Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Buckinghams

British look, British name, all-American sound. That's as good a way as any to describe The Buckinghams, a rock-pop band formed in 1965 in Chicago, Illinois. This band was absolutely huge...for exactly one year, 1967.
The band was formerly known as The Pulsations and were the house band for WGN-TV's variety show All Time Hits in 1966. The show's producers suggested that the band adopt a name and look reflective of the British Invasion bands that were currently so popular. A security guard at the station suggested they call themselves The Buckinghams (obviously the station believed in giving EVERY employee a say in running the organization.) The band, as history shows, took the guard's suggestion with quite positive results.

The band signed to the locally-based USA Records in early 1966, and recorded a total of twelve songs including a Beatles cover "I Call Your Name",and "I'll Go Crazy",which was originally recorded by James Brown. It wasn't until the release of a song called "Kind Of A Drag", a composition by Chicago-based songwriter Jim Holvay, that they hit pay dirt. The song spent two weeks at #1 in February of 1967,sold over a million copies and went gold.
At this point the group consisted of Carl Giammarese on guitar, bassist Nick Fortuna, drummer John Polous, Marty Grebb on keyboards and vocalist Dennis Tufano. This was the line-up during their most successful period.

The band certainly wasted no time from that point, producing a total of five top 20 hits all in the year of 1967. These hits included 'Hey Baby They're Playing Our Song, "Don't You Care", "Susan" and a cover of "Mercy,Mercy" ,a composition of jazz legend Joe Zawinul and made famous by another jazz icon, Julian "Cannonball" Adderly. A very interesting choice for this very pop-oriented group.

The band got together with producer Jim Guercio, who helped get them signed to Columbia Records in early 1967, and as their producer developed the brass-oriented sound evident on the band's recordings. Guercio worked with them until mid-1968 when he left to further explore the "brass-rock" concept with Blood,Sweat and Tears and later on with the band Chicago.
Without Guercio, the band was unable to carry on the success they enjoyed in 1967. Several attempts at a hit and more than a few line-up changes preceded the band's dissolution in 1970.

The Buckinghams, as most of these bands tend to do, re-formed in 1983. They played numerous nostalgia tours and notably performed at one of George W. Bush's inaugural balls in 2005 as well as an inaugural ball in Chicago for president Barack Obama in 2009. Truly a non-partisan band, those Buckinghams. They still perform regularly for festival audiences and at the games of Chicago sports teams performing the National Anthem. As for me, my favorite Buckinghams song is "Susan".

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