Ever since last year’s One Hit Wonder week in late September, we’ve been periodically dipping into the Billboard Hot 100 between 1955 and 1986 to find one-hit wonders at various chart positions near the bottom. A few weeks ago, I got it into my head that I’d quit with Number 90, and that I’d try to be done by this year’s One Hit Wonder week in late September, but I don’t think we’re gonna make it. There are at least 45 one-hit wonders who peaked at Number 91, which will take us a while to get through. This first installment has a Philadelphia flavor, and here we go:
“You’re So Nice to Be Near”/The Loreleis (11/12/55, one week on chart). The Loreleis were a doo-wop group and they recorded on the Dot label, but that’s all I can uncover about them. If you know more, help a brother out.
“Shirley”/The Schoolboys (2/23/57, two weeks). A group of five African-American boys from New York City, discovered by DJ Tommy “Dr. Jive” Smalls. The flip side of this single, “Please Say You Want Me,” outperformed “Shirley” on the R&B charts.
“Furry Murray”/Tradewinds (8/17/59, two weeks). A novelty song, recorded on RCA, produced by Hugo and Luigi: “Furry Murray got a Yul Brynner haircut/Now Murray ain’t furry no more.” Supposedly performed once on American Bandstand. This is why the grownups hated rock ‘n’ roll.
“I Cried”/Joe Damiano (9/7/59, three weeks). There’s more than one way to be part of a few dozen million-sellers: After he gave up trying to become a teen idol with “I Cried” and other releases, Joe Damiano (real name Joe DeAngelis) became a session musician in Philadelphia, and played French horn on many Gamble and Huff recordings.
“Old Shep”/Ralph DeMarco (11/16/59, two weeks). If you’ve never heard a version of “Old Shep,” the classic country weeper about a boy and his dog, prepare yourself for a mawkish good time. Red Foley wrote and recorded it; Elvis Presley just missed the Top 40 with it in 1956. The song had been covered by other country stars including Tennessee Ernie Ford and Hank Snow, but the version by DeMarco, who was just 15 years old, was intended for the pop market. Dick Clark featured it on both American Bandstand and his primetime show in the fall of 1959.
“Someone Loves You, Joe”/Singing Belles (4/25/60, three weeks). The Singing Belles were two sisters, Anne and Angela Barry, from Brooklyn, New York. “Someone Loves You, Joe,” borrows the tune of “Kumbaya” and uses an insistent martial drumbeat to make a record that sounds like it’s being sung to a soldier getting ready to go off and fight the Cold War.
“Come on Over”/Strollers (4/17/61, two weeks). There’s not much information about the Strollers or “Come on Over” available on the Internet, but if you’re looking for a stroller to put your kid in, there are plenty available.
“Joey Baby”/Anita & Th’ So-and-Sos (3/3/62, three weeks). This group is better known as the Anita Kerr Quartet, who provided backing vocals on dozens of countrypolitan hits in the 50s before Kerr founded the Anita Kerr Singers and moved into the pop field, where her group became equally ubiquitous as backing singers, and with their own recordings. “Joey Baby” has that vaguely hypnotic space-age pop sound so emblematic of the late 50s and early 1960s, and it’s the only single to chart on which Anita Kerr is a leader. There’s a lot more about her career here.
“Dancin’ the Strand”/Maureen Gray (6/16/62, three weeks). A big star in Philadelphia, Maureen Gray recorded a number of singles, but only “Dancin’ the Strand” made the national charts. (It was Top 10 in Tucson.) One source maintains that Gray was 13 when she recorded it, but I dunno.
In our next installment: Another titan of easy listening, a couple of Carrolls, and one of the greatest artist names of all time.