Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Buckinghams

Some great feedback to our recent pieces on The Buckinghams ... so they're back in The Forgotten Hits Spotlight again today!    

Kent - 
Can you ask Carl if they ever did a single called "Im Gonna Say Goodbye"?  It would have been out mid-1964, and it got played as an extra at WKBW in Buffalo.  I remember them playing this record and the group was called the Buckinghams.   
Also, I only remember three singles on USA - Kind of a Drag, I Call Your Name and Lawdy Miss Clawdy - maybe he can fill in here as he would certainly know.  They have always been a favorite of mine, and I worked their Tufano and Gianmarese record on Ode in the summer of 1973.  
Clay Pasternack  
I can answer these all by myself!  
The Buckinghams weren't calling themselves The Buckinghams yet in 1964 ... that name wouldn't come to be until they signed to WGN-Television as the "house band" playing the latest hits on a weekly television program "All-Time Hits".  It was a VERY clever moniker, bestowed on them, I believe, by a WGN Security Guard who made the connection between Buckingham Palace in London and Buckingham Fountain right here in Chicago.  In that EVERYBODY was trying to cash in on the English craze at the time, it was the PERFECT connection between the two ... a stroke of pure genius to say the least!  (Even a few years later, folks were still confused ... as mentioned in our piece last week, The Smothers Brothers had The Buckinghams perform on their show in front of a Union Jack Flag from the U.K.!!!)  
As for the USA singles, there were quite a few others ... some of which were even released BEFORE "Kind Of A Drag" broke the band nationally in late 1966.  (Others were released after the band jumped ship to Columbia, trying to cash in on their newfound success.)  Nearly ALL of these received airplay (and some chart action) here in Chicago.  

They are (in order):  
USA 844 - I'll Go Crazy (a #19 hit here in Chicago) / Don't Want To Cry  
USA 848 - I Call Your Name (#14 in Chicago) / Makin' Up And Breakin' Up  
USA 853 - I've Been Wrong  (#13 in Chicago) / Love Ain't Enough  
USA 860 - Kind Of A Drag (#2 in Chicago) / You Make Me Feel So Good  
... all of the above released in 1966  
USA 869 - Lawdy Miss Clawdy  (#24 in Chicago) / Makin' Up And Breakin' Up   
NOTE:  This single was also released with "I Call Your Name" on the B-Side  
USA 873 - I Don't Want To Cry / Summertime (did not chart)  
In addition, I believe The Buckinghams were also the band featured on these released singles:  
Spectra Sound 4618 - Sweets For My Sweet / Beginner's Love  (released as The Pulsations)
Spectra Sound 641 - It's All Right / I Love You No More  (released as The Centuries)  
Alley Cat 201 - Lawdy Miss Clawdy / Virginia Wolf  (released as The Falling Pebbles)  
All of the above tracks (except the two released as The Centuries) ended up on The Buckinghams' "Kind Of A Drag" album.  

I'm hoping Carl Giammarese can shed some additional light on these tracks as I've been curious about them for years now ... let's see what he comes back with!  (kk)   

Hi Kent,  
Sweets For My Sweet and Beginner's Love were the first two songs we recorded as either The Pulsations or The Buckinghams ... I'm not sure which ... in 1965.  (I think it was The Pulsations ... although the record may have been rereleased as The Buckinghams once they started having hits under that name. - kk) They were recorded at 218 South Wabash.  It was either called Hall Recording Studios or Stereo Sonic ... I can't remember when they changed names. The engineer was Ed Cody. It was initially released on Spectra Sound which was Dan Belloc's label. I think their distribution was selling it out of the trunk of Carl Bonafede's car, ha ha. At the time, both George LeGros and Dennis Tufano were singing lead and they harmonized fabulously together. Before Kind Of A Drag was recorded George was drafted and he missed out. George was a dear friend, a great guy ... sadly, he passed away several years ago. Anyway, when USA needed songs for the Kind Of A Drag album, Bonafede and Belloc added those two songs. The rest of the songs on that album were recorded at Chess Records, 2120 S. Michigan Ave.  

It's Alright and I Love You No More were recorded by The Centuries in, I think, late 1964, at Lawrence and Western and I think it was the old St. Louis Insurance Building. My cousin Jerry Elarde was our drummer and lead singer (fab voice) ... he sang It's alright. Our bass player, Curt Bachman, sang I Love You No More. I was the Lead Guitar player and Nick Fortuna was the rhythm guitar player. Both songs were written by Jeff Boyen (from Saturday's Children). Jeff was part of a duo called Ron and Jeff, kind of folky, but they did early Beatles fabulously. These songs had nothing to do with The Buckinghams other than Nick and I became The Pulsations and then The Buckinghams.

