Friday, March 6, 2009

Yellow Balloon

Another TOTALLY inspired, creative band took their name from their big hit record when Yellow Balloon ... by The Yellow Balloon ... climbed its way up the pop charts in 1967, eventually peaking at #25. (This one, too, was a much bigger hit in Chicago, where it rose to #12 during The Summer Of Love.)

The band's BIGGEST claim to fame may be the fact that Don Grady, who portrayed Robbie Douglas on the hit television series "My Three Sons" for twelve years, was a member. But, the fact is, the "band" came later.

According to the liner notes of "Sunshine Days, Volume 3", the hit single was recorded by a bunch of studio musicians. Once the song became a hit, a touring band was quickly assembled to cash in on the hit. Since Don Grady was already a recording artist for the label (Canterbury Records), a good looking guy, AND a television star, HE was selected to front the band. (Actually, that's not quite true ... Grady was stuck in the back on the drums and had to wear a blonde wig and fake mustache so as NOT to be recognized by the fans!!! You can read all about it in the two links provided below.)

Grady was a pretty good musician, proficient on piano, guitar, bass, trumpet and drums. (In fact, much of his post-television career has been spent creating music for TV, movies, multi-media events and animated films!) In an interview with Noell Wolfgram Evans of Digital Media FX, Grady recalled the day "the jig was up", putting an end to his hiding behind a wig, a hat, a mustache, sunglasses and the drums.

"I would work during the week portraying Robbie on 'My Three Sons,' and on weekends, I would hop on a plane and travel to the city where the band was performing. To keep my identity a secret, I would wear a wig, mustache, shades and a big hat. I was on drums and harmonica, and sang too. One weekend, we were gigging in Denver, onstage for at least two hours. All sweated up while playing my harmonica, the fake mustache fell off. Immediately I was recognized by the fans, who stormed the stage and ripped off my wig. The jig was up." (In an effort to milk this sudden wave of publicity even further, Canterbury Records then sponsored a "Guess The Drummer" Contest in some of the teen magazines!!!)

Here are a couple more little known, interesting facts about The Yellow Balloon:

DIDJAKNOW?1: Ken Handler, the head of Canterbury Records, was the real-life model for the "Ken" doll. His parents founded the Mattel Toy Company and developed the Barbie and Ken dolls! In fact, Ken used HIS share of his parents' Mattel fortune to form Canterbury Records in 1966.

DIDJAKNOW?2: Yellow Balloon was written by Gary Zekley and Dick St. John ... who was one half of Dick and Dee Dee. It was first recorded by Jan and Dean (although Jan Berry was actually laid up in the hospital at the time after his infamous Dead Man's Curve accident ... Dean Torrence handled ALL of the vocals on the track but it was still released as a Jan and Dean record!)

Click here: The Yellow Balloon: Yellow Balloon Story!
Click here:

After we ran our Yellow Balloon piece in Forgotten Hits the first time, we heard

from Cass Kessler, who runs the official Yellow Balloon website, and then from two of the original members of the band: Alex Valdez and, by way of his brother, Don Braucht! All three of them have been Forgotten Hits list members ever since and have shared a number of interesting memories with our readers during that time.

In fact, I asked Alex if he might want to say a few words to the fans out there in honor of this piece going up on the web page this morning ... and here's what he had to say:

Right after the song took off, a group was formed to accommodate the requests for appearances. This group was made up of Mark Andes (pre-Heart and Firefall), John Beck (The Leaves), Darryl Dragon (Captain & Tenille) and I think Dave Andes (Mark's brother) ... and some guy with the last name of Rubin on drums. As I understand it, they wanted a better deal than was offered and pressured the label for more money. (I'm not 100% sure of all of this but the essence is there.) The label, not willing to be held hostage, asked Don Grady to take over the group and form a band. That is how myself and the rest of the guys came into being. Of course Mark and Darryl proved to be better off going in their different directions. Darryl (The Captain) has a brother named Dennis who went on a small southern tour with us ... he was a monster drummer who I have a great memory of ... he gave a drum clinic to all the hopefuls that came to our shows. He has done lots of studio work and had a group called "Surf Punks" whom I believe did fairly well.

There is also something that I'd like to clear up that is on some of the sites that are dedicated to the Yellow Balloon ... not yours ... but there's misinformation out there. Some of these sites mention that when the Yellow Balloon broke up, they went on to become the "Popcorn Explosion". This is entirely not true. Our guitar player, Paul, has a younger brother who brought his band out to L.A. and they were given the name "Popcorn Blizzard", by the Yellow Balloon's ex-manager. Nobody from the Yellow Balloon ever played in this group and for that matter never saw them perform. They eventually became disenchanted and returned to Tucson shortly thereafter.

The Yellow Balloon broke up primarily because we had nothing new to offer in the way of songs. We did some TV appearances around L.A. , but the guys were almost embarrassed to keep playing songs from our album that were just not catching on. We had released four singles from the album but it became evident that we needed something fresh and we just didn't have that. Besides, the label wanted to go in other directions.

I did some solo material after the Balloon burst. We had done the orchestra thing with big productions trying to jump on the Scott Walker model he was doing in England. The label was going big bucks with some other new artists as well and I think we may have been on the verge of coming up with something. BUT, all good things can come to a screeching halt sometimes. The label owner, Ken Handler, being the son of the Mattel Toy Co. owners was forced to close the label due to Mattel's financial problems starting to manifest. As I understood it, he lost some major money and was forced to curtail his life. There is a new book out called "Toy Monster" ... the big, bad world of Mattel ... that outlines that world and the family. I worked at Mattel while doing my solo album and had the privilege of working in R & D under Jack Ryan (the smartest man I've ever known). Of course I was treated somewhat special due to the fact that I was there because of the Handler family's interests. So my fellow workers were the actual people that invented and developed "Hot Wheels", 10 speed bike "Caps", Barbie"Slime", etc. A great part of my life.

The Yellow Balloon bass player, Don Braucht, had gone home to Oregon when the Yellow Balloon came to a halt, but later returned and became my roommate . I was in the process of starting a group which I was going to name "Smoke". We had auditioned and come up with a couple of monster players, one of which was a badass guitar player in the navy. Well, he went AWOL with one of his sailor buddies and we got 'em an apartment and they hid out. Smokey eventually turned himself in and did his time. His buddy, though, had applied for ID with the name I gave him, Jack Daniels, and got a job and later married. He eventually went back, too. Don Braucht joined a group called "The Relatives" which featured a young, unknown singer named Lynda Carter (Wonder Woman). That group ended up playing Caesar's Palace in Vegas for a long stretch.

Today we are all still alive, thank God. Don Grady, of course, will always be the success story. You can visit his website and hear the music he is putting out these days. It really is quite good, but then again he always was talented. Paul is an insurance investigator living in the L.A. area last I checked. Frosty, I believe, lives in the Carolinas and every few years I'll make an effort to track him down and have a short visit telephonically. Other than that the group does not stay in touch and, although I get calls to put something together, even if it's just me, to do some casino gigs, I just don't know if I'll ever muster up that kind of energy again. Although the people around me say I can still sing my A-- off ... so who knows!
Alex Valdez

Thanks, Alex ... you can visit Don Grady's website here:

Click here: - Home

Be sure to check out some of the new music he's got posted here ... REALLY good stuff!