MUSICAL DECADES - 1950s - One-Hit Wonders
Artists who had a song that hit the top of the Billboard pop chart, but never again reached the Top 40, are known as One-Hit Wonders. This week, let's take a look at a few of those hits from the 1950s.
The Chords, an American doo-wop group which formed in 1951, wasn’t discovered until three years later when their performance was seen in a subway station in New York. They signed with Cat Records, a subsidiary of Atlantic, and Jerry Wexler had them cover the Patti Page hit “Cross Over the Bridge” for their first release.
However, it was the flip side of the record that took off on the radio. “Sh-Boom” was the first R&B record to cross over to white audiences and make it to the top ten. It rose up the charts to number 9 on the pop chart and number 3 on the R&B chart.
The Penguins is an American doo-wop group, formed in 1953. They recorded the song, “Earth Angel” as a demo in a garage in South Los Angeles. It was released as their debut single in October 1954 on Dootone Records. Although the song was going to be overdubbed with additional instrumentation, the original demo version became an unexpected hit, quickly outstripping its A-side. The song grew out of Southern California and spread across the United States over the winter of 1954–55.
"Earth Angel" became the first independent label release to appear on Billboard's national pop chart, where it peaked within the top 10. It was also a big hit on the R&B chart, where it remained number one for several weeks. The Penguins' only hit, it eventually sold in excess of 10 million copies.
The original recording of the song remained an enduring hit single for much of the 1950s, and it is now considered to be one of the definitive doo-wop songs.
Robert James Byrd (July 1, 1930 – July 27, 1990), known by the stage name Bobby Day, was an American rock and roll and R&B singer, multi instrumentalist, music producer and songwriter.
"Rockin' Robin" is a song recorded by Bobby Day in 1958. It was Day's only hit single, reaching number 2 on the pop chart and spending one week at the top of the R&B chart (number one hit).
The Monotones were a six-member American doo-wop vocal group in the 1950s. They are considered a one-hit wonder, as their only hit single was "The Book of Love". It was written by three members of the group, Warren Davis, George Malone and Charles Patrick.
Lead singer Charles Patrick heard a Pepsodent toothpaste commercial with the line "wonder where the yellow went". From there he got the idea for the line, "I wonder, wonder, wonder who, who wrote the book of love", working it up into a song with Davis and Malone. The "boom" part of the song was a result of a kid kicking a ball against the garage while they were rehearsing. It sounded good, so they added it to the song.
In September 1957, the Monotones recorded "The Book of Love", which was released on the Mascot label in December that year. The small record company could not cope with its popularity, and it was reissued on Chess Records' subsidiary Argo label in February 1958. On the Billboard charts, "The Book of Love" peaked at number 5 on the pop chart and number 3 on the R&B chart. Outside the US, the song reached number 5 in Australia.
The Elegants is an American doo-wop vocal group, that was started in 1958. "Little Star" is a song in which members of the group, Vito Picone and Arthur Venosa, co-wrote the lyrics. The music was adapted from "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star."
When released as a single in 1958, it topped both the R&B Best Sellers list and the Billboard Hot 100; however, it was the only song that ever charted for The Elegants. Reportedly, the Elegants refused to pay payola to a prominent New York disc jockey, which inhibited air play of their follow-up recordings.
"Little Star" remains one of the most popular examples of doo-wop music. Phil Spector described it as an "awful good record."
Phil Phillips (born Philip Baptiste, March 14, 1926) is an American singer and songwriter who wrote “The Sea of Love”.
The 1959 recording of the song peaked at number 1 on the Billboard R&B chart and number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. It became a gold record. It was the only chart-topper for Phillips, who never recorded another hit.
Despite the song's success, Phillips claims that he has only ever received $6,800 for recording it.
This ends Musical Decades for this week. Thanks for listening and I hope to see you here next time.
By the way, more doo-wop can be found in a previous Musical Decades post by clicking here.
(The information used in this post is from Wikipedia and noise11.com)
Dominique "Nik" Petersen is an aficionado of old music and the author of The Dr. Hook Trivia Quiz Book. Read about it and her other books at the website:
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