Lawdy Miss Clawdy was recorded early in 1965. It was released first on Alley Cat (Bonafede's label) and probably the distribution was handled like Spectra Sound ... right out of the trunk of Bonafede's car, ha. It was Carl Bonafede's and John Poulos's idea to call it The Falling Pebbles, just for fun, to see if the name would catch on ... sort of a take off The Rolling Stones name ... Stones, Pebbles ... whatever. We were big fans of The Hollies and recorded it like they did it, up tempo but with horns. At the time I wasn't really aware of the original Lloyd Price recording. Anyway, it eventually wound up on our USA's Kind Of A Drag album. USA released it as a single to counter Don't You Care, our first Columbia single. Lawdy did pretty well on the strength of Kind Of A Drag, and gave us three songs on the top 100 chart at the same time.  
I hope that clarifies some things.  Thanks for asking.  
Three Top 100 Hits at the same time ... amazing ... for this incredible group out of Chicago.  (Now it's not like they were Iggy Azalea or anything ... but that's still pretty damn impressive!!!)  
It's funny because the very first version of "Lawdy Miss Clawdy" that I ever heard was The Buckinghams' version ... and I loved it!  I think next I heard Elvis Presley do it ... and then finally the Lloyd Price original.  Again, another reason why keeping this music alive is so important ... everybody influenced everybody ... and that's what keeps the circle going.  
And I love the Falling Pebbles story!  (We entered our 1970 High School Talent show as The Cardboard Oh-Yes Orchestra and performed "Hey Jude" ... a take-off on John Lennon's Plastic Ono Band!)  
This is great stuff, Carl.  (I wonder if anybody out there has a copy of The Centuries' tracks ... as these, apparently, never found their way to CD.  Would love to hear them!) Also, you'll find some REALLY cool, vintage Buckinghams videos on YouTube, dating back to the time they were the "house band" on WGN - TV's "All Time Hits" program.  (OMG, they look like babies in some of these clips!!!)  Enjoy!  (Thanks, Carl ... good stuff ... and an education for all of us!)  kk   

Here are three vintage clips, posted by original Buckinghams keyboardist Dennis Miccolis ... how cool is it that these even still exist!  
Click here: Dennymiccolis's channel - YouTube   

I've always liked the big sound of The Buckinghams' recordings. It's interesting reading all the things about them in FH, and how their album, "Time and Charges" inspired the formation of both Chicago and Blood, Sweat & Tears. It's also interesting that Jim Guercio ended up producing recordings for all three bands. Small world, huh?
- John LaPuzza  
I don't know that I'd go so far as to say "'Time And Charges' inspired the formation of both Chicago and Blood, Sweat and Tears" ... although both certainly gained a tremendous amount of attention at the time for their "unique" use of horns on rock and roll records ... something The Buckinghams had already been doing for a few years prior.  But yes, Guercio IS a common connector to all three acts ... and, at various times, all three artists have also denounced him for his controlling ways in the recording studio, often compromising them as artists.  (I've always been of the impression that there is not a HUGE Jim Guercio Fan Club in the music industry ... but his track record certainly speaks for itself!)  kk   

Thanks for the GREAT Buckinghams synopsis from Carl Giammarese!  I can't wait to buy his book!   
Jim Peterik's is still close also, I believe.  I'll let you know.  The Chicago sound was too varied to capture easily, but I know it DRIVES me still today as much if not more, than when I was young!  Working on the Bucks' CD packages and other Chicago artists of the day just make it even more fun to be a small part of.  
-- Clark Besch  

A friend just asked me if Susan, by the Buckinghams, was written about a specific woman. She thought, mistakenly, that I know everything about Rock And Roll. I did tell her that the song was not written by anyone in the band, but still Carl or Dennis might know. Thanks.  
True ... but the guy who would REALLY know would be Jim Holvay, who wrote FOUR Top Ten Hits for the band, including this one.  ("Kind Of A Drag" [#1], "Don't You Care" [#5], "Hey Baby, They're Playing Our Song" [#5] and "Susan" [#6].)  

So I forwarded your friend's question to Jim ... along with one of my own ...   

What did Jim think about The Buckinghams' recording of his song ... and, in particular, the overall arrangement and then the little psychedelic interlude that Jim Guercio inserted there near the end (without the band's knowledge.  The Buckinghams themselves were shocked by this little piece of psychedelia when they first heard it ... but what did Jim Hovay, as the songwriter, think about Guercio's expression of his work???)  kk  

The song “Susan” was written backstage in between shows at a club on Rush Street called The Happy Medium.
My group THE MOB was appearing in the main room.  
There was a club below called The Pussycat A Go A Go, where I met a server who’s name was “Susan”.   
She later became a Playboy Bunny. (Mercy, Mercy, Mercy! - kk) We dated a few months and the song was about her.   

Regarding the arrangement, etc., Dennis Tufano did an excellent job in singing and interpreting the song, as did Marty Grebb, whose arrangement of the background vocal parts was beautiful.  Gary (Holvay's writing partner, Gary Beisbier, also a member of The Mob - kk) and I were extremely pleased with what they had done with the song.  

Of course we were in shock like everybody else when the “psychedelic section” came up that Jimmy Guercio had added, which I assume was inspired by “A Day In The Life”.  It had no relevance to what the song was about but we understood that everyone wanted to emulate The Beatles at that time.  

It was only recently that a musician told me that Guercio had lifted the whole track from a classical piece. When Gary and I first heard it, we thought he had orchestrated that interlude. I assume he paid a “licensing fee” in order to borrow that piece ... or maybe not. I don’t think there was any credit given to the classical composer on the album notes.  

What really got us upset was when the record came out and Jim Guercio’s name appeared as one of the writers of “Susan”. He had a tendency to do that (i.e. “Don’t You Care”). His justification was that he added the “psychedelic part”. OMG! Welcome to the record industry. 
Jim Holvay


More from Jim Holvay tomorrow in Forgotten Hits!