Photo Above by Julianne Woodson
It appears that folks can’t get enough of the topic “one hit wonders.”
The published music blog that I wrote on “1970: Greatest Year for One Hit Wonders” is my most viewed message of all time. Following in those footsteps, is the recent success of the “1971: Superb One Hit Wonders” message that is soaring in popularity.
Now I am going for the troika: 1969 one hit wonders.
From my music collection of 45 rpm singles: “Good Old Rock ‘N Roll” by Cat Mother & the All Night News Boys and “You, I” by the Rugbys.
With this edition of my musical musings, I am concentrating on the best “one hit wonders” of 1969. I will be counting down the top songs in this category from 52 years ago.
I have fond memories listening to Top 40 radio during 1969. I turned 14 that year living in Roanoke, Virginia. During daytime hours, I was a regular listener to a couple of local AM radio stations: WROV and WBLU.
Legendary Top 40 WROV 1240 AM was the top-rated radio station in Roanoke. The DJs that I remember from the station during 1969 include Jack Fisher, Fred Frelantz, Bart Prater and John Cigna.
WROV Roanoke Super Summer Survey 8/24/69. Courtesy of the WROV History Website/Pat Garrett.
WBLU 1480 AM Salem was the other Top 40 outlet in the Roanoke radio market. WBLU DJ’s 52 years ago were Chris Shannon, Les Turpin and Bill Cassidy, while Dave Moran was the general manager of the station.
At sundown, WROV reduced their power and WBLU signed off the air, so I tuned in radio stations located hundreds of miles away from my Virginia home. Since radio waves changed on a nightly basis, I would listen to a variety of 50,000-watt, clear channel AM stations on any given night.
The two main stations that I listened to during the nighttime were WLS 890 AM Chicago and WABC 770 AM New York. On the Big 89 WLS, Larry Lujack, Chuck Buell and Kris Erik Stevens were my favorite DJs. When listening to WABC, Dan Ingram and Cousin Brucie (Bruce Morrow) are the two radio DJ voices that I remember.
WLS Chicago Hit Parade Surveys 7/14/69 (“In the Year 2525” is #1) & 12/1/69 (“Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye is #1). Courtesy of Pete Battistini: Author of AMERICAN TOP 40 WITH CASEY KASEM (THE 1970’S).
On nights that WLS or WABC were hard to pick up, I had other clear channel stations that I listened to after dark. Among those other stations: WOWO Fort Wayne, WCFL Chicago 1000 AM, CKLW Windsor, Ontario (Detroit) 800 AM, WKBW Buffalo 1520 AM and WKYC Cleveland 1100 AM.
Because of my love of listening to Top 40 radio during 1969, I set a goal that year of wanting to work as a DJ when I reached adulthood. My desire to work in radio became a reality for me at age 18, when I landed a remote engineer position with WROV Roanoke during 1974.
From my music collection of 45 rpm singles: “In the Year 2525” by Zager & Evans and “Israelites” by Desmond Dekker & the Aces.
What exactly is a “One Hit Wonder?” The basic definition: An artist has only one hit song during their career on the national Billboard Hot 100 pop chart. This music blog message pertains solely to hit songs within the United States.
To avoid any confusion, here are the criteria that I am using to define a “one hit wonder”:
- No other songs from an artist ever peaking at number 41 or higher on the Billboard National Pop Chart.
- One hit wonders vary from country to country. An artist may have just one hit in the United States but may have multiple hits in another country.
- Regional hits are not taken into account: A second song must be a national hit and chart within the Billboard Top 40 pop survey.
- Any songs peaking outside of the Top 40, are always excluded for consideration.
- Songs that peak from numbers 41 through 100 on the national Billboard Hot 100 pop chart are never considered as second hits.
From my music collection of 45 rpm singles: “Worst That Could Happen” by Brooklyn Bridge and “Smile a Little Smile For Me” by The Flying Machine.
WROV Roanoke Survey June 29, 1969. Courtesy of the WROV History Website/Pat Garrett.
The rule that a second song must be a Top 40 Billboard National pop chart hit was established in 1998, by music historian Wayne Jancik in his definitive work on the subject, “The Billboard Book of One-Hit Wonders.”
The subject of “one hit wonders” has always been interesting to me: Leading me to research the reasons why some artists have only one hit song. Way before the advent of the Internet, my go to reference for this subject has been “The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits” by Joel Whitburn. I consider Whitburn’s book to be the “bible” of Top 40 music reference and still proudly own a hard copy of this excellent book.
Before I start my “one hit wonder” countdown, I am listing the 15 biggest songs of 1969 according to Billboard Magazine. NONE OF THE FIFTEEN SONGS LISTED BELOW ARE ONE HIT WONDERS.
