Broadcasting, Music, Music Countdowns, Radio, Retro Rock

1973 Groovy One Hit Wonders

Back by popular demand, this is my latest installment with the topic of one hit wonders. I continue to be amazed by the popularity of this subject matter, as it brings back nostalgic memories for many folks.

Over the past 3 years, I have published one hit wonders messages from years 1968 through 1972. These articles are among my most viewed messages of all-time.

With this latest edition of musical musings, I am concentrating on the best “one hit wonders” from 1973.  I will be counting down the top songs in this category from 50 years ago.

I have fond memories of listening to top 40 music from 1973 as it is the year that I graduated from Glenvar High School in Roanoke County Virginia.  Then in September ’73, I started my freshman year at Virginia Western Community College, located in Roanoke.

Bart Prater in WROV Roanoke studio. Photo courtesy WROV History Website/Pat Garrett

During daylight hours, I exclusively listened to Roanoke’s legendary WROV 1240 AM. This station featured a Top 40 format and was the number 1 top-ranked radio outlet in my city.

Audio aircheck of Terry Young WROV Roanoke May 1973. Courtesy WROV History Website/Pat Garrett.

The WROV DJs that I remember back in 1973 were Larry Bly, Bart Prater, Terry Young, Shane Randall and Chuck Holloway. When WROV reduced power at sundown, I would listen to top 40 AM radio stations located hundreds of miles away from my Virginia home.

Audio aircheck of Larry Bly WROV Roanoke April 1973. Courtesy WROV History Website/Pat Garrett.

50,000-watt WLS 890 AM Chicago, WCFL 1000 AM (Super CFL) and WABC 770 AM New York were my top three choices for nighttime listening 50 years ago.

In Chicago, I remember WLS DJs John Records Landecker, JJ Jeffries and Fred Winton, while Larry Lujack, Bob Dearborn and Ron O’Brien were superb on Super CFL. Cousin Brucie (Morrow) and Dan Ingram were radio announcing legends at WABC New York.

Some other powerful radio stations that I occasionally heard in ’73: WOWO Fort Wayne 1190 AM, CKLW Windsor, Ontario (Detroit) 800 AM and WKBW Buffalo 1520 AM.

What exactly is a “One Hit Wonder?” The basic definition: An artist has only one hit song on the national Billboard Hot 100 pop chart during their career. 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 40 or higher on the Billboard National Pop Chart. (Chart positions from number 40 to number 1).
  • 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.
  • Singles that peak from numbers 41 through 100 on the national Billboard Hot 100 pop chart are generally not considered as a second hit. Example: a 2nd song peaking at number 87 does not constitute an artist as a two-hit-wonder.

All documentation of chart positions I share below in this article comes from The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits by Joel Whitburn.  I proudly own a hard copy of this excellent reference manual, which I consider to be the ‘bible” handbook for music history with Top 40 radio.

As a point of reference, below are the top 10 biggest records of 1973. None of these artists are one hit wonders as they all had multiple top 40 hits.

1          “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree”         Tony Orlando and Dawn

2          “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown”         Jim Croce

3          “Killing Me Softly with His Song”        Roberta Flack

4          “Let’s Get It On”          Marvin Gaye

5          “My Love”       Paul McCartney & Wings

6          “Why Me”       Kris Kristofferson

7          “Crocodile Rock”         Elton John

8          “Will It Go Round in Circles”   Billy Preston

9          “You’re So Vain”         Carly Simon

10        “Touch Me in the Morning”   Diana Ross

Before starting my countdown with the best 1973 one hit wonders, I must clear up some Internet erroneous information that some proclaim on this topic.  The band Stealers Wheel is actually a “TWO-HIT WONDER.”

Stealers Wheel was a Scottish rock band formed by Gerry Rafferty and Joe Egan is 1972.  The group’s well-known hit “Stuck in the Middle with You” peaked at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 during the spring of 1973.

A second hit single for Stealers Wheel was “Star.”  This highly acclaimed song also charted on the Billboard Hot 100, reaching #29 in March 1974.

