Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Buckinghams: Wrapping Things Up

In our never-ending pursuit of "The Most Accurate Truth" ... and in an effort to further debunk some of the myths surrounding The Buckinghams, past, present and future ... here are a few more comments from some of the principles involved ... including the correcting some of my OWN mistakes:

>>>The Buckinghams reunited for a brief period of time around 1985, I believe ... they did a big show here in Chicago, headlining (at Mayor Jane Byrne's request) "Chicagofest", the precursor to "A Taste Of Chicago".  The response was SO good that they decided to do some more shows together and even recorded a brand new album.  Then when things didn't really take off the way they had hoped they would, Dennis decided to split for California and try it on his own as an actor.   (kk)
Your timeframe is off a little bit here.  From 1980 to 1983 we had been playing a handful of dates every summer. At that time it was Dennis, Nick and me. It started with WLS asking us to perform on their stage at Chicago Fest in 1980. By 1983 I felt the growing interest in our music again and while recording some new songs (there was no new album), Dennis decided it wasn't for him and went back to LA to pursue his acting career, so Nick and I continued without him.   (Carl Giammarese)

Carl and Nick recorded some new tracks on their own, without me. They did ask me to come in and lay down vocals on their tracks, but it just wasn't a good fit.
After the reunion shows, I didn't decide to "split for California and try to make it as an actor" ... I had already been living in California for eight years, and acting and singing prior to this recording incident. So for accuracy's sake, I didn't decide to "split for California" ... 
I LIVED there. I just went back home! 
ANOTHER MYTH: All the stories making it seem like I "left" because things didn't "take off". There was a 1980 "temporary-reunion" and then some gigs and then I returned to my work in Los Angeles. There was no band to leave.  After the 1980 reunion in Chicago I returned to my solo career and Carl and Nick went forward with their rendition of the band.  (Dennis Tufano)

EDITOR'S NOTE:  For the record, the album I was referring to was called "A Matter Of Time", which spawned the single "Veronica". It was released on Red Label Records in 1985 and featured all new material, primarily written by Carl Giammarese and Nick Fortuna.  It's now long out of print.  (kk)

>>>Carl Giammarese (who never stopped being a Buck) has been singing all the songs for the past 25 years and, as such, has a VERY loyal following of fans ... and, since Dennis walked away from the opportunity to continue on with the band, Carl and original member Nick Fortuna, the bassist are legally ... and "officially" ... The Buckinghams.  (kk)

My original piece explains the correct chronological sequence of events as they pertain to the members of The Buckinghams.  Although Carl and Nick are portrayed as original founding members, this really isn't correct.  In the beginning, drummer John Poulos personally recruited the band members ... first myself and George LeGros, to be the singers in his new band, The Pulsations. John and I then added Carl Giammarese and Curtis Bachman from the band The Centuries, with whom Nick Fortuna played rhythm-guitar.  “All Time Hits” the WGN TV show spawned the newly named band, “The Buckinghams”.  Members at that time were: John Poulos - drums, Curtis Bachman - bass, Carl Giammarese - guitar, Dennis Micolis - keyboards, Dennis Tufano - vocals, and George LeGros - vocals.  George LeGros was drafted into military service and had to leave the band. This left me, Dennis Tufano, to step into “lead vocals”.
Later... AFTER the All Time Hits Show, Nick became a “Buckingham” as bass guitarist on the Kind Of A Drag album ... but he was NOT a member of The Buckinghams until we went in to record our first record.  After the release of Kind Of A Drag,  John Poulos and myself enlisted Marty Grebb from The Exceptions.  This change made the new line-up of The Buckinghams 
John Poulos - Drums, Nick Fortuna - Bass, Carl Giammarese - guitar, Marty Grebb - guitar / keyboards / sax, Dennis Tufano - lead vocals / harmonica.
The Buckinghams officially disbanded in 1970 just after Marty Grebb left to play with Leon Russell.  As such, it really isn't a true statement or accurate to say that Carl "never stopped being a Buck" ... once the group officially disbanded in 1970, there were no more Buckinghams.  Carl stopped being a Buck, along with all of us, back in 1970.  This kind of
un-truth is what supports and feeds all the misguided stories.  After the official split in 1970,
Carl and I started recording as Tufano & Giammarese and The Tufano & Giammarese Band.
(Dennis Tufano)
>>>Recently (in the last few years), Dennis has started singing again, primarily doing his Tribute To Bobby Darin Show, "As Long As I'm Singin'".  (kk)
My return to singing was with my Bobby Darin tribute show in 2005. During that time the producers of the PBS series, "My Generation, the 60's" called all of us to be a part of that series. Carl and Nick declined to perform with me on the show. The producers then asked me, as the lead singer, to be a part of the show without them. After the show aired on PBS, I was called upon to perform live "Classic Rock Shows" as myself.  (Dennis Tufano)

