(Pictured: the Guess Who, 1974.)
It’s time we did another installment of One Week in the 40, the series examining songs that spent a single week in the Top 40 of Billboard‘s Hot 100, thereby gaining a sort of immortality they would be denied had they peaked at #41.
The insanely great “Tell Her She’s Lovely” by El Chicano was a monster in some parts of the country, especially in California, as well as in Tucson, where it hit #1, and I heard it a lot on WLS in Chicago, where it reached #21. It went from #46 to #40 for the week of December 22, 1973, before falling back to #45 the next week.
Sometimes records hit at different times in different places, and national chart numbers were lower as a result. The Guess Who’s “Star Baby” took 10 weeks to creep to #39 and another nine weeks to fall out of the Hot 100, going from #39 (on April 27, 1974) to #47, #52, #57, #57, #52, #46, #55, #55, #57, and out, absent from the chart dated June 29, 1974. Despite that relatively lackluster national position, “Star Baby” was a huge hit on both WLS and WCFL in Chicago. Although it didn’t chart on WLS until the week of May 11, it stayed on the WLS survey until the end of July.) “Star Baby” was also huge in Philadelphia and Miami, where WQAM didn’t drop it until the end of September. (There is an argument, which I would be happy to get into, that “Star Baby” is the best damn thing the Guess Who ever did.)
Certain songs that got a lot of play on album-oriented stations had enough momentum to squeeze into the Top 40. Manfred Mann’s Earth Band did an excellent version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Spirit in the Night” as a followup to “Blinded by the Light,” and made the Top 40 for the week of June 4, 1977. “Don’t Ever Wanna Lose Ya” by New England, is a song we’ve discussed here before. It made #40 for the week of June 16, 1979. (Vintage video here.) And Meat Loaf’s “You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth” made #39 for the week of January 20, 1979.
Success on the country charts frequently led to pop-chart placing as well. C. W. McCall was a character created for a series of bread commercials by advertising man Bill Fries, with music written by Chip Davis, later to become the maestro of Mannheim Steamroller. Twelve McCall singles hit the country charts between 1974 and 1977; four hit the Hot 100. “Convoy” was the most famous, but the genuinely funny “Wolf Creek Pass,” about a couple of truckers running chickens down a steep mountain highway, charted first, hitting #40 for the week of March 29, 1975. On the subject of chickens, there’s the Henhouse Five Plus Too doing a version of Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood,” which hit #40 for the week of February 5, 1977, with Ray Stevens doing the clucking.
The only explanation for the relative success of “In the Mood” is that it was the 1970s and we couldn’t help ourselves.
“Wolf Creek Pass” made #13 on Billboard’s country chart and “In the Mood” hit #39. Red Sovine’s “Teddy Bear” was a much bigger success. It was #1 for three weeks beginning July 17, 1976—big enough to push it to #40 on the Hot 100 for the week of August 28, 1976. It’s a tearjerker about a disabled boy who talks to truckers on CB radio and gets a big surprise. CB was probably the biggest fad of 1976, so that connection couldn’t have hurt, but America’s thirst for sentimental junk can’t be ruled out, either.
While we can explain “Teddy Bear” and “In the Mood,” some things we can’t explain. Like the way 10cc’s “People in Love,” the band’s followup to “The Things We Do for Love,” failed to become a smash. It didn’t seem to get much traction anywhere, and all it could manage was #40 for the week of June 25, 1977—although it did go all the way to #6 at KJOY in Stockton, California.
There will be more of this kind of thing to come, so stay tuned.
4 thoughts on “Star Babies”
In The Mood must have been bigger in Knoxville – one of the Top 40 AMs that I listened to played it a lot (Either WRJZ 620 or WNOX 990).
“Road Food” is a great album. I have a couple of tracks in my “Forgotten Oldies” radio rotation.
SO agree on “Star Baby”! But then I was a CFL/LS junkie back then…
The American Top 40 repeat in my broadcasting area today was from 1976 and “Teddy Bear” was the only new entry on the chart, something that Casey boasted at the outset as something he couldn’t recall happening in a long time. The staff was ready for it though, as Casey related the incredible story of how Red’s wife encouraged him to record the song, then died the day after he did so, never hearing her husband’s take on the song. (And yes, I looked it up, and as of this writing, no one has included that fact on the Wikipedia entries for Red Sovine or “Teddy Bear.”)
What got me excited shortly thereafter was Casey answered a question about artists whose only song to make the Hot 100 peaked at #40. “What irony!” I thought excitedly until I checked Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles and learned that Sovine had previously made the chart briefly with “Giddyup Go” in 1966, peaking at #82. Oh well. The excitement of that possibility was a lot more entertaining than having to endure the record itself, which I’m pretty sure was barely played on any surveyed pop stations.
We’ d get requests for “Teddy Bear” at KUKI in Ukiah, which was fighting for its life against big signals just down the freeway in San Francisco. I made sure we didn’t have a copy so we could say so with a straight face.
A couple of weeks later, it showed up on the current real for Drake-Chenault’s “Great American Country”, which we ran on our sister FM, so at that point, we just switched to cross-promotion when someone would call.