25 Great One Hit Wonders and Where They Are Now

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The Penguins - "Earth Angel" - 1955

The Penguins with Johnny Otis
The Penguins with Johnny Otis. Photo by Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

Curtis Williams was a member of the vocal group the Hollywood Flames formed in Watts, Los Angeles in 1949. However, in late 1953 he decided to form a new group called The Penguins. They were one of a number of doo-wop groups named after birds. Their first single "Hey Senorita," released in late 1954, was flipped by DJs and it was the B-side "Earth Angel" that became a hit. It topped the R&B chart for three weeks early in 1955 and peaked at #8 on the pop chart. As was common at the time, a white vocal group The Crew-Cuts covered "Earth Angel," and their version went to #3 pop.

After the success of "Earth Angel," the Penguins approached talent promoter Buck Ram to become their manager. He was primarily interested in managing The Platters who had not yet hit the charts, but with the Penguins, he could offer Mercury Records a 2-for-1 deal with the proven group the Penguins. However, the Penguins never repeated their success on the charts and broke up in 1962. Soon former member Cleveland Duncan put together a new group he called the Penguins and toured. At times called the Fabulous Penguins, the group continued to tour with various lineups until 2012 when Cleveland Duncan died at age 77.

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Julie London - "Cry Me a River" - 1956

Julie London
Julie London. Photo by GAB Archive / Redferns

Born Gayle Peck in 1926, Julie London married actor Jack Webb of Dragnet in 1947. They were drawn to each other through a mutual interest in jazz. Julie London appeared in a range of minor films as an actress. Following divorce in 1954, she pursued a recording career. Her debut album Julie Is Her Name, released in December 1955, included the hit single "Cry Me a River" produced by actor and jazz pianist Bobby Troup. The song peaked at #9 and sold a million copies while the album went to #2. Julie London performed "Cry Me a River" in the 1956 Jayne Mansfield film The Girl Can't Help It

Julie London continued to record albums through the end of the 1960s. However, she never again achieved her initial chart success. She married Bobby Troup in 1959, and the pair remained married for 40 years until he passed away in 1999. Julie London appeared in a wide range of TV shows, most notably in the 1970s hit series Emergency! along with her husband. She died in 2000 age 74.

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The Silhouettes - "Get a Job" - 1958

The Silhouettes - Get a Job
The Silhouettes - "Get a Job". Courtesy Junior

The doo-wop vocal group the Silhouettes was formed in Philadelphia in 1956. They took the name The Thunderbirds at first. Their #1 smash hit single "Get a Job" debuted on pop charts in January 1958. It is a song that details household difficulties caused by unemployment although the overall sound is upbeat. 

The Silhouettes toured nationally with such major R&B acts as Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, and Clyde McPhatter. However, they never returned to the national pop charts. The Silhouettes first broke up in 1968. They then came back together in the 1980s and performed live into the early 1990s. John "Bootsie" Wilson, the last surviving original group memer, passed away in 2009.

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Laurie London - "He's Got the Whole World In His Hands" - 1958

Laurie London
Laurie London. Photo by Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

English singer Laurie London was born in London in 1944. At age 13 he recorded a version of the spiritual "He's Got the Whole World In His Hands" for UK label Parlophone. It was picked up by Capitol Records in the US. It became a #1 pop it in the US in 1958 and remains the most successful gospel song ever on the US pop charts. 

Laurie London never again achieved major chart success, and he retired from recording by age 19. Reportedly he is a former hotel operator and currently owns an operating pub.

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The Monotones - "Book of Love" - 1958

The Monotones - Book of Love
The Monotones - "Book of Love". Courtesy Collectables

Vocal group The Monotones was formed in 1955 by residents of the Baxter Terrace housing project in Newark, New Jersey. They first appeared on television in 1956 on Ted Mack's Amateur Hour. They won first prize with a performance of The Cadillacs' "Zoom." In the fall of 1957 they recorded the song "Book of Love" on the small Mascot label. It was soon licensed to Chess subsidiary Argo and became a #5 pop smash in 1958 selling more than a million copies.

The Monotones followed their hit with a series of novelty singles, but none of them returned the group to the charts. The group broke up in 1962, but they got together again a number of times reviving their hit "Book of Love."

