It’s a rare happenstance in popular music history when an artist or group has a song reach the pinnacle of success — No. 1 on the Billboard Magazine Hot 100 — only to never again reach the chart.
Throughout the decades of the ’50s and ’60s, such recording riches-to-rags stories have taken place only seven times — three of them occuring in 1958 and others following in 1960, 1963, 1967 and 1969.
So let’s take a little trip back in time to review artists who had a “moment in the sun” but never were able to recapture the magic of major, or even minor, chart success again.
* THE SILHOUETTES: They were a Philadelphia doo-wop group consisting of lead singer William Horton, tenor Richard Lewis, bass Ray Edwards and baritone Earl Beal.
Originally The Gospel Tornadoes, they eventually changed their name to The Thunderbirds, under which name they first recorded “Get A Job” (originally designated as the flip side to “I Am Lonely”).
After another name change to The Silhouettes, they recorded “Get A Job” on the Junior label in late 1957, but after it was released on the Ember label early the following year, it took over the No. 1 spot from The McGuire Sisters’ “Sugartime” on Feb. 24.
Nothing else clicked for the group, however. Later, without success, they recorded one of the first versions of “I Sold My Heart To The Junkman”, which became a big hit for Patti LaBelle & The Blue Belles in 1962. For more information on the group, click here.
* DOMENICO MODUGNO: Born January 9, 1928, in Polignano a Mare, Italy, Modugno — after being a waiter, a factory employee and a member of the military — got small parts in Italian movies, and he made radio and TV appearances as a singer.
His famous recording of “Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu” — more well-known as “Volare” — topped U.S. charts for five consecutive weeks in the summer of 1958, but he never recaptured hit-record success before his death in 1994. For more information on Modugno, click here.
* THE ELEGANTS: Group members Vito Picone, Carman Romano, Frank Tardogno and Art Venosa met on Staten Island and first recorded “Little Star” on the Hull label. But after it was picked up by The Apt label (a subsidiary of ABC Paramount) for national distribution, the song became an instant sucess, staying on the Billboard Hot 100 for 19 weeks.
A revised Elegants lineup headed by Picone still performs throughout the country, and full information can be found on the group’s Web site.
* HOLLYWOOD ARGYLES: Despite being a group of studio musicians assembled by producer Kim Fowley, a novelty song written by Dallas Frazier (“Alley Oop”) about a comic-book caveman was a chart-topper in the summer of 1960.
Gary Paxton — “Flip” of the duo Skip & Flip — was the primary vocalist, and he named the group after the location of the recording studio at the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Argyle Street. Famed drummer Sandy Nelson was percussionist on the record. Paxton provides more background on his Web site.
* THE SINGING NUN: Sister Luc-Gabrielle, born Janine Deckers in 1933, was a Belgian nun who, with a chorus of four other nuns, recorded several songs at the Philips Records studios in Brussels.
Philips executives decided to test-market some of the recordings in Europe, and after they met with some success, they released “Dominique” in the U.S., and success was immediare and phenominal, with both the single and an album rocketing to the top of the charts. For full details on The Singing Nun, who committed suicide in 1985 at the age of 52, click here.
* NANCY AND FRANK SINATRA: It may seem unusual to see such famous singers listed as one-hit wonders, but “Old Blue Eyes” and daughter Nancy qualify because after “Somethin’ Stupid” went to No. 1 on Billboard for four weeks in the spring of 1967, that duo never charted again.
The song, which also featured Al Casey on guitar, spent nine weeks atop Billboard’s adult contemporary chart, and it became the first instance of a father-daughter No. 1 song in America. For more background on the song, click here.
* ZAGER AND EVANS: With their gigantic hit “In The Year 2525”, the Nebraska duo is the only recording act to have a No. 1 charter, only to never chart again, in both the U.S. and Great Britain.
Rick Evans wrote the song in 30 minutes in 1964, and in 1967, he and Denny Zager trveled to Odessa, Texas, to have 1,000 copies pressed for the small Truth label. After an offical for RCA Victor heard the disc, he signed the duo to a rontract, and the song went to the top of the charts for six consecutive weeks in the summer of 1969 and selling more than 5 million copies. For more information on Zager & Evans, click here.
Zager continues to make string instruments in Lincoln (see his Web site), and Evans has continued to perform as a singer and songwriter, and for a time worked in real estate in Arizona.