Monday, October 5, 2020

Remembering Peter Shelton —Colleague, Talent, and Friend

May 11, 1937 – October 3, 2020

In recent years when the phone would ring, a bright and ebullient voice would ring out, “Hello Carl, ol’ mate, how’s it going?” And that would begin a chat of at least 30 minutes between two old friends with mutual respect, a lot of history, and miles of laughter in between.

On Saturday, we received the sad news that longtime friend and former tour manager Peter Shelton had died today. A native of England, Peter grew up with a devotion to football. It was an early passion of his life and he rooted for both Blackpool Football Club and Manchester City, later Manchester United Football Club.

Early in his career, he was highly respected as a scouting talent and football clubs often called on him to advise them. His collective knowledge of the sport and friendships across multiple teams would ultimately lead him to his first publication, “My Name is Len Davies, I’m a Football Scout.” The book co-authored with Davies, was “an account of almost 50 years of scouting for footballing talent.”

Although not a career journalist, Peter was an excellent writer and had a tremendous way with telling stories, in person and in print. As he grew, he learned to collect those stories from his vast experiences as a club talent manager in Blackpool’s famous teenage pub, The Picador Club. So many acts came through that club on their way to the top; it was similar in character to the Whiskey-a-Go-Go in Los Angeles back in the day. Peter managed the club, booked the talent, occasionally served drinks, and once in a while filled in on bass if a band member didn’t show up for the gig. He loved his time there.

As part of the band “The Robin Hoods,” they found their way to America, specifically Chicago, and they had an initial contract with Mercury Records and even had a part in a movie. Following The Robin Hoods, he played bass and sang backgrounds for a time with the Cleveland band, The Outsiders (“Time Won’t Let Me” and “Respectable”) that found acclaim thanks to the voice of lead singer Sonny Geraci. Later Peter became tour manager for the group and worked until he grew tired of band dynamics. Then, he was looking for a new opportunity.

At this point, our friendship would begin with Peter ca. 1966, with The Buckinghams. We were between tour managers (his preferred term for what he did) and his friend Hank Newman, also well respected on the national music scene, recommended to our manager and producer Jim Guercio that he hire Peter, as we were about to undertake our first big national tour, with the amazing Gene Pitney.

Peter was a few years older than we were, which meant he was light years more mature.

He always dressed so professionally, preferring the look of British turtleneck or cable sweater and jacket to American traditional coat and tie. He set himself apart from us in other ways as he made people take us seriously.

Although we traveled in coat and tie to and from concerts, we were still a group of young adults it was hard to take seriously. After all we were rock and rollers, from Chicago, and were not yet very sophisticated about the world.

Undoubtedly he had his hands full as our tour manager. Imagine trying to corral five different personalities and get them going in the same direction! Not only was there the task of getting us all to and from the airport successfully for gigs, he was responsible for hauling all of our wardrobe trunks and some musical gear as well. On paper that sounds reasonable, but making it happen was something else again.

The night after a concert, the five of us generally went five different directions. Sometimes we had dates lined up with girls for after the show. Other times a few of us went into town to see who we could meet. Others were complete night owls who could function on little sleep. Of all of us, Marty Grebb required the least amount of sleep. He and Nick were the ones who were last to come in. I was usually back first as I really loved my sleep and was desperately trying to catch up with it, because you don’t get a lot of sleep on the plane or on a tour bus.

Marty discovered a trick to being on time even after his nighttime partying. Because Peter always had the worst time getting him to wake up in the mornings, Marty presented the biggest problem. When he came in from his night on the town, he’d shower and change into his travel outfit for the next day. Then he would lay on top of his bed so he wouldn’t wrinkle his suit. He just slept on his back until Peter opened the door in the morning and saw Marty was already ready, so he’d call his name. Marty would open his eyes, stand straight up, and grab his unusual hat (he had a unique wardrobe, including a Sherlock Holmes coat), and pop it on top of his head. He was ready to roll.

