Roots and Branches

Here’s another installment of one-hit wonders who peaked at Number 92 on the Billboard Hot 100 at some point between 1955 and 1986. There’s a fair amount of blinding whiteness in this post, so sunglasses are recommended, and not just because it’s July.

“California Girl (and the Tennessee Square)”/Tompall & the Glaser Brothers (4/19/69, four weeks). After scoring a handful of modest hit singles in the late 60s, Tompall and the Glaser Brothers would win Vocal Group of the Year honors from the Country Music Association in 1970. “California Girl (and the Tennessee Square)” is sufficient evidence of their chops. In 1971, they would score an enormous country hit with a cover of Cymarron’s “Rings.” (Hear ’em both here.) Tompall Glaser eventually opened his own studio, and found himself at the epicenter of the mid 70s’ outlaw country movement after Waylon Jennings recorded there.

“Let’s Dance”/Ola & the Janglers (6/7/69, three weeks). Before there was ABBA, there was Ola and the Janglers, the first Swedish group ever to score a Hot 100 hit. “Let’s Dance” is their cover of the original by Chris Montez; although they had a few hits in Sweden with original songs, they seem to have spent much of their time recording covers of more famous songs, such as “Runaway,” “96 Tears,” “Poetry in Motion,” “Tracks of My Tears,” “California Sun,” and even “Satisfaction.” They also appeared in a 1967 movie that one website calls “Sweden’s answer to A Hard Day’s Night.” I didn’t know anyone had asked.

“(One of These Days) Sunday’s Gonna Come on Tuesday”/New Establishment (12/6/69, two weeks). Saturday Night Live once did a sketch featuring a singing group called the Young Caucasians. I’m not saying the New Establishment was the inspiration for them—but “(One of These Days) Sunday’s Gonna Come on Tuesday” is remarkably white. Quite remarkably white. Incredibly goddamn white.

“Some Beautiful”/Jack Wild (5/30/70, four weeks). A young actor who got an Oscar nomination for the 1968 movie Oliver! and a role on the Saturday morning series H. R. Pufnstuf after that, Jack Wild seemed like a perfect candidate for the trifecta when Capitol offered him a recording contract. “Some Beautiful” was the lone chart single from the three albums he made in the early 70s. By 1976, his career was in ruins, thanks largely to alcoholism. He’d been smoking and drinking since he was 12, and he believed it led to the oral cancer that killed him in 2006 at age 53.

“Up on the Roof”/Laura Nyro (10/10/70, two weeks). Laura Nyro wrote an astounding number of hit songs recorded by others: “And When I Die” by BS&T, “Stoned Soul Picnic,” “Wedding Bell Blues,” and “Save the Country” by the Fifth Dimension, “Stoney End” by Barbra Streisand, and “Eli’s Coming” by Three Dog Night. Despite her songwriting chops, “Up on the Roof,” which is a cover of the Drifters’ original, is her lone chart hit.

After the jump: birds, bluegrass, and tuba music.

“Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep”/Lally Stott (4/10/71, two weeks). Stott wrote and recorded the song first. Then he offered it to a Scottish group called Middle of the Road, who recorded their version while working in Italy, so for a while, people thought they were Italian. Their version ended up topping the UK charts for five weeks in the summer of 1971. At about same time, a version by brother and sister Mac and Katie Kissoon became a modest hit in the States. That’s a lot of chart action for such an odd little song.

“Be My Baby”/Cissy Houston (4/24/71, two weeks). Founder of the Sweet Inspirations and mother of Whitney Houston, Cissy Houston’s other accomplishments include recording “Midnight Train to Georgia” before Gladys Knight. She performs “Be My Baby” with an air of calm assurance much different from the romantic desperation of the other charting versions by the Ronettes and Andy Kim.

“It’s About Time”/The Dillards (7/31/71, two weeks). Doug and Rodney Dillard and their bandmates did for bluegrass what Bob Dylan did for folk music—they electrified it, with controversial results. Doug and Rodney recorded music for the film Bonnie and Clyde, and Doug would collaborate extensively with ex-Byrd Gene Clark after the Dillards toured with the Byrds in the late 60s. By the time the Dillards reached their commercial peak, however, Doug was entirely out of the band. Following “It’s About Time,” they opened for Elton John on his first major American tour, and released their only charting album, Roots and Branches.

“Dueling Tubas”/Martin Mull (5/12/73, three weeks). Despite being known mainly as a comic actor, Mull is actually a gifted musician, albeit one with a bent sense of humor. “Dueling Tubas” appeared on an album called Martin Mull and His Fabulous Furniture in Your Living Room. Future Cars keyboard player Greg Hawkes was in Mull’s band. Here’s the best version of it I can find at YouTube. It looks like public access, but you’ll get the idea.

Because American record buyers made the Weisberg/Mandel Deliverance theme “Dueling Banjos” into one of the major hits of the age, “Dueling Tubas” was clearly karma’s payback.

“Could You Ever Love Me Again”/Gary & Dave (12/22/73, four weeks). Gary Weeks and Dave Beckett were Canadian, and their act once included imitations of other Canadian acts, including a Vienna choirboy version of the Bells’ “Stay Awhile” and a version of “One Fine Morning” by Lighthouse done entirely on kazoo. The success of “Could You Ever Love Me Again” got them a TV show, but after a handful of minor hits, the duo gave it up to become pilots, although they did return to music for a while in the late 70s.

Coming in the next installment: An R&B act that made Neil Sedaka react, a multidimensional Native American stereotype, and a couple of teen idols that never were.

3 thoughts on “Roots and Branches

  1. porky

    I’ll never forgive the Glaser brother (not sure which one) who wrote Gary Puckett’s “Woman, Woman,” a song they can stop playing on the radio now, thank-you.

    Photos of Jack Wild near the end were not pretty.

    I liked Martin Mull’s “Licks Off of Records” when I was younger but as I got older could not tolerate his smugness.

  2. Miles

    If you are correct and “Roots and Branches” is the Dillards only charting album, what an incredible slap in the face to the music world. The Dillards album, “Wheatstraw Suite”, is one of the most amazing albums of any genre. Simply filled with outstanding music.

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