Sonny Geraci

By Gary:

Whatever happened too?  I have pondered that many times, but the singer I will highlight tonight, I will be honest I knew who he sang with in the sixties and seventies but little else.

We lost Sonny Geraci last February at the age of 70.  The song out of the 60’s is one of my all time favourites so I will take a look at that Group and his second Group. 

He was born in Cleveland Ohio which is just across the lake from where I live now.  He was part of a group called the Starfires with Tom King.  In 1965 they changed their name to “The Outsiders” and in 1966 had a # 5 BB Hit.  But in 1972 he would record Precious and Few with the group Climax, which went to # 3 BB.  He then left the industry for 25 years, then came back and suffered a brain aneurysm in 2012 and left us in February 2017. 

Sonny Geraci
The Outsiders
Climax
Videos:
1966 / The Outsiders / Time won’t let me /
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1972 / Climax / Precious and Few /
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Hits for the Outsiders:
1966 / Time won’t let me / #5 BB
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1966 / Girl in Love / #21 BB
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1966 / Respectable / #15 BB
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1966 / Help Me Girl / #37 BB
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Based in Cleveland, Ohio, The Outsiders was the brainchild of Tom King, a guitarist, composer and arranger. Initially known as Tom King And The Starfires, the line-up was completed by Al Austin (guitar), Met Madsen (bass) and Rick Biagiola/Baker (drums). The group was just a garden-variety bar band until the 1965 addition of eighteen-year-old vocalist Sonny Geraci infused the group with new life.

Tom King and his brother-in-law, Chet Kelley, co-wrote a song called “Time Won’t Let Me” and recorded it on their own. The song blended the group’s core sound to brass and horn sections in what was a fairly complex arrangement. On the strength of the recording, the group was signed by Capitol Records, but the label insisted that the band take a new name. King had been forced to abandon Pama Records, the label for which the Starfires had cut a dozen tunes and was owned by his uncle, who accused his nephew of being an “outsider” to the family. “Time Won’t Let Me” was issued in January of 1966, rising to #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and selling over a million copies. An infectious slice of classic American Pop, it introduced a series of similarly excellent Top 40 songs, that included “Girl in Love” which went to #21 in the Summer of 1966.

By the Spring of that year, Capitol was ready for the group to record their debut album and Tom King called up Jimmy Fox, who had been the drummer for a slightly earlier line-up of The Starfires, to play on those sessions. Fox had left the group to attend college, but he came back to play on the album. In the wake of his brief reunion with his band mates, Fox decided to forego college in favour of forming a band of his own, which would find their own success as The James Gang.

The sessions for some of the songs that would be on the group’s second album, “Outsiders #2”, had already taken place, and one of them, a version of the Isley Brothers number, “Respectable” was pegged as their third single, released in July of that year. The song rose to #15 nationally in the Summer of 1966, followed by “Help Me Girl” which stalled at #37 when it was successfully covered by Eric Burdon And The Animals. Only six months after their big break, bad luck seemed to follow The Outsiders. They had access to a song called “Bend Me, Shape Me” ahead of anyone else, but turned it down as a single release, thus allowing The American Breed to rack up a $5 hit in 1968. The group’s third L.P., “In”, released in April of 1967, never charted and none of the group’s subsequent singles reached the Top 100.

A single called “Gotta Leave Us Alone” rose to number 121, which apparently was sufficient to get the band a tentative go-ahead for a fourth album. By that time, King and Kelley had begun working with a Cleveland-based songwriter named Bob Turek, and the group’s line-up had shifted somewhat. Mert Madsen had decided to get married and get off the road, and was succeeded on bass by an ex-member of The Starfires, Richard D’Amato. The intended fourth album was scrapped partway through and instead, a concert album, entitled “Happening Live”, appeared in its place. As was quite common in the mid-sixties, the producers went back to the multi-tracks of the originals and removed the over dubbed strings, brass, and horns, and simply added crowd noise to the existing recordings. The L.P. sold poorly and turned out to be the last for The Outsiders.

By 1968, with band members coming and going, Tom King quit the group and Sonny Geraci was left to keep the band alive. In tandem with Walter Nims, the pair attempted to record, but a law suit was launched over the right to use the name The Outsiders, which King won in 1970. Geraci and Nims went on to form a new group called Climax. Their first effort was a Nims written tune called “Precious and Few”, which went to #1 nationally and was awarded a Gold record in 1971. Climax toured the world and appeared on the current television shows of the time, The Smothers Brothers, Hullabaloo, Shindig, Where The Action Is, and American Bandstand. The song “Rock and Roll Heaven” (a hit for the Righteous Brothers) was written originally for Climax and Sonny Geraci by their keyboard player, John Stevenson, although their version failed to sell. Further releases by Climax also flopped and Geraci returned to the Cleveland area, performing a night club act for casinos, cruises and corporate parties.

