(Pictured: Roger Miller, whose string of mid-60s hits includes several you would probably know: “Dang Me,” “King of the Road,” and “England Swings” among them.)
After a holiday break, it’s time for another installment of One Week in the 40, a series devoted to songs that spent a single week in the Billboard Top 40 between 1964 and 1986. Certain artists have accomplished the feat more than once—we have already mentioned B. B. King and the Beach Boys in this regard—and this post is devoted to the rest, all but one song from the 1960s.
Glen Campbell is on the list twice, and one of his entries is a song you’d never guess: the Grammy-winning “Gentle on My Mind,” which was Campbell’s TV theme and signature song. It peaked at #39 for the week of November 2, 1968, having gone from #50 to #39 and back to #50 again. It outperformed its Hot 100 number on both the Easy Listening chart (#8) and the country chart (#30). His version of “Let It Be Me,” a duet with Bobbie Gentry, was also much bigger on the other charts—#7 Easy Listening and #14 country—reaching a Hot 100 peak of #36 on March 8, 1969.
On the subject of famous songs, two Monkees B-sides are here: “The Girl I Knew Somewhere” made #39 on April 15, 1967, while the A-side, “A Little Bit Me, a Little Bit You” was in the Top 10. A year later, “Tapioca Tundra” went from #49 to #34 to #45, reaching its peak on March 30, 1968, while its A-side, “Valleri,” was in the Top 10.
On the subject of successful acts crossing over, country humorist Roger Miller is on the list with two songs following in the wake of his most excellent year (five Top-10s between the summer of ’64 and the end of ’65, and five Grammys for 1965 as well). The goofy “You Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd” was at #40 on July 23, 1966. The more conventional “Walkin’ in the Sunshine,” which hit the Top 10 on both Easy Listening and country, topped out at #37 on the Hot 100 on May 6, 1967. I am pretty sure I hadn’t heard it since the 60s, but I recognized it immediately the other day.
Gene Chandler appears on the list with back-to-back hits. “Bless Our Love,” a gorgeous slow dance, hit #39 on November 14, 1964, while “What Now,” a song written by Curtis Mayfield, reached #40 on January 16, 1965. So does Chubby Checker, whose better-than-you’d-guess “Lazy Elsie Molly” spent the whole month of July 1964 hovering in the low 40s, hitting #40 for the week of July 11. An attempt to cash in on the British Invasion, “Let’s Do the Freddie,” made #40 on May 22, 1965. It’s got nothing to do with Freddie and the Dreamers’ “Do the Freddie,” which sat at #24 the very same week, and Chubby sounds fairly disinterested in the whole thing.
Another Philadelphia act, the Delfonics, put two hits into the 40 for a single week. “Ready or Not Here I Come,” which you probably wouldn’t spot as a Thom Bell production, was #35 for the week of January 25, 1969. “Trying to Make a Fool of Me,” the followup to the exquisite “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time),” hit #40 for the week of July 25, 1970.
I was sorry to hear of the recent death of William Guest, a member of Gladys Knight and the Pips from the day the group was formed in 1952. When I was a kid, I couldn’t decide if I’d rather be a Pip or a Spinner and now that I’m old I still don’t know. Gladys and the Pips hit the 40 for a single week with “Giving Up,” which hit #38 on July 4, 1964, and “It Should Have Been Me,” which must have sounded great on the radio during one of radio’s greatest summers. It hit #40 on July 6, 1968.
Nobody remembers it now, but Bobby Vinton was one of the most successful stars of the 60s, with a string of smashes that included three #1 hits between the summer of 1962 and the end of 1964. Changing fashions kept him away from the top of the chart after that, although he continued to hit the middle of the charts into the middle of the 1970s. One way to get there was with socially relevant lyrics: the folk-rockish “What Color (Is a Man)” hit #38 for the week of October 16, 1965; another record with a folk-rock feel, “Dum-De-Da,” hit #40 on May 28, 1966.
We have scarcely begun exploring this list, so watch for future installments.