Now Peter was not the tallest fellow in the room, in fact he was often the least tall, but he talked a big game, and in a British accent. In the 1960s, there were not the same level of restrictions at airport gates and on-plane boarding as there are today. I remember one day we were headed to Texas on American Airlines from our previous night's concert, and Peter arrived at the airport with all of our suitcases and gear hours before anyone else for the flight. He watched as American employees had not loaded all our suitcases into the cargo space. Gear was still on the cart and no one was putting it in the cargo hold.

We got to the airport in time to see a problem had developed. Seems like they’d planned to leave our gear behind for the next plane, and we went to find out what was happening. Peter wasn’t having any of it; American officials were specific and rather contrary, as they began explaining why not all of our gear was loaded. Peter jumped into immediate action. He descended the plane and walked onto the tarmac and stood in front of the nose of the plane, glaring up at the pilot. He crossed his arms to make an additional barrier. Finally, some airline personnel came out of their offices to speak with Peter, urging him to let the plane take off and the gear would follow on the next flight. That was not going to work because we would make it to our next concert in enough time to get to the venue, and the gear needed to be with us on that same flight.

Peter responded, “Your rules are to be at the airport in plenty of time to get your luggage boarded. I was here three hours early. We have our tickets, our boarding passes, and my passengers were here in plenty of time. No sir, that will not happen. I suggest you get all our luggage on the plane immediately." American staff meekly apologized and started loading up our gear as they should have in the first place. Peter was one tough, hardheaded champion for us. We made our concert on time, and we had our guitars, keyboards, amps and a PA. Imagine trying to do that today!

Whenever he was representing us, Peter Shelton did so proudly and compared to some of the other road managers and touring managers our fellow musicians had, we were so pleased.

Throughout the travels of the Gene Pitney Tour, Peter was both patient and fun. He could often relax with us and feel close enough to us to not be considered our employee. He had a great camera and often took a lot of time photographing behind-the-scenes images and developing them in his room. I have many of those pictures and cherish them. Most importantly we had a chance to grow up and be stupid and not have it cost us too much because there was a “supervising adult” there with us. At times he was one of us but he also knew just when to pull back and take charge and think about what we needed to do rather than wanted to do.

It was a challenge for Peter to work with Jim Guercio and they often butted heads on various things. We were too busy partying to pay too much attention or care what was happening in our business world. We were in our own private Idaho, so when the time came that Guercio decided to let Peter go, it was too late to do much about it. We also got busy learning what had happened and decided that it was wrong. We never really had charge of our careers anyway. We were too busy drifting along from one girl at one party to the next night out, with thoughts of making serious music given to our spare time.

Not much later, The Buckinghams parted ways with Jim Guercio, a decision favored mostly by Marty, with half-hearted agreement by the rest of us. At that point, Dennis and I made it a point to go after Peter and ask him to return to us, which he did. The Buckinghams were not long for popularity with the advent of acid rock and protest songs, fighting war and Vietnam…so no one wanted to talk about lovesick teenagers. The Buckinghams quit performing in 1970 when we had paid our last Diners Club bill.

In 1970 and 1971, Dennis and I committed to trying to make a career as a duo—we were going to be singer-songwriters. If Loggins and Messina could do it, Seals and Crofts, and even Simon and Garfunkel, the music world was perhaps ready for us. Peter and Bonnie Herman, his wife at the time, believed in Dennis and me fervently, and they invited us over to their home to work with us and discuss our goals as a duo.

Bonnie was part of the revered choral group, Singers Unlimited, and arguably Chicago’s most prominent female jingle singer. With their encouragement and support, Dennis and I took the beginnings of songs we’d written together and polished them. As producer, Peter (with Bonnie's encouragement) set the recording sessions at Universal Studios and our songs on paper came to life for the first time. It was a tremendous feeling! Look out Loggins and Messina! Dennis and Carl had a demo!

