Thursday, September 22, 2016

Artists Whose First Hit Was Their Biggest--Part 14

We're moving our way through the list of artists who set their own standard with their first hit:

"Hocus Pocus"

If you're impressed by the guitar work in this song, you're not alone--Jan Akkerman is a virtuoso, and the Dutch group Focus found themselves in the Top 10 with this song in 1973.  Akkerman's astounding playing makes several of their songs a good listen, but "Hocus Pocus" was magical for them.

Fontane Sisters
"Hearts Of Stone"

Here's another of the artists whose first hit was just prior to the official start of the Rock Era.  They backed Perry Como on many of his hits from 1949 to 1952, then released this song just prior to the end of 1954.  It was a million-seller for the Fontane Sisters and a huge #1 smash.  They had 18 career hits, including the #3 song "Seventeen".

Franke & the Knockouts

This New Jersey act put out a great first song in 1981, underrated even at #10.  They were able to collect two other Top 40 hits, but nothing matched their first one.

Freddie and the Dreamers
"I'm Telling You Now"

Although Liverpool was the home of the Beatles and other groups of the British Invasion, nearby Manchester had its share of the success.  This Manchester group vaulted to #1 in 1965 with this song.  Their next-best effort was the #18 song "Do The Freddie".

"All Right Now"

Although this British act was a One-Hit Wonder, its members contributed to the Rock Era for years.  Lead singer Paul Rodgers and drummer Simon Kirke went on to form the great group Bad Company and Rodgers has sung lead for Queen in recent years.  

Friends Of Distinction
"Grazing In The Grass"

Floyd Butler and Harry Elston of this group were previously in a group called the Hi-Fi's, whose membership also included Marilyn McCoo and LaMonte McLemore, who would later find fame in supergroup the 5th Dimension.  The Friends of Distinction did OK too, rising to #3 and selling over one million copies of this great song.  You'll also remember them for "Love Or Let Me Be Lonely" the next year, but tough to match that great first hit.

Bobby Fuller Four
"I Fought The Law"

This group came up with the theme song for rebellious youth, always a lesson for future generations in that, no matter what the dispute, the law wins.  The Bobby Fuller Four reached #26 with their next song but never matched this great 1966 song.

"Nice To Be With You"

One of the top songs from 1972 came from this Detroit group.  They took the Mac Davis song "I Believe In Music" to #22, but they are best known for this one.

Gale Garnett
"We'll Sing In The Sunshine"

New Zealand-born Gale Garnett migrated tot he United States in 1951 and began work as an actress when she was 15.  If you're fortunate enough to own DVD's of one of the top TV shows in history, Bonanza, look up the episode "The Deserter" and you'll see Gale.  In 1964, Gale recorded this song, which went all the way to #4.  She made other efforts, but this by far is her best.

Bobbie Gentry
"Ode To Billie Joe"

Wow.  What a first song for this Mississippi artist.  She wrote this song about nearby Tallahatchie Bridge that had Rock fans talking about the ending for years.  When you can generate that kind of interest and response with a song, you've accomplished something.  Indeed.  Bobbie watched the song go to #1 in 1967, and 49 years later, its still one of the all-time classics.  Gentry won Best New Artist at the Grammy Awards that year.  Her next-best effort was a duet with Glen Campbell, "All I Have To Do Is Dream", a #27 song.

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