1 “Sugar, Sugar” The Archies
2 “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” The 5th Dimension
3 “I Can’t Get Next to You” The Temptations
4 “Honky Tonk Women” The Rolling Stones
5 “Everyday People” Sly and the Family Stone
6 “Dizzy” Tommy Roe
7 “Hot Fun in the Summertime” Sly and the Family Stone
8 “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” Tom Jones
9 “Build Me Up Buttercup” The Foundations
10 “Crimson and Clover” Tommy James and the Shondells
11 “One” Three Dog Night
12 “Crystal Blue Persuasion” Tommy James and the Shondells
13 “Hair” The Cowsills
14 “Too Busy Thinking About My Baby” Marvin Gaye
15 “Love Theme from Romeo and Juliet” Henry Mancini
From my music collection of 45 rpm singles: “More Today Than Yesterday” by Spiral Starecase and “My Pledge of Love” by the Joe Jeffrey Group.
As I surveyed all the top 40 hits from 1969, I found 25 high quality singles that are on my countdown of one hit wonders for that year. These are songs that I deem to be culturally, historically, aesthetically significant, meaningful or relevant.
I submit to you, my top 25 best one hit wonder songs from 1969. As Casey Kasem used to say on his weekly American Top 40 show: “Now on with the countdown.”
From my music collection of 45 rpm singles: “When I Die” by Motherlode & “Jesus is a Soul Man” by Lawrence Reynolds. I bought both records during the fall of 1969.
25. Jesus is a Soul Man—Lawrence Reynolds
Peak Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #28
Lawrence Taylor was a country singer. Crossed over to Top 40 radio with a gospel song.
24. Morning Girl—The Neon Philharmonic
Peak Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #17
Psychedelic pop band led by conductor Tupper Saussy and singer Don Gant. Song featured the Nashville Symphony Orchestra.
23. Sugar on Sunday—The Clique
Peak Position on the Billboard Hot 100: #22
Sunshine pop band from Beaumont, Texas. Song Written by Tommy James.
22. In the Year 2525—Zager & Evans
Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #1, Hot 100: 26th Biggest Hit of 1969
Nebraska folk rock duo. Apocalyptic message. Peaked at number one: Group never had another song crack the Billboard Hot 100 again.
21. Israelites—Desmond Dekker & the Aces
Peak Position on Billboard Chart: #9 Hot 100
Desmond Dekker was a Jamaican ska/reggae singer-songwriter. Among the first reggae songs to reach the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100.
20. Tracy—The Cuff Links
Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: # 9, Hot 100: 81st Biggest Hit 1969
Pop rock studio band. Vocals on “Tracy” were by Ron Dante. He also was the lead singer on the song “Sugar, Sugar” by the fictitious group called the Archies. Both songs spent 3 simultaneous weeks inside the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 chart, during October 1969.
19. Good Old Rock & Roll—Cat Mother & the All Night News Boys
Peak Position on Billboard Chart #21 Hot 100
Cat Mother & band covers snippets of these 50s hits: “Sweet Little Sixteen” Chuck Berry, “Long Tall Sally” Little Richard, “Chantilly Lace” The Big Bopper, “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” Jerry Lee Lewis, “Blue Suede Shoes” Carl Perkins, and “Party Doll” Buddy Knox.
18. Gimme Gimme Good Lovin’—Crazy Elephant
Peak Position on Billboard Charts: #12 Hot 100, 89th Biggest Hit 1969
Crazy Elephant was a studio group of musicians created by bubble gum music pioneers Jerry Kasenetz and Jeffry Katz. The tune falls into the category of Frat Rock.
17. When I Die—Motherlode
Peak Positions on Billboard Charts. #18, Hot 100. 71st Biggest Hit 1969
Canadian pop rock band from London, Ontario. Song should not be confused with another fall of ’69 hit: “And When I Die” from Blood Sweat & Tears.
16. You, I—The Rugbys
Peak Position on Billboard Chart: #24 Hot 100
Psychedelic hard rock band from Louisville, Kentucky. Toured with the James Gang, Bob Seger and Grand Funk Railroad before disbanding the early 70s.
15. Baby It’s You—Smith
Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #5 Hot 100, 34th Biggest Hit 1969
“Baby It’s You” was originally recorded by the Shirelles and the Beatles. Smith’s lead singer Gayle McCormick provides a soulful vocal performance on this blues rock cover.
14. Did You See Her Eyes—The Illusion
Peak Position on Billboard Chart: #32 Hot 100
Long Island, New York psychedelic-driving hard rock band. The Illusion opened up for the Who, Chicago, Jimi Hendrix Experience and the Allman Brothers during the band’s active years.
13. Birthday—Underground Sunshine
Peak Position on Billboard Chart: #26 Hot 100
“Birthday” was a cover song from the 1968 Beatles’ “White Album.” Underground Sunshine was a pop/psychedelic rock band from Montello, Wisconsin.
12. Hot Smoke & Sassafras—The Bubble Puppy
Peak Position on the Billboard Chart: #12, Hot 100
Biggest psychedelic rock single of 1969 was “Hot Smoke & Sassafras.” The Bubble Puppy formed in San Antonio during 1966 and rocks hard on this psychedelia masterpiece.
