One-Hit-Wonders Who Became Composers

March 22, 2018

Say you’re a musician and you work and toil for years and finally score a big hit song…but then you can’t ever manage another one. How to pay the bills? Write musical scores for film and television.

Jay Ferguson

Jay Ferguson is a double one-hit wonder. In 1968, his rock band spirit scored its only top 30 hit with the song “I Got a Line on You.” He eventually left the band and in 1978 scored his only solo hit, the soft rock classic “Thunder Island.” After six poor-selling albums and a string of minor and non-hit singles, Ferguson opted to try his hand and writing pop and rock scores and theme songs for the screen. Ferguson wrote the score for A Nightmare on Elm Street 5, and he currently makes all the music for CBS’s crime drama NCIS: Los Angeles. Ferguson’s best known TV tune: the jaunty theme song to the American version of The Office.

Adam Schlesinger

Schlesinger wrote and played catchy, Beatles-esque pop rock in cult favorite bands like Ivy and Fountains of Wayne. The latter scored its one and only hit in 2003 with “Stacy’s Mom.” Concurrently to his rock career, Schlesinger wrote music for movies, earning an Academy Award nomination for writing the theme song from That Thing You Do! in 1996. He currently co-writes most of the music and lyrics for CW’s musical comedy series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. For his work there, Schlesinger has been nominated for three Emmy Awards.

Walter Murphy

In 1976, Murphy single-handedly started a brief music fad: classical disco. His song “A Fifth of Beethoven” rearranged Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and set it to a disco beat. It topped the charts, and Murphy created other classically-inspired disco hits, like “Rhapsody in Blue” and “Mostly Mozart.” When disco died, so did Murphy’s pop career. He wrote commercial jingles for a while before moving into TV composing. Along with writing some songs for a rock music-themed episode of The A-Team in 1985, Murphy is best known as the composer of the many original, big band-style and show tunes for Fox’s long-running animated series, Family Guy. When Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane made the movie Ted, he asked Murphy to write a song with him called “Everybody Needs a Best Friend.” For that, Murphy received an Oscar nomination.