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Taking a look at 10 C&W singers who are viewed as one-hit wonders on pop charts

Jeannie C. Riley's "Harper Valley PTA" topped both the C&W and pop charts in 1968.
Jeannie C. Riley's "Harper Valley PTA" topped both the C&W and pop charts in 1968.

Every so often, a country-western recording becomes a major crossover onto the Billboard Magazine's Hot 100, and on a few occasions, the result is a so-called "one-hit wonder" as far as the popular music charts are concerned.

This article will take a look at 10 such artists -- and their big-hit crossover -- and there is an interesting story behind each of them, although some of the vocalists had far from one-hit status in the C&W field.

The list includes recording artists who had one big splash on the Billboard Hot 100, at No. 15 or higher, with no other crossovers reaching as high as No. 50 on the national pop charts.

Some singers -- such as Sheb Wooley, Faron Young and Claude King -- may be thought of as "fitting in" to this category, but they don't. Wooley, who hit the top of the pop charts with "Purple People Eater" in 1958, didn't qualify because he had three other Hot 100 items. By the same token, Faron Young ("Hello Walls" in 1961) had four other minor pop hits, and King ("Wolverton Mountain in 1962) had three other such hits.

Here's a list of qualifying "one-hit wonders", with Billboard chart positions and year in parentheses, and to hear any of the songs, simply click on the title:

  • 1. "HARPER VALLEY PTA" (Jeannie C. Riley, 1968, No. 1 pop, No. 1 C&W): The song was written by Tom T. Hall and sung by a former secretary and demo singer, Jeanne Stephenson, from Anson, Texas. Shelby Singleton Jr. -- who had produced such big hits as "The Boll Weevil Song" for Brook Benton and "Ahab The Arab" for Ray Stevens -- had his first chart-topper with this one, after hearing "the right voice" for a song that he knew would be a million-seller.
  • 2. "FROM A JACK TO A KING" (Ned Miller, 1963, No. 6 pop, No. 2 C&W): First recorded on the Dot label in 1957, it sold poorly, but when it was re-released six years later on the Fabor label, it sold more than 2 million copies. The singer-songwriter from Rains, Utah, is credited with writing such hits as "Dark Moon" for Bonnie Guitar in 1957 and "Invisible Tears" for The Ray Conniff Singers in 1964. This record also went to No. 2 in the UK and got to No. 2 on the U.S. adult contemporary chart.
  • 3. "THE ALL-AMERICAN BOY" (Bill Parsons, 1959, No. 2 pop): This song is listed here, although it was credited to Bill Parsons while actually having been sung by Bobby Bare -- hardly a one-hit wonder with 1963 hits such as "500 Miles Away From Home" and "Detroit City." Just before Bare was drafted into the military, he and friend Bill Parsons co-wrote the song, and they went to Cincinnati, where they bought some studio time, and when the recording was sold to the Fraternity label, it was believed that Parsons was the singer. Thus, there was a "one-hit wonder" who didn't really have a hit single.
  • 4. "PLEASE HELP ME I'M FALLING" (Hank Locklin, 1960, No. 8 pop, No. 1 C&W): The singer-songwriter-guitarist from McLellan, Fla., had his first C&W charter with "The Same Sweet Girl" (No. 8 in 1949), and several other minor successes earned him a spot on the "Louisiana Hayride" radio show. This song spent 14 weeks atop the Billboard C&W charts, and it was the only major crossover hit for Locklin.
  • 5. "YOU'RE THE REASON" (Bobby Edwards, 1961, No. 11 pop, No. 4 C&W): Robert Moncrief of Anniston, Ala., was a member of a quartet called The Four Young Men, who had some long-forgotten tunes on the Dore, Crest and Delta label. Moncrief, now known as Bobby Edwards, had mild regional success with a 1959 cover of Tex Ritter's "Jealous Heart." Then, two years later, with backing vocals by Four Young Men, he cut this single, but although he had to battle Joe South and Hank Locklin for chart position, the Edwards rendition went to No. 4 on the national C&W charts and No. 11 on the pop listings.
  • 6. "MAY THE BIRD OF PARASIDE FLY UP YOUR NOSE" (Little Jimmy Dickens, 1965, No. 15 pop, No. 1 C&W): This was the last major single for the diminutive country vocalist (height: 4-11) from Bolt, W. Va. He got his big break when Roy Acuff offered him a guest spot on the Grand Ole Opry, which led to signing with Columbia Records. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1983.
  • 7. "LET'S THINK ABOUT LIVING" (Bob Luman, 1960, No. 7 pop, No. 9 C&W): The singer from Nacogdoches, Texas, began as a rockabilly artist, but most of his recordings failed miserably. However, he struck temporary gold when he changed course and recorded this song that meshed with the "death song" fad of 1960. None of his follow-ups charted, either pop or country.
  • 8. "RINGO" (Lorne Greene, 1964, No. 1 pop, No. 21 C&W): Despite the major success with this spoken-word recording, Lorne Greene is much better known for his longtime role as Ben Cartwright in the "Bonanza" television series. The Ottawa, Canada, native, began as chief newscaster for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in CBC in the early 1940s. This song also topped the Billboard adult contemporary chart for six weeks.
  • 9. "FLOWERS ON THE WALL" (Statler Brothers, 1966, No. 4 pop): This Staunton, Va, group didn't contain Statlers or brothers, but for years, they were dominant in the genre of country group harmony. This song was written by group member Lew DeWitt, and it was originally designated as the flip side of "Cheryl's Going Home." But after WQAM in Miami flipped the record over, a chain reaction of success ensued, and the group later was named Country Music Association's Group of the Year six consecutive times, beginning in 1972.
  • 10. "DECK OF CARDS" (Wink Martindale, 1959, No. 7 pop, No. 11 C&W): The song was written and originally recorded by T. Texas Tyler in 1948, and it went to No. 2 on the national C&W listings. It was brought back by a disc jockey and TV game show host from Jackson, Tenn., whose only other pop charter was "Blackland Farmer" (No. 85, 1961), a cover rendition of Frankie Miller's C&W hit.

[You may subscribe to Bill Herald's oldies music columns -- free of charge -- by clicking on "subscribe" near the top of the column, after which you will receive e-mail notification each time a new item is published].

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