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The Hollywood Argyles - "Alley Oop" - 1960

The Hollywood Argyles
The Hollywood Argyles. Photo by GAB Archive / Redferns

The Hollywood Argyles was a studio recording entity put together by songwriter and producer Kim Fowley along with musician and songwriter Gary S. Paxton. They recorded "Alley Oop" with famed drummer Sandy Nelson. The song was written by country songwriter Dallas Frazier in 1957. It was inspired by the syndicated comic strip of the same name. The Hollywood Argyles version of "Alley Oop" quickly took off on the pop singles chart and climbed all the way to #1. Two other versions of the song by Dante & the Evergreens and The Dyno-Sores hit the charts around the same time.

The Hollywood Argyles recorded several follow up singles, but they never returned to the charts. However, Kim Fowley and Gary S. Paxton had long careers in pop music. Kim Fowley worked on music projects as disparate as the Murmaids 1963 top 10 hit "Popsicles and Icicles" and forming the rock girl group The Runaways in the 1970s featuring Joan Jett and Lita Ford. Kim Fowley passed away at age 75 in early 2015. 

Gary S. Paxton produced the 1962 Bobby "Boris" Pickett hit "Monster Mash" as well as the hits "Along Comes Mary" and "Cherish" by the Association. He converted to Christianity in the 1970s and won a Grammy Award for inspirational music. Gary S. Paxton was inducted into the Country Gospel Hall of Fame in 1999. 

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The Singing Nun - "Dominique" - 1963

The Singing Nun
The Singing Nun. Photo by Keyston / Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Jeanne Deckers, better known as The Singing Nun, gained worldwide fame with the 1963 hit song "Dominique." It went all the way to #1 on the US pop singles chart, and The Singing Nun made an appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. She wrote and performed her own songs for fellow nuns and visitors. Her superiors encouraged her to record the songs. 

The Singing Nun failed to return to the pop singles chart, but she inspired the 1965 Debbie Reynolds film The Singing Nun. Following disagreement with her church superiors, Jeanne Deckers left the convent in 1966. She moved in with 22-year-old Annie Pecher. More than a decade later the pair developed a romantic relationship. The pair tragically committed suicide in 1985.

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The Crazy World of Arthur Brown - "Fire" - 1968

Arthur Brown
Arthur Brown. Photo by Chris Morphet / Redferns

English rock artist Arthur Brown was lead vocalist for a number of bands before putting together The Crazy World of Arthur Brown in 1967. He was known for a four octave vocal range and flamboyant stage antics. He wore a flaming helmet and outlandish makeup while performing. The group's self-titled debut album was executive produced by The Who's Pete Townshend. The single "Fire" became a worldwide pop hit reaching #2 in the US. It is notable for a lack of guitar and bass in the recording favoring a Hammond organ as lead instrument.

The Crazy World of Arthur Brown fell apart in 1969 and Arthur Brown never again reached the pop charts in the US. However, he has continued as a recording artist and performer. He performed "Fire" live in 1987 on the hit TV show Solid Gold. Arthur Brown appeared at the UK's Glastonbury Festival in 2010. 

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Zager and Evans - "In the Year 2525" - 1969

Zager and Evans - In the Year 2525
Zager and Evans - "In the Year 2525". Courtesy RCA

Denny Zager and Rick Evans met as students at Nebraska Wesleyan University. They first joined the Nebraska band The Eccentrics. As a duo, they were backed by bass player Mark Dalton and drummer Paul Maher. Rick Evans wrote the song "In the Year 2525" warning of the dangers of technology to the human race. It hit #1 in the US for six weeks in the summer of 1969. The follow-up single "Mr. Turnkey" failed to reach the Billboard Hot 100. 

Both Rick Evans and Denny Zager continued as musicians. Denny Zager developed his own method for teaching guitar in the 1970s and eventually became a noted guitar builder, work which continues today. 

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Hot Butter - "Popcorn" - 1972

Hot Butter - Popcorn
Hot Butter - "Popcorn". Courtesy Musicor

"Popcorn" is a landmark recording for what later became known as synthpop. First included on the Gershon Kingsley 1969 album Music To Moog By, it was later covered by keyboardist Stan Free as part of his band Hot Butter. Their release became an international pop hit peaking at #9 in the US. "Popcorn" helped lay the groundwork for the development of both disco and electronic pop music.

