From 1955 to 2005, thirteen acts have reached #1 on the Hot 100 in the US with their first single and never reached the Hot 100 again. There were a few surprises on the list!
1955 Joan Weber – Let Me Go Lover. Joan Weber’s single peaked at #1 in December 1954, but it stayed on the charts into 1955. Teresa Brewer recorded a version that reached #6 and Sonny Gale released a single that peaked at #17, but both of them had other hits.
1956 Morris Stoloff Moonglow and Theme From “Picnic”. Morris became the music director for Columbia Pictures in 1936 and often released singles (and later albums) based on the soundtracks from the films he worked on. This mashup was the only time one of his singles charted.
1958 Laurie London – He’s Got The Whole World (In His Hands). Laurie grew up in London and began recording music professionally as a young boy in the fifties. The song was an African-American spiritual that was first published in 1927. Laurie’s number one single predates Stranger On The Shore and Telstar (the singles most sources claim were the first British number ones) by nearly four years.
1958 The Silhouettes – Get A Job. Sha-Na-Na took their name from the doo-wop lyrics of this hit.
1958 The Elegants – Little Star. Members of the Elegants sang under the boardwalk near their homes on Staten Island. They wrote their single while still teenagers, basing it on a nursery rhyme.
1960 Hollywood Argyles – Alley-Oop. The group didn’t really exist! It was just a recording made by Gary Paxton (half of Skip & Flip) with studio musicians. His recording contract with his other label caused him to make up a new name for the band on the single. Drummer Sandy Nelson literally played the garbage can and did some screaming on the recording.
1963 The Singing Nun – Dominique. Jeanne-Paule Marie Deckers recorded a Belgian French song on an album she recorded while still a nun. Because of a poor contract, she received almost none of the money generated by the hit record and descended into poverty. She left her order and in 1985, she died as part of a suicide pact with her lifelong partner, Annie Pécher.
1969 Zager & Evans – In The Year 2525 (Exordium & Terminus). Rick Evans wrote the song in 1964, but the duo did not record it until 1968. The single is the only record by a band that topped the charts in both the US and England and never reached either chart again.
1979 M – Pop Muzik. British musician Robin Scott used studio musicians to record his hit single and named the band M. In addition to topping the Hot 100, the record reached #2 in the UK. A remix of the single (Pop ’89) reached #15 in the UK in 1989.
1985 USA For Africa – We Are The World. Harry Belafonte began the project that became USA For Africa by recruiting Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie to write the song and Quincy Jones to produce the session. Muzak piped “elevator music” into many businesses, including several I worked for. At 10:50 am on Good Friday in 1985, Muzak interrupted their normal program and played the full seven minute single.
1988 Bobby McFerrin – Don’t Worry, Be Happy. Bobby McFerrin wrote his song and created background music by singing rather than using instruments. The single was the first acappella song to top the Hot 100. It also reached #2 in the UK.
1992 The Heights – How Do You Talk To An Angel. Jamie Walters was an actor on The Heights, a television show on Fox. He sang lead on the theme song for the show, which also featured four other actors from the show singing backup vocals (Cheryl Pollak, Charlotte Ross, Shawn David Thompson, and Zachary Throne). One week after the song reached the top of the Hot 100, Fox cancelled the show. Jamie later had a solo single (Hold On) reach #16 on the Hot 100.
2001 Crazy Town – Butterfly. Metal-Rap group Crazy Town sampled the Red Hot Chili Peppers instrumental Pretty Little Ditty and rapped all over it. No surprise that VH1 ranked the single as the 34th “Most Awesomely Bad Song Ever”.
There may be other qualifying records since 2005, but I haven’t got the reference books for the last 15 years yet.
Primary source: Joel Whitburn Presents The Billboard Hot 100 Annual published by Record Research Inc. in 2006.
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