Many well-known musical artists of the 1950s and 1960s were either born and raised in Philadelphia or began their careers there. The impressive list includes Frankie Avalon, Bobby Rydell, Chubby Checker, Dee Dee Sharp, Fabian, Danny & The Juniors and Eddie Fisher.
Beginning in 1956, the popular music TV show American Bandstand was hosted and produced by Dick Clark, and Philadelphia record labels included, Chancellor, Jamie-Guyden, Cameo-Parkway and Swan.
In addition to the more-famous Philadelphia recording artists, there were also a number musical acts from the City of Brotherly Love who are often considered in the one-hit-wonder category, and this article takes a look at a dozen such artists. To hear any of the selected recording, simply click on the title.
- 1. “GET A JOB” (Silhouettes, No. 1 pop for two weeks, No. 1 R&B for six weeks, 1958): William Horton fronted this doo-wop quartet that also included Richard Lewis (tenor), Earl Beal (baritone) and Ray Edwards (bass). They are one of a small number of recording artists with the dubious distinction of having a chart-topping single but nothing else on the Billboard Hot 100. The record was first released on the Junior label in 1957, but it became a hit on the Ember label early the following year.
- 2. “MOONGLOW AND THEME FROM PICNIC” (Morris Stoloff, No. 1 for three weeks, 1956): The recording blended a song (“Moonglow”) that had four Top 10 renditions in 1934 and the theme song from the film Picnic that starred Kim Novak and William Holden. The performer was a composer-conductor who won three Academy Awards after becoming musical director for Columbia Pictures in 1936.
- 3. “GUITAR BOOGIE SHUFFLE” (The Virtues, No. 5, 1959): This was a rock instrumental trio headed by guitarist Frank Virtuoso (performing name Frank Virtue), and this was their first release on the Sure label. It was a cover of the 1945 instrumental “Guitar Boogie” by Arthur Smith, who was the first to host a syndicated country music TV show. Virtue, who had served in the Navy with Smith, considered him as a significant influence, and a follow-up (“Guitar Boogie Shuffle Twist”) charted at No. 96 on Billboard.
- 4. “DINNER WITH DRAC” (John Zacherle, No. 6, 1958): Until this recording, the artist was known as “The Cool Ghoul” for hosting and presenting horror movies on Shock Theater on Philadelphia TV station WCAU. His massive on-air appeal was noted by Cameo Records president Bernie Lowe, who took a chance by inviting Zacherle to the studio to recite some “shocking” lyrics with orchestral backing by The Applejacks, who had a No. 16 hit of their own with “Mexican Hat Dance” in 1958. The flip side (Part 2) was a less-gory version.
- 5. “WHEN WE GET MARRIED” (Dreamlovers, No. 10, 1961): This quintet, formed at a Philadelphia high school, was the backup group on most of Chubby Checker’s hits, and they also backed such vocalists as Dee Dee Sharp and The Dovells. They picked their name from a Bobby Darin hit (“Dream Lover”), but they did have this one hit of their own.
- 6. “GARDEN OF EDEN” (Joe Valino, No. 12, 1956): This singer lived in Philadelphia all his life, and this was his only Billboard Hot 100 song, with the backing of the George Sirano Orchestra. But arguably, his best-ever single was the 1955 original of “Learnin’ The Blues”, which failed to chart after being immediately covered by Frank Sinatra, who took it to No. 1.
- 7. “WITH ALL MY HEART” (Jodie Sands, No. 15, 1957): Born Eleanor DiSipio. this was her only significant single, but one other — “Someday (You’ll Want Me to Want You)” — reached No. 95 the following year. She also appeared in the 1957 film Jamboree. This song was based on an Italian composition (“Gondolier”) written by Peter De Angelis and Bob Marcucci. In Europe, it was a big hit for Petula Clark (No. 1 in Belgium chart, No. 4 in the UK) before she became known in the U.S., and another rendition by Judy Scott reached No. 76.
- 8. “I WANT YOU TO BE MY BABY” (Lillian Briggs, No. 18, 1955): This singer joined Joy Cayler’s All-Girl Orchestra as a singer and trombonist.in 1952, and she was discovered by famed DJ Alan Freed. She was one of the first women to achieve superstar status at the dawn of rock ‘n’ roll in the early ’50s, This, her first single, backed by O.B. Masingill’s orchestra, sold more than a million copies, .
- 9. “THE PUSH AND KICK” (Mark Valentino, No. 27, 1962): This vocalist was born Anthony Busillo, and the song was co-written by Eddie Rambeau, Frank Slay and Bud Rehak, and Slay’s orchestra provided the instrumental backing. After two subsequent singles and one album flop, the singer called it quits.
- 10. “TEASIN'” (Quaker City Boys, No. 39, 1959): This swing band was headed by Tommy Reilly, and this was their only significant single on the hometown Swan label. The song, written by Al Hoffman and Irving Fields, was also a hit in the UK on the London label. After two later unsuccessful releases on Swan, the group disbanded.
- 11. “MY HEART BELONGS TO ONLY YOU” (Mary Swan, 1958): This 17-year-old songstress sang this on American Bandstand, and Dick Clark helped arrange her contract with Swan Records. Partly on the strength.of this record, the singer earned a spot on a traveling tour with such artists as Paul Anka and Danny & The Juniors. But she was out of the music business after getting married at age 20, although she resumed singing 25 years later.
- 12. “PLAY THOSE OLDIES MR. DJ” (Anthony & The Sophomores, 1963): This quintet, originally called Tony & The Twilighters, was headed by lifetime Philly resident Anthony Maresco. Although this made the Top 40 surveys on such stations as WLS in Chicago, WQAM in Miami and WAAT in Trenton, N.J., it failed to make the Billboard Hot 100.
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