Hot Butter released two albums, but they failed to return to the pop singles chart. Stan Free continued on as a successful studio musician. He passed away in 1995 at age 73.

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Clint Holmes - "Playground In My Mind" - 1973

Clint Holmes
Clint Holmes. Photo by Ray Mickshaw / WireImage

Singer Clint Holmes was born in England and grew up in upper New York state. He gained a following in the Washington DC area as a nightclub performer before recording "Playground In My Mind" with producer Paul Vance and his young son Philip. Paul Vance had earlier co-written the #1 pop hit "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini." It took more than six months for "Playground In My Mind" to reach national charts, but it eventually hit #2 in 1973. 

Clint Holmes never returned to the pop charts. However, he has become a beloved Las Vegas performer. His headlining show at the Harrah's Las Vegas Casino closed in 2006. He continues to perform at the Cabaret Jazz Theater in Las Vegas' Smith Center for the Performing Arts.

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Reunion - "Life Is a Rock (But the Radio Rolled Me)" - 1974

Reunion - Life Is a Rock (But the Radio Rolled Me)
Reunion - "Life Is a Rock (But the Radio Rolled Me)". Courtesy RCA

Singer, songwriter, and producer Joey Levine is one of the most prominent creators of classic bubblegum pop. He sang lead on hit singles such as "Yummy Yummy Yummy" by the Ohio Express. In 1974 he put together a group of studio musicians and dubbed them Reunion. They released the recitation of aspects of the pop music landscape known as "Life Is a Rock (But the Radio Rolled Me)" as a single and it peaked at #8 on the pop singles chart.

Reunion was short-lived, but Joey Levine has had a long musical career. He has written commercial jingles for products that range from Pepsi and Diet Coke to Sears, Toyota, and Anheuser-Busch. The phrases "Sometimes You Feel Like a Nut," "You Asked For It, You Got It Toyota," and This Bud's For You" have all been a part of Joey Levine's career.


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Peter McCann - "Do You Wanna Make Love" - 1977

Peter McCann
Peter McCann. Photo by GAB Archive / Redferns

Singer-songwriter Peter McCann gained his first success in the pop music industry as the writer of Jennifer Warnes' early 1977 top 10 hit "Right Time of the Night." He then sang himself on the recording of "Do You Wanna Make Love." It took off and became an international pop smash peaking at #5 in the US.

Peter McCann did not return to the charts as an artist. However, he moved to Nashville, Tennessee and became a successful country music songwriter. Among the hits he helped write are Earl Thomas Conley's #1 country hit "Nobody Falls Like a Fool."

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M - "Pop Muzik" - 1979

M. Photo by Fin Costello / Redferns

Musician Robin Scott grew up in the suburbs of London, England and met Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood as an art school student. He declined to participate in their Chelsea clothes shop SEX and turned to music instead. His first success came when he released early Adam and the Ants recordings on his Do It Records label. In 1978 he put together the studio conglomeration that he dubbed M. The project released the single "Pop Muzik" in 1979. It was intended as a fusion of many styles Robin Scott had encountered in his musical career. He was also influenced by contact with the Muzak company in the US which produced mood music for public spaces. "Pop Muzik" became a #1 smash in the US and a #2 hit in the UK.

M failed to have additional hits although "Moonlight and Muzak" reached the top 40 in the UK. In the 1980s Robin Scott turned to promoting African music. U2 helped bring about a resurgence in interest in Robin Scott's work by using a remix of "Pop Muzik" in the opening of their PopMart concert tour. Today he works with his son and his aspiring band.

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Taco - "Puttin' On the Ritz" - 1983

Taco. Photo by Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

Taco Ockerse was born in Indonesia to a Duch family in 1955. He first appeared on the stage in Germany in 1975 and formed his first band Taco's Bizz in 1979. After signing with Polydor in German, he released his first single "Puttin' On the Ritz." It includes references to a number of Irving Berlin songs. RCA picked up the song for distribution in the US and it became a top 5 pop hit.

Taco's second single "Singing In the Rain" failed to chart in the US as did subsequent releases. He later explored dance music as well as swing in recordings. In the early 1990s Taco worked extensively in German TV. He currently lives in Germany and continues to perform live.

