Ringo - An Unusual One Hit Wonder of the 1960s - Lorne Greene

As a lover of Oldies and collector of vintage vinyl LP record albums and 45rpm singles, one hit wonders are a favorite music collectible of mine. Many of the artists and songs, while charting in the top 100, never hit #1 and the names of the artists and the songs have been long forgotten like Resurrection Shuffle by Ashton, Gardner and Dyke. Some are notable and memorable like The Five Stairsteps O-o-h Child and Terry Jacks Seasons in the Sun and I marvel that they never went on to top the charts again and again. But others just tickle my funny bone and “Ringo” is one of those.

“Ringo” was a single that topped the charts at #1 on December 5, 1964 knocking “Leader of the Pack” from its perch. The single told the story of the famed gunfighter of the old west, Johnny Ringo; however, the story told on the record didn’t follow the historical facts—at all. But no one seemed to mind and it obviously didn’t affect its rise to #1 on the Billboard charts.

Another odd thing about the single was that only the title word was sung during the whole recording—“Ringo.” And that word wasn’t even sung by the artist given credit for the “song.” A chorus of men’s voices sang the name twice in harmony at the end of each verse. All of the other words on the single were spoken and not sung by the artist.

The artist was a well-known celebrity in both the United States and Canada at the time he released the album that spawned this single. But, he wasn’t known for his singing. In fact at the same time “Ringo” was #1 on the Billboard Charts, the artist’s television show was ranked #1 as well. Americans of all ages sat riveted to their televisions every Sunday evening to watch him—the epitome of a loving, wise father.

Perhaps by now, with the hints given, you have figured out that the artist was Lorne Greene of Bonanza fame. As a side note, the B side of the single featured Lorne Greene singing the Bonanza theme song, a rare performance since the show itself featured a much faster and only instrumental musical score after the first season. As popular as the show was and while Mr. Greene may have had a decent voice, neither of these seems to be the reason that the single made it to #1. In fact, it most likely had to do with an entirely different phenomenon going on in the United States in 1964—Beatle-mania!

That’s right; the Fab Four had invaded the United States earlier in 1964 with a new sound that would change American music forever. Even Loren Greene knew the confusion that the title of the song would cause. On the album, Welcome to the Ponderosa, “Ringo” was the lead song and it started with a spoken introduction—almost an apology--by Greene that the song was NOT about that famous group and “that wonderful drummer of theirs.” This explanation was not included on the single.

I guess it was a case of being in the right place at the right time and it all came together to give Lorne Greene, the television actor, a place in musical history as a one hit wonder.

Ben Brown of Sienna’s Sandbox

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