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What do ‘60s novelty band Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs and country singer Faith Hill have in common?
Both performers scored the top song of a calendar year…with a song that never actually went to #1 on the weekly pop chart.
Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs are best known for two enduring ‘60s classics: “Lil’ Red Riding Hood” and “Wooly Bully.” The band’s gimmick was that they dressed like “Egyptians,” or rather a stereotypical image of Egyptians gleaned from old movies—turbans, robes, and headdresses. The Pharaohs had a handful of hits in the mid-’60s. At the peak of the British Invasion in 1965, the American group scored a hit with a song inspired by the Hully Gully dance: “Wooly Bully,” named after Sam the Sham’s cat. As the follow-up “Lil’ Red Riding Hood” would, “Wooly Bully” went to #2 on the pop chart. But it stayed on the charts for 18 long weeks, enough to make it the #1 song of the year, the first time a song that didn’t hit #1 would be the year’s biggest single.
“Breathe” was the title song from Hill’s fourth album. By 2000, she was already a country superstar, selling more than ten million albums and 12 hits on the country chart. “Breathe” was the rare country song that crossed over to the pop chart. It went all the way to #2, but would wind up the most successful single of the year 2000.
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