When The Buckinghams’ “Kind of a Drag” unseated The Monkees’ “I’m a Believer” from the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 in February 1967, becoming the first new No. 1 of the year, it was anything but a drag for the Chicago band. The crackling single, with its triumphant brass fanfare practically heralding a hit record, was the first of The Buckinghams’ three Top 10s in ’67. Now, in celebration of The Buckinghams’ 50th anniversary, Varese Vintage has released the 15-track anthology The Complete Hit Singles featuring every one of their songs to make the Billboard chart plus their early regional hits and more – most presented in stereo.
Dennis Tufano (lead vocals), Nick Fortuna (bass), Carl Giammarese (guitar), John Poulos (drums) and Marty Grebb (keyboards) solidified The Buckinghams’ most famous line-up, though the group had its start with other members including singer George Legros, bassist Curt Backman and keyboardist Dennis Miccolis. After a brief stint on the Spectra-Sound label, Carl Bonafede got the group, formerly known on the local Chicago scene as The Centuries and then The Pulsations, signed to the R&B-leaning USA Records in 1966. The band’s first USA single, “I’ll Go Crazy,” also became their first to chart. The James Brown song showcased their garage-style attack and the brass arrangements for which they would become known; it made the Top 20 on the popular radio station WLS and “Bubbled Under” the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 112. Covers of tunes by The Beatles (“I Call Your Name”) and The Hollies (“I’ve Been Wrong”) fared even better than “I’ll Go Crazy” in the Windy City, but it was the chart-topping USA single “Kind of a Drag” which brought the group to the attention of producer James William Guercio. The future Blood, Sweat and Tears and Chicago maverick seized upon The Buckinghams’ horn-rock sound and tapped “Drag” writer Jim Holvay for a follow-up. With Gary Beisbier, Holvay crafted another high-energy pop nugget entitled “Don’t You Care.” Radio listeners obviously did, as the single reached No. 6 nationally!
Only three more major hits were in the band’s future, but what hits they were! “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” was originally composed by jazz keyboardist Joe Zawinul as an instrumental for Julian “Cannonball” Adderley; the great saxophonist’s 1966 version went to No. 2 R&B and No. 11 on the Hot 100. The Buckinghams’ recording with lyrics bested Adderley’s performance on the pop chart, making No. 5 in 1967. Holvay and Beisbier’s breezy “Hey Baby (They’re Playing Our Song)” might have been the band’s most infectious hit yet; it reached No. 12 Pop. The group’s final Top 20 hit was the sweet ode to “Susan,” a Holvay/Beisbier/Guercio co-write. The Complete Hit Singles includes the radio edit of “Susan,” minus the song’s “freak-out” interlude.
The No. 11 Pop “Susan” didn’t mark the end of The Buckinghams’ chart career, though it did neatly conclude the end of the group’s association with Guercio. Varese’s anthology also features a trio of tunes from 1968, all produced by Jimmy “Wiz” Wisner: Grebb’s catchy No. 57 hit “Back in Love Again”; the Mark London/Don Black theme to the film The Guru, “Where Did You Come From”; and Grebb’s “This is How Much I Love You.” The London/Black song “bubbled under” at No. 117; 1969’s “It’s a Beautiful Day” only reached No. 126 despite going Top 40 at WLS in the band’s hometown. The A-side of The Buckinghams’ 1970 Columbia single “I Got a Feelin'” rounds out the collection. By the end of the year, the group had disbanded. Ten years later, The Buckinghams’ name was reactivated, and today Giammarese and Fortuna keep the music alive on tour.
The Complete Hit Singles features new liner notes by Clark Besch as well as a period-perfect, 12-page color booklet (and Columbia replica label) designed by Steve Stanley of Now Sounds. Steve Massie, co-producer of the set with Cary Mansfield and Bill Pitzonka, has remastered each track. Now, here’s the best part: We would like this fantastic collection to be YOURS! To enter to win ONE OF TEN COPIES, simply LIKE our Facebook page, and head over to Varese Sarabande’s FB page and do the same! Just leave us a comment on the BUCKINGHAMS post on our FB page. Let us know: What’s your favorite song by The Buckinghams or memory of the group? Once you like both pages and comment anything you’d like to share about Nicolette, you’ll automatically be entered to win!
If you’ve entered our previous giveaways and have already liked BOTH The Second Disc and Varese’s Facebook page, you can still win: simply enter a comment on our thread to be entered! Only one entry per person. Remember, BOTH FB pages must be “LIKED” and a comment left on our page in order to win!
Don’t have Facebook? We’re not leaving you out in the cold! Just send an e-mail to theseconddisc AT gmail DOT com with the subject line “THE BUCKINGHAMS” plus your name and mailing address, and you’ll also be entered to win!
The contest ends at 11:59 p.m. EST on the evening of Thursday, September 17, at which time 10 random winners will be selected. Contest open to all. Only one entry per person either via Facebook or email. All winners at sole discretion of The Second Disc. U.S. residents only, please. This contest is NOT affiliated with or endorsed by Facebook. Winner will be notified following the weekend of September 19-20 via Facebook and The Second Disc, so remember to check back! Good luck!
The Buckinghams’ The Complete Hit Singles is available now from Varese Vintage at the links below!
- I’ll Go Crazy (USA single 844, 1966)
- I Call Your Name (USA single 848, 1966)
- I’ve Been Wrong (USA single 853, 1966)
- Kind of a Drag (USA single 860, 1966)
- Lawdy Miss Clawdy (USA single 869, 1967)
- Summertime (USA single 873, 1967)
- Don’t You Care (Columbia single 44053, 1967)
- Mercy, Mercy, Mercy (Mono Single Version) (Columbia single 44182, 1967)
- Hey Baby (They’re Playing Our Song) (Columbia single 44254, 1967)
- Susan (Radio Edit) (Columbia single 44378, 1967)
- Back in Love Again (Columbia single 44533, 1968)
- Where Did You Come From (Columbia single 44672, 1968)
- This is How Much I Love You (Columbia single 44790, 1968)
- It’s a Beautiful Day (For Lovin’) (Columbia single 44923, 1969)
- I Got a Feelin’ (7″ Single Version) (Columbia single 45066, 1970)