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- Genre: Pop, Rock, Other, R&B/Soul, Brill Building Pop, British Invasion, Bubblegum Pop, Classic Rock
The Buckinghams are an American Sunshine pop band from Chicago, Illinois, United States. They formed in 1966, and went on to become one of the top selling acts of 1967. The band dissolved in 1970, but re-formed in 1980 and as of 2016 they continue to tour throughout the United States.
In 1965 guitarists Carl Giammarese and Nick Fortuna, along with bassist Curtis Bachman, were invited to join a band called the Centuries. Giammarese and Bachman, plus keyboardist Dennis Miccolis, later became members of another band, the Pulsations, whose members included drummer John Poulos and vocalists George LeGros and Dennis Tufano. After winning a local battle of the bands competition in late 1965, the Pulsations secured a job as the house band on WGN-TV's variety show called All-Time Hits. The show's producers suggested they adopt a name reflective of the British invasion, which was popular at the time, and the band adopted the name The Buckinghams, which was suggested by a security guard named John Opager at the station. The band liked the name because of its similarity to a hometown landmark Buckingham Fountain
In early 1966, LeGros was forced to leave after he was drafted. Right around the same time, bassist Bachman also left and Nick Fortuna (now playing bass and soon briefly going under the surname of Fortune, after it was misspelled on the record jacket) returned after a stint with Jimmy V. & the Entertainers. The band then signed their first record contract with local label USA Records and recorded twelve songs that year. Several were released as singles, including "I'll Go Crazy", a song originally recorded by James Brown & the Famous Flames and the Beatles' "I Call Your Name". However, it was their number one single, "Kind of a Drag", that provided them with national exposure. "Kind of a Drag" was written by Chicago-based songwriter Jim Holvay, who had been performing with a group called the Mob, and spent two weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in February 1967. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. The co-producers of "Kind of a Drag" were the band's first personal manager, Carl Bonafede, and big band leader Dan Belloc, owner of the Holiday Ballroom in Chicago. The horns on the song were arranged by Frank Tesinsky and the engineer at the first recording sessions held at Chess Records in Chicago was Ron Malo. Following this, the band's debut album, also entitled Kind of a Drag, was released on USA Records and featured the band's early recordings.
In late 1966, keyboardist Miccolis was replaced by Larry Nestor, who only stayed in the band a short time and was in turn replaced by Marty Grebb in early 1967. Around this time the band members were introduced to James William Guercio, formerly the bassist and road manager for Chad & Jeremy, who then signed them to a management contract with Ebbins-Guercio Associates. 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, who became the group's producer, continued the group's "brass-rock" approach, and the band produced four more Top-20 hits in 1967: "Don't You Care" (#6), "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" (#5), "Hey Baby (They're Playing Our Song)" (#12) and "Susan" (#11), (three of which were written by Jim Holvay and Gary Beisbier). The same year, The Buckinghams were named by Billboard magazine as "The Most Listened to Band in America." Severe differences occurred between the Buckinghams and their producer. The group opposed the producer's decision to add a psychedelic section to the song "Susan". It included a short portion of Charles Ives' "Central Park in the Dark" and sounded very similar to the Beatles' song "A Day in the Life", with an orchestral crescendo. Many radio stations omitted this section. The producer had the last word, and the Buckinghams could do nothing about the treatment of the song. The group currently does not include the psychedelic portion in their performances.
By mid-1968, the Buckinghams had parted company with Guercio and Columbia Records assigned staff producer Jim Wisner to work with the group on their third album, In One Ear and Gone Tomorrow. The album featured material written by Grebb, Giammarese and Tufano. Despite the release of a new single, Back in Love Again, they were unable to duplicate their 1967 success without Guercio, who went on to explore the "brass rock" concept further with Blood, Sweat & Tears and Chicago. Also, a "BUCKINGHAMS" DAY", in Chicago, was cancelled when it was learned that some of the band members were arrested for possession of illegal drugs. By late 1968, Marty Grebb and Nick Fortuna had left and were replaced by keyboardist John Turner and original bassist Curtis Bachman, who had gone on to join the band Saturday's Child after leaving The Buckinghams. There were no more hits, though, and band dissolved in early 1970. A compilation record of their old material was released in 1975 by Columbia called "Made in Chicago".
After the break-up, Tufano and Giammarese formed the duo Tufano & Giammarese and recorded three albums for Lou Adler's record label, Ode Records, forming a touring band in time for their second album. Drummer John Poulos, who had secured the Ode Records recording contract for the duo, became a manager of several rock bands, including The Boyzz from Illinoizz. Poulos died of drug-related heart failure on March 26, 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 in August. Giammarese, Fortuna, and Tufano appeared with drummer Tom Osfar and keyboardist John Cammelot on the Navy Pier rooftop stage. Marty Grebb declined the opportunity to join them as he was touring with the group Chicago 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 early 1983, Giammarese and Fortuna committed to tour full-time as The Buckinghams.
