The Buckinghams

60s, oldies, rock I'm a fan
The Buckinghams are an American rock band that saw enormous radio popularity from 1965 to 1968 (see 1967 in music), becoming one of the top-selling rock groups of 1967. In 1965, two high school musicians in Chicago, Illinois, guitarist Carl Giammarese and bassist Nick Fortuna joined drummer John Poulos, singers George LeGros and Dennis Tufano and keyboardist Dennis Miccolis in a band called The Pulsations. They soon won a Chicago battle of the bands competition and secured a job as the house band on local (WGN-TV's) variety show called All-Time Hits. The show's producers suggested they adopt a more "contemporary" (i.e., British) name, and thanks to the suggestion of a security guard at the television station, The Buckinghams were born (the name is also that of a notable Chicago landmark, Buckingham Fountain).In early 1966, the band signed their first record contract with local USA Records and recorded twelve songs that year. Several were released, including "I'll Go Crazy,"originally recorded by James Brown & The Famous Flames, "I Call Your Name," and "I've Been Wrong", which received extensive airplay in Chicago. The Buckinghams gained national exposure with their final single, "Kind of a Drag," written by Chicago-based songwriter, Jim Holvay, who had been performing with a group called The Mob. "Kind of a Drag" raced up the local charts then caught fire nationally, eventually spending two weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in February, 1967. That single's success also led to USA Records' hasty release of an album, Kind of a Drag with the band's early recordings. This was followed up by a cover of Lloyd Price?s Lawdy Miss Clawdy, but USA Records had a problem with distribution. As the group's contract with USA Records came to an end, Miccolis was replaced on keyboards by Marty Grebb. The band members were also introduced to James William Guercio, formerly the road manager for Chad and Jeremy, who then signed them to a management contract with his new California-based management company, Ebbins-Guercio Associates, formed with Garrick Ebbins. The Buckinghams were courted by several record labels before deciding on promotion specialist Jim Scully, who quickly got them a new contract with Columbia (CBS) Records. Guercio signed on as the group's producer as well and the William Morris Agency was inked to handle national bookings for tours and TV appearances.Although The Buckinghams had already been using a brass section on many of their earlier recordings, created by big band leader Dan Belloc and arranger Frank Tezinsky, Guercio studied that sound and continued the group's brass-rock studio sound. Guercio helped to shape the group's signature sound, and the partnership produced four more Top 10 hits in 1967: "Don't You Care" (#6), "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" (#5), "Hey Baby (They're Playing Our Song)" (#10) and "Susan" (#8), (three of which were written by Jim Holvay and Gary Beisber). Thanks to Columbia promotion men including Jim Scully, Ron Alexenburg (later President of Epic Records) and Steve Popovich (later president of Cleveland International Records), in 1967 The Buckinghams were named by Billboard Magazine as "The Most Listened to Band in America."The Buckinghams found themselves disagreeing with Guercio on both creative and financial issues, and so they parted company. Afterwards, Columbia assigned Staff Producer Jim Wisner to work with the group on their third, and arguably their best album ("In One Ear and Gone Tomorrow"). Featuring material written by Marty Grebb, Carl Giammarese, and Dennis Tufano, the album had modest success with the single, "Back in Love Again," but after the break with Guercio, they were unable to duplicate their 1967 success. The band dissolved in early 1970.A Greatest Hits CD was released in 1975 by Columbia called "Made in Chicago," with songs produced by Guercio. Drummer John Poulos, who had become a manager of several rock bands including "The Boyzz," passed away in early 1980.Later in 1980, Chicago's WLS radio programming executive John Gehron called Carl Giammarese with an invitation to reunite The Buckinghams for Mayor Jane Byrne's ChicagoFest event. Setting attendance records, Giammarese, Fortuna and Tufano recruited drummer Tom Radtke and keyboardist John Cammelot to join them on the Navy Pier rooftop stage. Marty Grebb declined the opportunity to join them, as he was touring with another group at the time. For the next two years, the trio of original members performed at selected concerts in Chicago. When Tufano decided to return to California to resume a career in film voice work in 1982, Giammarese and Fortuna committed to tour full-time as The Buckinghams.Carl, now doing lead vocal duties and guitar, and Nick, on bass and vocals, were joined by Tom Scheckel (drums) in 1983, and in 1986 by Bob Abrams(guitar, vocals) and Bruce Soboroff (keyboard, vocals). These five have been the lineup of The Buckinghams continuously since 1986, and have been together over four times longer than the original group was together in the 60s. The band continues to make appearances in various concert venues throughout the U.S., Canada and overseas and has released several albums on independent labels.The Buckinghams were the first group to initiate "Meet and Greets" after concerts where Carl Giammarese and Nick Fortuna meet the fans and sign autographs after each show. That quickly caught on with other classic rock bands, who also started staying to meet the fans after shows.In 1985, The Buckinghams were part of the "Happy Together" Tour, sponsored by Members Only. This was one of the Top Ten Grossing tours in the United States, traveling to over 150 cities, and also included The Turtles, The Grass Roots, and Gary Lewis and the Playboys. In 1991, Sony/Legacy (formerly Columbia) released a compilation greatest hits CD, "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy," which included songs written by Giammarese, Grebb, and Tufano, previously unreleased, along with two songs written by John Hill and produced by John Andrews, "It's a Beautiful Day" and "I've Got a Feelin'".In 1996, The Buckinghams celebrated the band's 30th anniversary with a concert at The Vic Theatre in Chicago. The show was filmed and released as a video, "Off Their Rockers" and included two Chicago favorite DJs as hosts:Dick Biondi and John "Records" Landecker.In 2001, The Buckinghams were part of the Solid Gold 60s Tour along with Tommy James and the Shondells, the Turtles, Paul Revere and the Raiders, and The Grass Roots. PBS featured The Buckinghams on "The Sixties Pop Rock Reunion" in 2004. In January 2005 they performed at the Twilight on the Prairie Ball, for one of President George W. Bush's Inaugural Balls in Washington, DC.In 2007 The Buckinghams signed with national label, Fuel Records, to release their latest studio CD, Reaching Back, that includes eight new original songs written by Carl Giammarese, and new recordings of five of their top hits. A second CD, "Standing Room Only" (previously released as "Alive and Well" was also released on the Fuel Label.The Buckinghams--Giammarese, Fortuna, Scheckel, Abrams, and Soboroff--perform regularly to festival audiences of over 10,000, to sold-out shows in theatres such as the Westbury Music Fair, Ram's Head and others. They remain popular acts for casino venues, and frequently perform the national anthem for Chicago Cubs, White Sox, and Bears home games.XM Radio recently recorded The Buckinghams in concert for their XM Performance Series on the 60s on 6 channel. The Buckinghams' music from yesterday and today remains in regular rotation on classic rock stations in U.S. formats as well as satellite radio, streaming Internet and Wi-Fi radio stations.Recently, The Buckinghams were nominated to the Hit Parade Hall of Fame, which was co-created by award-winning program director, John Rook, acclaimed former Program Director at Chicago's WLS and WCFL radio stations. The Buckinghams are currently working on their latest CD, a Christmas album, set for release in Fall, 2008.
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