“Ringo” is, in all respects, a cash-in record. The song position appeared on Welcome to the Ponderosa, an album recorded to capitalize on Greene’s starring role on the hit TV Western Bonanza. Its spoken word verses and faceless chorus ape Jimmy Dean’s neo-folktale “Big Bad John.” But it was the fortuitous title that propelled the song to #1.
When Greene recorded “Ringo” in late 1963, it was an album track named for minor Wild West figure Johnny Ringo. But with the invasion of the British bands and a fad for all things Beatles, the nearly year-old record was dusted off and given a single release. Rock fans bought it for the title; Bonanza fans bought it for the singer. The combined novelty factor was just enough to slide “Ringo” into number one for one week, a position the song itself doesn’t really merit. Next to “Big Bad John,” its weaknesses become even more apparent. Dean’s folksy charm is swapped for Greene’s dry newsreader’s account. “Big Bad John” had the stirring story of a quiet hero who saves the lives of his fellow miners through superhuman strength. “Ringo” is about … a sheriff who doesn’t get killed by Johnny Ringo? It’s a lot less inspiring, at any rate. And unlike “Big Bad John,” it doesn’t even half-attempt a hook. In its original position, as a memento of a favorite TV show, it’s not bad. But as a single, it’s entirely unnecessary. 3
Hit #1 on December 5, 1964; total of 1 week at #1
122 of 994 #1’s reviewed; 12.27% through the Hot 100