September 25th is One-Hit Wonder Day. I usually forget to observe it, because every day is some kind of day and the good ones get lost in the shuffle. But here, a day late, is a list of one-hit wonders from 1976. It’s not the complete list for the year, but each one is the only chart entry for that artist.
“Junk Food Junkie”/Larry Groce. If I were still teaching social studies, I’d use “Junk Food Junkie” as a snapshot from the Me Decade because it rings so true. Idealism has its limits today, and it did back in the 70s, too. Groce has continued to record since the 70s and has been a host on West Virginia Public Radio since 1983. (Chart peak: #13, March 20)
“Baby Face”/Wing and a Prayer Fife and Drum Corps. The Corps was a studio group assembled by Harold Wheeler, who had been Burt Bacharach’s musical director in the 60s and would go on to a long career working in movies and TV, including many years as musical director of Dancing With the Stars. “Baby Face” is a disco version of a song made famous by Al Jolson in the 20s, if you think that’s something you need. (Chart peak: #14, March 6)
“Wham Bam (Shang-a-Lang)”/Silver. The distilled essence of 70s radio music and one of the glorious frozen moments from the fall of ’76. (Chart peak: #16, October 2)
“I’m Easy”/Keith Carradine. Oscar-winning song from Nashville. (Chart peak: #17, August 7)
“Street Singin'”/Lady Flash. A female trio who backed Barry Manilow during the last half of the 70s. Their lone hit is not as interesting as the story of one member. Lorraine “Reparata” Mazzola had joined Reparata and the Delrons (a group better known for their name than their music) in 1969. Although she wasn’t the original Reparata, she was happy to let people think she was. The original Reparata, Mary O’Leary, sued Mazzola and won her case when Mazzola didn’t show up for court. But Mazzola then legally changed her first name from Lorraine to Reparata, and continued to let people believe she had been lead singer of the Delrons. According to Wikipedia, that is, so who the hell knows. (Chart peak: #27, September 18)
“Roots, Rock, Reggae”/Bob Marley and the Wailers. Their only American chart single, from their most successful American album, Rastaman Vibration. (Not counting the back-catalog compilation Legend, which is one of the great success stories in pop music history. (Chart peak: #51, July 17.)
“BLT”/Lee Oskar. Oskar’s harmonica gave War its distinctive sound until he left the band in 1992. He’s been selling his own line of harmonicas ever since. (Chart peak: #59, July 24)
“You to Me Are Everything”/The Real Thing and “Mighty High”/Mighty Clouds of Joy. The question we often ask about one-hit wonders is how they could be so good yet manage to hit only once. In the case of the Real Thing, “You to Me Are Everything” was hamstrung by two competing versions in the marketplace at the same time. As for the Mighty Clouds of Joy, who knows? They were a gospel group who made the transition to pop in the 70s, and “Mighty High” is a rager. (Chart peak for the Real Thing: #64, August 28; for Mighty Clouds of Joy: #69, March 27.
“Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman”/Deadly Nightshade. Soap-opera parody Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, premiered in January 1976 and was one of the TV sensations of the year, syndicated around the country and running at all different times. It was supposed to be a comedy and sometimes it was, but it could be strange and disturbing, too. Members of the Deadly Nightshade had been playing together in rock bands since the 60s, but because they were all women, major labels didn’t take their groups seriously. Their disco version of the Hartman theme comes from an album called Funky and Western. (Chart peak: #79, July 31)
“The Game Is Over”/Brown Sugar. This Philly soul trio’s lone hit was written and produced by Vince Montana, who had been a member of MFSB and founded the Salsoul Orchestra—and it’s really good. (Chart peak: #79, March 13)
You can read about many more one-hit wonders if you revisit my Down in the Bottom series from a few years ago, in which I wrote about all of them to peak on the Hot 100 between #90 and #100 from 1955 through 1986.
5 thoughts on “One Hit ’76”
Has anything in pop culture (before the last decade) ever burned brightly and then crashed as quickly as “Mary Hartman”? Debuted in Jan. of 76, and was off the air by summer 1977 (the Lasser-less Fernwood Forever didn’t last much longer).
Oh yeah, it’s the perfect spot for this slice of 70s cheese https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QqHUPAaFIBk
But Fernwood 2-Night, the summer replacement for Mary Hartman in 1977, was a stone cold classic. The second best series ever developed by Norman Lear, a launching pad for the careers of Martin Mull and Fred Willard, and a 15-years-earlier precursor of The Larry Sanders Show.
In answer to your question, four words: Mark “The Bird” Fidrych.
I was always amazed that Wing and a Prayer….released that song on a label named after the group!
One of the members of Brown Sugar, Phyllis Nelson, went on to have her own solo “one hit” in the mid-80’s with “I Like You”, which went to #61 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the dance chart. One of my favorites from that era. I still have the 12″ single of it. She also had a #1 hit in the UK with the ballad “Move Closer”, which is a pretty good song that suffers from some weird, cheesy production…I can see why it went nowhere here.
Her son, Marc Nelson, fared even better. After the bonehead move of quitting Boyz II Men before they got famous, he became part of the 90’s R&B quintet Az Yet, which had two top 10 pop hits around ’96-’97 (“Last Night”, and a horrible remake of “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” that featured Peter Cetera). He then went on to score a Top 40 pop hit as a solo artist with “15 Minutes”. He also had a duet with Beyonce on the “Best Man” soundtrack, before she became BEYONCE and (presumably) stopped returning his calls.