THE LAST WORD:  One thing that we have seen while putting together this little series is that the animosity that seems to exist on the surface whenever The Buckinghams are discussed lately is NOT on the part of the former bandmates ... but rather at the fan level.  Fans seem to have chosen up sides ... which is fine ... we're all allowed our favorites.  But then the folks on Team Carl or Team Dennis seem to feel the need to SLAM the alternate choice.  If you visit any of the other posting boards that discuss this topic, what you'll find is a bunch of mean-spirited people POSING as fans, saying hateful and hurtful things about these artists ... and that is something WE hoped to stop with this Buckinghams profile.  
(To complicate matters even further, other people visiting these sites read these disparaging comments and then attribute them to the principles behind the scenes, assuming that Dennis and Carl must feel this way, too ... when, in fact, nothing could be further from the truth.  One common goal that BOTH men expressed to me was the need to STOP this downright nasty bickering between the fans ... it does NOTHING to help promote the artists or the music.)

As such, our goal was to get the facts out there ... answer some of the unanswered questions ... resolve some of the myths ... and promote BOTH artists for their continuing efforts to keep this great music alive.  Forgotten Hits will NOT play party to airing any negative comments that some of these OTHER sites don't even seem to monitor  ... we say if you feel that strongly about it one way or another, keep your opinions to yourself and buy your tickets to the other show ... 'nuff said. 

The joy is in the music ... and the REAL fans know that.  If instead you're deriving joy by dissing one artist or the other, then you don't deserve to call yourself a "fan" ... and you need to know that you're not endearing yourself to either artists by doing so ... you're only helping to spread more unnecessary bad will ... and that doesn't do ANYBODY any good.

As for me, I choose to continue to enjoy the music of BOTH entities and again want to thank Dennis and Carl for sharing their thoughts and memories with our readers.  I know in some ways this may have been a little hard for them to drudge up some of these long-standing facts and feelings ... but both men were committed to stopping this hate-mongering that seems to be going on at the fan level ... and I sincerely appreciate their choosing Forgotten Hits to do so.  (Who knows ... maybe it was even therapeutic in some small way!!!  lol)

Be sure to check out their websites to see when Carl and The Buckinghams ... or Dennis Tufano solo ... may be coming to your area ... both artists put on shows WELL worth seeing.  (kk)

Click here: The Buckinghams Tour Dates | Pollstar - The Concert Hotwire

>>>What's the scoop on The Buckinghams?  What is the deal with Dennis?  He was telling me he was not allowed to be a Buckingham ... that the other two own the name?  (Who is that?  Carl and Nick?)  Did they have a falling out? Tried to google it but nothing came up.

It's the same old story, Mickey. It happens often, just like with those Mrs. Brown guys and Sloop John B. guys. They generally settle their differences in court!

Actually, if you read the whole article, you'll see that in this instance, things are pretty cut and dried ... Carl and Nick (Giammarese and Fortuna) own the rights to The Buckinghams' name ... and Dennis Tufano performs as a solo act, sometimes billed as either "formerly of The Buckinghams" or "The original voice of The Buckinghams."  Pretty simple really ... and this arrangement seems to be working for all of the parties concerned.  (kk)
Here's a great 2002 Chicago Tribune article on the Buckinghams' comeback ... talks about their 1980 ChicagoFest appearance. 
And talk about trivia ... my very good friend and Forgotten Hits contributor, Dick Eastman, opened for them that very day in June of 1980 at Navy Pier with, of course, "The Dick Eastman Band".
Hoffman Estates