Peter took the photographs for the album, and Dennis did the rest of the artwork (including the hand-printed liner notes) and we had a demo at last. Despite our product we thought was quality, it was summarily disregarded by the labels. We weren’t out of the game yet, though. John Poulos believed in us as well, and he talked to every label owner in Los Angeles, trying to get us a record deal. That would result in our ultimately being heard by and signed to Ode Records because Lou Adler was happy to take a chance on us. That's a story for another time.

Peter returned to producing and found success with a pop group, Green Lyte Sunday, of Dayton, Ohio, whose members had a great sound and were perfect for recording. Two lead singers (Michael Losekamp, formerly of the band The Cyrkle, and Susan Darby created a unique sound on songs, originals and covers, and they had a good group playing with them, including James Barlow, Bo Keller, James Wyatt, and Jason Hollinger.

As an example, here’s their cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Chelsea Morning” that’s unique and pleasant. Additionally it made it to #2 on Billboard’s Easy Listening Charts.

The thing to notice is Peter’s production company, Granny Christie, Ltd., was named for his grandmother, whom he adored. That was Peter—his love of friends and family endured throughout his life. He successfully maintained positive relationships with all his loved ones such that you always knew you had a friend to care, and to listen to what was important in your life.

Peter had a penchant for recognizing a hit. One day (1971 or 1972) when the group Steeler’s Wheel was in Apple Studio in London, recording their first album, which was produced by the amazing duo Leiber and Stoller. Peter was a childhood friend of Tony Williams, at the time a Stealer’s Wheel band member. He invited Peter to sit in for the recording playback as the team was trying to figure out what would be the best single to be released from the album.

No consensus was being reached…but when Peter heard “Stuck in the Middle with You,” he remembered punching the air with his index finger and saying, “There it is! That’s your hit!” Two single releases later, it became the group’s hit after all, and it went on garnering notice and acclaim for the band and the album.

Eventually Peter returned to the UK and enjoyed his retirement years keeping up with good friends, from childhood days forward. He was a faithful phone friend and whenever the phone rang, we’ll never forget the chipper Manchester accent saying our name, followed by, “How is my old mate today?” Even if you weren’t in a good mood when you answered, by the end of the call, you would be.

In England Peter had already authored his first book, “My Name is Len Davies: I’m a Football Scout”…that was British football.

On Facebook, he had a newfound opportunity to reach out and connect with old friends across the US. He started sharing some historical memories of the Picador Club, early days of now successful British rockers who found success in the United States. Because so many were anxious to learn more about U.K. rock in the early days—the late 1950s and early 1960s, Peter decided to finish his book about the music scene. Dawn Lee Wakefield, whom he’d met through his friendship with Carl Giammarese, worked with Peter in 2011 to edit and publish his first print edition of “Rock-n-Roll Fever: Blackpool in the 60’s" [Martin Powers Publishing], now available on amazon as a paperback. Between orders from the US and local signings in Manchester, he sold out of his limited edition first run of hardback books in the same year in which they were published.

He was actually commissioned by the Manchester library to write the book, and they had limited funds to offer him, but they knew Peter had the background and was an excellent researcher and historian. It was one of the proudest moments of his life to have the book placed in the library there.

Another proud moment was his book signing at his local “Waterstones” bookshop in Manchester’s city centre.

He also made many new friends in the United States by interacting and reconnecting with The Buckinghams' Facebook friends. Peter also stayed very busy creating YouTube videos of music and actual music videos with scrapbook pictures. He even made a few for us for Christmas time.

For other musical groups, he created many custom videos. One in particular, honoring the life of Singers Unlimited talent, Gene Puerling, has been seen by over 40,000 people. Peter also took the photos, by the way. The nationally acclaimed group included (L to R) Don Shelton, Bonnie Herman, Gene Puerling (d. 2008), and Len Dressler (d. 2005).

We’ve never seen anyone so productive and engaged during their so-called retirement. Peter continued taking photographs as recently as a few years ago.

