REWIND: Four Guys In Disguise… Wonder Who?

I hear these guys change with the Seasons...

I hear these guys change with the Seasons…

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You’ve probably seen the advertisements for the Clint Eastwood directed Jersey Boys film, which opens in movie theaters  today. It’s based on the successful musical of the same name and tells the story of pop quartet The Four Seasons, their run of hits and the troubles within the band. Now, being that Frankie Valli and his group were so iconic and certainly left a number of musical memories, I guess I could’ve picked anything to highlight in their decades long career. However, it’s one from deep into their chart success that may be the most intriguing and probably one of the strangest cases in chart history, a two-horse race that will have you seeing doubling. Wonder who’s causing some trouble here?

By 1964, the group had made the jump from Vee-Jay Records to Phillips after their former label was dealt several financial issues, though both labels managed to chart top 40 singles by the act during that year. Luckily, those released on their new home were significantly larger, including the #1 hit “Rag Doll”, which spent two weeks at the top in July. In the months after this, an executive from Phillips heard a recording that Valli and the boys had made two years prior for what was supposed to be an album to fulfill their contract with Vee-Jay, specifically built around various songs of Bob Dylan. The effort was not released, but a song from it, meant as a joke, ended up as one of “The Four Seasons” bigger hits of 1965.

“Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Alright”, originally recorded for The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan in 1963, was issued in that fall as just “Don’t Think Twice” for The Wonder Who?, a name created by the label as they couldn’t credit the quartet or even Valli himself. Given the much higher falsetto performance by the singer, it sounded different enough to be a “new act”, yet recognizable to those who could figure out the mystery. After all, both it and “Let’s Hang On”, the current single at the time by The Four Seasons, were on the same label (Phillips) and produced by the same man, Bob Crewe.

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While “Hang” made its debut in October after two failed single, “Twice” did not enter the Hot 100 until early November and at lowly #90, while the former song was solidly headed into the top ten. However, by Thanksgiving (and the chart dated on the 27th of the month), “Twice” took several leaps up and landed at #32, making the group the first act in history to achieve two different top 40 singles consecutively under two different names. On the Christmas chart of 1965, “Hang” and “Twice” made their closest pass to one another; the former was holding steady at #4, while the latter peaked at #12, increasing that record to the top 20. Both began falling the next week, but not before they solidified their entry in a pretty interesting piece of chart trivia that’s not often remembered.

In the years to come, The Four Seasons had several other hits for Phillips before fading until the mid-70’s, during which Frankie Valli scored several hits on Private Stock, while The Four Seasons signed to Curb/Warner and also launched a comeback with 1975’s “Who Loves You” and 1976’s “December 1963 (Oh, What A Night)”, which topped the Hot 100 that March for three weeks. Meanwhile, The Wonder Who? didn’t have to wonder much longer; after their sole top 40 entry, three additional singles reached the Hot 100 but stalled out far below. Much like the official revelation of their identity, it was no real surprise that the singles didn’t stand a chance.

For more on those four Jersey Boys and their rise to stardomcheck out the new movie and/or download one of their hits collections via iTunes. You’ll be beggin’ for more.

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