1960 Little Willie John – Sleep

1960 Little Willie John – Sleep 

William Edward John was born in Arkansas in 1937, one of ten kids in his family. His father followed a job and moved the family to Detroit four years later. The siblings formed their own gospel group several years later, and Willie began singing in talent shows as well. King Records signed him to a recording contract in 1955, and he began appearing as Little Willie John.

Willie’s records sold well right from the start, giving him two records that reached #5 on the R&B chart and one that reached #6. His fifth singleFever, reached the top of the R&B chart in 1956. It sold over a million copies and became his first record on the Hot 100 when it peaked at #24. In 1958, Peggy Lee covered the song with a few new lyrics and a slightly different arrangement. Her version reached the top ten on the Hot 100, resulting in her biggest hit record since 1952.

A few more R&B hits followed for Willie, and his next record to reach the Hot 100 was Talk To Me, Talk To Me in 1958. The single reached #5 on the R&B chart and #20 on the Hot 100 and again sold over a million copies.

While Willie continued to chart on the R&B chart for a few more years, his last big hit on the pop side came in 1960. Sleep had been an important hit for Fred Waring’s Pennsylvanians in 1923, and Willie’s cover version touched the top ten on the R&B chart and reached #13 on the Hot 100.

Willie co-wrote and recorded the single Leave My Kitten Alone in 1959. Johnny Preston (who had hits with Running Bear and Cradle Of Love) released a single cover of the song that reached #73 on the Hot 100 in 1961. While working on The Beatles For Sale album, the Beatles recorded the song in 1964 based on Johnny’s version of the song. The Beatle recording did not get released until 1995, when a final remix got included on the Beatles Anthology 1 album.

Willie struggled with alcohol abuse and had problems with his temper, and the combination doomed his later career. They convicted him of manslaughter and imprisoned him in 1965. He died at the prison from questionable health problems in 1968.

They inducted Willie into the Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.


1958 Lou Monte – Lazy Mary

1958 Lou Monte – Lazy Mary 

Louis Scaglione was born in New York City in 1917, the son of Italian immigrants. After his mother died, his family moved to New Jersey. He began performing as Lou Monte, playing guitar and singing in clubs. He got his own radio show in Newark in 1948. He began recording singles and reached the top ten in 1954 with the song Darktown Strutters Ball (Italian Style). His recordings routinely included lyrics in both English and Italian.

Several less successful records followed, and his next top forty single came in 1958. The song Luna mezz’o mare was a humorous Italian song that dated back to 1927. The song contains some innuendo and double entendres as a daughter who is about to be married discusses some of her suitors with her mother. Rudy Vallée reached the top ten in 1938 with a version entitled Oh! Ma-Ma! (The Butcher Boy). Lou covered the song as Lazy Mary, which was initially banned in the UK due to sexual content. His single reached #12 on the Hot 100 in 1958.

A survey of Mets fans in the nineties picked out a song to play at home games during the seventh inning stretch after Take Me Out To The Ballgame. The winner? Lou Monte’s version of Lazy Mary. There’s no explanation for how that many fans manage to sing the Italian lyrics.

A few years later, Lou had his biggest hit singlePepino The Italian Mouse reached #5 on the Hot 100 in early 1963. The record sold over a million copies and spawned a series of less successful sequels: Pepino’s Friend Pasqual (The Italian Pussy-Cat), Paulucci, the Italian Parrot, and Paul Revere’s Horse (Ba-Cha-Ca-Loop).

No doubt Lou’s single that gets the most airplay in modern times is Dominick the Donkey, a Christmas song from 1960 that shows up for a few months every year.


1957 Jimmy Bowen With The Rhythm Orchids – I’m Stickin’ With You

1957 Jimmy Bowen With The Rhythm Orchids – I’m Stickin’ With You 

Texas natives Buddy Knox and Jimmy Bowen formed the group the Rhythm Orchids with a few friends while they were still in high school. Their group performed on the same radio show as Roy Orbison and his Teen Kings band. Roy suggested the band go to New Mexico and work with producer Norman Petty at making recordings at the same studio where Buddy Holly recorded his early work.

