It’s time for the dusty and forgotten again.
I have not been keeping precise track of the number of songs at each chart position in our Down in the Bottom series, but I can tell you this—there are at least 50 one-hit wonders who peaked at Number 92 on the Hot 100, and that’s far more than any other chart position we’ve covered so far. It’s going to take us maybe five installments to cover them all, so let’s saddle up and ride.
“Come Home”/Bubber Johnson (11/12/55, one week on chart). Johnson was a piano player who recorded on Cincinnati’s King label. On “Come Home,” he gets his Nat King Cole on, backed by a lovely track featuring harp and organ, as well as a doo-wop chorus.
“You Win Again”/Paulette Sisters (11/19/55, two weeks). Hank Williams did “You Win Again” first, charting it after his death in 1952. After the Paulette Sisters, it would also be cut by Jerry Lee Lewis and Fats Domino. As for the sisters, it seems there were three of them, and that they often backed up Connee Boswell, a singing star of the 1930s and 40s. Far more than you might wish to know about the Paulette Sisters is here.
“Leap Frog”/Chuck Alaimo Quartet (4/29/57, one week). From Rochester, New York, Chuck Alaimo was a sax player, and he could honk like crazy, as he does on “Leap Frog,” a song also recorded by Louis Armstrong and Les Brown (but not by Charlie Parker, whose “Leap Frog” is another song entirely). Alaimo’s quartet recorded several singles that were big in western New York during the late 1950s. I don’t know if Chuck Alaimo is related to the more famous Steve Alaimo, also of Rochester, who hosted Dick Clark’s Where the Action Is and was a prominent producer in the 60s and 70s, but it wouldn’t surprise me a bit.
“A House of Love”/Scott Garrett (3/30/59, one week). In January 1959, Billboard used Twitteresque prose to call “A House of Love” “an inspirational type tune that is handed a meaningful vocal by a fem group. Side has a chance.” And it did have a chance, although it strikes me that this sort of family-focused, hearth-and-home subject matter might have done better in the middle of the 1960s, when those values were perceived as being under greater strain. About Garrett himself, I know nothing.
“Don’t Let Him Shop Around”/Debbie Dean (2/13/61, two weeks). This is, as you might have guessed, an answer song to the Miracles’ “Shop Around”—and it was recorded on the Motown label. At a moment in history when answer songs were often big hits, Berry Gordy deserves some credit for thinking to corner the market. And for trying to expand his market, too: Debbie Dean was the first white female singer Motown ever signed. (Much more about “Don’t Let Him Shop Around” is here.)
“I Can’t Take It”/Mary Ann Fisher (9/11/61, three weeks). Fisher was the first female singer to join Ray Charles’ band—the original Raelette, in other words—she toured with him from 1955 to 1958, and was portrayed in the movie Ray. She also sang with B.B. King, James Brown, and other leading lights of R&B. As a solo artist, she was managed by ex-boxing champ Joe Louis. More about her life and career is here.
After the jump, you’ll meet some of the most obscure artists yet to appear in this series.
“Pushin’ Your Luck”/Sleepy King (1/6/62, three weeks). The Internet citations for this record are as thin as I’ve ever seen. It gets mentioned in a piece of X-Files fan fiction (talk about a colorful detail that practically nobody can appreciate) and on somebody’s discography page, where it’s described as “stroll-rhythm soul & b for the teen market, reminds me of Jewel Akens.” King recorded one other single on the Joy label, based in New York, but that’s all I know.
“Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart”/Furys (3/16/63, two weeks). The Furys were an R&B group from Los Angeles, and their version of “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart” turned them into stars in southern California. Lead singer Jerome Evans went on to sing with many more famous groups, including editions of the Coasters and the Drifters.
“Preacherman”/Charlie Russo (4/13/63, five weeks). “Preacherman” is lifted entirely from “The Preacher,” a song by jazz pianist Horace Silver. Apparently Russo believed the chords he used were in the public domain, but when Silver learned that Russo was taking a songwriting credit, he took legal action; “Preacherman” was pulled from the air and from store shelves. I found a total of two citations on the Internet mentioning this incident, one from a blog with no additional citations and one from a 1963 newspaper that merely describes the controversy but not its outcome. And I guess this paragraph makes three.
“I’m Not a Fool Anymore”/T.K. Hulin (8/24/63, two weeks). Hulin is a singer from south Louisiana who turned 20 just as “I’m Not a Fool Anymore” was charting. Despite its brief chart run, the record supposedly sold a half-million copies. All these years later, Hulin is still performing with his group Smoke. At some point in the early 60s, his band included a young musician from Texas named Edgar Winter, although it’s unclear to me whether Winter is on “I’m Not a Fool Anymore.”
“I Didn’t Know What Time It Was”/Crampton Sisters (2/15/64, two weeks). I can’t find a thing about the Crampton Sisters—no biography, no discographies mentioning them, none of the usual sources of information we might expect to find on even the most obscure artists in this series. “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was” is a Broadway tune by Rodgers and Hart, but beyond that, it might as well have been recorded on the moon. Certainly it seems to be in a key not usually heard on this planet.
Coming in the next installment, we’ll cover most of the rest of the 1960s, including a couple of acts far more famous in the Midwest than anyplace else in the country.
“A House of Love”/Scott Garrett (out of print)