Tag Archives: Marlowe Morris

Play It Again

Back in September we started an occasional series about one-hit wonders whose lone Billboard Hot 100 entry barely scraped onto the big chart. We’re covering only the years 1955 through 1986, and we’re up to Number 95, where I find a total of 33 records that qualify. We’ll get on to a few today, and a few more in the days to come.

“Number One Street (Sides 1 and 2)”/Bob Corley (11/19/55, one week on chart). Corley was a country comic and radio DJ; this is a recorded-live monologue about a family vacation to Florida via U.S. Highway 1 that name-checks such 1950s tourist staples as Silver Springs and Rock City. Andy Griffith, who recorded a number of successful rural monologues himself during the 1950s, also recorded it.

“Old MacDonald”/Chargers (9/1/58, one week). The Chargers were an R&B group that included two brothers who were Los Angeles neighbors of R&B singer Jesse Belvin. Belvin got them a record deal—which included payments for himself, an arrangement not unusual for the era—wrote songs for them, worked with them in the studio, and sang uncredited on their records. He also arranged “Old MacDonald” for the group along with his wife JoAnn. Using a pseudonym, group member Jimmy Norman later co-wrote “Time Is on My Side,” recorded by the Rolling Stones, among others.

“Jimmy Kiss and Run”/Diane Maxwell (3/23/59, one week). In a review, Billboard described “Jimmy Kiss and Run” in an almost-Twitterlike fashion:  “The thrush hands the pretty ballad a warm reading over chorus and light ork [orchestra] support.” It was on the Challenge label, which had an eclectic roster of artists, releasing singles by Gene Autry and Willie Nelson, but also Gene Vincent, Micky Dolenz, and even actress Tippi Hedren.

“Happy Vacation”/Jackie Lee (7/6/59, two weeks). This organ-based instrumental may have been Lee’s only Hot 100 hit in the rock era, but he had previously scored a substantial hit with the jaunty piano number “Isle of Capri” in 1954, so maybe he doesn’t belong here. Either way, he shouldn’t be confused with another Jackie Lee, an Irish singer who scored a couple of major UK hits in the late 60.

“Biology”/Danny Valentino (6/13/60, two weeks). An obscure rockabilly singer who may or may not have been a cousin of Connie Francis, and who recorded but three singles and then vanished. Billboard called “Biology” (which is much more pop than rockabilly) “a strong hunk of wax.” Not that strong, apparently.

“(Dear Mr. DJ) Play it Again”/Tina Robin (9/18/61, one week). An artifact of the nostalgia some listeners in the early 60s had for the bygone era of doo-wop six or seven years before. Written by Carole King, Gerry Goffin, and Howard Greenfield,“Play It Again” isn’t a particularly awful song, but it’s a dreadful production, not so much sung as declaimed by Tina Robin, and punctuated by a reverberating baritone sax that has all the subtle grace of a rampaging elephant. Of historical interest: what we’d call samples of “Earth Angel” and “Goodnight Sweetheart.”

“Play the Thing”/Marlowe Morris Quintet (3/31/62, one week). Morris was a distant relative of jazz pianist Fats Waller. He played piano and organ (supposedly having learned from Waller) and recorded with jazz giants Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, and Ben Webster, among others. His most famous credit might be the 1944 short film Jammin’ the Blues, which is beautifully shot and features some exquisitely tasty playing. “Play the Thing” features some tasty playing behind Marlowe, although his roller-rink organ style probably isn’t for everybody.

“Beach Party”/Dave York and the Beachcombers (8-25-82, one week). Produced by Gary S. Paxton, whose name is often attached to 1960s obscurities, “Beach Party” is a catalog of things one might (and might not) expect to find at a beach party, sung in an stiff baritone reminiscent of Ted Cassidy, if you pumped him full of caffeine and hooked him up to a car battery.

Coming in the next installment: More Number-95 hits from the 1960s, featuring some names you might know, and a couple who have been briefly mentioned here in the past.

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