On this day in music history: December 5, 1964…

On this day in music history: December 5, 1964 – “Ringo” by Lorne Greene hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week. Written by Don Robertson and Hal Blair, it is the debut single and biggest hit for the Canadian born actor. Born Lyon Himan Green in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada on February 12, 1915, Lorne Greene becomes a huge star on the iconic western TV series “Bonanza” as family patriarch Ben “Pa” Cartwright. One of the most popular television series of all time, the show will run for fourteen seasons between September 12, 1959 and January 16, 1973. With the show at or near the top of the Nielsen ratings through much of its run, in 1963 the show’s network NBC comes up with the idea of producing an album featuring members of the cast. Titled “Welcome To The Ponderosa”, the album features a track about the notorious western outlaw Johnny Ringo titled “Ringo”. Not being a natural singer, Greene recites a dramatic monologue about Ringo with a chorus of singers (supposedly either The Mello Men or The Jordanaires) backing him up. The track does not receive much notice until after The Beatles breakthrough in the US. Though the song is not about drummer Ringo Starr, a DJ in Lubbock, TX will discover the song in the Fall of 1964 and begins playing it. It generates such a huge response that RCA Records releases it as a single in October of 1964. Entering the Hot 100 at #62 on October 31, 1964, it leaps to the top of the chart five weeks later. The popularity of “Ringo” inspires numerous parody records including “Gringo” by songwriter Marty Cooper and released under the name El Clod. It is also parodied by comedian Frank Gallop in 1966 as “The Ballad Of Irving” (#34 Pop) on the comedy album “When You’re In Love And The Whole World Is Jewish”. Lorne Greene releases several more singles and albums thoughout the 60’s and into the 70’s, but none come close to matching the huge success of “Ringo”.