Sounds of the 60s: Garage Bands and Rock, Part 18
by Jack B. Stephens
Welcome to the newest installment of my series Sounds of the 60s. This segment we explore two of the most popular groups of the decade along with three bands that some may consider one hit wonders. One Hit Wonders is a term often used to describe groups who had only one major hit single; however, in most cases it is very misleading. The bands who are placed into this category typically did a whole lot more than jump on stage, perform one hit song and then go extinct. Although, I include a lot of chart data in my articles it is by no means a measure of success for any band. Many of these groups recorded several songs and albums, were a big influence on the music of the day as well as on upcoming bands. Simply because a band had one hit single does not reduce their significance to rock and roll music.
The American Breed
The American Breed formed in Cicero, Illinois and were originally known as Gary and The Knight Lites. The founding members of the band were Gary Loizzo, Charles Colbert, Al Ciner and Lee Graziano. The group was unusual at the time because they were a racially integrated group. The band was signed to Acta Records, a subsidiary label of Dot Records, and changed their name in January 1967 to The American Breed. The first singles that year were “I Don’t Think You Know Me” and “Don’t Forget About Me” both hits in the Chicago area. The next single in 1967 “Step Out of Your Mind” gained the band national attention reaching number 24 on the Billboard Hot 100. The next charted single the same year “Bend Me, Shape Me” resulted in international success peaking at number 5 on the Hot 100 and sold over a million copies. More charted singles came in 1968 although with less success. These included “Green Light” reaching number 39, “Ready, Willing and Able” peaking at number 84 and “Anyway That You Want Me” reaching number 88. The final single “Hunky Funky” in 1969 did not crack the Hot 100 reaching only number 107. The band had basically reached its end by 1970 although one final single “Can’t Make It Without You” was released, suffering poor sales. The group disbanded in 1970; however, most of the members later evolved into the funk group Rufus featuring Chaka Kahn.
Ides of March
Ides of March, from Berwyn, Illinois began as The Shon-Dels in 1964. Jim Peterik formed and fronted the band. They released their first single “Like It Or Lump It’ in 1965. They officially changed the bands name to Ides of March in 1966 and released “You Wouldn’t Listen” on Parrot Records. The single was successful reaching number 42 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 7 on the WLS radio chart. However, the band received little attention or promotion from the record label which resulted in limited national attention until years later. From 1966 through 1968, they released five singles on the label including “Roller Coaster” which reached number 92 on the Hot 100, “You Need Love”, “My Foolish Pride”, and “Hole In My Soul”. During this time, Parrot Records never scheduled an album for release. The band recorded one single on Kapp Records before signing with Warner Brothers Records in 1970. Success then came quickly with the release of “Vehicle” which became a million selling record. The single reached number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. The band had acquired a quite different sound along with the addition of a brass section. The band released two more charted singles which included “Superman” reaching number 64 in 1970 and “L.A. Goodbye” in 1971 peaking at number 73. Ides of March played their final show in 1973; however, there have been several revivals. Later, in 1978, Jim Peterik founded and was a member of the band Survivor.
Steppenwolf exploded on the music scene in 1968. John Kay, Goldy McJohn and Jerry Edmonton who were all in the Canadian band The Sparrows, formed the band in 1967 in Los Angeles. Michael Monarch and Rushton Moreve were then recruited to complete the lineup. Edmonton became known by his pen name Mars Bonfire. Their first single was “A Girl I Knew” followed by “Sookie Sookie”. Their third single “Born to Be Wild” brought international fame to the band reaching number two on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1968. The use of this song as well as “The Pusher” in the popular movie of the time “Easy Rider” both led to even greater fame for Steppenwolf. Other hit albums and singles followed including “Magic Carpet Ride” reaching number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1968. 1969 brought “Rock Me” peaking at number 10 and “Move Over” reaching number 31. The band continued with success in 1970 with the singles “Monster” reaching number 39 and “Hey Lawdy Mama” peaking at number 35. Differences of opinions developed within the core lineup led to the departures of members and began to take its toll on the band. The band broke up in 1972; however, a reunion consisting of the founding members followed in 1974 which produced their last top 40 hit “Straight Shootin’ Woman”. Other revivals of the band continued; however, the members of the band continued to have issues within. Steppenwolf sold over 25 million records, released eight gold albums and achieved 12 Billboard Hot 100 singles.
The Nightcrawlers from Daytona Beach, Florida formed in 1965. The original lineup consisted of Tommy Ruger, Rob Rouse, Charlie Conlon, Sylvan Wells and Pete Thomason. The band never gained a lot of national popularity; however, because of their one hit single “The Little Black Egg” they became a favorite of garage bands for several decades. The song was for an Easter concert in 1965; however, it did not chart until its third release in 1967 when it peaked at number 85 on the Billboard Hot 100. The group released other singles including “Cry”, “A Basket of Flowers” and “I Don’t Remember”. The band was short lived with the original members disbanding in 1967 with their final single release “My Butterfly”.
Cream formed in 1966 by Ginger Baker, Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce in Britain. They are often credited as being the first successful supergroup selling more than 15 million copies of their albums internationally. They had a huge impact on the music of the late 1960s and influenced several bands from many rock music genres both in the United States and Britain. The bands credits include induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993 as well as inclusion in the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time” lists for both Rolling Stone and VH1. Baker, Clapton and Bruce had all grown weary of the bands they were formerly in and came up with the idea to form their own band. The debut of Cream was in mid 1966 with the release of their first album “Fresh Cream” the same year. Three other albums were released during the bands rather short lived career including “Disraeli Gears” in 1967, “Wheels of Fire” in 1968 and “Goodbye” released in 1969. After “Wheels of Fire” which was also the world’s first platinum double album, the band members were ready to go their separate ways due to various internal issues. Cream has several hit singles as well. Their first single release in 1966 was “Wrapping Paper” which charted in the UK, but not in the United States. This second single release “I Feel Free” failed to break the Billboard Hot 100, but did reach number 116 on the Bubbling Under Billboard chart. “Sunshine of Your Love” released in late 1967 brought Cream to the Billboard Hot 100 where it was a huge success and one of the most popular singles of 1968. The single peaked at number 5 and remained on the chart for 26 weeks. It is also listed in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s list of the “500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll”. Later in 1968, the single “White Room” was released and was another big success reaching number 6 on the Hot 100. It is also included on the “List of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”. The success continued with “Crossroads” reaching number 28 on the Hot 100. “Badge” from Cream’s last album reached number 60 on the chart. Other notable songs include “Born Under a Bad Sign”, “Strange Brew” and “Spoonful”.
As we continue to explore the bands of the 1960s we see several emerging themes. One theme is that many of the bands do not last long which is often the result of conflicts within the members of the group. Another we see is that the bands are often under the power a record company which can result in their success or failure. While it is a dream of most groups to get signed by a record company, the result is sometimes not a blessing, but a curse. If the record label does not promote a group, then the consequence is often that the band does not make it. We have already spoken of the often-unflattering definition of a band that falls into the category of a one hit wonder.
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