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Nena - "99 Luftballons" - 1984

Nena. Photo by RB / Redferns

Gabriele Kerner, aka Nena, was born in Germany in 1960. She kicked off her musical career in 1979 as lead vocalist for a band called The Stripes. She formed the band Nena with her boyfriend Rolf Brendel in 1981. Their first single "Nur Getraumt" was a #2 hit in Germany. Their follow up "99 Luftballons" was a #1 smash in Germany when released in 1983. In 1984 its success spread around the world and it reached #2 in the US. An English version "99 Red Balloons" topped the UK pop singles chart. 

Nena failed to follow up the chart success in the US. However, the band had a number of additional hits in Germany. In 1989, Nena released her first solo album Wunder Gescheh'n. The album and lead single became closely associated with the fall of the Berlin Wall. Nena's commercial success waned in the 1990s, but she made a major comeback with the 2002 album Nena Feat. Nena. She has remained a major chart force with her most recent album Oldschool reaching the top 5 in 2015.

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Harold Faltermeyer - "Axel F" - 1985

Harold Faltermeyer
Harold Faltermeyer. Photo by Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

German keyboard player, composer, and producer Harold Faltermeyer first gained success in pop music playing keyboards for Giorigio Moroder on the 1978 soundtrack to Midnight Express. He continued to work with Giorgio Moroder and produced hits for Donna Summer. In 1985 Harold Faltermeyer's breakthrough as an artist in his own right came with his instrumental composition "Axel F" for the film Beverly Hills Cop. It was a top 3 pop hit in the US and reached the top 10 in countries around the world.

Harold Faltermeyer failed to have another pop hit as lead artist. However, he created notable work on the soundtrack for the films Fletch and Top Gun. In 1990 he co-produced the Pet Shop Boys hit album Behaviour. Harold Faltermeyer returned to Germany in the 1990s to raise his children. In 2010 he returned to scoring major films with the release of Cop Out starring Bruce Willis.

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Oran "Juice" Jones - "The Rain" - 1986

Oran "Juice" Jones
Oran "Juice" Jones. Photo by Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

Oran "Juice" Jones was born in Houston, Texas in 1957. He became the first musician signed to the Def Jam subsidiary OBR Records. He is also considered to be the first R&B artist signed to the Def Jam hip hop family of labels. His debut single "The Rain" became a smash hit in 1986. The song details a man confronting his girlfriend about her infidelity. It topped the R&B singles chart and went to #9 on the pop chart. "The Rain" recieved two Grammy Award nominations. 

Oran Jones failed to create a chart follow up to "The Rain" despite recording two more albums. He then left the music industry to raise his family and care for his mother. He has continued to work on commercials and independent films while assisting his son and daughter in their music careers.

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Sheriff - "When I'm With You" - 1989

Sheriff - Sheriff
Sheriff - Sheriff. Courtesy Capitol

The Canadian rock band Sheriff was formed in Toronto in 1979. Their only album was a 1982 self-titled effort. It included the Canadian hit "You Remind Me" as well as "When I'm With You" which reached the top 20 in Canada and peaked at #61 in the US. Six years later, four years after Sheriff had broken up, "When I'm With You" suddenly became a radio hit in the US and went all the way to #1.

In the wake of the success of "When I'm With You," vocalist Freddy Curci and guitarist Steve DeMarchi made efforts to re-form Sheriff, but they failed. Instead, the pair teamed up with former members of Heart to create the band Alias. The group hit #2 in the US in 1990 with the ballad "More Than Words Can Say." However, Alias soon fell apart due to creative eifferences. In 2009 Freddy Curci and Steve DeMarchi put together a new Alias lineup and released the band's second album. Original Sheriff bass player Wolf Hassel joined Alias as a permanent member in 2014.

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The Proclaimers - "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" - 1993

The Proclaimers
The Proclaimers. Photo by Mike Prior / Redferns

Scottish identical twins Charlie and Craig Reid formed the band The Proclaimers in 1983. They first gained significant notice in the UK when they were invited to open for the Housemartins on their 1986 concert tour. Their 1987 single "Letter From America" hit #3 in the UK. The Proclaimers released "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" as the lead single from their Sunshine On Leith album in 1988. It failed to be a major hit in either the US or UK. However, after inclusion on the soundtrack to the hit movie Benny & Joon in 1993 it became a #3 smash in the US. Craig Reid says that he wrote the song in 1987 in about 45 minutes knowing it was a good song.