His last years were brilliantly filled with joy of family gatherings with his sister, and his niece, Samantha (Sammy), and her children as cousins and friends-as-family. His grandniece Harry (Harriet) and grandnephew Will (William) delighted him so much. He loved family gatherings and was delighted to meet his great-grand-niece, Emily. It’s so important the time he had together with them, and they truly had the chance to know and love their “Uncle Pete.”

I remember and am grateful for the time about 2013 when he traveled to the United States, as he wanted to visit his dear friends in Chicago, which I believe he knew would be for the last time. We spent an excellent afternoon together, and I'm so glad to have this photo as a memory.

In 2015 he’d heard from so many friends who appreciated his first book, that he soon penned a sequel. Entitled “Rock-n-Roll Fever: The Impact of Rock-N-Roll,” he published it as a paperback on Amazon, and it’s still available.

For the past 5 years especially, Peter battled health challenges, but he did so bravely. When he came out of the hospital, he remained active, walked daily, despite the crazy Blackpool winds and weather. The health challenges were very difficult to be sure, but his spirit of optimism was indefatigable. He could project the good side of every situation, and he delighted in posting jokes on his Facebook page to encourage people to lighten up and take a minute to smile.

There are so many things to remember and reflect on about Peter Shelton. He was a musician, tour manager, record producer, photographer, ambassador of goodness, and quite a clever chap, as he might appreciate being called. His friendship was everlasting. And in the end, when all we have is our memories, we are rich in those, and grateful for each one. Many of you have a Peter Shelton story to tell. Perhaps consider posting a memory either here or on his Facebook page for his UK family to appreciate.

George Eliot is credited as saying, “Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them.” In that case, Peter Shelton will be alive in our hearts for a very long time indeed.

Carl Giammarese and Dawn Lee Wakefield

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Remembering John Poulos’ Birthday and A New Video from Carl

This picture is from Carl Giammarese’s personal photo album and it’s of a celebration of John Poulos’ birthday back in the late 60s/early 70s. The cake looks pretty good. Today John would have been 73 years old and without a doubt, he would be one of the most positive voices you looked to for affirmation that, no matter what was going on at the time, things were all going to work out just fine.

It’s the basic nature of an optimistic person to want to make things better, to cheer people up when they’re sad, and to take a leadership role in turning a bad situation into a good one. To hear Carl tell stories of their early days together, John was someone whose personality really meshed with his. They had many interests in common and they didn’t fear what was coming tomorrow. Rather than being overly serious about long-term worries, instead John was able to enjoy the moment and capture the joy of being there, something many of us forget to do.

Three rare, early photos of The Buckinghams were found but please do not copy and share/paste them by themselves anywhere as they are part of UM’s special collection and not meant for public distribution without permission. Photographer on both pictures was Jeffrey Drucker, who was a “student and photographer at the University of Massachusetts Amherst from 1966–1969, where he majored in production management and was the WMUA station engineer.”

The concert location was the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and The Buckinghams performed at their Winter Carnival in their Student Union building. The concert was February 21, 1968. As you can see there was a huge crowd gathered to hear the (then) newest national music stars.

Drucker, Jeffrey. Winter Carnival: The Buckinghams on stage at the Student Union, UMass Amherst, ca. February 21, 1968. Jeffrey Drucker Photograph Collection (RG 50/6 D78). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries

The next photo is of Carl and John, with all five Buckinghams present in the room during the intermission in the show. Bob Sawyer (not pictured) recorded an interview for the student radio station, WMUA, and they look pretty relaxed just halfway in the show. They were likely pretty happy to get their heavy Edwardian jacket coats off for a little while, too.

Drucker, Jeffrey. Winter Carnival: The Buckinghams performing at the Student Union, UMass Amherst: Carl Giammarese and John Poulos at intermission, ca. February 21, 1968. Jeffrey Drucker Photograph Collection (RG 50/6 D78). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries

Next is a relaxed photo of four of the guys; Marty didn’t get in this picture.