By 1980, Geraci had retired from music and went to work for his family’s home improvement business. Another Outsiders’ album called “30 Years Live” was released in 1996 by a re-formed band that featured original guitarist Tom King, but minus Sonny Geraci. Predictably, it failed to gain any attention. After twenty-five years away from the music business, Sonny Geraci started to perform again and in 2007 toured under the name Sonny Geraci And The Outsiders. Into 2011 and 2012, they still had a full slate of shows booked across the United States. Sadly, Geraci suffered a brain aneurysm in April, 2012 and never fully recovered. He passed away on February 5th, 2017 at the age of 70.

Music for Climax:

1972 / Precious and Few / # 3 BB

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1973 / Life and Breath / # 52 BB

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1973 / Walking in the Georgia Rain featuring Sonny Geraci

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Climax is a now-defunct American pop and classic rock band formed during the 70’s music era. The achieved fame for their top ten Billboard pop hit “Precious and Few” in early 1972. The group recorded one LP, which made a minor success on the chart. Climax disbanded in the mid-1970s.

Climax was formed in 1971 in Los Angeles, California. The line-up consisted of lead vocalist Sonny Geraci (born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1947), guitarist/songwriter Walter D. Nims, and drummer/songwriter Jon Jon Guttmann. Some sources say that the group was rounded out by bassist Steve York, (ex-East of Eden member and Chapter Three from Manfred Mann), keyboardist Vigil Weber and drummer Robert Neilson. Climax came from the idea from executive producer Marc Gordon and producer Larry Cox.

There had been a lot of session musicians who took part of the band’s recording history, and they included Gordon McKinnon (woodwind); Joe Bellamy, Steve La Fever, Reinie Press and Joe Osborn (bass); drummer John Raines and Earl Palmer; and percussionist Alan Estes.

The primary band members came from a previous group The Outsiders, founded by the late singer-songwriter and musician Tom King. When the original Outsiders split and Geraci formed a new group and named it “The Outsiders featuring Sonny Geraci,” King sued the new band for using the Outsiders name. He eventually won the lawsuit, making him the sole owner of the Outsiders moniker. Geraci eventually re-named his own band as Climax; the band’s sound was decidedly more mellow than the Outsiders’.

Climax signed a contract with a small label Carousel where they recorded their first single “Precious and Few,” as well as the group’s self-titled only album.
“Precious and Few” is a ballad written by Nims. It eventually reached #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #6 on the Billboard adult contemporary singles chart. It was the group’s only major hit in their brief career. The follow-up singles “Life and Breath” (#52 pop, #15 adult contemporary) and “Walking in the Georgia Rain” (#38 adult contemporary) enjoyed only minor success, which eventually led the band to become one hit wonders.

Few of the reasons why Climax didn’t become successful as they should were the weak marketing and promotion, as well as the absence of a solid management.
After Climax

The group broke up in 1975 or 1976. After Climax’s disbandment, Geraci continued to work in the music industry; in mid-2000’s he was back performing with the Outsiders featuring Sonny Geraci. In 2012 he suffered a brain aneurysm that required him to undergo an intensive care. A benefit concert held by his friends in the industry was held for him the following year. Steve York has continued to work as an in-demand session bass guitarist.

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4 responses to “Sonny Geraci

  1. Thanks! Great song

  2. HUGH "BABE" O'DONNELL

    Russ and Gary Happy LABOR DAY have fun and stay safe.
    It strange you remember the rockin’ group THE OUTSIDERS. One of my favorite records to play at the many Dances I did starting in 1062.
    When I was working a NATIONAL RECORS MART Corporate office Promotional salesman would visit us weekly this one salesman from WEA and I were talking about music he was from OHIO and he told me he was the drummer for THE OUTSIDERS and we became very good friends only because of our love for Music. Small World.
    The best to you and your many friends.

    THE EMPEROR OF DANCES and GOOD MUSIC

    Hugh “BABE” O’DOnnell

  3. Wow, Time Won’t Let Me..that takes me back to Toronto dances in the mid-sixties… Thanks for the info about Sonny Geraci–interesting how different the song Precious and Few is.

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