The Story Behind A ‘Super-One-Hit Wonder’

I’ve always been a little reluctant to use the term ‘one-hit wonder’ but I’ve learned that there is often a compelling story behind an artist who carries that sobriquet. I’ve also learned that the term is applied to a lot of performers with records that do well on the charts, but very few actually reach the coveted number-one spot. It almost seems to me that there should be a special name for that — like ‘super-one-hit wonder’.

With all that in mind, here’s a little musical quiz for you. Among one-hit wonders, who had the best-selling record for the entire decade of the Fifties? It might surprise you to learn that it was Laurie London, who recorded his mega-hit, “He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands,” when he was just 13 years old.

When his record hit the top of the US charts in 1958, the young singer – who had turned 14 by then – became the first British recording artist to do so in the rock and roll era.

Laurie’s meteoric career actually began in his native London, when he was chosen to team up with the popular Geoff Love Orchestra to record a gospel piece that had been around for a while. The record did well in Great Britain, but didn’t really take off until Capitol Records decided that it might appeal to American listeners.

They were right — whether it was the novelty of the young singer’s voice or the song itself that touched them, the record steadily climbed the charts to number one and remained on top for several weeks. Other singers soon recorded the song – Mahalia Jackson for one – and it has continued to be a popular choice for many others through the years, but Laurie’s version was the one that really lit the fire.

Unfortunately – but not surprisingly – the young singer was never able to duplicate that level of success, even though he did continue recording for a few years. He did have some success in Europe, and even issued many recordings performing in German, but as he reached adulthood he eventually found himself out of the spotlight. In the years since, he’s been known to perform occasionally and at one time was said to be in the hotel business, but has kept a low profile.


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