Additional 1973 one hit wonders. Notable outside my countdown.

  • Playground in My Mind—Clint Holmes
  • Walk on the Wild Side—Lou Reed
  • Soul Makossa—Manu Dibango
  • Love Jones—Brighter Side of Darkness
  • Armed and Extremely Dangerous—First Choice
  • Smoke Gets in Your Eyes—Blue Haze
  • In the Midnight Hour—Cross Country
  • Back When My Hair Was Short—Gunhill Road

Without further ado, the countdown begins with 1973 groovy one hit wonders.

15.  Daisy a Day—Jud Struck

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #4 AC, #14 Hot 100, 89th Biggest Song of 1973

 Jud Struck was an actor and singer-songwriter. Penned his only hit. A regular on “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In” TV show.  Killed in plane crash in 1981.

14.  Dead Skunk—Loudon Wainwright III

Position on charts:  #12 Cashbox Top 100, # 16 Billboard Hot 100, 128th biggest Song of 1973 (Joel Whitburn).

Novelty folk rock song featuring a banjo. Written by Wainwright. Singer also an actor. Played Captain Calvin Spalding, the singing surgeon, on the TV show M*A*S*H.  

13.  My Maria—B.W. Stevenson

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #1 AC, #9 Hot 100, 64th Biggest Song of 1973

Progressive country rock singer-songwriter and guitarist. Composed “My Maria” and wrote a #1 hit for Three Dog Night called “Shambala.” Died of heart failure in 1988.

12.  Hocus Pocus—Focus

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #9 Hot 100, 69th Biggest Song of 1973

Dutch progressive rock band. This ensemble utilizes an unusual assortment of instrumentation and vocal sounds:  guitar, drum, flute and accordion solos married with yodeling, eefing, whistling and scat singing.

11.  Pillow Talk—Sylvia

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #1 Soul, #3 Hot 100, 22nd Biggest Song of 1973

Sylvia Robinson started her musical career in the 50s as part of the Mickey and Sylvia duo. Robinson went on to become CEO and founder of Sugar Hill Records. She produced “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugarhill Gang: the first hip hop song ever to reach #40 or higher on the Billboard Hot 100 chart (January 1980).

10.  Why Can’t We Live Together—Timmy Thomas

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts:  #1 Soul, #3 Hot 100, 75th Biggest Song of 1973

Song opens with a long keyboard instrumental by Thomas.  Artist was a record producer and played with jazz legends Donald Byrd and Cannonball Adderley as a session musician.

9.    I’m Doin’ Fine Now—New York City

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts:  #17 Hot 100, 46th Biggest Song of 1973.

R&B group from Harlem in New York City.  Two members of the band: guitarist Nile Rodgers and bassist Bernard Edwards went on to co-found the disco funk band Chic in 1976.

8.    Oh Babe, What Would You Say—Hurricane Smith

Peak Positions on Charts:  #1 Cashbox top 100, #3 Billboard Hot 100, 73rd Biggest Song of 1973 (Billboard).

English musician, record producer and engineer. Hurricane Smith is credited with producing over 100 songs by the Beatles: his last Fab Four album that he recorded was “Rubber Soul” in 1965.

7.    Brother Louie—Stories

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts:  #1 Hot 100, 13th Biggest Song of 1973

Hot Chocolate band members Errol Brown and Tony Wilson co-wrote “Brother Louie” and had an early ’73 U.K. hit with their song. Then New York pop band Stories covered the song in the U.S.  The story about an interracial love affair became a #1 summer smash.

6.   Right Place Wrong Time—Dr. John

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #9 Hot 100, 24th Biggest Song of 1973

Dr. John played a combination of musical genres: New Orleans blues, jazz, funk and rock.  Produced by Allen Toussaint and written by the artist.  Dr. John won 6 Grammy Awards in his career and was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2011.