The Proclaimers released two more top 40 pop hits in the UK but failed to return to the pop charts in the US. They have continued to record and tour releasing their most recent album Like Comedy in 2012.

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Us3 - "Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia)" - 1994

Us3. Photo by David Redfern / Redferns

The jazz-rap group Us3 was formed in London in 1992. The band used only samples from the Blue Note Records catalog on their debut album Hand on the Torch. One of the tracks was "Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia)" which used a sample from Herbie Hancock's "Cantaloupe Island." The song also includes a segment of Pee Wee Marquette's introduction on Art Blakey's album A Night At Birdland Vol. 1. "Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia)" reached the pop top 10 and was certified gold.

Us3 toured extensively and released a second album Broadway & 52nd in 1997 but failed to return to the pop singles chart. Us3 has continued to release albums blending jazz and hip hop. The ninth studio album The Third Way was released in 2013.

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Deep Blue Something - "Breakfast at Tiffany's" - 1995

Deep Blue Something
Deep Blue Something. Photo by Patrick Ford / Redferns

The rock band Deep Blue Something was formed in Denton, Texas by brothers Todd and Toby Pipes, students at the University of North Texas. "Breakfast at Tiffany's" was first included on the 1993 debut album 11th Song. However, it was re-recorded and re-released on the group's second album Home. The song was inspired by Audrey Hepburn's film Roman Holiday, but the songwriter Todd Pipes thought her film Breakfast at Tiffany's made a better song title. The song became an international pop smash peaking at #5 on the US pop singles chart and #1 in the UK.

Due to legal difficulties, Deep Blue Something's next album Byzantium was not released until three years later and the group failed to produce a follow up hit. A self-titled album released in 2001 was the group's final effort before splitting up. Todd and Toby Pipes have worked extensively in Texas as regional producers. In addition to releasing solo efforts, Todd Pipes is a high school teacher and soccer coach. Toby Pipes records and performs with the band Little Black Dress.

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Marcy Playground - "Sex and Candy" - 1998

Marcy Playground
Marcy Playground. Photo by Tim Mosenfelder / Hulton Archive / Getty Images

The band Marcy Playground is named for Minneapolis' Marcy grade school, an alternative school attended by the group's lead vocalist John Wozniak. The band was signed to Capitol Records in 1995. The single "Sex and Candy" was the lead single from their self-titled debut album released in late 1997. It topped the modern rock chart for an unprecedented 15 weeks and climbed to #8 on the pop chart.

Marcy Playground released the follow up album Shapeshifter in 1999. It included the minor modern rock hit "It's Saturday" but failed to generate any pop hits. It was then five more years before the next Marcy Playground album MP3 in 2004. The group continues to record and tour with the most recent collection Lunch, Recess and Detention released in 2012.

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Len - "Steal My Sunshine" - 1999

Len - Steal My Sunshine
Len - "Steal My Sunshine". Courtesy Work

The core of Canadian band Len is  brother and sister Marc and Sharon Costanzo. Their song "Steal My Sushine," built around a sample from the disco classic "More More More" by the Andrea True Connection, became a hit after being included on the soundtrack of the film Go. It hit the pop top 10 in September of 1999. 

The group released the follow up album We Be Who We Be but failed to generate another pop hit. Len went on hiatus until 2012's It's Easy If You Try.

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Eiffel 65 - "Blue (Da Ba Dee)" - 2000

Eiffel 65
Eiffel 65. Photo by Morena Brengola / Getty Images

The Italian pop band Eiffel 65 was formed in 1992. They released the single "Blue (Da Ba Dee)" in 1998 as the lead single from their debut album Europop. The color blue was reportedly picked at random as a subject for the song. It became a #1 smash hit single around the world and peaked at #6 in the US. 

Eiffel 65 had significant success around the world with their follow up "Move Your Body," but it failed to chart in the US. For the next five years the group released a series of Italian pop hits. In 2005 Eiffel 65 broke up and two group members continued on under the name Bloom O6. Eiffel 65 has since re-formed as a touring band and is reportedly at work on new recordings.

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