DEAR JERRY: In a previous column, you listed numerous vinyl era artists who had their first charted songs reach No. 1.
I'd like you to dig a little deeper and tell me who had the most consecutive No. 1 hits, beginning with their first chart record.
I'm thinking Gary Lewis and the Playboys might have had a few more number ones after "This Diamond Ring."
Dixie Brown, Vincennes, Ind.
DEAR DIXIE: I understand why you think Gary Lewis topped the charts with one or more of his follow-ups to "This Diamond Ring."
He did come very close, as each of his next four releases peaked in Billboard's Top 5, but none climbed to No. 1.
All five hit the charts in 1965:
No. 1 "This Diamond Ring" (Liberty 55756)
No. 2: "Count Me In" (Liberty 55778)
No. 2: "Save Your Heart for Me" (Liberty 55809)
No. 4: "Everybody Loves a Clown" (Liberty 55818)
No. 3: "She's Just My Style" (Liberty 55846)
With Gary Lewis no longer in the running as an answer to your question, let's see who is.
After reviewing the music annals of over 5,000 vinyl era musicians, spread over the three primary genres Pop, R&B, and C&W we can now confirm how extraordinarily uncommon it is for someone to begin their career with even three consecutive No. 1 hits, much less four.
To be clear, most of these artists did have records out before their first chart appearances, but they didn't chart and are irrelevant to this project.
From the introduction of the 45 rpm single in early 1949, through 1989, there is just one quintet and one woman whose chart history began with four straight number ones.
First came the Jackson 5, and what they accomplished with their first four smash hits, on the Pop and the R&B charts, was not equaled by any other group, or by any of the Jacksons as solo artists:
1969: "I Want You Back" (Motown 1157)
1970: "ABC" (Motown 1163)
1970: "The Love You Save" (Motown 1166)
1970: "I'll Be There" (Motown 1171)
Then Donna Fargo burst on the scene in March 1972, and soon had four reasons to be the happiest girl in the whole USA:
1972: "The Happiest Girl in the Whole U.S.A." (Dot 17409)
1972: "Funny Face" (Dot 17429)
1973: "Superman" (Dot 17444)
1973: "You Were Always There" (Dot 17460)
That's all! Can you believe it?
During the specified 40 years, when music was primarily analog physical media, with its countless icons and megastars, none of whom matched what only Donna Fargo and the Jackson Five accomplished.
As for having their first three chart singles reach No. 1, there are only three names to add to the two already enshrined, Donna Fargo and the Jackson 5.
And no one else did so on the Pop charts, only C&W and R&B.
The legendary Webb Pierce introduced himself to the C&W world in 1952 with these three number ones:
1952: "Wondering" (Decca 46364)
1952: "That Heart Belongs to Me" (Decca 28091)
1952: "Back Street Affair" (Decca 28369)
Qualifying for the triple crown in the R&B field are Faye Adams and Natalie Cole, two soulful sirens who were two decades apart:
1953: "Shake a Hand" (Herald 416)
1953: "I'll Be True" (Herald 419)
1954: "It Hurts Me to My Heart" (Herald 434)
1975: "This Will Be" (Capitol 4109)
1975: "Inseparable" (Capitol 4193)
1976: "Sophisticated Lady (She's a Different Lady)" (Capitol 4259)
If these five names surprise you, welcome to the club. My astonishment was amplified because none of these five artists Jacksons, Fargo, Pierce, Adams, and Cole are even on the lengthy lists of those within each genre having the most career No. 1 hits.
I will be explaining this research to Donna Fargo in a week or so, but I am certain she never knew of the bizarre distinction that she can now add to her many, more familiar honors.
IZ ZAT SO? In anticipation of those wondering if other names would join this exclusive club, if only we would back up a few years into the 78 era. Why wait? Let's do it now.
By beginning the hunt in 1940, we can add two more names to the short list, each with an R&B chart history that began with four consecutive No. 1 hits.
They are Natalie's father, Nat King Cole, and Lucky Millinder's Orchestra, with featured vocalists:
Nat King Cole
1942: "That Ain't Right" (Decca 8630)
1943: "All for You" (Capitol 139)
1944: "Straighten Up and Fly Right" (Capitol 154)
1944: "Gee Baby, Ain't I Good to You" (Capitol 169)
Lucky Millinder and His Orchestra
1942: "When the Lights Go on Again (All Over the World)" (Vocal by Trevor Bacon)
1943: "Apollo Jump"
1943: "Sweet Slumber" (Vocal by Trevor Bacon)
1945: "Who Threw the Whiskey in the Well" (Vocal by Wynonie Harris)