Buddy and Jimmy wrote most of their material, which focused on Rockabilly music. Buddy wrote the song Party Doll in 1948 and played guitar while Jimmy played bass. They took turns singing lead. They recorded a handful of numbers in 1955, and the small local label Triple-D released a single in 1956 that had a new recording of Party Doll by Buddy Knox and the Rhythm Orchids on one side and I’m Stickin’ With You by Jimmy Bowen With The Rhythm Orchids on the other side.

The much larger label Roulette Records licensed the single and separated the two sides from each other, expecting to get two hits from the two songs. Each song was reissued in 1957 on a single that included three other songs. Each single had songs credited only to the main star and their group.

Party Doll by Buddy Knox and the Rhythm Orchids reached #1 on the Hot 100 in early 1957 and peaked at #3 on the R&B chart. He followed that single with four more top forty singles by 1960. 

The second single Roulette put out was I’m Stickin’ With Your by Jimmy Bowen With the Rhythm Orchids. Jimmy’s single stalled at #14 on the Hot 100 but reached #9 on the R&B chart. That was his only top forty hit. Disappointed with the results of his other singles, Jimmy turned to the production side of the industry. Frank Sinatra hired Jimmy as a producer for his new Reprise Record label, where Jimmy produced a long string of singles for Dean Martin. He also produced Frank’s biggest solo hit from the sixties, Strangers In The Night. In the seventies, Jimmy moved to Nashville and produced hit records for many Country artists.


1968 Andy Kim – Baby How’d We Ever Get This Way

1968 Andy Kim – Baby How’d We Ever Get This Way 

Andrew Youakim grew up in Montreal and began using the stage name Andy Kim to hide his Lebanese heritage. He began working in the infamous Brill Building as a songwriter in the early sixties. He released a few singles beginning in 1963, but nothing charted for four or five years. He co-wrote Baby How’d We Ever Get This Way with Jeff Barry and that single peaked at #21 on the Hot 100 in 1968.

Andy’s more important achievement in 1968 came when he and Jeff co-wrote another song, Sugar Sugar. Don Kirshner tried to get the Mickey Dolenz and the Monkees to record the song, but sadly, the group split from Don before recording the song. Instead, Don used a studio musician group to record the song with Ron Dante singing lead and Andy and Toni Wine singing backup vocals. The song was placed on the first Archies album, Everything’s Archie. That version of the song got released as the cartoon group’s first single and topped the charts almost everywhere. It became the number one record for the entire year. Mickey did finally record the song on a solo album in 2012, but almost nobody noticed.

Andy struggled to get additional hit singles, but finally reached the top ten on the Hot 100 in 1969 with his remake of the Ronettes’ Baby, I Love You, which sold a million copies and topped the charts in Canada.

His biggest hit was Rock Me Gently, which topped the Hot 100 in 1974. In 2007, Jeep sped up Andy’s recording of the single and used it in a funny commercial that had a bunch of critters singing along with the song.


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1956 Perry Como – Juke Box Baby

1956 Perry Como – Juke Box Baby 

Many of the crooners from the forties were unable to keep their careers alive through the fifites, but one of the most successful was Perry Como. While everybody else seemed to focus on radio, Perry was savvy enough to see the future of entertainment early on. He was the host of the Chesterfield Supper Club on NBC radio beginning in 1948. The fifteen minute weekly show was also simulcast on television and expanded to three fifteen minute shows each week on CBS.

In 1955, Perry signed a contract to move from CBS back to NBC with a weekly one hour variety show that continued through 1967.

Perry’s first hit single in 1956 was Hot Diggity (Dog Ziggity Boom), which easily topped the Hot 100 that year. Meanwhile, the b-side of the single got a lot of promotion from Perry’s performances on his shows, and Juke Box Baby broke into the top ten on its own merits. The song even mentioned the lyric, “Ko-Ko-Mo,” which had been a hit for Perry in 1955.

Perry continued to record hits for several decades, and his last top forty hit came in 1973.


