Bobby Lewis is one of those talented performers whose recognition is confined to a single monster hit, "Tossin' and Turnin'." Released in early 1961, the single rode the charts for 23 weeks, eventually hitting the number one spot on both the pop and R&B charts. Lewis had other hits, including a Top Ten follow-up with "One Track Mind," and had been working for years before that, yet the one song came to be his signature.
Bobby Lewis was raised in an orphanage, and ran away from his foster home at age 14. He worked carnivals, and eventually joined the Leo Hines Orchestra in Indianapolis as a singer. He worked small clubs and theaters during the '50s, and cut "Mumbles Blues" for the Spotlight label early in that decade, passed through the Mercury Records roster, and briefly hooked up with Nat Tarnopol, who also managed Jackie Wilson.
In late 1960, while appearing at the Apollo Theater in New York, Lewis stopped at the offices of Beltone Records, a small independent outfit in Manhattan, and was prevailed upon to record a song written by another artist on the Apollo bill, Ritchie Adams, called "Tossin' and Turnin'." The single was issued at the end of 1960, and lightning struck in 1961 -- sales of the record were so strong that for the only time in its history, Beltone issued an accompanying album by Lewis. None of his subsequent records sold remotely as well as the three million copies of "Tossin' and Turnin'," and by the end of 1962, Lewis seemed to have run out his string; in 1963, Beltone itself went belly-up. Lewis later had limited success ("Stark Raving Mad") on ABC-Paramount, and was soon after consigned to rock & roll history, somewhat unfairly, as a one-hit wonder. ~ Bruce Eder