Friday, November 30, 2012

Garage Bands: 17, 16, 15

The Countdown Continues ... Today in Forgotten Hits!

One of my favorite groups from the mid-'60's, The Five Americans could seem to do no wrong for a while there, scoring five straight hits in 1966 and 1967. 
"I See The Light" (#26, 1966), "Evol - Not Love" (#51, 1966); "Western Union" (their biggest ... and #5 hit in 1967); "Sound Of Love" (#24, 1967) and "Zip Code" (#36, 1967) kept these guys (yet ANOTHER garage band from Texas) on the charts and on our radios. Any one of these tunes would sound GREAT coming out of our radios again in 2012, too ... maybe this special countdown will inspire a couple of jocks on the list to step outside the box and play a couple of these for a change.  (Your audience will love ya for it!!!)
In fact, we're featuring two of them ourselves ... first, my personal favorite "Evol - Not Love" which, while failing to make The National Top 40, was a #7 Hit here in Chicago ... and then the crowd-pleaser "Western Union". (Tell me THAT one wouldn't get your audience going if you gave it a spin!!!) kk


It's kind of funny watching our pop heroes being introduced by some of the biggest names in show business ... many from the previous generation of viewers, like Jack Benny and Steve Allen ... but that's the way it was done back then. These guys were VERY savvy entertainers ... and they knew they had to offer something up for the kids to enjoy in order to build their audience and maintain credible ratings. Thanks to YouTube, we get to see some of these vintage performances again. (kk)

‘Western Union’ and the follow-up ‘Zip Code’, the Five Americans’ greatest hits, are much more pop than garage but don’t in any way diminish their standing with garage rock fans and collectors. One listen to ‘I See The Light’ clearly demonstrates why. The Durant, Oklahoma, group recorded several excellent songs, including ‘Evol Not Love’ and ‘Good Times’.
Mike Dugo /  

Talk about bridging the generation gap ... in 1967, The Five Americans paid tribute to an older form of mail communication (with "Western Union") as well as the latest in postal technology, "Zip Code"!!!

There seems to be a discrepancy as to where these guys hailed from. (I'm showing Texas, which is also what Steve Allen says in the video above, but Mike Dugo says Oklahoma.)  So I dug a little bit deeper ... and the band's official website (run by lead singer Mike Rabon)  explains:

The Five Americans first met in Durant, Oklahoma, at Southeastern Oklahoma State University in 1962. Under the leadership of Mike Rabon, they formed a group called the Mutineers. They played local beer joints and various frat dances until the summer of 1964. Mike suggested that they go to Dallas and try and make enough money to pay for tuition for the following fall semester. They achieved some local notoriety in a dive called the Pirate's Nook. There they were "discovered" by a local label called Abnak Records. John Abdnor, president of the label, took them under his wing and provided them the resources to write and practice original songs. In only five short years, The Five Americans were the first to achieve what no other group in Texas had done -- sell millions of singles and albums.
Click here: The Five Americans

We heard back from Mike after we told him about their ranking in our Top 20 All-Time Favorite Garage Bands Countdown ...

Hi Kent,
Thanks for getting in touch. As founder of The Five Americans, I would like to say thank you to all those great fans out there who voted us into your top twenty and a big thanks to for continuing to carry the flame for those of us who tried so hard to please so many all those years ago. Here's a picture of The Five Americans on American Bandstand.
All the best,
Mike Rabon
The Five Americans

What I DIDN'T know is that Mike was also part of the group Gladstone, whose hit "A Piece Of Paper" we have featured previously in Forgotten Hits ... a GREAT track that I'm sure stirred a little bit of controversy back in the early '70's.
Mike also has a new book out recounting his whole experience with The Five Americans ... it's available here:
Click here: High Strung (9781608300471): Mike Rabon: Books    (kk)

Now THESE guys are from Texas for sure!!! 
"Wooly Bully", their first chart hit, was a monster ... although it never officially hit #1 in Billboard, the magazine declared it the biggest song of 1965, ranking it ahead of rock and roll classics like "Satisfaction" by The Rolling Stones, "Help!" and "Ticket To Ride" by The Beatles ... and pop royalty like "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" by The Righteous Brothers and "Downtown" by Petula Clark ... Motown gems like "I Can't Help Myself" by The Four Tops and "My Girl" by The Temptations ... ALL of which were #1 Records, as were "Help Me Rhonda" by The Beach Boys, "I Got You Babe" by Sonny and Cher, "Mr. Tambourine Man" by The Byrds, "This Diamond Ring" by Gary Lewis and the Playboys and "Mrs. Brown, You've Got A Lovely Daughter" by Herman's Hermits.
Sam The Sham (real name Domingo Samudio) would hit the top spot with "Li'l Red Riding Hood" the following year (in Cash Box ... it, too, peaked at #2 in Billboard), and also scored Top 40 Hits with "Ju Ju Hand", "Ring Dang Doo", "The Hair On My Chinny Chin Chin" and "How Do You Catch A Girl".
I suppose some would argue that they, too, were an early example of Tex-Mex Rock ... but you guys felt that they deserved a spot in our countdown and, as such, awarded them 191 of your votes. That was good enough for the #16 Spot in our Top 20 All-Time Favorite Garage Bands Countdown. (kk)  

If they had recorded only ‘Wooly Bully’, Sam The Sham And The Pharaohs would still no doubt place highly in any list documenting the top garage bands of the 1960s. Today they are remembered for a string of songs that all scream “Sam The Sham”—‘Ju Ju Hand’, ‘Ring Dang Do’, ‘Little Red Ridin’ Hood’, ‘The Hair On My Chinny Chin Chin’, ‘I Couldn’t Spell !!@!’ and ‘Oh That’s Good, No That’s Bad’. None are 100% garage rock, but all are solid examples of ‘60s pop-rock at its most enjoyable. Everybody knows the group’s signature tune, and the “Uno, Dos, Tres…” opening immediately plants ‘Wooly Bully’ as among the most instantly recognizable songs ever recorded.
Mike Dugo /  

Some consider "Wooly Bully" to be the #1 Party Rock Song of All-Time. Every new generation to come along has discovered it and fallen in love with it as a feel-good anthem. 

Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs always seemed to have their tongues placed firmly in cheek ... it almost seemed like they were winking at us, saying "Look what I can get away with within the context of rock and roll." It was fun, feel-good music at its finest. (One of my favorites wasn't much of a hit ... "Oh, That's Good ... No, That's Bad"  ... but it cracked me up then and it still cracks me up now. Although not a "garage band" tune, it brings back a happy teenage memory when I listen to it.)
But this countdown is all about the hits ... so today we're featuring two of their biggest ... "Wooly Bully" and "Li'l Red Riding Hood" ... which, in this performance, they then run right into their "oh-so-obvious" follow-up hit, "The Hair On My Chinny Chin Chin" ... remember when music was this much fun? (kk)

Here's yet another group that I wouldn't necessarily have considered to be of the "garage band variety" ... but you guys clearly felt otherwise, voting Chicago's Buckinghams into the #15 spot in our countdown.
While I suppose they started out that way ... I mean, who didn't?!?! ... The Bucks developed a very sophisticated sound in the '60's, crafting pop classics like "Kind Of A Drag", "Don't You Care" and "Hey Baby, They're Playing Our Song" that still sound every bit as fresh today. 
They also showed their R&B roots with a very soulful, Top Five reading of "Mercy Mercy Mercy" as well as dabbled with the new psychedelic musical art form by way of "Susan".
Their early influences were both The British Invasion as well as Chicago blues and R&B (which is why they cut both The Beatles' "I Call Your Name" and James Brown's "I'll Go Crazy" on their first LP! In fact, they even recorded their first LP at the legendary Chess Studios here in Chicago!)
I don't know about you, but I didn't see too many horns in the garages I was hanging out in in the mid-'60's, but The Buckinghams developed a sound that was the precursor to artists like Chicago and Blood, Sweat and Tears. 
Today, Carl Giammarese and Nick Fortuna keep the music of The Buckinghams alive with concerts all year long. (For the past several years, they've been part of The Happy Together Again Tour, playing to sold-out houses across the country.)
Meanwhile, former lead singer Dennis Tufano is also back on the road again, singing the hits that made him famous and has appeared on several of those PBS Television Tributes to the '60's.
Here in Chicago, before "Kind Of A Drag" reached national acclaim, going all the way to #1 in Billboard Magazine, The Buckinghams charted four times with the aforementioned "I Call Your Name" and "I'll Go Crazy" as well as their rendition of "Lawdy Miss Clawdy" and "I've Been Wrong." Anything beyond this point just doesn't ring true to me as being part of "The Garage Band Sound" so I'm going to concentrate on this phase of the band's early career. (kk)

The first of a string of Chicago-based groups that hit the big-time by utilizing horns, the Buckinghams were, in 1967, as popular a group as rock history has ever seen. They achieved five Top 20 hits that year alone, and appeared on every TV music show possible — including The Ed Sullivan Show. Not one of those smash songs (‘Kind Of A Drag’, ‘Don’t You Care’, ‘Mercy Mercy Mercy’, ‘Hey Baby [They’re Playing Our Song]’ and ‘Susan’) can today be classified as garage rock, but their early single cover of James Brown’s ‘I’ll Go Crazy’ certainly comes close.
Mike Dugo /

The Buckinghams first rose to local fame when they landed a gig on WGN Television's "All Time Hits" where they performed the current hits of the day as the "house band." Originally signed as The Pulsations, the station felt they needed a more contemporary name. Ultimately it was a WGN security guard who suggested "The Buckinghams", which sounded British enough to qualify as the flavor of the month ... but was still down home enough to tie to Chicago's very own Buckingham Fountain. Ironically, when The Bucks appeared on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour a few years later, the set was designed with Union Jack symbols, implying again that the group was British! (Talk about not doing your homework!!!) No matter ... The Buckinghams performed a stellar set and walked away with a humorous anecdote that they still tell some forty years later! (kk)

Here is a vintage clip of The Buckinghams performing on the aforementioned "All Time Hits" television program ... 
OMG, they're barely out of diapers!!! (lol) Check out those pompadours!!!  And look at the company they kept on this program in the way of vocal entertainment! 
(Not their best performance, to be sure ... but man what a piece of Chicagoland history!) kk

Heavy emphasis on The Beatles in that vintage clip ... The Bucks would go on to record a couple of Beatles tunes for real ... "I Call Your Name" appeared on their first USA album ... and a nice version of "I'll Be Back" was included on their 1967 LP, "Time And Charges".
After The Buckinghams split up in the early '70's, Tufano and Giammarese joined forces and did a beautiful reading of The Beatles' "I'm A Loser", which I was fortunate enough to see them perform a few years ago at one of Bob Stroud's Rock And Roll Roots CD Release Parties!  (kk)