Music Monday: Tony Burrows, The Five-Time One-Hit Wonder

Keith Chaffee, Librarian, Central Library,
Tony Burrows

You may not know the name Tony Burrows, but if you were listening to pop music in the spring of 1970, you know his voice. In a three-month period, Burrows was the lead singer on four different hit records by four different groups.

In the late 1960s and 1970s, if a songwriter and a producer thought they had a potential hit song, they would often assemble a group of studio musicians to record the song. They'd attach a band name to it and release the song as a single. If it took off, the lead singer might be brought back into the studio to throw together a quick album, but as often as not, the life of the "band" would end with the life of that single song.

Tony Burrows was one of England's most popular studio singers at the time, and as such, he was often the lead singer on such records. His string of successes began with "Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)", by Edison Lighthouse. Of the Burrows-voiced hits, this soaring, joyful love song is the one you're most likely to hear on oldies radio today.

Next up was a group called Brotherhood of Man. Their song "United We Stand" was a stately anthem about the power of unity that became particularly popular with the growing gay rights movement.

(If you remember a different song associated with the name Brotherhood of Man, you're right. The name had a complicated history. The producers behind Brotherhood of Man attached the name to a lot of different songs in the early 1970s, with a constantly changing lineup of studio musicians on each. By the mid-1970s, the group had become a quartet with stable membership, and it was that version of Brotherhood of Man that landed on the US charts in 1976 with "Save Your Kisses for Me." But there was no overlap in membership between the two incarnations of the band; they were essentially two different groups with a common name, each having only one big US hit.)

Burrows' 1970 streak continued with the bouncy "My Baby Loves Lovin'", by White Plains. The final hit in the string was The Pipkins' novelty "Gimme Dat Ding", written for a children's TV special, which took the form of a dialogue between a piano, sung by Roger Greenaway in a Mickey Mouse-ish falsetto, and a metronome, chanted by Burrows in a gravelly rasp.

Burrows was never able to duplicate that success under his own name. He recorded several songs for Bell Records for an album that was never finished; of the singles that Bell released, only "Melanie Makes Me Smile" caught on at all, and that only climbed as high as #85 on the pop charts.

His US success wasn't quite over, though. In 1974, Burrows returned to the charts as the unnamed voice of yet another studio group. "Beach Baby", by The First Class, was such a skillfully made Beach Boys homage that when Brian Wilson first heard the record, he said that the band must be from Southern California.

With five top-20 hits for five different bands, Tony Burrows is surely the most successful – and the most anonymous – one-hit wonder the American pop charts have ever known.