5.   Dueling Banjos—Eric Weissberg & Steve Mandell

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #2 Hot 100, 61st Biggest Song of 1973

Bluegrass Composition written by Arthur “Guitar Boogie” Smith in 1954.  Made famous in 1972 film “Deliverance.”  Single was nominated for a Golden Globe award for “Best Original Song.”

4.   Also Sprach Zarathustra (2001)—Deodato

Peak positions on Billboard Charts: #2 Hot 100, 73rd Biggest Song of 1973

A pop/jazz instrumental. Rendition is of the introduction from a 1896 Richard Strauss composition “Also sprach Zarathustra.” Brazilian musician/pianist Eumir Deodato covered this tune, which became popular in Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film “2001: A Space Odyssey.”  This remake won a 1974 Grammy Award for “Best Pop Instrumental Performance.”

3.   The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia—Vicki Lawrence

Positions on Billboard Charts:  #1 Hot 100, 11th Biggest Song of 1973

Southern murder ballad was written by Bobby Russell, who was married to Vicki Lawrence (1972-1974).  Lawrence was also an actress/comedian, who played the character “Mama” on the Carol Burnett TV show. One of the best country pop epic story songs from the 70s.

2.   Wildflower—Skylark

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #9 Hot 100, 25th Biggest Song of 1973

Canadian pop/rock band.  Reached #1 in Canada during 1972. Since the song was not available in the US as a single, Top 40 CKLW Windsor, Ontario, which is part of the Detroit, Michigan radio market, started playing “Wildflower” as an album track.

The song quickly became a hit in Detroit and was picked up by other top 40 stations in Michigan.  Capitol Records then released the Skylark single in the US and it spent 21 weeks charting on the Billboard Hot 100.  Folks all across North America loved the smooth vocals by lead singer Donny Gerard on this outstanding power ballad.

1.   Dancing in the Moonlight—King Harvest

Peak Positions on Billboard Charts:  #13 Hot 100, 36th Biggest Song of 1973

Without a doubt, “Dancing in the Moonlight” by King Harvest is my top selection as the best 1973 one hit wonder.  It is an all-time favorite single for me.

King Harvest formed in 1970, while the band members were attending Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.  “Dancing in the Moonlight” is actually a cover song, with the original recording by a band called Boffalongo.

Shortly after the chart success of “Dancing in the Moonlight” on the Billboard Hot 100, King Harvest’s recording label Perception Records went bankrupt. Left without a recording contact, the band membership started to fluctuate. Eventually, King Harvest called it quits in 1976.

The only top 40 hit for King Harvest is still popular here in 2023.  Whenever I play this song at wedding receptions where I am hired as a DJ, folks still love to dance to this song.  Without a doubt, “Dancing in the Moonlight” is my favorite and top one hit wonder for 1973.

I completely understand that my listing of 1973 groovy one hit wonders was written from my point of view and is subjective. Obviously, I do not want to come across as authoritative with my critique.

What do you consider to be the best one hit wonders from 1973?  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 1973.  Rock on!

To subscribe to my blog via email, please click the “Follow” button in the menu above.


14 thoughts on “1973 Groovy One Hit Wonders

  1. Anthony Scumaci says:

    Great list! My favorite 1973 one-hit wonder is My Maria by BW Stevenson. Brooks and Dunn did an admirable job with the remake in the 1990s, but can’t touch the original. My only drawback with the song is that it should have been a bit longer

  2. Laurie Russell says:

    Another excellent article. Many of these one hit wonders I am not familiar with at all. I totally agree with you that Dancing in the Moonlight is an excellent pick! Hear that song from time to time today and enjoy it even now. It would be my top choice as well.

  3. Bernard Johnson says:

    I was trying to remember the “One Hit Wonders” of 73 and your list is pretty darn good. I must put Dr John at #1 with “Wrong Place, Wrong Time”. I remember vividly seeing him do that song on the program Midnight Special. 1st time I heard of him.
    # 2 is Vicky Lawrence with “The Time the Lights Went Out in Georgia”. I only knew her from her fine comedic work on the Carol Burnett Show. Loved her role as “Momma”.

