Thursday, June 26, 2014

More From Jim Holvay


Songwriter Jim Holvay reviewed our recent feature on "The Chicago Sound" and had a few comments to make. 

A lot of what has become to be known as the "Chicago horn sound" was attributed to The Buckinghams ... a sound later carried on by Chicago and, eventually, even The Ides Of March ... but a local group called The Mob had horns in their line-up since the early-to-mid '60's ... and Jim wanted to make sure our readers were aware of this.  
Here are some of his comments regarding the evolution of the Chicago Horn Sound. 

I read your blog on “What Is The Chicago Sound?”.  

I was a little upset that The MOB was not given much credit (or even mentioned) for the contribution or inspiration that we provided to a lot of bands in the Windy City, considering we were the first band in Chicago that had a full horn section.  It could've been that we never had any real recording success or the bloggers don't know the history of how that all came about.  

Even though we were the first band “on the scene” and the cutting edge with a horn section, The Buckinghams, BS&T and CTA, beat us to the punch when it came to recording success.  We inspired Danny, Terry and Wally to add horns to their group, which was originally called The Missing Links.     

In March of ’66, I wrote and produced a single for them called “Makin’ Up And Breakin’ Up” b/w “You Hypnotize Me” on Ivanhoe Records, when they were a four piece band, prior to them re-forming as The Big Thing.  To Danny Seraphine’s credit, he did give us some recognition in his book “Street Player”. (Thank you Danny!)

(The Buckinghams would also record their version of "Makin' Up And Breakin' Up" for their first USA LP. - kk)

As you know it was the producers (Dan Belloc and Carl Bonafede) who added horns to The Bucks tracks. They didn’t have horns in the band.   

Mike Callahan was the only blogger that got it right. He referred his readers to a song called “Beatle Time” that Gary and I had recorded as a group called The Livers, previously The Chicagoans.  That song was recorded in December of 1963 and charted on WLS.  Carrying the melody of the tune was a horn section. 

The MOB’s very first release (”Wait” b/w “Mystery Man”) was on Cameo / Parkway Records in May of 1966. I believe “Kind Of A Drag” came out in 1967, later followed by the success of BS&T, CTA, the Ides Of March and finally Chase.  
A final comment on The MOB and horn rock bands.  

In June of ’66, The MOB was playing at a club in Schiller Park on River Road called the Wine and Roses. The Missing Links, The Exceptions, Carl Bonafede, everyone was coming to see The MOB.  

I believe WLS was the first station to break “Cherish” by The Association, which went to #1 and subsequently spread across the country.  The record label flew The Association out to Chicago to thank the jocks at the station for playing the record and making it # 1.  Terry Kirkman and the guys told us that after their visit to the station they asked who the hot band was in town. The jocks told the fellas, “Go see The MOB out at a club near O’Hare”. (i.e. The Wine and Roses)  We met The Association that night and became good friends, which resulted in us becoming their opening act on a lot of their college dates. Years later their manager (Pat Collechio) became our manager.   

Anyway, The Association flew back home to LA and told Capitol Records that they need to sign this great band which they had just seen in Chi Town.  Within a few weeks, we found ourselves recording in Studio A at the famous Capitol Records tower on Vine Street in Hollywood.  I believe it was Nik Venet who produced three songs that Gary and I had written.  After the session, we flew back home to continue our residency at The Wine and Roses and waited to hear what the verdict was on our newly created horn rock sound.  Keep in mind that at that time, every group in Chicago consisted of two guitars, bass and drums or maybe a Vox organ or a sax. 

Well, Sal Innucci (the then President of Capitol Records) heard our traks and said, “Dump the horns and add more guitars”.  

We weren’t going to do that because that’s not who we were. We felt we had something different and unique that would separate us from all of the Beatle influenced bands there were happening at the time.  Unfortunately recording-wise, all of the stars in the universe never lined up for The MOB and many groups came after us and took advantage of adding horns to their records, along with great songs, arrangements, production and a major label behind them.  

Thanks for listening, 

The Mob had one big local hit in 1970 called "I Dig Everything About You", which cracked The Top 20 on the WCFL Chart.  (Incredibly, this record wasn't even played on WLS ... and nationally peaked at #83 in Billboard!)  It should have been a MUCH bigger hit than it was, sounding very much of-the-time ... but somehow it failed.

I couldn't help but wonder how Jim felt ... and his bandmates felt ... about him giving away FOUR Top Ten Hit Records to The Buckinghams.  Had they cut these tracks themselves, it might have been The Mob that garnered all of this national acclaim rather than The Bucks ... but even after all this time, he doesn't think so.  Jim Holvay believes The Buckinghams had the right chemistry to make these records hits ... and that if recorded by anybody else they may have just fallen by the wayside.  He tells us:

Being on a major label helps the national distribution of your record tremendously. (i.e. $airplay$, interviews, press, industry ads in the trade papers and records in the stores) When “I Dig Everything About You” was released, I believe our small, indie label (Colossus Records) was having financial problems.  We did have a very loyal following but because of not having a national hit record, it was limited to a “club level” which went across the US, Canada and Hawaii. Keep in mind that we were able to stay together and work “on the road” for 15 years. The majority of bands without a hit record, break-up after a few years of playing clubs. 

As for giving away four Top Ten Hits, I was always a songwriter first and had numerous records out before The MOB. The songs that I and Gary gave Bonafede and later Guercio were considered “pop songs”. The MOB was an R&B influenced band and we were writing songs in that genre for the group. Even if Big Al had sung “Kind Of A Drag” or any of the Bucks hits, that was no guarantee they would’ve been successful.  There are a lot of elements that have to happen to make a song become a hit. The “magic” for the Bucks was Denny’s voice, Jon Jon’s drumming, Gary and my songs, Bonafede and Guercio’s production and Columbia Records' promotion department.   

Over the years, Gary and I held back quite a few songs for The MOB. Guercio wanted “Once A Man, Twice A Child” for BS&T and we didn’t give it to him.  That song appears on our first LP on Colossus. Lou Rawls wanted a song called “Can’t Keep A Good Man Down”, which we recorded on MGM Records, but it was never released. There have been a lot of songs that we held back, in hopes of getting The MOB a national hit record.   For whatever reason, it just didn't happen for us.

I had heard a couple of years ago that The Mob had gotten back together and were doing shows again?  Any details you can share in this regard?     

The MOB was inducted in the South Dakota Rock n’ Roll Hall Of Fame in April of 2011. Two thousand people showed up in Sioux Falls. (nice following J The good fellas would love to perform again but the mobsters live in eight different cities. This presents a big $logistic$ challenge.   

Well, if you guys are ever able to work this out, please know that we are ALWAYS happy to help spread the word ... so feel free to "use us" in any way you can.  

Again, a BIG THANK YOU Kent, for putting this out there and helping us tell our story.   

A VERY special thank you to Clark Besch for hooking us up with Jim Holvay for this special feature.  Clark also provided TONS of cool photos and sound clips (far more than we can use in a single piece!) so I wanted to thank him for that, too.  (Seems every time Clark and Kent work together, something "super" turns up!)  

Here are a couple of things that were just too cool not to share!  

Did you have Hip-Pocket Records when you were a kid?  There weren't very many of them released ... but here's the one put out by The Buckinghams, featuring their early 1967 hits "Kind Of A Drag" and "Lawdy Miss Clawdy".  (Cool sleeve, too ... I think this is a picture of all of the original guys when they were in the third grade!)

And how about this?  The Bucks plugging Rowe Jukeboxes (where they want you to play their latest hit, "Kind Of A Drag" ... naturally!)