11. My Pledge of Love—Joe Jeffrey Group
Peak Position on the Billboard Chart: #14, Hot 100
Joe Jeffrey and his group were a R&B group from Cleveland, Ohio. “My Pledge of Love” was a top 10 hit in Canada.
10. Color Him Father—The Winstons
Peak Positions on the Billboard Charts: #7 Hot 100, 65th Biggest hit 1969
The Winstons were an unrelated ensemble of guys, who performed soul music. Their hit “Color Him Father” won a Grammy Award for the “Best Rhythm and Blues Song” fifty-two years ago.
9. More Today Than Yesterday—Spiral Starecase
Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #12 Hot 100, 50th Biggest Hit 1969
Sunshine pop song featuring excellent saxophone. Band from Sacramento, California known for its horn section.
8. The Worst That Could Happen—The Brooklyn Bridge
Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #3 Hot 100, 74th Biggest Hit 1969
Song written by Jimmy Webb. Johnny Maestro lead singer of Brooklyn Bridge. A portion of Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March” is played towards end of the tune.
7. Black Pearl—Sonny Charles & the Checkmates, Ltd.
Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #13 Hot 100, #66 Biggest Hit 1969
R&B group from Fort Wayne, Indiana and “Black Pearl” was produced by Phil Spector. Sonny Charles has lead vocals with Checkmates summer hit.
6. Polk Salad Annie—Tony Joe White
Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #8 Hot 100, 77th Biggest Hit 1969
Nicknamed “The Swamp Fox” in his native Louisiana state, Tony Joe White is best known for the genre of music called Swamp Rock. White wrote “Polk Salad Annie” and “Rainy Night in Georgia” which was a top 10 hit for Brook Benton during 1970.
5. Smile a Little Smile for Me—The Flying Machine
Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #5 Hot 100, 76th Biggest Hit 1969
Flying Machine was a British pop group. Their only hit is a soft rock ballad about unrequited love. The band broke up in 1970.
4. Love (Can Make You Happy)—Mercy
Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #2 Hot 100, 42nd Biggest Hit 1969
The American pop group Mercy came from Florida. “Love (Can Make You Happy)” was written by band member Jack Sigler, Jr. It features tight harmonies on this melodic soft rock tune.
3. Get Together—The Youngbloods
Peak positions on the Billboard Charts: #5 Hot 100, #16 Biggest Hit 1969
The Youngbloods lead by Jesse Colin Young, recorded one of the best peace songs of the 20th century with “Get Together.” Originally released as a single in 1967, the song became a hit two years later during the summer of 1969.
2. I Got a Line on You—Spirit
Peak Position on Billboard Charts: #25 Hot 100
Formed in Los Angeles, California, Spirit was an underrated band. Combining psychedelic/hard rock with jazz, this group was a pioneer in what became known as progressive rock. “I Got a Line on You” was written by Spirit member Randy California and Jay Ferguson handles vocals on the song. This toe-tapping tune is my second favorite 1969 one hit wonder.
- Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye—Steam
Peak Position on Billboard Chart: #1 Hot 100
“Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” was written by Paul Leka, Gary DeCarlo and Dale Frashuer in the early 60s. In 1968, DeCarlo recorded 4 singles for Mercury Records as a solo artist. One of those singles needed a B-side so DeCarlo brought Leka and Frashuer into the studio to record “Kiss Him Goodbye.”
The trio didn’t have a group name for their newly recorded song, so they came up with the fictitious band they named “Steam.” “Kiss Him Goodbye” spent two weeks at number 1 during December 1969 and was still a top ten record on the Billboard Hot 100 during January 1970.
My 45 rpm single of “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” that I bought in 1969 and still own in 2021.
The popularity of “Na Na Hey Hey” has remained strong since the song was first a hit. The song is regularly heard at many professional, college and high school sporting events during the 21st Century. There is an excellent chance to hear (Na-na-na-na, na-na-na-na, hey, hey, hey, goodbye) at just about any type of sporting contest conducted in 2021.
Without a doubt, “Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye)” is the best one hit wonder of 1969.
Now that I have humbly submitted my thoughts on “one hit wonders” of 1969, I am curious to find out your opinion on the music from that year.
Obviously, I do not want to come across as authoritative with my critique of the “one hit wonder” songs from 1969. The songs that you might feel are the best, maybe be completely different from my selections.
From my music collection of 45 rpm singles: “Get Together” by the Youngbloods & “Love (Can Make You Happy)” by Mercy.
I am asking for your opinion: What do you consider to be the best “one hit wonders” of 52 years ago? There are no right or wrong answers. I welcome your thoughts.
Listening to music from the golden age of Top 40 radio will always have a special place in my heart. I cherish and fondly remember my favorite “one hit wonders” of 1969. Rock on!
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