Drucker, Jeffrey. Winter Carnival: The Buckinghams performing at the Student Union, UMass Amherst: L. to r.: Carl Giammarese, John Poulos, Nick Fortuna, and Dennis Tufano backstage at intermission, ca. February 21, 1968. Jeffrey Drucker Photograph Collection (RG 50/6 D78). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries

Making every day count is what it’s all about. When you look back at your own photo albums, just one picture can set your memories working for hours. You recall the people you were with, where you were, what was going on at the time, how you felt and, for music fans, what was on the radio at the time. People save concert ticket stubs (before iPhones were invented), as that was the only way you could capture a moment in time. Many of you, over 50 years later, still have saved ticket stubs from The Buckinghams’ concerts. Some could even have John Poulos’ autograph on them.

Capture each moment in time today in photos and in your journals, because in another 20 or 30 years, those images and memories will mean the world to you and those who love you.

Tonight Carl Giammarese recorded a special video for Buckinghams' fans, an acoustic version of one of his favorite Beatles' songs: "Blackbird."

If you enjoyed it, "Like" the video, leave a comment, and maybe subscribe to the channel for notification of new videos when they post.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Remembering John Poulos, 40 Years Later

It’s hard to fathom that it’s been 40 years since The Buckinghams’ leader, drummer John Poulos, passed away at the too-young age of 32. Travel back in time for a few minutes as we remember John through the eyes and memories of his bandmate and friend, Carl Giammarese.

First, Carl's video message, especially for friends and fans of The Buckinghams, who’d journeyed with them from their earliest days. John’s legacy of love lives on, and his many gifts and talents are remembered by those who loved him dearly, especially his widow, Dale Fahey, and their daughter, Polly, a talented creative in her own right.

And now, flashback to the very beginning. From the band photo (above) the year was 1965 and The Pulsations won a battle of the bands in Chicago, chosen to perform on Chicago’s WGN-TV for 13 weeks on the show, “All Time Hits.” Band members on the show by the 4th week were: [L to R]: Nick Fortuna, Dennis Miccolis, John Poulos (seated), Dennis Tufano, and Carl Giammarese (seated)]. As most of you know, before the first episode of the program was broadcast, producers didn’t like their name—The Pulsations.

You know the story of the name change, but the bottom line was American audiences were introduced to the group ultimately as The Buckinghams…now that sounded just right. After those 13 weeks, John and all his band members (with Nick Fortuna coming in when bassist Curtis Bachman left to join Saturday’s Children in the fourth week and George LeGros was drafted into the U.S Army) became household names. The lineup who originally won the band for the TV show is pictured below, including Curtis Bachman and George LeGros, sitting behind John (photo courtesy of Carl Bonafede).

So many new opportunities were waiting for them. WGN-TV was based in Chicago, but the signal was strong and could be seen beyond the immediate city.

Carl Giammarese remembers that John at that time had such a focus on the entertainment business, a fascination beyond a passing interest. John was the de facto “leader of the band” for two reasons: first, he loved it and second, everyone else was happy to have him step up and take charge. John was the one signing all the contracts for the band, from the beginning.

One of the favorite parts of the week for John and Carl was when they’d go to the news stand to purchase the latest copy of “Billboard Magazine.” This was before they were ever in it. You know what they say about focusing on your dreams and never giving up. It’s the path of visualizing that helps dreams to come true.

As future record co-producers Carl Bonafede and bandleader Dan Belloc saw, there was such popularity of the band based on the buzz from the TV appearances. They acted quickly to get the band into the recording studio and they financed their first recordings. Three singles released were regional hits and the rest is….Buckinghams’ history.

From Chicago to New York City in less than 700 days. Let’s go back to 1967 and visit another of the best times in John’s life.

The powerful presence on Chicago radio and TV was The Buckinghams’ ability to ultimately launch James Holvay’s song, “Kind of a Drag” to number 1 on the Billboard charts. Imagine the look on John’s face the week of February 18, 1967, when he opened his copy at the news stand and saw it in print. Certainly that was another turning point in his life.