I tried to get a hold of Joshua Howes, who wrote the article back in 2002, for some updated commentary ... but no luck so far.  Meanwhile, since it's SO timely and relevant to our recent series ... and since you probably can't find it anywhere else ... here it is again for all The Buckinghams fans to enjoy!  Thanks, Dave!  (kk)
August 02, 2002
By Joshua Howes, Tribune Staff Reporter
For the Buckinghams, It's Still Not Kind of a DragIt was General Douglas MacArthur who said that old soldiers never die; they just fade away.
Old rock 'n' rollers, it seems, do neither.
Chicago-based pop quintet the Buckinghams was once the toast of the pop music world, a hip bunch of teenage boys with bowl-cuts whose debut single "Kind of a Drag" went straight to No. 1 on the Billboard music charts, displacing then-reigning teeny boppers the Monkees.
That was 1966.
On the strength of that debut, the Buckinghams went on to play almost a hundred concerts a year to sold-out audiences nationwide, earning over half-a-million dollars.
That was last year.
Yes, 36 years after "Kind of a Drag," and 31 years since their original breakup, the two original founding members of the Bucks, with three replacements, are still dragging their well-worn '60s sound all across the country, playing most recently at small-town fests in the Chicago area, including shows in Westmont, Westchester and Bensenville. Saturday, they'll hit Northbrook, playing at this year's Northbrook Days.
"You didn't know we're sponsored by Viagra, did you?" original lead singer Carl Giammarese asked an excitable and attentive audience at the recent Westchester Funfest.
Giammarese may be joking, but Viagra and other corporate sponsors might take note. All over the country, reunited '60s pop groups are selling out small - and medium - size venues, earning little acclaim, but often making bigger money than they ever saw back in their Ed Sullivan days.
You might recall other one-hit or two-bit wonders from music's yesteryear, such as the Turtles, the Grass Roots and Gary Lewis and the Playboys, three bands that joined the Buckinghams for the "Happy Together Tour" in 1985. This group of oldies - but - goodies sold out shows in 125 cities and certified that the appetite for '60s pop was never sated.
"There was always a love for 1960s music ... because it touches home for people," explained the Buckinghams' road manager, Susan Rakis. "Every show that I am with them, somebody new will come up and say, you know what, you pulled me through a lot of stuff, you know, divorces, marriages, deaths, wars. Or `You pulled me through Vietnam.'"
Indeed, that type of nostalgia seemed to be the prime motivation for older fans at the Buckinghams' Westchester show. Joyce Wasniak, 53, said, "It just takes me back to high school."  But Rakis is quick to point out that nostalgia isn't the only factor; the Buckinghams also attract thousands of younger fans. She said that among the 3,000 members of the Buckinghams' Chicago-based fan club, about half are under the age of 30 -- far too young to remember Ed Sullivan, the Beatles haircut, or the original success of "Kind of a Drag."
For the Buckinghams, the fun started back in the mid-'60s when the boys were in high school and calling themselves the Pulsations. The Anglo-mania of the time led them to a palatial new name. They cut their first single, "Kind of a Drag" in 1966 and to everybody's surprise, the two-minute record went straight to No. 1, launching them onto the national scene.
By 1967, the Buckinghams were appearing on Ed Sullivan, Jerry Lewis, Dick Clark's "American Bandstand" and the Smothers Brother's TV hour, where the producers, unaware of the band's Chicago roots, festooned the stage with 18 British flags.
For about a year-and-a-half, the Top 10 hits kept coming, including "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy," "Susan," and "Hey Baby (They're Playing Our Song)." But by 1969, acts like The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and the Doors were starting a revolution, and Buckinghams-style pop was on the way out.
At one concert in 1969, the Buckinghams found themselves booed off the stage by fans impatient to hear flower-power icon Donovan, who finally "floated in about a foot off the ground," as Nick Fortuna, bassist and original band member, put it.
A couple of years later, the band was broken-up and in debt. In what Fortuna called "a typical sad story," the Buckinghams' managers and record producers made off with most of the money, paying the star-struck teenagers only a few hundred dollars a week during their heyday and then dumping them with a stack of unpaid bills, he said.
By the late 1970s, Giammarese was singing commercial jingles and Fortuna was playing in R&B combos and cutting hair for a living.
But in 1980, a producer with WLS-Chicago asked Giammarese if he would be interested in getting the Buckinghams back together to play at ChicagoFest that June, and after just a few weeks' rehearsal, Giammarese, Fortuna, and vocalist Dennis Tufano re-opened the Buckinghams for business, before 12,000 fans at a dilapidated Navy Pier.
Fortuna and Giammarese seem unfazed by the suggestion that by playing "Kind of a Drag" well over 1,000 times in the last 20 years, they're just milking a lucky hit for all its worth.
"We're very fortunate people," said Giammarese. "There were many years in high school when I thought I'd be an automotive designer."
Fortuna is a bit more caustic, noting that if the Buckinghams had had five Top 10 hits today instead of in 1967, they would be multimillionaires. As for Tufano's decision in 1983 not to stick with the reunion and pursue acting, well, that's just "one less mouth to feed."
Fortuna also took pains to point out that life on the road ain't so easy at 56.
"Imagine the process you go through to get to your vacation destination -- that's what we go through, every day ... It's no cakewalk."
This Giammarese good cop / Fortuna bad cop routine runs straight through the Buckinghams' concerts, in which the two play the roles of entertainers as much as musicians, something Giammarese readily admits.
Though the Buckinghams aren't taking any risks -- they play the same hits at every show -- the audiences know what they're getting and appreciate it, judging by their enthusiastic entreaties for an encore Sunday night.  Mary Kay Weber, director of corporate sales for Prism Entertainment in Hinsdale, describes the Buckinghams' success this way: "They're a great value, especially in the Chicago marketplace. They're affordable -- under $10,000 -- and still have national name recognition and a great local fan base."  That's why Weber first booked the Buckinghams to play the annual Westmont Fest.
Good article ... for the time ... although I'm not so sure I'd lump The Buckinghams, The Turtles, The Grass Roots and Gary Lewis and the Playboys into the "One Hit, Two-Bit Wonders" category ... in fact, not even CLOSE!!!  Between them, these four artists probably had 40 Top 40 Hits!!!  And how ironic is this ... this year and last, The Buckinghams, The Grass Roots and The Turtles were STILL headlining The Happy Together Tour ... and later this summer, former Buckinghams Lead Singer Dennis Tufano will be sharing the stage atThe Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas with ... you guessed it ... Gary Lewis and the Playboys!!! 
(The more things change, the more things stay the same!!!  lol)  kk 

