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Greatest One-Hit Wonders: 1963

1963 was truly a momentous year. In August, the United States, the Soviet Union, and Britain signed a nuclear test ban treaty. Later that month, Martin Luther King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington. Three months later, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.

The United States Post Office introduced the Zone Improvement Plan (ZIP) Code. Coca-Cola released Tab, its first diet beverage. Push-button telephones became a thing. General Hospital began its ridiculously long run on ABC. At the cinema, the top-grossing films were Cleopatra, How the West Was Won, and It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World.

Beatlemania took hold in the United States as the Fab Four topped the charts with “She Loves You” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” The top three Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles were “Surfin U.S.A.” by The Beach Boys, “The End of the World” by Skeeter Davis, and “Rhythm of the Rain” by one-hit wonders The Cascades.

The Cascades were one of about 50 one-hit wonders in 1963. To qualify as a 360°Sound one-hit wonder, an artist must have had just one entry in the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100. We’ve compiled six of the finest one-hitters from 60 years ago. Enjoy!

The Exciters – “Tell Him”

Songwriter: Bert Berns
Genre: Pop
Billboard Hot 100: #4 on January 19

With this snappy number, The Exciters helped usher in the golden age of girl groups in the ‘60s. The group formed in 1961 when they were just 17 years old. As the Masterettes (a sister group to the Masters), they auditioned for the successful writing/production duo Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Inspired by Brenda Reid’s impassioned lead vocal on “Tell Him,” Leiber & Stoller dubbed them The Exciters. Penny Carter was replaced by Reid’s future husband Henry Rooney, a member of the Masters, making them a group with three girls and a guy.

“Tell Him” was written by Bert Berns, who penned loads of hits in his short life, including “Twist and Shout” and “Hang on Sloopy.” “Tell Him” was unique from a lot of pop music at the time in that it employed a Latin-like triplet rhythm. The song would hit the Hot 100 twice more, for Dean Parrish in 1966 (#97) and Kenny Loggins in 1989 (#76).

The Chantays – “Pipeline”

Songwriters: Brian Carman and Bob Spickard
Genre: Surf
Hot 100: #4 on May 4

“Pipeline” by The Chantays rivals Dick Dale’s “Misirlou” and the Surfaris “Wipe Out” as the greatest surf instrumental. Surf music was a form of rock-n-roll marked by reverb-heavy guitar and lyrics and sounds associated with surfing culture. The subgenre’s commercial peak was 1963-‘65.

“Pipeline” was originally titled “Liberty’s Whip.” The Chantays renamed it after watching a Bruce Brown-directed surfing documentary at school, in which they saw the infamous Banzai Pipeline in Hawaii. The moody reverb-drenched instrumental with a rumbling bass line became a nationwide hit within a few weeks after its release. However, the group couldn’t promote and tour behind it much as they were all high school students at the time. The Chantays released only three more singles in ’63 and ’64, none of which charted. The Chantays are still performing to this day with two of the original members.

Kyu Sakamoto – “Sukiyaki”

Songwriters: Rokusuke Ei (lyrics) and Hachidai Nakamura (music)
Genre: Orchestral pop
Hot 100: #1 on June 15

Kyu Sakamoto lays claim to being the first – and only – Japanese artist to have a #1 hit on the Hot 100. “Sukiyaki,” which sold over 13 million copies, was sung entirely in Japanese. Although it’s a pretty melody, the lyrics tell a tale of misery. Translated lyrics: “Sadness hides in the shadow of the stars/Sadness lurks in the shadow of the moon/I look when I walk so the tears won’t fall.”

While on a business trip to Japan, Pye Records president Louis Benjamin heard Sakamoto singing “Ue O Muite Aruko.” He liked what he heard and had British jazzman Kenny Ball (one of our 1962 one-hit wonders) record it, renaming it “Sukiyaki” after his favorite Japanese dish. Tragically, in 1985 at the age of 43, Sakamoto died in a plane crash outside Tokyo that claimed 520 lives.

Doris Troy – “Just One Look”

Songwriters: Doris Troy and Gregory Carroll
Genre: Soul
Hot 100: #10 on July 27

Singer Doris Troy’s gospel-influenced R&B smash “Just One Look” was her first single for Atlantic Records. The preacher’s daughter wrote most of her own material unlike many soul singers of the era. Troy would record many more fine soul singles for Atlantic in the mid- ‘60s but nothing ever cracked the Hot 100.

Troy would go on to lend backup vocals on such iconic albums as The Rolling Stones’ Let it Bleed and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. She also backed up George Harrison on “My Sweet Lord.” In 1970, she released a full-length album on The Beatles’ Apple Records.

The Hollies covered “Just One Look” in 1964. Their version went to #2 in the UK charts. Linda Ronstadt, Bryan Ferry, and Klaus Nomi also covered it.

Little Johnny Taylor – “Part Time Love”

Songwriter: Clay Hammond
Genre: Blues
Hot 100: #19 on October 5

“Part Time Love,” one of the bluesiest, most soulful hits of 1963, came courtesy of Little Johnny Taylor (not to be confused with “The Philosopher of Soul” and Stax legend Johnnie Taylor, who even recorded a version of “Part Time Love” himself).

“I had to beg ‘em to let me record ‘Part Time Love,’” Taylor told Billboard three decades after his hit climbed the charts. “It just fit me just right, but they didn’t hear it. See, I had this girl I went with for five years, and we broke up and she married this old 65-year-old, and I was just this teenager then, 18 when I cut it. I did that song for her from my heart. She came and wanted me to take her back after that, but it was too far gone.”

The Singing Nun – “Dominique”

Songwriter: Soeur Sourire
Genre: Folk
Hot 100: #1 on December 7

Sister Luc-Gabrielle, born Jeannine Deckers but better known as “The Singing Nun” or Soeur Sourire (French for “Smiling Sister”), along with four other nuns, recorded about a dozen original tunes at a studio in Brussels. Record label heads tested the market by releasing their album as The Singing Nun. The single “Dominique,” Deckers’ ode to St. Dominic, the creator of her monastic order, and sung entirely in French, was a surprise smash hit. Deckers even appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show in January 1964.

Deckers’ story was adapted into a cheery, uplifting film The Singing Nun in 1966. She reportedly despised the film, calling it “fiction.” She left the convent that same year and recorded under the moniker Luc Dominique, stunning her fans with a song in support of birth control called “Glory Be to God for the Golden Pill.” Deckers, along with suspected lover Annie Prescher, died in a double suicide in 1985 after a life filled with financial troubles.

What a year it was! Check out more of our favorite one-hitters from the ’60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, and ‘00:

Greatest One Hitters

And here’s a Spotify playlist for your uninterrupted listening pleasure:


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