I met Chesney on the one (and only) occasion and the one question I asked him was, “Does it make you angry that the media class you as a one-hit-wonder when in actual facts you had half a dozen hits?” Very diplomatically he told me, it used to bother him years ago, but I don’t worry about it anymore. He even featured highly on Channel 4‘s Top 10 One Hit Wonders, but what do you expect from Channel 4? In fact, most of the acts in the particular show were not one-hit-wonders. The programme should be called Channel 4‘s Top 10 One-hit-Wonders that we can remember. Anyway, the song put Chesney on the musical map and earned the man who wrote it enough money to buy two houses.
In the sixties Brian Poole & The Tremeloes scored Top 10 hits with Twist And Shout, I Can Dance, Candy Man and the number one, Do You Love Me? When The Tremeloes split with Brian Poole, singer and guitarist Len ‘Chip’ Hawkes became his replacement and they scored a further seven Top 10 hits including the number one, Silence Is Golden. In the seventies, Len’s wife, Carol, worked with Bob Monkhouse on the game show, The Golden Shot. Then 24 years later, Len and Carol’s son Chesney was at the top of the chart, a rare example of father and son at number one albeit on separate occasions. Given that background, there was little doubt that Chesney was going to be a star. One thing Chesney did recall of his childhood many years later was, “My parents were like rock ‘n’ roll hippies, with my mum always in really short skirts, my dad still has long hair. They would throw parties all the time and when we’d get up for school, we’d have to step over one or two musicians to get to our cornflakes.”
Chesney was born in Windsor in 1971 and named after the comedian Chesney Allen, from the comedy duo Flanagan & Allen. In 1990, he was picked to star alongside Roger Daltrey in Buddy’s Song. “They were looking up and down the country for someone who could possibly be Roger Daltrey’s son,” remembered Chesney. “and they wanted someone who could play guitar, play piano and sing and I got the job. I remembered being so nervous because I’d never acted before.” The show got great reviews and The One and Only, which featured in the show, always got the audience going.
The song was written by eighties pop star Nik Kershaw who, himself, scored 11 hits in that decade with the biggest being I Won’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me which peaked at number two in 1984. “The One and Only wasn’t written in particular for Chesney” explained Nik to Graham Clark in the Yorkshire Times last month. “I had taken a cassette of some of my songs into my publisher and the next day I received a call saying Chip Hawkes from The Tremeloes had heard the song and loved it, asking if it could be used for a film, Buddy’s Song that his son Chesney was going to be in with Roger Daltrey from The Who”
Because Chesney is unfairly classed as a one hit wonder, the writer shoulders some of the blame, “He was nurturing his own career nicely until I turned up to spoil it with a hit that overshadowed everything,” Nik said. “I really think that this song wrecked it for Chesney. I came up with song after my string of hits dried up, Ches was a new, fresh face, like I had been seven or eight years previously.” What did Nik actually think of the song? “I wasn’t particularly precious about The One And Only, I’ve just got this affliction to write those kind of songs. I just have to write them and stick them on a shelf and get them out of the way. I really don’t know why people like them.” Early in 1991 Nik had submitted a number of songs to Warner Chappell music. One day Chesney’s manager was in the Warner offices and heard the song and thought it would be good for Chesney to do. “I did one performance on The Little And Large Show and it skyrocketed from there,” remembered Chesney, “two weeks later, it was number one.”
The song was released in February 1991, “I never thought it was a potential number one, but then watched in amazement as the song shot up the charts,” Kershaw said, “Ches did all the promo, I just sat in an armchair sipping Merlot while it flew up the charts. I sometimes wonder how it would have worked out for him if he hadn’t had to follow a number one, he’s hugely talented, but he never got a chance to prove it, because of that song. I don’t think many people realise I wrote it but it did buy me a couple of houses and Ches and I are still best mates,” he said in 2017.
Chesney’s other nineties hits were I’m a Man Not a Boy, Secrets of the Heart, What’s Wrong with This Picture? and Stay Away Baby Jane, but because they weren’t big sellers he turned his hand to song writing and his biggest success was the song Once Around the Sun which was a number 24 hit for American singer and actress Caprice. In 2001, he co-wrote the track Jane Doe on Nik Kershaw’s album To Be Frank.
In the mid-90s Chesney refused to sing his biggest hit as he didn’t want it to define him, but in 2001 he decided to do a mini tour and test the water again thus biting the bullet and performed The Only and Only. Word spread and he ended up doing over 600 dates.
The song has always had legs, cheesy as it may be, it still goes down well at parties and weddings. It has also featured in an interesting way in films; David Bowie’s son, Duncan Jones, directed two films, Moon (2009) and Source Code (2011) in which the song featured in both, firstly as an alarm clock tone in Moon and as a mobile phone ringtone in Source Code.
In 2008, Chesney decided on yet another new career path by heading to the stage where he performed in the jukebox musical Can’t Smile Without You featuring the songs of Barry Manilow.
Chesney’s most distinctive feature was a mole on his upper lip. When he was at number one in 1991, a radio station in London ran a competition with the prize being a do-it-yourself Chesney Hawkes kit. It comprised of a brown felt-tip pen! He did eventually have the mole removed.