Hi Kent --
About the "founding members" of The Buckinghams -- many times people like to make it look like they started the band -- the reality is, the band was really Jon Poulos' -- HE asked every one else.  "The Pulsations" were the forerunner to the Buckinghams -- all others, including myself are "Johnny come late-lies" -- the facts as Dennis presents them are correct.
I have a new CD out there doing pretty well right now -- "High Steppin".
Marty Grebb

Great to hear from you, Marty!  (And we would LOVE to "sneak peek" a track from your new CD in Forgotten Hits!!!) 
In all fairness, while Dennis presents an accurate chronological sequence regarding who joined when, the initial "start up" line-up of a drummer and two lead vocalists does NOT a band make.  THAT line-up didn't appear or perform anywhere (nor would anyone have had an interest in seeing that!!!  lol) ... it didn't turn into a "band" until Carl Giammarese, Dennis Micolis and Curtis Bachman came onboard ... and even then it was as The Pulsations, the pre-cursor to The Buckinghams, that came out of that line-up.  Certainly ALL bands go through a variety of members before they hit on a line-up that truly "clicks" ... and The Buckinghams were no different.  The band involved in their WGN-TV stint would be a significant career milestone ... as would the band involved with recording of their first LP ... but I'd venture to say that the PREMIER line-up of The Buckinghams during the hit-making years has just GOT to include Nick Fortuna ... and Marty Grebb!!!  Meaning no disrespect to any of those fine musicians who came before you, it was YOU guys (along with Dennis Tufano, Carl Giammarese and Jon-Jon Poulos) that are the ones that MOST of us cherish and remember.  (In the last 25+ years of the Carl and Nick-led band, the line-up has changed NUMEROUS times ... including a well-documented MAJOR shake-up last year when 20+ year veterans Bob Abrams and Tommy Scheckel left suddenly.
Hope you'll stay in touch and contribute from time to time ... you have an open invitation to share your memories of these incredible days (along with all the amazing things you've done since) ... and please feel free to "use us" to help promote not only your new CD but any other new "goings-on" that you might be involved with.  Thanks, Marty!  (kk) 

Kent ...
Looking forward to the Buckinghams articles. I always loved that band ... and Dennis is one of the BEST singers I have ever seen. He should be in the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame.
Mitch Schecter / The Rip Chords
Thanks, Mitch ... I passed your note along to Dennis (who I know you met at a gig recently!)  I'm SO proud that Carl and Dennis chose Forgotten Hits to tell their stories ... both guys have told me that everywhere the go they meet fans who are devoted FH readers ... and genuinely appreciate our efforts to help keep this great music alive.  (I know that you've told me the same thing many times ... which is ALWAYS nice to hear.)  That just means that we're getting the job done.  Our goal, of course, is to make Forgotten Hits the DEFINITIVE source for factual oldies information ... and to help promote these artists in any and all of their new ventures, whether it be concert appearances, new releases ... whatever!  Please help us spread the word so that more and more artists jump on board and USE US to achieve these goals!!! (kk)

If there is a message in all this madness,
that message would HAVE to be:
Because, quite honestly,
all of this other extraneous bullshit
(regarding the in-fighting amongst the fans)

 (The Tufano - Giammarese Band Remake from the '70's)
Thanks, Everybody!  (kk)