In February 1962, John Glenn became the first American astronaut to orbit the Earth, signaling that the United States was in the space race with Cold War rival the Soviet Union. More Cold War drama went down later in the year with the 13-day Cuban Missile Crisis.
In August, sex symbol Marilyn Monroe was found dead at age 36. Also in 1962, the first Walmart opened in Rogers, Arkansas, and the first Taco Bell opened in San Bernardino, California. It was an eventful year, and the music world was no exception. The Beatles auditioned for Decca on January 1, 1962, and were rejected. However, in September 1962, the Fab Four recorded their first single “Love Me Do,” which hit record stores in the UK in October. It would be another year and a half before Beatlemania took hold in the states.
Bob Dylan released his self-titled debut album in March. He also wrote and recorded “Blowin’ in the Wind” in ’62, which would become a civil rights anthem in the coming years. Chubby Checker’s “The Twist” went to #1 for the second time in late ’62, the only single in the rock ‘n roll era to top the charts in two different years. [Author Tom Breihan details that song’s rise in his engrossing new book The Number Ones.]
It’s striking the sheer variety of music that charted on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1962 – R&B, teen idol pop, surf, dance craze tunes, jazz, movie themes, novelty songs, and more. Instrumentals were huge on the pop charts in ‘62. In fact, the #1 Billboard Year-End Hot 100 single of the year was the million-seller easy listening tune, “Stranger on the Shore,” by clarinetist (and one-hit wonder) Mr. Acker Bilk. The Tornados’ space-age pop instrumental “Telstar” also topped the chart, the English group’s sole hit.
And remember, to qualify as a 360°Sound one-hit wonder, an artist must have had only one entry in the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100.
Jimmy Elledge – “Funny How Time Slips Away”
Songwriter: Willie Nelson
Billboard Hot 100: #22 on January 20
Released in 1961 on RCA Victor, Jimmy Elledge’s “Funny How Time Slips Away” was a smash hit, selling over a million copies. Written by a young Willie Nelson and now a country standard, it was first recorded by Billy Walker. That version peaked at #23 on the country charts in 1961 but didn’t cross over. Nelson recorded his own version for his 1962 debut album …And Then I Wrote, and it remains a staple in his live set.
Bruce Channel – “Hey! Baby”
Songwriters: Margaret Cobb and Bruce Channel
Hot 100: #1 on March 10
Texas singer-songwriter Bruce Channel belongs to the exclusive club of one-hit wonders whose hit went to #1. “Hey! Baby” sold over a million records. The wailing harmonica is courtesy of a young Delbert McClinton, who himself made our 1981 one-hit wonders list. The story goes that none other than John Lennon was inspired by McClinton’s harmonica solo on “Hey! Baby,” and it influenced his playing on The Beatles’ first single “Love Me Do” later that year.
This song takes me back to high school football games, when it was a go-to number for the Blue-Grey Pride marching band at Ocean Springs High. Great crowd-pleasing chorus. Go Greyhounds!
Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen – “Midnight in Moscow”
Songwriter: Vasily Solovyov-Sedoi
Hot 100: #2 on March 17
One of a handful of non-rock-and-roll instrumentals to storm up the charts in 1962, “Midnight in Moscow” is a jazz reworking of the Russian song “Padmeskoveeye Vietchera.” “Midnight in Moscow”, which has plenty of horns and even a banjo, is done in the Dixieland style, a traditional jazz form that originated in New Orleans. Bandleader Kenny Ball was given honorary citizenship to The Big Easy in 1963, making him the first jazz musician from the UK to receive the honor.
Arthur Alexander – “You Better Move On”
Songwriter: Arthur Alexander
Hot 100: #24 on April 21
Country-influenced soul singer Arthur Alexander recorded his hit “You Better Move On” at Muscle Shoals on the Dort Records label. The melody sounds a bit like “Save the Last Dance for Me,” a #1 hit for The Drifters in 1960.
Teen idol Bobby Vee recorded a version of “You Better Move On” in 1962 but it didn’t chart. The Rolling Stones covered it for their 1964 album December’s Children (And Everybody’s). Interestingly, Alexander recorded a version of the aforementioned “Funny How Time Slips Away,” which was included on the You Better Move On album. Alexander was a considerable influence on The Beatles. They recorded his “Anna (Go To Him)” for their 1963 debut album Please Please Me.
Don Gardner & Dee Dee Ford – “I Need Your Lovin’”
Songwriters: Bobby Robinson and Don Gardner
Hot 100: #20 on July 28
If you like the sweaty, rollicking R&B of Ike & Tina Turner, odds are you’ll dig this shouter from male-female duo Don Gardner & Dee Dee Ford. In 1962, hit R&B music was starting to move away from doo-wop and blues and more toward this grittier variety. I love the gospel-inspired call-and-response on “I Need Your Lovin.’” Crank this one up and let Gardner’s “Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!” hit you right in the chest.
The Contours – “Do You Love Me”
Songwriter: Berry Gordy Jr.
Hot 100: #3 on October 20
Written by Motown founder Berry Gordy and originally intended for The Temptations, “Do You Love Me” was one of the first of many smashes to come out of the Detroit hit factory. The Contours were high-energy and rough around the edges, not quite in line with the smoother, poppier numbers Motown would become known for. Amazingly, “Do You Love Me” returned to the Top Ten of the Hot 100 over 25 years later, after being featured in the film Dirty Dancing.
The Routers – “Let’s Go (Pony)”
Songwriters: Lanny Duncan and Robert Duncan
Hot 100: #19 on December 22
Instrumental group The Routers were formed in 1961. However, their sole hit, “Let’s Go (Pony)” wasn’t even them playing. Studio musicians, likely Hal Blaine and others from the Wrecking Crew, were used to record the track. “The Pony” was a dance craze at the time. The hit’s “clap clap clapclapclap clapclapclapclap let’s go!” remains a universal chant at sporting events.
This list of the year’s seven greatest one-hitters illustrates the diversity of the sounds of 1962. Virtually all the popular genres of the day had their one-hit wonders.
Stick & stay with 360°Sound as we continue to spotlight artists who hit and ran throughout the decades.