“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.