My Pearl”/Automatic Man (2/19/77, two weeks on chart). Automatic Man was formed by Michael Shrieve and keyboard player Bayete (Todd Cochrane), who became the group’s principal songwriter. It also featured guitarist Pat Thrall, later to chainsaw his way to fame with Pat Travers. Shrieve was just out of Santana and the Go project, where he played alongside Steve Winwood and Stomu Yamashta. Winwood isn’t credited on Automatic Man’s debut album, although he was rumored to be on it. “My Pearl” is a little bit ELO and a little bit Jimi Hendrix, although the debut album’s cover is likely more familiar to record browsers than the music in it.

“Part Time Love”/Kerry Chater (4/2/77, two weeks on chart). Chater was a member of Gary Puckett and the Union Gap who became a full-time songwriter after the band broke up. One of his demos came to the attention of Steve Barri and Michael Omartian, who were extremely hot in the mid 70s, and they backed Chater with an A-list group of studio players for a solo album. All that couldn’t push Chater’s only hit beyond Number 97, giving him a place in history along Wyatt (Earp) McPherson.

One Other Thing: I mentioned on Facebook this morning that I was diggin’ a Rosanne Cash bootleg. I think you might dig it too, so go here, to the fabulous bigO Audio Archive.

“After Midnight”/Maggie Bell (buy it here)

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5 responses

  1. Let’s not forget that Maggie Bell was the female singer on the title cut of Rod Stewart’s epic Every Picture Tells a Story…she also guested on at least one of the Long John Baldry albums Stewart and Elton John produced in the early 70s.

  2. Ahh, thanks for the memories of those great obscure songs we all don’t remember!
    Actually, being from Columbus, Ohio, Owen B is familiar to me fevered brain. Mississippi Mama actually hit number 1 on WCOL’s hitline survey on January 19, 1970 and a follow up, Never Going Home hit number one on July 6 of the same year.
    Always amazed how a local group can do that well in area and never ever make any splash regionally or nationally. but even back then a few thousand copies sold does not a national act make. But you always give them credit for trying.

  3. “My Pearl” was the best track on that Automatic Man elpee (and the only song worth playing more than once). Kinda figures that this song would have been the single.

  4. Though the title of the Duprees’ 1962 hit is fairly generic it’s become a standard covered by dozens of artists even AFTER the Duprees (Jo Stafford had the big hit with it in the early 50’s). Surely it’s opening lyrics (see the pyramids along the Nile…) rings a few bells.

    Re Automatic Man: “Yeah guys, can you start calling me Bayete?” Pat Thrall is a great player, getting a by- name shout-out from Pat Travers on “Boom Boom” (Out Go the Lights) that’s still kind of thrilling when I hear it.

  5. In case you’re still curious all these years later, I found one person willing to say this: Wyatt “Earp” McPherson – Died 12-12-1978, Born 7-5-1931 in Louisiana, U.D. – Singer.
    I have no idea how that person knows that, but there it is. I found it on a website called “The Dead Rock Stars Club”.

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