Best One Hit Wonders Of The 60s

As long as we’ve had hits, we’ve had one hit wonders. Men Without Hats weren’t the first, and Vanilla Ice won’t be the last. One hit wonders were as plentiful in the 60s as in other decades. Here are some of the best one hit wonders of the 60s.

1. “Wipe Out” by The Surfaris

Song year: 1963

We associate The Ventures with “Wipe Out,” but the Surfaris were the first to score a chart-topper with “Wipe Out.”

They recorded the instrumental and released it on an independent label in 1963, and it reached number two. It was kept out of the top spot by a Stevie Wonder song, so there’s no shame in that.

2. “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” by The Tokens

Song year: 1961

Every Millennial knows this song because Timon sang it in The Lion King, not because The Tokens had a huge impact on world culture.

An unknown, illiterate African cattle herder named Solomon Linda first came up with the bones of the song, then called “Mbube” (Zulu for “lion”), and it was a ditty about the predator that wanted to eat the cows under his care.

For some reason, the song got popular via nightclubs in Africa and Pete Seeger, and the Tokens ended up with a worldwide number-one hit.

3. “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida”

Song year: 1968

Iron Butterfly vocalist Doug Ingle sang this song while writing it (a bit tipsy), and drummer Ron Bushy wrote it down. The drunken pronunciation of “in the Garden of Eden” came out, “In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida.”

The 17-minute song—the first heavy-metal single—was a Top 40 hit, several major acts have covered it, and the song’s legendary drum solo inspired Ringo Starr’s work on “The End.”

4. “I Fought The Law” by The Bobby Fuller Four

Song year: 1966

As pervasive as “I Fought The Law” has continued to be in pop culture, one would be forgiven for not knowing it was from a one-hit-wonder band. That’s because it’s been a hit for several acts over the years.

Sonny Curtis wrote it when he was playing with The Crickets, Buddy Holly’s band, so the Bobby Fuller Four hit was actually a cover. It went to number nine, and then Fuller died of an apparent suicide in 1966.

5. “Hang On Sloopy” by The McCoys

Song year: 1965

The McCoys’ version was a cover, but it inspired the Ohio State University marching band to play it at games. It was rumored that the song was written about Dorothy Sloop, an Ohio jazz pianist and singer.

The Yardbirds recorded it after Eric Clapton left and Jeff Beck joined. So there’s a connection between this cutesy one-off and rock royalty.

6. “Dominique” by Sœur Sourire

Song year: 1963

“Sœur Sourire” means “Sister Smile” in French, but “Dominique” was often credited to The Singing Nun.

A testament to the fact that nobody really knows what songs will be hits, “Dominique” is about Saint Dominic, a 12th-century priest who founded the Dominican Order of Preachers.

It was a number-one hit in seven countries, including the decidedly non-French-speaking US, and won The Singing Nun four Grammys.

7. “Blame It On The Bossa Nova” by Eydie Gormé

Song year: 1963

It might seem wrong to call Eydie Gormé a one-hit-wonder. After all, we know her from Steve and Eydie, a pop singing duet she sang in with her husband, Steve Lawrence, that first started performing on The Tonight Show in the Steven Allen era.

Gorme recorded “Blame It On The Bossa Nova” in 1963 and scored a global number one with it.

8. “If You Wanna Be Happy” by Jimmy Soul

Song year: 1963

Many radio stations banned “If You Wanna Be Happy” because it used the phrase “ugly girl,” so, of course, everyone wanted to hear it. The sentiment was that the secret to a happy marriage is marrying an unattractive woman. It’s not the most feminist song ever, but it went to number one.

9. “Israelites” by Desmond Dekker

Song year: 1968

Desmond Dekker’s true claim to fame may be that he brought Bob Marley to the attention of record execs. But before that, he recorded “Israelites,” the first international reggae hit.

Dekker would go on to get name-checked in a Beatles song (he’s the Desmond in “Ob-La-Di”) and have a few reggae hits outside the US, but “Israelites” was his major contribution to pop music.

10. “Ode To Billie Joe” by King Curtis and The Kingpins

Song year: 1967

Most people recall “Ode To Billie Joe” as a Bobbie Gentry hit, and it was, but King Curtis and The Kingpins recorded an instrumental version the same year Gentry had her success.

The song’s dark subject matter (Billie Joe kills himself) drove public interest so that even though the Kingpins’ version was instrumental, people were still intrigued. It was a Top Ten R&B hit.

11. “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” by Steam

Song year: 1969

In a serpentine tale of musicians trying to get exposure, Gary DeCarlo, Paul Leka, and Dale Frashuer were cutting filler songs for use as B-sides. They laid down “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” in one take, and it became a multi-week number-one hit.

