Broadcasting, Music, Music Countdowns, Radio, Retro Rock

1969: Best One Hit Wonders

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.

  1. 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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23 thoughts on “1969: Best One Hit Wonders

  1. Bernard Johnson says:

    I vote for “More Today than Yesterday” Spiral Starecase. I’m not sure if they had anything higher rated than that song. Love the beat and the Lyrics. “But not as much as tomorrow” has a beautiful meaning.

  2. Darlene Richardson says:

    My top favorite from that year is “Get Together” by the Youngbloods. I loved that song when it first came out and love it still. It’s been on my Ipod playlist for years! Other favorites of mine were “More Today Than Yesterday,” “Tracey,” “Na Na Hey Hey,” and “Love Can Make You Happy.” Also liked “In the Year 2525.”

  3. Barbara Bias says:

    My fav is More Today than Yesterday. Remember it well. One hit wonders are fascinating. Makes me feel bad for the group that they couldn’t keep it going.

    • Terrie Martin says:

      I never realized that the “Worst that Could Happen” was a one hit wonder!!! I loved that song, as well as “Love Can Make You Happy”, ” Na, Na, Hey, Hey”, and most definitely, ” In the Year 2525″
      This a great article ….I forgot about A LOT of these songs, but as usual you bring them back to life. Thank you David…you know your music that’s for sure!!!!

  4. bruce bias says:

    #18 Gimme Gimme Good Lovin, #10 Color him Father (know a couple of guys that took on the role as Father and hats off to them). #3 get Together and my favorite of the 1969 OHW is #15 Baby It’s You.

  5. sueceezee says:

    I don’t know why, but after high school in 1967, I rarely bought records. I clung to the radio to hear The Israelites and later had the pleasure of listening to live and recorded reggae music in the mid 70s. I have so many emotions listening to these songs, and I agree that Get Together is one of the best. I also loved Polk Salad Annie and My Pledge of Love. I see from the video that young men were struggling with their bangs just as women had for years. Speaking of bangs, I wonder if Birthday made it as a single because it wasn’t released as a single by the Beatles, but I prefer that version.
    Your music library would be a pleasure to browse, and thank you so much for sharing it.

  6. Douglas Wright ( Doug ) says:

    Greatly appreciate your feedback and opinions of our music from days gone by . Being 67 years young and growing up in SW Va ( Chilhowie) AM radio at night was where it was at for me.I mainly listened to WABC ( Cousin Brucie ) It was a magical time listening to all of the great tunes of the day .Sorry to babble , but you took me back into time for a few moments .Thank you . I will have to dig into the vault and see what I can come up with .Many thanks for sharing !

  7. Steve Murray says:

    Seems like we are top 40 brothers! I grew up in Roanoke like you and listened to Big Blue and ROV and the same northern stations at night. First heard Green River break on WABC. Thank you for your passion and hard work keeping the music and memories alive!

  8. Mike Cooper says:

    I’m 67 and reading about and listening to these songs I sang in my younger years was like taking a walk in the past. With some I even remember what I was doing while listening. Reminiscing can truly be a pleasure as we get older…this was worth the read and the listen…

  9. Holly Parr says:

    Great blog! So good to hear all of these songs, and hard to believe that so many were one hit wonders. I really like a lot of the songs, but would narrow them down to:
    3- “Worst That Could Happen”
    2- “NaNaHeyHey”
    3- “I Love You More Today Than Yesterday”

  10. Bill Nabers says:

    This Flying Machine wasn’t the same group by that name that James Taylor was part of, right? “Sweet dreams and flying machines in pieces on the ground.” “Fire and Rain”

    • Bill: To answer your question, I searched Google. According to Wikipedia: “James Taylor and the Original Flying Machine is an archival release of 1966 recordings of American singer-songwriter James Taylor’s band The Flying Machine (not to be confused with The Flying Machine of “Smile a Little Smile for Me” fame from 1969), first released in February 1971.”

  11. Robin Renick Jenkins says:

    I love this blog!! My favorite song is “More Today than Yesterday”. It is so upbeat and asks you to sing along. I can sing my lungs out to this. Haha. My next is “Get Together” This song has so much meaning to it. I love the drums in this song. You just want to tap your fingers. Thanks again.

  12. There’s no question that “Na Na Hey Hey” is the top of the year. Not bad for a fictitious band. Just to be interesting, Speaking of fictitious bands, one could quibble with “Tracy” because the Cuff Links were basically the same guy (Ron Dante) as the Archies. I’m going to add a few that exclude any group that had more than one song in the top 100. In no particular order:
    “One Tin Soldier” – Original Caste
    “Lo Mucho Que Te Quiero” – Rene & Rene
    “Apricot Brandy” – Rhinoceros
    “Long Green” – The Fireballs
    “Little Arrows” – Leapy Lee
    “Something in the Air” – Thunderclap Newman
    “Playgirl” – Thee Prophets

    And … how could you leave out “Venus” by the Shocking Blue! Granted, they had a couple of other minor hits, which would exclude them by my standards, but no others in the top 40! “Venus” didn’t hit #1 until February 1970, but it entered the American charts in mid-December and was #19 at the end of the year!

    Wow – 1969 – what a wild musical year. You had Led Zeppelin on the charts the same week as Frank Sinatra.

  13. David Randall Hardie says:

    Brother Woodson and I are the same age and were so fortunate to go to the great age of WROV and James Breckinridge Junior High. DW’s passion shines through with his blogs. Yes, 1969 was a year of very, very good music and very, very bad including one hit wonders. Thumbs down to Gimme, Gimme Good Lovin’ (sorry Bruce Bias) and the Israelites. I just never got it. As far as In the Year 2525, I hope it is 2525 before I hear it again. Worst That Could Happen (the Great Johnny Maestro), Color Him Father, Love, Smile A Little Smile, And When I Die were excellent songs and thumbs up to them. The best however to me was the Spiral Staircase Love You More Today Than Yesterday. It has a lot of sentiment for me and I turn Sirius up every time I hear. Another great job DW but of course I say that all the time because it is easy to do.

  14. Laurie Russell says:

    Another interesting read! My top three favorites would have to be “More Today Than Yesterday” by the Spiral Staircase, “Get Together” by the Youngbloods, and “Na Na Hey Hey” by Steam. There were definitely some songs I did not recall at all, and others that ranked close, but even today I enjoy hearing my top 3!!

  15. Vangie says:

    I wasn’t born yet in 1969(1971)but this is the music I grew up listening to as my parents listened to it. I am now listening to the 45’s they owned! So many good memories! Thanks Dave!

  16. Sandra says:

    I did not recognize many of the songs on this list but I was only 8 years old. Even so, I cannot fathom how “Polk Salad Annie” could possibly have escaped my young impressionable ears. Lol! I do vividly remember and name as my favorites, 1 Get Together, 2 More Today Than Yesterday, and of course 3 Na Na Hey Hey What a great songs and such a shock they were OHWs. As always Dave these blogs are such a wonderful escape and bring back such awesome memories. Please keep them coming! 💕

  17. Gary Woodson says:

    I remember the stations in Louisville, KY playing “You I” by the Rugbys. The band was from Louisville so WAKY and WKLO had the song in heavy rotation for a while.

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