The 1983 Buckinghams featured an expanded group that included Giammarese, Fortuna, John Duich (guitar), Tom Taylor (keyboards), Tom Scheckel (drums, percussion), and two female singers: Laurie Beebe Lewis (vocals, keyboards), who later joined the Mamas & the Papas, and Barbara Unger (keyboards, backing vocals).
In 1984 Duich, Taylor, and Unger were dropped and Giammarese, now handling lead vocal duties, went back to playing guitar as well and Cammelot rejoined on keyboards with Lewis on vocals and supporting keyboards. The following year the Buckinghams were part of the Happy Together 85 Tour, along with the Turtles, the Grass Roots, and Gary Lewis and the Playboys. That same year they released their come back album A Matter of Time on Red Label Records which included one single promo release "Veronica". By early 1986, both Lewis and Cammelot left the group and were replaced by Bob Abrams (guitar, vocals) and Bruce Soboroff (keyboards, vocals).
The Buckinghams were one of the first groups 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 1991 Sony/Legacy (formerly Columbia) released a compilation greatest hits CD, Mercy, Mercy, Mercy.
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 entitled "Off Their Rocker" and included Dick Biondi and John "Records" Landecker as hosts.
New studio and live recordings (2000-present):
In 2001, the Buckinghams were part of the Solid Gold 60s Tour along with Tommy James, The Turtles, Gary Puckett, and The Grass Roots. PBS featured the Buckinghams on "The Sixties Pop Rock Reunion" in 2004.
In January 2005, the Buckinghams 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 studio CD Reaching Back, which included 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 Live and Well), was also released on the Fuel Label. XM Radio 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 and streaming Internet radio stations.
The Buckinghams released their first Christmas album on the BML label, The Joy of Christmas, in November 2008. In December 2008, the Buckinghams debuted the single "Have a Little Faith" on WGN-TV in Chicago.
In 2009, the Buckinghams performed at the Bipartisan Illinois Agricultural Ball for the inauguration of President Barack Obama. That same year, Sony reissued The Buckinghams' first three albums for sale as digital downloads as part of their Legacy Music Series.
On February 9, 2010, the Buckinghams released a new DVD/CD box set Up Close showing The Buckinghams in concert at the Star Plaza Theatre in Merrillville, Indiana.
In May 2010, Abrams and Scheckel left the Buckinghams lineup to be replaced by Dave Zane (guitars, vocals) and Bruce (Rocky) Penn (drums, percussion, backing vocals), who had played with several groups, including the Cryan' Shames for a number of years. Scheckel went on to join Paul Revere and the Raiders.
On May 20, 2010 Carl Giammarese and Nick Fortuna were featured in the 25th Anniversary Happy Together Tour, joining the Turtles, the Grass Roots, Micky Dolenz, and Mark Lindsay in a 20+-city tour from California to New York, celebrating the silver anniversary of the original Happy Together Tour in 1985. In July 2011 concerts began for the second Happy Together Reunion Tour that included the Buckinghams, the Turtles, the Grass Roots, Mark Lindsay, and the Association. Later in 2011, it was announced that Carl Giammarese and Nick Fortuna would join the 2012 Happy Together Tour alongside the Turtles, Micky Dolenz, the Grass Roots, and Gary Puckett.
Former singer Dennis Tufano continues to tour as a solo act and also appears in a Bobby Darin Show he created, As Long as I'm Singing, and also sings their classic hits. Former keyboards/vocals/songwriter Marty Grebb has played with the Fabulous Rhinestones, Chicago, Bonnie Raitt, and Dave Mason, and has also produced CDs for independent musicians, including Peach.
In 2011 Carl Giammarese completed his solo CD, Journey, the companion to his biography, "Reinventing The Buckinghams: My Journey".
Giammarese and Fortuna have continued on touring with their band members Bruce Soboroff (keyboards/vocals), Dave Zane (guitar/vocals), Bruce (Rocky) Penn (drums/vocals) and since then have been frequently joined by Carlo Isabelli (trumpet), Charles Morgan (trombone), Rich Moore (saxophone), and Steve Frost (trumpet). They perform regularly to festival audiences and have played sold-out shows, such as the Westbury Music Fair, Ram's Head, the Star Plaza and others. They remain acts for casino venues throughout the country and perform the national anthem at home games of baseball teams such as the Chicago Cubs and White Sox.