The early days of rock ‘n’ roll were loaded with doubles that had Top 40 hits. From the time Bill Haley & the Comets hit No. 1 with “Rock Around the Clock” in the spring of 1955 until the arrival of the Beatles and Rolling Stones in the mid-1960s, the music world has been inundated with successful duos.
The husband-and-wife team of Les Paul and Mary Ford were the singing sensations of the early 1950s. Their string of hits started with “Tennessee Waltz” in 1950 and “Mockin’ Bird Hill” and “How High is the Moon” in 1951. An innovator with the electric guitar and multitrack recordings, Paul and his wife were still recording top hits in 1955 with “Hummingbird” and “Amukiriki.”
Of the more than 25 hit-making duos from 1955 to 1964, the two that enjoyed the most success were the Everly Brothers and Simon & Garfunkel.
The Everly Brothers exploded on the scene in the middle of 1957 when “Bye Bye Love” reached No. 2 and “Wake Up Little Susie” followed at No. 1. The duo, which had 29 Top 40 hits, had three other No. 1 smashes: “All I Have To Do is Dream” and “Bird Dog” in 1958 and “Cathy’s Clown” in 1960.
Recording as Tom & Jerry in 1957, Paul simon and Art Garfunkel split in 1964 and then reunited in 1965 as Simon & Garfunkel. Tom & Jerry had one semi-hit with “Hey! Schoolgirl” in 1957.
Things changed radically for the duo in 1965 when “The Sound of Silence” rose to the top off the charts in December. This was the first of their three No. 1 hits and the first of their 15 Top 40 singles. Their other No. 1 hits were “Mrs. Robinson” in 1968 and “Bridge over Troubled Water” in 1970.
There were nine other duos that had chart hits during the 1950s.
Patience and Prudence, 14- and 11-year-old sisters from Los Angeles, had two Top 10 hits in 1956: “Tonight You Belong to Me” and “Gonna Get Along Without You Now.”
Buchanan and Goodman had a style that never has been duplicated. They had break-in recorded bits of Top 40 hits interspersed with their dialogues. They had three hits in 1956: “The Flying Saucer (Parts I and II),” “Flying Saucer The 2nd” and “Santa and the Satellite.”
Johnny and Joe and Mickey and Sylvia each had their only hits in 1957. Johnny and Joe reached No. 8 with “Over the Mountain, Across the Sea” in the spring, and Mickey and Sylvia charted “Love Is Strange” in January. The song topped out at No. 11.
Two more duos placed records in the Top 40 in 1958.
The Kalin Twins hit No. 5 with “When” in the spring, and “Forget Me Not” reached No. 12 in the fall.
Billy and Lillie reached the charts for the first time as “La Dee Dah” hit No. 9 in January 1958. One year later, “Lucky Ladybug” rose to No. 11.
Jan and Dean helped start the surf sound in 1959 as they scored with the first of their Top 10 hits, “Baby Talk,” which reached No. 10. Of their 12 other Top 40 hits, the only one to hit the top spot was “Surf City” in 1963.
Four other duos charted songs in 1959.
Santo and Johnny, guitar-playing brothers from Brooklyn, were an instrumental duo. They reached No. 1 with “Sleep Walk” in August 1959 and followed with “Tear Drop” later that year.
A country/comedy team from Tennessee, Homer and Jethro, charted with “The Battle of “Kookamonga,” a parody of Johnny Horton’s No. 1 hit “The Battle of New Orleans.” Homer and Jethro gained more fame during the 1960s for their guest appearances on “The Beverly Hillbillies.”
Skip and Flip reached No. 11 with “It was I” and followed with “Cherry Pie” in 1960. Gary “Flip” Paxton helped assemble the Hollywood Argyles in 1960, and their novelty hit “Alley-Oop” topped the charts.
Travis and Bob, a duo from Alabama, had their only chart single with “Tell Him No.”
The dynamic and controversial Ike and Tina Turner, a husband-and-wife duo, scored with “A Fool in Love” in 1960. It was the first of their six chart hits, the biggest of which was “Proud Mary,” which rose to No. 4 in 1971.
After their divorce in 1976, Tina Turner worked as a single and produced 14 chart songs. Her most successful hit was “What’s Love Got To Do With It,” which hit the top in 1984.
The piano duo of Ferrante & Teicher scored with “Theme from the Apartment” in the summer of 1960. They had another Top 10 hit later in the year when “Exodus” reached No. 2.
Also debuting on the charts in 1960 were the Fendermen, a guitar-playing/singing pair from Wisconsin who placed “Mule Skinner Blues” in the Top 5.
Six other duos reached the charts through 1964.
Californians Dick and Deedee had their only Top 10 smash when “The Mountain’s High” rolled to No. 2 in 1961. They recorded four other Top 40 hits.
A member of the infamous “one-hit wonder” club, Don and Juan had their only chart single in 1962 when “What’s Your Name” climbed to No. 7.
Paul and Paula and Dale and Grace both reached No. 1 on the charts in 1963. Texans Paul and Paula scored with “Hey Paula” and Dale and Grace with “I’m Leaving It Up to You.”
Two British Invasion duos joined the Beatles and Rolling Stones on the charts in 1964.
Formed in London, Peter and Gordon had 10 chart singles beginning with their only No. 1 hit, “A World Without Love,” in 1964. Peter Asher later went into production and management, working with James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt, among others.
Londoners Chad and Jeremy, a folk/rock duo, had seven chart singles. Their biggest — “A Summer’s Song” — topped at No. 7 in 1964.
While the first decade was loaded with duos, they are virtually non-existent in today’s rock music.
Barry Levine is a news copy editor at The Albany Herald. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.