Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Where Have All The Pop Stars Gone? (Volume 2)

More books?!?!?  
I have a replica of the Leaning Tower of Pisa next to my bed and I am trying to make a mole hill out of this mountain of books. You are not helping ... but thanks!   

Truth is, we're recommending a bunch of GREAT music books that belong in your library this week ... and even telling you where and how to get them.  Today we take a look at the latest book by Jeff March and Marti Smiley Childs!!!    


The second in their series of "Where Have All The Pop Stars Gone?" lives up to all the expectations. Marti Smiley Childs and Jeff March have built a very impressive resume of interviewing music stars of the '60's ... and this new book is no exception.    

This time around, they're covering the careers and talking to The Buckinghams, The Moody Blues, Sam And Dave, Ray Stevens, Bobby Goldsboro, Donnie Brooks and The Grass Roots. (Volume One ... still available ... included The Association, Herman's Hermits, The Kingston Trio, Chris Montez, The Spiral Starecase, Bobby Vee and The Zombies ... and an earlier but similar piece of work ... "Echoes Of The Sixties" ... offered in-depth profiles of The Fireballs, Gary "US" Bonds, The Tokens, The Angels, Peter and Gordon, Mike Pinder of The Moody Blues, The Beau Brummels, Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, The Lovin' Spoonful, Gary Puckett and the Union Gap, Country Joe and the Fish and The Iron Butterfly.)    

What Jeff and Marti do better than anybody else is dig deep into their profiles of these artists. Not only do they give you a complete overview of each artist's career and chart history, but they also provide one-on-one interviews with these artists, as well as friends, family and associates that paint the most complete picture possible of what life was like then and now for these extremely popular artists.  

Having spent some time talking to The Buckinghams myself over the years, I was most excited to read this chapter first, which was especially convenient since it just happens to kick off their new book. All of the guys were very up-front and honest and I found their profile to be extremely interesting, even though I had been down this same road numerous times before. I believe that other Buckinghams fans will be very pleased with this profile as well.  

I especially liked the profiles of Ray Stevens and Bobby Goldsboro, two of my personal favorites from this era. (In fact, the paths of these two artists have crossed before ... that's Ray Stevens singing harmony and background on Bobby's hits "Little Things" and "It's Too Late", two of my "forgotten hits" favorites!)    

Goldsboro talks about his early days, playing in Roy Orbison's band ... and even acknowledges taking Roy's infamous guitar riff to "Oh, Pretty Woman", turning it around and then using it on his own solo hit, "Little Things".

Stevens, one of pop music's premier funny men, decided to play it straight in 1970 ... and, in the process, scored his very first #1 Hit with "Everything Is Beautiful".  He would go on to repeat that process four years later on his own terms when "The Streak" also topped the national charts. 

Perhaps the most detailed and involved profile comes at the hands of The Grass Roots. That's because The Grass Roots were actually THREE different bands early on ... and that doesn't even begin to cover all of the numerous personnel changes that came over time.   

Starting off as the in-studio creation of singers / songwriters P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri (who, in addition to writing hit records for other artists had also earlier been performing as The Fantastic Baggys), they cut their first hit record, "Where Were You When I Needed You", with Sloan on lead vocals and session musicians providing the background tracks. When it came time to put an album together and go out on the road, Barri and Sloan recruited a local San Francisco Band called The Bedouins to change their name and "become" The Grass Roots ... and that is how the first album was made, featuring Drummer Joel Larson, Rhythm Guitarist Denny Ellis, Bass Player Dave Stensen, and Lead Singer / Guitarist Bill Fulton (with musical "guidance" provided by Steve Barri and P.F. Sloan, all under the watchful eye of Producer Lou Adler, who owned the rights to the name "The Grass Roots".)  

However, The Bedouins were not keen on the idea of playing folk / rock music selected for them by outside parties (and basically being the puppets on stage controlled by the songwriting and producing team behind the scenes) so, before that first album was even finished, they decided that they didn't want to be The Grass Roots anymore. (Honestly, I'm not so sure it was such a bad gig ... they made television appearances on The Lloyd Thaxton Show, Shindig and Shivaree ... and even played behind fellow Dunhill artists like The Mamas and the Papas and Barry McGuire, including a performance as Barry McGuire's back-up band on The Ed Sullivan Show!) Despite all this sudden attention, the group still wasn't happy, wanting to record their own material (in a heavier vein than they were being allowed to do within the confines of the Sloan-Barri controlled Grass Roots) ... so they split, requiring Dunhill to come up with yet ANOTHER band to perform as The Grass Roots.  

They found that band in The Thirteenth Floor. According to Marti Smiley Childs' and Jeff March's book, "Where Have All The Pop Stars Gone, Volume Two", Dunhill President and Producer Lou Adler made The Thirteenth Floor the following offer: They could sign with Dunhill Records as The Thirteenth Floor, taking the long-shot bet that they might score a hit record on their own as a bunch of unknowns ... OR they could assume the name "The Grass Roots", which already had some name recognition attached to it, thanks to the previous band's hit single "Where Were You When I Needed You" and go into the studio to record a follow-up hit. (My understanding is that Monty Hall also offered them whatever was behind Door Number Three ... but the band instead elected to become The Grass Roots ... and soon Keyboard Player / Guitarist / Vocalist Warren Entner, Lead Guitarist Creed Bratton, Drummer Rick Coonce and the ever-popular Lead Singer / Bassist Kenny Fukumoto (WHO?!?!? you may ask) were signed to the label. (Suffice to say that the newly independent Bedouins were never heard from again.)  

As fate would have it, before they even recorded a single note, Fukumoto received his draft notice and had to leave the band in order to report for military duty ... so, rather than blow a recording deal, the band quickly scrambled to find a replacement and, without missing a beat, Rob Grill ... who would forever more become enshrined as the face and voice of The Grass Roots ... was recruited to fill his spot. Conveniently, Grill also played bass and sang lead ... and it is HIS voice that you hear on every subsequent hit record ever since ... and let me tell you, there were a WHOLE bunch of 'em!!! In fact, The Grass Roots (with Rob Grill at the helm) went on to record SEVENTEEN STRAIGHT National Top 40 Hits between 1967 and 1973. Incredibly, in the process of TRULY becoming The Grass Roots in every way, shape and form possible, Grill even re-recorded the lead vocal on their previous hit "Where Were You When I Needed You" ... and it's now THAT version that you hear whenever this record comes on the radio!   

Smiley Childs and March have located and interviewed no less than NINE members of The Grass Roots ... and it's their interviews with Joel Larson, Bill Fulton, Dave Stensen, Denny Ellis, Rob Grill, Creed Bratton, Warren Entner, Rick Coonce and Dennis Provisor that cap off the final chapter in their new book ... MUST reading for any fans of this great, '60's band and music.   

"Where Have All The Pop Stars Gone, Volume Two" is available here: Click here: EditPros BOOKSHELF ... as are their other two great titles, "Where Have All The Pop Stars Gone (Volume One)" and "Echoes Of The Sixties". You don't want to miss these ... highly recommended.  

Here's an Amazon link as well:  
Click here:  

IF I COULD CHANGE JUST ONE THING ... Volume Three would already be in the works!!! This is a GREAT series of books about the artists and music that we love ... and I hope the series continues. Put me down as a permanent reader! (kk)  

By the way:  Jeff March tells us that another volume IS being planned ... perhaps updating the series into the '70's this time around ... so stay tuned!  (Boy, we've got some GREAT artists on our list who would make EXCELLENT candidates for your '70's book ... let us know if we can help!)