Five one-hit wonders with a great catalog of other songs

“Now, I’m gonna play you a medley of my hit.”
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“Now, I’m gonna play you a medley of my hit.” That’s the way the late Townes Van Zandt would introduce his song “Pancho and Lefty.” It wasn’t even a hit for Townes. It became a hit when Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard recorded their duet. It’s also the way James McMurtry intros his song “Choctaw Bingo,” (always properly citing Townes). These are among the greatest singer-songwriters in America, with loads of quality songs. But they could only chuckle at how they would forever be tied to a single tune.

We’ve been talking a lot about one-hit wonders of late. I don’t really know why. I’m not a Freudian, so I don’t really care. But it’s an intriguing subject, isn’t it? How do you define the phenomenon? How do you explain it? Why has it taken on such a pejorative cast, as if creating a hugely successful song wasn’t a monumental achievement?

One-hit wonders are kind of like those Buffalo Bills football teams who get slammed for making it to four straight Super Bowls without ever winning one of them as if they’re some sort of lower-life form than teams that never even made it to the big game.

You should go beyond the one song you know from these one-hit wonders

So maybe I’m on a bit of a mission to rescue the one-hit wonders. OK – not all of them. Some are genuine novelties, frivolities, or simply downright inexplicabilities. I feel no need to rescue an act like Napoleon XIV, whose Dr. Demento-fueled “They’re Coming to Take Me Away” climbed the charts in the mid-60s. Staff Sergeant Barry Sandler doesn’t need rescuing. His lone hit, “Ballad of the Green Berets” makes it clear that he can rescue himself. (Quirky fact – Both of those songs came out in 1966. Strange year.)

But there are plenty of artists who deserve to be known for more than their lone hit. So what I’m setting out to do here is pick one representative band from each decade – from the 1960s through the 2000s – who deserve better than they have gotten from history. I’m leaving the 2010s out because that’s too recent. Any one of those bands could still crank out another hit tomorrow. Well, I suppose Zach Sobiech can’t, but that’s a sad story for another day.

Today, we’re all about good memories. Obscure perhaps, but good.