Boston White Sox fans began singing it in the stands to the losing team in the 70s because they’re White Sox fans, and of course, they did.

12. “The Monster Mash” by Bobby “Boris” Pickett & The Crypt Kickers

Song year: 1962

“The Monster Mash” quickly became one of those songs you only hear at a certain time of year, but you definitely hear it every single year.

Bobby Pickett was an actor moonlighting as a singer. One night, he jokingly sang a song as Boris Karloff, and the crowd loved it, which led to “The Monster Mash.”

It went to number one in 1962 and charted in three separate years after that, the latest in 2021.

13. “Land Of A Thousand Dances” by Cannibal & The Headhunters

Song year: 1965

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about “Land Of A Thousand Dances” wasn’t its huge success but that the four kids who recorded it were teenagers at the time.

The song was a cover of the Chris Kenner original, but Cannibal & The Headhunters added the “na-na-na-na-na” phrase that served as such a powerful hook. Wilson Pickett covered this version and hit number one with it, but he owed that success to Cannibal & The Headhunters.

14. “Teen Angel” by Mark Dinning

Song year: 1960

Radio stations didn’t want to play Mark Dinning’s “Teen Angel” because it was too sad, but the public wanted to hear it. It tells the story of a girl dying when she gets hit by a train trying to retrieve her boyfriend’s class ring.

The song featured in American Graffiti, and Sha Na Na sang it at Woodstock.

15. “Loop De Loop” by Johnny Thunder

Song year: 1963

Not to be confused with the DJ from WKRP in Cincinnati, Johnny Thunder got to number four many years before that show aired with “Loop De Loop.”

Thunder had some cred, recording in New York with names like Teddy Vann, Dionne Warwick, and Luther Vandross. But “Loop De Loop” was his only hit. He had a couple of minor follow-ups, but nothing rose higher than number 122 on the charts.

16. “Green Onions” by Booker T. & the MGs

Song year: 1962

“Green Onions” is one of the most popular instrumental songs in all of pop music. Its slithering organ riff, played by Booker T. Jones, is instantly recognizable, and it’s so iconic that it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame despite not winning an award.

It appears in tons of movies, and lots of names— big and small—have covered it:

  • The Blues Brothers
  • Deep Purple
  • The Surfaris
  • Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

17. “Oh Happy Day” by Edwin Hawkins Singers

"Oh Happy Day" by Edwin Hawkins Singers

Song year: 1968

Another entry in the annals of songs you couldn’t have guessed would have hit, “Oh Happy Day,” originated as a hymn written in 1755. Gospel music pioneer Edwin Hawkins put his touch on it and gave it to his choir.

They recorded it at Hawkins’ Berkeley, Cali, church, the Ephesian Church of God in Christ. It inspired George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” and was a chart-topper across the globe, though it only made it to number two in the US.

18. “Tip-Toe Thru’ The Tulips With Me” by Tiny Tim

Song year: 1968

So Tiny Tim was a weird guy. Tall, odd-looking, childlike, playing the ukulele left-handed. And that falsetto singing voice of his.

Somehow, “Tip-Toe Thru’ The Tulips With Me,” written in 1922, became a hit for him, and he spent the rest of his life trying to duplicate it. Though he never did, he still made appearances and even acted in a 1987 horror film.

19. “Who Put the Bomp (In The Bomp-A-Bomp-A-Bomp)” by Barry Mann

Song year: 1961

Outside of Ray Stevens, having a novelty hit is a nearly surefire way to ensure you have one hit and only one hit. Such was the case for Barry Mann.

But “Who Put the Bomp (In The Bomp-A-Bomp-A-Bomp)” was meta before that was a thing people knew about, as it gently poked fun at all the nonsense syllables in pop music while using them in the effort.

20. “You Talk Too Much” by Joe Jones

Song year: 1960

Fats Domino didn’t write “You Talk Too Much,” but his brother-in-law, Reginald Hall, did. Fats either didn’t want to do it or wanted to help out Joe Jones. Either way, Jones got the song and recorded it in the summer of 1960.

Maybe he would have done something differently if he’d known it would end up on three different Billboard charts that year, topping out at number three.

21. “Polk Salad Annie” by Tony Joe White

Song year: 1969

You’d think that Tony Joe White would have gotten the message. He recorded “Polk Salad Annie,” but after nine months, the record label felt it wasn’t selling and quit promoting it.

When record stores would ask for more copies, White and friends would have to take the “Do Not Sell” copies from the record label, cross out the offending words, and send them to the record stores.

