Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: I've been thinking about how many Rock Era singers fronted a group before launching a solo career, which leads to my question:

While still with their group, did it ever happen that both the lead singer and the group were in the Top 10 at the same time with competing songs?

I once read how the Crickets and Buddy Holly had simultaneous hits, and it seems either John Lennon or Paul McCartney could have done so while still with the Beatles.

A few other possibilities that come to mind are: Brian Wilson (Beach Boys); Diana Ross (Supremes); Tony Williams (Platters); John Fogerty (Creedence Clearwater Revival); Smokey Robinson (Miracles); Michael Jackson (Jackson 5); Mick Jagger (Rolling Stones); Clyde McPhatter (Drifters); and Eric Burdon (Animals).

Some of these guesses must be right.
—Lex Gulick, Green Bay, Wisc.

DEAR LEX: Then it may surprise you to learn just one of your suggested possibilities managed to reside in the Top 10 at the same time as his group: Buddy Holly.

This uncommon incidence lasted for only one week in mid-January 1958, when “Peggy Sue” (Buddy Holly) and “Oh Boy” (Crickets) held spots No. 4 and No. 10 respectively.

An even more impressive occurrence than “Peggy Sue” and “Oh Boy,” both of which are really by Buddy Holly and the Crickets, is one involving Frankie Valli and the 4 Seasons.

While still a Season in good standing, and with their “C'mon Marianne” at No. 9 (July 22, 1967), Frankie's “Can't Take My Eyes off You” held the No. 2 position. Coincidentally, those rankings represent the survey peak for both singles.

This is not to say some of your solo and group guesses did not have hits at the same time, just not ones in the Top 10.

For example, in early September of 1972, both “Ben” (Michael Jackson) and “Lookin' Through the Windows” (Jackson 5) were in the Top 30, at No. 26 and No. 27 respectively.

Likewise, both “Instant Karma” (John Lennon) and “The Long and Winding Road” (Beatles) held Top 40 positions for one week in May 1970, though never together in the Top 10.

As for Wilson, Fogerty, Ross, Jagger, McPhatter, Robinson, and Burdon, they either charted in a week when their group did not, or after they left the group seeking solo success.

Despite some downright incredible recordings, such as “Sleepless Nights” and “When You Return,” none of Tony Williams' Platterless platters charted.

DEAR JERRY: One of the satellite Blues channels occasionally plays “Wang Dang Doodle,” but they credit it only to Ko Ko Taylor.

Clearly there is a male singer with her on this track.

On YouTube I found a vintage black-and-white video of this song, probably from a mid-'60s TV appearance, and she is accompanied by Little Walter. However, he only plays harmonica while Taylor does all the singing.

Though he does not sing on this performance, is Little Walter still the man dueting with Ko Ko on the hit single?
—Austin Jones, Baltimore, Md.

DEAR AUSTIN: The writer of “Wang Dang Doodle” (Checker 1145) is Willie Dixon, and his is the second voice you hear on the original recording.

Dixon is also the producer of this December 7, 1965 session, which, despite his being another Checker artist, does not include Little Walter.

On “Wang Dang Doodle,” Taylor is shown as Ko Ko, though more often you'll see her as Koko.

IZ ZAT SO? For singles sales, of the 40 all-time top groups and duets only one did not have a member, especially their lead singer pursue a solo career at some point: the Four Tops, and their legendary lead vocalist, Levi Stubbs (1936-2008).

Perhaps the most amazing thing about this quartet is, since their first record (1956), they never had a personnel change due to anything other than the death or incapacitation of a member.

No one left the Tops to join another group or to spin solo.

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