Gary: “Let’s continue on with that Chicago Sound from the mid to late sixties; I just did the American Breed and now the group that I believe made this sound so significant was…
Don’t You Care
Kind of a Drag
Mercy Mercy Mercy 1967
Kind of a Drag/ U.S.A. 860/ January 1967/ #1 (2)
Don’t You Care/ Columbia 44053/ April 1967/ #6
Mercy, Mercy, Mercy/ Columbia 44182/ July 1967/ #5
Hey Baby (They’re Playing Our Song)/ Columbia 44254/ September 1967/ #12
Susan/ Columbia 44378/ December 1967/ #11
The Buckinghams formed in 1965 when Carl Giammarese and Nick Fortuna of The Centuries joined up with Jon Jon Poulos and Dennis Tufano of The Pulsations. After adding keyboard player Dennis Miccoli, the group won a ‘Battle of the Bands’ for a Chicago TV show called All Time Hits and became regulars on the show for 14 weeks.
The British invasion was happening at that time and the TV show wanted the band to have a more British sounding name. A security guard that worked for the TV station suggested the name “The Buckinghams”.
Landing a contract with Chicago’s USA Records in 1966, the group was sent to Chess studios where they were paired with producer Dan Belloc. Their first releases were all cover versions of other artists songs: James Brown’s “I’ll Go Crazy“, the Beatles’ “I Call Your Name” and the Hollies’ “I’ve Been Wrong Before.” While these songs did well in the Chicago area, it took the wistful, Jim Holvay written, “Kind of a Drag” to break the group nationally. The song featured the powerful vocals of Dennis Tufano and a punchy, soul-styled horn section that was the brainchild of James Guercio, who would later go on to produce the band Chicago.
Soon after “Kind Of A Drag” was recorded, Dennis Miccoli was replaced by Marty Grebb, the keyboard player from the Chicago folk-rock band “The Exceptions”. In just a few weeks, the Buckinghams had a million-selling, chart-topper on their hands. “Kind of a Drag” did for The Buckinghams what no other act seemed to be able to do at that time…knock the Monkees’ monster hit “I’m A Believer” out of the #1 spot.
After the demise of USA Records, the Buckinghams signed with Columbia Records and followed “Kind Of A Drag” with a cover version of Lloyd Price’s, “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” that quickly stalled at #36. Columbia wasted no time in going back to the formula that worked so well the first time out, releasing another song co-written by Jim Holvay along with Gary Beisbier called “Don’t You Care“. That effort secured another top ten hit, when it reached #6 on the Billboard chart. Not all of their singles had quite as much success though, as “Back In Love Again” topped out at #32.
Cashing in on a good thing, The Buckinghams appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Jerry Lewis Show, American Bandstand, The Smothers Brothers, Entertainment Tonight, P.M. Magazine, and Classic Rock with Wolfman Jack. Between appearances, the band recorded a vocal adaptation of Cannonball Adderley’s jazz standard “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,” that soared to #5.
Still in 1967, Columbia kept pushing out Buckingham singles and a Holvay / Beisbier / Guercio composition called “Susan” made it up to #11, while “Hey Baby” (They’re Playin’ Our Song) went to #12.
Despite selling millions of records and being voted “The Most Listened-To Band of 1967” by Billboard Magazine, the band’s Fortunas began to decline in 1968. Their cleverly titled album, “In One Ear and Gone Tomorrow” seemed to be a forecast of things to come, as the LP couldn’t produce a hit single.
Several line-up changes only undermined their sound and by late 1969, The Buckinghams had decided to pack it in.
Carl Giammarese and Dennis Tufano continued working as an acoustic duo. Work was tough to find and Chicago area clubs were not interested. A demo tape for Reprise Records was turned down. Jon Poulos had started to manage local bands and tried to help. Giammarese and Tufano recorded an entire album demo for Poulos to promote, but nobody wanted to sign them.
From there the pair contacted producer Jack Richardson, who worked with The Guess Who. Richardson brought in members of Poco as studio musicians and they laid down three promotional tracks. Poulos sent the demo to every major label, but got no response. He finally contacted former Mamas and Papas producer Lou Adler, who now had his own custom label, Ode Records. Two days after receiving the tape, Adler called to say that he liked the sound and Giammarese and Tufano flew to Los Angeles to audition live. Adler was even more impressed and signed them.
A self-titled Tufano – Giammarese album was released on Ode in 1973 and the first single, “Music Everywhere” managed to climb to #68 on Billboard’s Hot 100. A second tune called “Rise Up” was issued the same year, but did not chart. To promote the album, Tufano and Giammarese went out on a two month, nine state promotional tour with Cheech & Chong.
Four tracks for a second album for Ode had been finished when Lou Adler took sick and had to keep leaving the sessions. A discouraged Giammarese decided he’d had enough and began doing session work. During this period, Adler’s health declined to a point where he could not make records anymore, but eventually, the second album, titled “The Tufano & Giammarese Band” came together. When the subject of a third album came up, Adler said he will not do another unless he had assurance that Giammarese would stick around for the whole project.
To get back on track, the pair assembled a new band, worked clubs and learned new songs. Lou Adler agreed to produce a third LP called “The Other Side“.
By now Ode was being distributed by Epic Records. Adler hired Hank Cicalo as an engineer and Tom Scott to arrange. On the first day of recording, Adler announced ‘I cannot produce anymore, I lost my ear. I want to make movies.’ Tom Scott and Hank Cicalo became the producers. The record was finished and made it into record stores, but one week later, Adler cut off the distribution deal with Epic. He wanted to be distributed by Columbia instead. Adler re-released the album, but Columbia had little interest and failed to promote it.
In 1980 The Buckinghams were invited to do a reunion by Chicago radio station WLS. Marty Grebb had to decline because he was working with Leon Russell.
32 year old Jon Jon Poulos died of drug-related causes earlier in the year. It had been eleven years since anyone had seen The Buckinghams play, but after they rehearsed, the pulled off three shows like they had never been apart. The exposure brought a lot of other offers to appear, but Tufano lived in Los Angeles and had other commitments. Carl Giammarese and Nick Fortuna however, decided to reunite as The Buckinghams.
The band toured extensively as a nostalgia act with Giammarese and Fortuna and released new recordings, the album “A Matter Of Time” and the single “Veronica” in 1985 for Red Label records. They were also a part of the highly successful Happy Together Tour which featured The Turtles, The Grass Roots and Gary Lewis. The tour was consistently one of the Top 10 grossing tours.
During the ’80s and 90s, Tufano was not only involved in acting, but joined up with Elton John’s songwriting partner, Bernie Taupin in a band called Farm Dogs. An album by Farm Dogs, “Last Stand In Open Country” was released in July, 1996 on Discovery Records.
The Buckinghams continued to be a very impressive band, playing festivals, concerts, casinos, cruises, and corporate dates around the world as interest in 60’s hits and the bands that made them famous continued. Their clean and tight musical ability combined with trademark vocals made them a popular draw.
More recently, the latest edition of The Buckinghams released some new recordings that include, 1998’s “Terra Firma” and “Made In Chicago” in 2001.
In October, 2004, The Buckinghams sang the national anthem at Comiskey Park in Chicago before game one of the American Baseball League playoffs. They also toured the country with the “Solid Gold Sixties Tour” along with Tommy James, The Turtles, The Grass Roots, Paul Revere and the Raiders and Gary Puckett.