White should have had more hits, what with Americans clamoring for this one.

22. “Hippy Hippy Shake” by The Swinging Blue Jeans

Song year: 1963

The Swinging Blue Jeans recorded “Hippy Hippy Shake” four years after 17-year-old Chan Romero wrote and recorded it and had a hit in Australia with it.

The Swinging Blue Jeans were an early British Invasion band—so early that most people don’t think of them as such—and scored a number two on the UK charts with the song.

23. “Walk On The Wild Side” by Jimmy Smith

Song year: 1962

A 1962 Jane Fonda film called “Walk On The Wild Side” spawned a hit for the title song as performed by Brook Benton. Jazzman (and Hammond B-3 expert) Jimmy Smith recorded an instrumental version of the song, and it went to number four.

24. “Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport” by Rolf Harris

Song year: 1960

While it sings like an old folk song, “Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport” was written by Rolf Harris, an Aussie singer who played didgeridoo and other odd instruments. The musicians who played on the recording opted to receive a flat fee rather than get a cut of the royalties. They thought it wouldn’t make any money.

It went to number one, but Harris did little after that.

25. “They’re Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!” by Napoleon XIV

Song year: 1966

The record company was afraid people would think “They’re Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!” was making fun of the mentally ill, and even though the narrator ends up cracking up about the loss of a dog, the label was wrong.

People LOVED this song. It was a number one, but it was also a novelty hit, which, again, means we’d never hear another peep from Napoleon XIV.

In its way, it was innovative—no pitched or chordal instruments but still a hit song. Who knows?

26. “Cool Jerk” by The Capitols

Song year: 1966

“Cool Jerk” was a great example of luck. The Capitols, as it turns out, wasn’t really all that good. “Cool Jerk,” though, hit. Audiences enjoyed the band’s enthusiasm, but that didn’t translate to other songs. “Cool Jerk” was it for this group.

Still, not many people can claim a number two hit on the R&B charts. The Capitols can, though.

27. “Harlem Shuffle” by Bob & Earl

Song year: 1963

Though “Harlem Shuffle” barely broke the Top 40 in the States, it was a Top Ten hit in several European countries in the 60s.

However, the song’s real claims to fame came much later:

  • The Rolling Stones covered it in 1986 on their Dirty Work album.
  • House of Pain sampled the song’s opening chords for use on 1992’s “Jump Around.”

Hey man, a royalty check is a royalty check.

28. “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah (A Letter From Camp)” by Allan Sherman

Song year: 1963

Whether you’ve heard this song or not, you’ve been affected by it.

  • The melody comes from a ballet by Amilcare Ponchielli called Dance of the Hours.
  • A boy in the story is named Leonard Skinner, and the fictional lad helped inspire the creation of the Southern rock gods Lynyrd Skynyrd.
  • It’s in the Library of Congress.

If not for Stevie Wonder’s “Fingertips,” which would not relinquish the spot, “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah (A Letter from Camp),” would have been number one. Allan Sherman, though, had success as a television presenter and producer.

29. “Mother-In-Law” by Ernie K‐Doe

Song year: 1961

Who doesn’t have at least some resentment toward that figure in their lives?

After the song’s success, K-Doe remained in the spotlight by working in New Orleans radio and basically being an eccentric, larger-than-life personality there. Being larger than life in New Orleans takes some doing, so good on him.

30. “The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly” by Hugo Montenegro

Song year: 1968

The four universally recognized movie themes are, in order:

  • Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • Star Wars
  • The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
  • Superman

From the 1966 Clint Eastwood film, “The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly” was chosen for a cover version by Hugo Montenegro for some reason, and, two years after the film played in theaters, went to number one on Billboard’s Easy Listening chart.

Musical tastes are so weird.

31. “(Today I Met) The Boy I’m Gonna Marry” by Darlene Love

Song year: 1963

Darlene Love sang as a backup singer or uncredited lead—The Crystals’ “He’s A Rebel” and “He’s Sure The Boy I Love.” Then she landed “(Today I Met) The Boy I’m Gonna Marry.”

Feeling wronged by producer Phil Spector, she eventually turned to acting, landing the role of Sgt. Murtaugh’s wife in the Lethal Weapon films. In 2018, she provided vocals for Saturday Night Live’s 2018 short “Christmastime for the Jews.”

Top One Hit Wonders Of The 60s, Final Thoughts

Many of us have memories tied to a one hit-wonder. They can evoke feelings of embarrassment, but music is music. We like what we like. One hit wonders had at least one hit, so they did something right. Fly your flag. Embrace these best one hit wonders of the 60s.

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