    Special Shout Out to Fred Wesley and the JB’s. “Doin it to Death “ Saw Fred at the Jefferson Center in 2017. He didn’t play any James Brown songs. He is an excellent multi-instrument musician!!!

  4. Paul says:

    Another great Blog! Thanks David. My favs are Brother Louie, Dueling Banjos, and Wildflower. Haven’t heard of some tunes like “Dead Skunk”, “Daisy A Day”, “Why Can’t We Live Together”, etc. Thanks again . Appreciate you sending.

  5. Bernard Johnson says:

    I was trying to remember the “One Hit Wonders” of 73 and your list is pretty darn good. I must put Dr Hook at #1 with “Wrong Place, Wrong Time”. I remember vividly seeing him do that song on the program Midnight Special. 1st time I heard of him.
    # 2 is Vicky Lawrence with “The Time the Lights Went Out in Georgia”. I only knew her from her fine comedic work on the Carol Burnett Show. Loved her role as “Momma”.

    Special Shout Out to Fred Wesley and the JB’s. “Doin it to Death “ Saw Fred at the Jefferson Center in 2017. He didn’t play any James Brown songs. He is an excellent multi-instrument musician!!!

  6. Mark says:

    Vicki Lawrence is an interesting one.
    Whilst she was a one hit wonder in the US as per your (excellent) definition, she went top 10 here in Australia with two other songs, including a #1.
    He Did With Me (the #1) and Ships In The Night went #7.
    The Night The Lights Went Out in Georgia performed comparatively poorly, “only” making it to #20 here.
    Ships In The Night is easily my favourite of the three songs, yet it did very little chart wise in the US. Taste is an interesting thing. 🙂

  7. daveydad says:

    Great blog! Seemed to be a time when pop and ballads dominated. I liked some of these hits but was mostly into rock at the time in 10th grade. Hocus Pocus gets my vote…. but only the long version!!

  8. Larry Dowdy says:

    When you look at the hits from 1973, the year was filled with awesome hits like “You’re So Vain” from Carly Simon, “Killing Me Softly With His Song” from Roberta Flack, which stayed at Number One for 5 weeks. Edgar Winter Group’s song I’ve never tired of hearing “Frankenstein” and McCartney’s “My Love”…but the One Hits from that year makes you “wonder” why they didn’t have more than a single hit.

    My Top 5 One Hit Wonders from ‘73:
    5) Why Can’t We Live Together – Timmy Thomas
    4) Oh Babe, What Would You Say – Hurricane Smith (Love the sax in that song. Awesome job by Frank Hardcastle.)
    3) Hocus Pocus – Focus
    2) Walk On The Wild Side – Lou Reed
    1) Wildflower – Skylark

  9. David Hardie says:

    A super list DW. Dancing in the Moonlight my number one song on this list. Lotta great memories. Wildflower would be number two. Number three would be My Maria and number four would be. I’m Doing Fine by New York City.

    It was great looking back on those hits, many of which I have forgotten. A very special year indeed with my high school graduation and these songs brought back a lot of memories. Thanks DW for the trip down memory lane. Great job.

  10. DAVID DELANEY says:

    Thanks for digging these up, Dave! I haven’t heard some of them in 50 years. By spring 1973 I was definitely starting to listen to FM radio in Pittsburgh, so some of them were a little lost on me. But I never will forget hearing Hocus Pocus and thinking who *is* that guitarist?? Turns out it was fusion whiz Jan Akkerman – what a great talent. In fact the whole band was made up of super-hot musicians. I went and bought the whole album and it blew my mind.

  11. DAVID DELANEY says:

    I should maybe add that Hocus Pocus was considered something of a novelty song because of the yodeling and the goof-ball interludes, but the guitar-playing legitimizes everything else.

  12. Bobby C Sroczynski says:

    Happy birthday! my top 3 Elton john songs are Crocodile Rock , Bennie and the Jets , and Rocket Man (i think it’s gonna be a long long time)
    Love, Bobby

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s