John was a drummer, not a singer or part of the background vocals, the way all the other band members were. Carl spoke of John’s singing debut—and his finale—on record in the song, “The Married Life,” from their first Columbia Records album, “Time and Charges.”

At any rate, here’s John holding up fairly well, despite his four bandmates and their tour manager at the time, Peter Shelton, giving him a good-natured but tough-to-concentrate ribbing, while he was attempting to record the song. He made it through the song, despite his friends. From that same album, the opening drum fills of “Don’t You Care” reflect the creativity that John (or Jon-Jon as he was best known to the fans) had, as does the smile that was always on his face in any situation. Here’s John featured on “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” or as it was sometimes known, “The Smothers (Comedy) Brothers Hour.”

The 1980 reunion of The Buckinghams at Navy Pier was “poignant,” Carl Giammarese said, “because of all of us, John was the one that wanted so much to have the band back together. He missed it so much and he would have been the first one in to say ‘yes.’” But, he’d passed away a few months prior to the reunion even being considered. Life went on and Carl reached out to the other members, and you know how that all flowed from that point on.

Time stopped again, in 2010. Throwing back to a Thursday ten years ago, Carl shared his memories at the 30th anniversary of John’s passing in the story (link follows):

http://thebuckinghamsconcertblog.blogspot.com/2010/03/in-memory-of-john-poulos-march-31-1947.html

Recent stop on the journey back—four years ago, when Carl released his third solo album, “Living in the Moment.” He shared that John Poulos was the inspiration for writing his song, “I’ll Remember You.” At the time, Carl posted on Facebook: “John Poulos was like a brother to me. He was the original drummer and a founding member and leader of The Buckinghams. When he passed away in 1980 it hit me hard. These lyrics reflect my feelings and how I remember him:"

‘I’ll remember you, will you remember me

I guess it’s just the way it had to be

When the days turned to years, you should never fear

That you’ll become a distant memory

I can’t believe you’ll never have tomorrow

You’ll always be a part of yesterday

And when I get this feeling of sorrow

I wonder what you would have been today.’”

This brings us to today, March 26, 2020.

A good way to remember John is not with our tears, but with our smiles. Let that be his continuing legacy, to lift your spirits by his smile, his sense of humor, his devotion to the band and their music, and his love of this life we all are still privileged to enjoy.

~~Dawn Lee Wakefield

Monday, March 23, 2020

A Message and Some Music from Carl Giammarese

The Buckinghams' Carl Giammarese shared information about tentative new concert dates as he has them. And, he wanted to sing a few songs for you, from his home studio. Enjoy his video!

New Concert Dates (We Will Keep Updating The Schedule as We Have It)

To All Our Fans:

On behalf of The Buckinghams, we have all of you in our prayers for your safety and financial security and well-being during these days that can be very stressful. We know that going to concerts and the routine of what used to be everyday life can definitely be the least of your concerns right now. We understand and look forward to a day when that "curve flattens" and the spread of COVID-19 is halted, and an antidote or cure can be found, manufactured and distributed. We will stay positive at all times that we as a country, our states and our local governments are working together for the best solutions for us all.

We're all doing everything we can to follow the CDC health guidelines and maintain proper social distancing while we await good news and our return to live concert performances. Meantime, The Buckinghams' booking agency, Paradise Artists, is in constant communication with our event venues to project new concert dates for our performances scheduled to perform in March and April and get the word out to ticket holders and prospective concert attendees.

Here's what we know as of now:

The March 14 concert with Tommy James at the NYCB Theatre in Westbury NY is rescheduled for July 10.

The April 11 concert of The Buckinghams at Ron Onesti's Club 210 is now set for Sept. 27.

The May 2 Cornerstones of Rock concert at Ron Onesti's Arcada Theatre is now set for June 21.