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1955 Marion Marlowe – The Man In The Raincoat

1955 Marion Marlowe – The Man In The Raincoat 

Marion Marlowe had her own fifteen minute radio show in the late thirties and early forties when she was only nine to thirteen years old. She then began taking singing lessons at London’s Royal Conservatory.

Marion roomed with Marilyn Monroe at the Hollywood’s Studio Club while studying singing in Hollywood.

She was hired as a singer on Arthur Godfrey and His Friends for five years beginning in 1950 and even sang on one of the Little Godfreys Christmas albums.

Arthur was known for mistreatment of many of the Little Godfreys, and in 1955 he fired Marion and several other cast members.

Marion was lucky enough to bounce back with a six appearances on Ed Sullivan’s Toast of the Town. That Summer she had her most successful single when her release of The Man In The Raincoat peaked at #14 on the Hot 100.

Marion continued recording albums through the fifties, but never charted again. She appeared in the off-Broadway play The Athenian Touch in 1964 and sang on at least five of the song on the cast album.


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1984 KC – Give It Up

1984 KC – Give It Up 

Harry Wayne Casey worked as a record store employee and part-timer at TK Records in Hialeah when he hired a few folks and created the Sunshine Band in 1973. He also began fronting the band as KC.

A string of top disco tunes followed until things slowed down in 1978. KC had a pair of successful non-disco records in 1979, after which his career seemingly ended.

Give It Up, a single from a 1982 album, brought KC back onto the top of the chart in the UK, but did little in the US. He pleaded with his record company to release the single in the US to follow up the success in the UK, but his record company flatly refused to have anything further to do with the record.

What was a struggling ex-star to do? What could he do? He did the most obvious thing he could: he quit his record company, started his own record company, and released the single himself as KC rather than as KC and the Sunshine Band.

Somehow, success smiled on KC. The single reached #18 on the Hot 100 in 1984, making it possible for KC to reform a new Sunshine Band and briefly tour the US. It was his last top forty single and the band fell apart in 1985, but resurgence interest in disco allowed KC and the Sunshine Band to tour again in the nineties and record a new album in 2001.

A new series of successful dance singles came out between 2015 and 2019.


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1983 The Police Synchronicity II

1983 The Police Synchronicity II 

The final studio album from the Police was easily their most successful. The group had already released top ten hits from the album with Every Breath You Take and Wrapped Around Your Finger, and the third single from the album became Synchronicity II

The lyrics are a challenge. The song is seemingly named for Carl Jung’s theory of synchronicity. The main character in the song is struggling with a home life that is so difficult that it appears to awaken the Loch Ness Monster. 

The group’s album contained a song entitled Synchronicity I, but that song was only released as a single in Japan. The single Synchronicity II peaked at only #16 on the Hot 100 in 1983. 

The group’s last single from the album was King Of Pain, which reached #3 on the Hot 100 and became the group’s final hit single in the US. The group intended to record another album in 1986, but drummer Stewart Copeland fell off a horse and broke his collarbone and the album was scraped. Sting began work on his first solo album and, except for some concert appearances, the Police essentially disbanded.


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1981 Frankie Smith – Double Dutch Bus

1981 Frankie Smith – Double Dutch Bus 

While it may be difficult to identify the actual beginning of Disco, it’s a lot easier to identify the beginning of the end: July 12, 1979. 

A Chicago White Sox double header on that date featured a half-time show that included exploding disco records out in centerfield. That apparently wasn’t enough for many of the fans, who ran out on the field and caused a great deal of damage during a small riot. The Sox even had to forfeit the second game.

The top six records on the Hot 100 were still all disco records two weeks later, but that changed quickly. A lot of abuse got heaped on disco after that night, and by September 22, there were no pure disco records left in the top ten.

For me, the last successful disco record was The Double Dutch Bus by Frankie Smith. The single came out in 1981 and quickly topped the R&B chart. It did not, however, do that well on the disco chart where it peaked at only #51. It did briefly reach the Hot 100, but only got up to #30.

Somehow the record sounded a lot like the end of Disco. The Disco chart was eventually split up and renamed The Hot Dance chart.


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