The May 3 concert with Peter Noone at the American Music Theatre is rescheduled for July 16.

For specific questions on any concert, always check with the venue's web site or contact their box office for the latest information.

NOTE: Presently, our concert at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas has not officially been cancelled, so as the date draws closer, we'll keep you posted on any changes.

As always, stay in touch with The Buckinghams on Facebook www.facebook.com/thebuckinghams and stay as positive and upbeat as possible until you can join us at a future show. The music will go on, and we'll keep posting here until we see you in person. Thank you for hanging in there with us! We are #InThisTogether and #TogetherAtHome. Take care and God Bless You, Carl

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

American Pop! Concert Review Sings Praises of The Buckinghams, The Box Tops, & Grass Roots in New Jersey

New Jersey music fans know and love the concert pairing in the American Pop! lineup but this year's lineup was found to be exceptional by reviewers Marc and Carol, better known as Love Imagery. Concert lineup for Saturday, February 29th (Leap Day) at the Bergen Performing Arts Center in Englewood, New Jersey, began with The Box Tops, then The Buckinghams, followed by the Grass Roots. The concert, offered by Paradise Artists, has performed in several venues around the country over the past year.

In the full concert review by Spotlight Central found at New Jersey Stage, Love Imagery shared images the most exciting sights and a tremendous review of the sounds of the entire evening, in grand and glorious detail.

READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE Click to read the review: https://www.newjerseystage.com/articles/2020/03/10/the-best-music-in-the-world-the-grass-roots-the-buckinghams-and-the-box-tops-live-at-bergenpac/

READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE

Take a look at the song list on the poster--any fan of 60s and 70s rock will know all the words to all the songs these three superbands have performed through the years. These are the tunes that SiriusXM radio channels 60s on 6 and 70s on 7 keep alive 24/7. We're fortunate, too, for internet radio stations and DJs who program the music of The Buckinghams on their shows, and they still do interviews and keep fans informed of where you can hear great live music.

In response to the interview that posted online yesterday, The Buckinghams' Carl Giammarese said, "It is always a pleasure to see Marc and Carol of Love Imagery when we come to New Jersey. Not only do they take dynamic photos of us in concert, they interview all the members of the bands. They've really done their homework because they know so much about us. They are sincerely fans of 60s and 70s music and it's great to see them doing what they love in capturing memories from the shows."

The Love Imagery Team was nice enough to send extra photos especially to share with The Buckinghams fans and they follow here. Our thanks to Marc and Carol for their consideration and great pictures!

The crowd got up on their feet from just the time the first note sounded!

Carl getting into a song for the crowd.

L to R: Dave Zane, Carl Giammarese, Rocky Penn, and Nick Fortuna.

Carl Giammarese and Dave Zane.
Dave Zane and one of his many, many guitars.
The Buckinghams sing "Don't You Care."
Nick Fortuna sings "Domino."
The entire Buckinghams band with horns entertaining the crowd.
The Grass Roots entertain with "Temptation Eyes."
Dusty Hanvey on guitar, Joe Dougherty on drums, Mark Dawson on lead vocals and bass, and Larry Nelson on keyboards.
The crowd stayed on its feet for virtually the entire show. That's how much they love 60s and 70s music.
The Box Tops are the group who made "Neon Rainbow," "The Letter," "Cry Like a Baby" and so many more hits so popular in the 60s.

Between the three groups--The Buckinghams, The Box Tops, and The Grass Roots, there's 28 Top 40 hits, otherwise known as the perfect way to spend an evening.

Stay tuned to the EVENTS tabs on your favorite bands' Facebook pages to see when American Pop will be appearing in your home towns soon.

The Box Tops on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Box-Tops-141531413031/

The Buckinghams on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheBuckinghams

The Grass Roots on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/The-Grass-Roots-118248911586305/

Special thanks to Marc and Carol of Love Imagery for the magnificent photographs and Spotlight Central for the superb review of "The Best Music in the World!"

Thursday, January 2, 2020

In Memoriam — Martin Joseph Grebb

On the first day of a new year and a new decade, friends and family of Marty Grebb read a post on his Facebook page that sparked instant concern. The composition he shared had required much thought, and in it, Marty shared his love, regard, concern, and caring for virtually every person he’d worked with professionally, loved in his lifetime, and showed how deep his feelings ran for an earlier day and time when his body and mind were not wracked in pain by the five types of cancer he said he’d battled over time.

The outpouring of love and support, expressions of concern, reminders of so many who had friended him on Facebook and felt as though they’d really known him, were nothing short of amazing. Offers of “please call me” or “we are worried about you” or “hang on, brother, we are here” filled the comments section. If there were a point in time when he was wavering in his attitude about what his plan was, everyone did whatever they could yesterday, New Year’s Day, to show their support for Marty and express their best wishes. His voice mail was reportedly full with messages from people who expressed their concern and undoubtedly asking him to return their calls and let them know “how he was.”

Marty said clearly how he was in his post. He was in pain. His own words are the important ones to contemplate, not anyone else’s as commentary about how they thought he felt. He said it specifically. And, it wasn’t 12 hours before someone posted they learned he was gone, although it will be Thursday before any official notice appears online.

His talents in music were innumerable, but he sang, played keyboards, especially the Hammond B-3, saxophone, and guitar; he composed, he was an arranger, and he performed as an integral part of many bands during his career. Hailing from Blue Island, on the South Side of Chicago, Marty’s parents were both musicians. His father Harry played professionally and his mother Armella (“Mel”) taught piano and co-owned a music store. Marty even studied at the American Conservatory of Music.

Although not a complete list of all Marty’s musical involvements, I wanted to list a few. Before he was ever a Buckingham, Marty was one of The Exceptions. He was two years older than most of us (which meant light years ahead in music practice, skill, and refined talent), and it showed in his performance. Paired with Kal David (David Raskin), Peter Cetera, and Denny Ebert, Marty was in Kal David and The Exceptions. Their PR photos showed four handsome young men in nice matching suits. They were always playing at the more adult clubs in Chicago neighborhoods, compared to the teenage audiences and venues we’d play in Old Town, Rush Street, and various ballrooms.

But, when our song “Kind of a Drag” became number one on the Billboard Charts, we found ourselves in need of a keyboard player, as our original one, Dennis Miccolis, had decided to enter college studies. Marty was better than we were at our instruments, but still he never made us feel inferior about it. He was an easy guy to be around, although early on he was very different from the rest of us in his attitude about what people thought of “pop music” and musicians with Beatle haircuts.

When we traveled, he loved the nightlife and seemingly required no sleep. I say that as our former tour manager, Peter Shelton, used to see him come in from an evening about 4 am and since we’d all have to leave at 6 am the “next” day, Marty would shower, get fully dressed for travel (back in the days when we all dressed up to travel on airplanes) and then he’d lie down on top of his bed and sleep for 2 hours. When Peter would knock on his door, Marty simply stood up, grabbed his hat, and he was ready to go. He loved the nights more than the days, to be sure.

Our greatest musical successes centered on songs written by James Holvay ("Kind of a Drag"), and during Marty's time three songs by James Holvay and Gary Beisbier ("Don't You Care," "Hey Baby, They're Playing Our Song," and "Susan"), and we all got lucky with our version of "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy," as there were seven artists who released that same song that year.

Our first album for Columbia, “Time and Charges” was a new experience for us, recording in New York (Marty was not on the USA Records “Kind of a Drag” album or any of those tracks recorded at Chess Studios), but when it came time for our sophomore album for Columbia Records, “Portraits,” Marty took charge willingly of the content—the concept, theme, substance of the songs, having written several that were on there, and occasionally “gifting” some of us with co-writing credits because that’s just the kind of guy he was.

We “studied” or prepared to bring this idea to life, first by sitting in the middle of a living room floor in the Hollywood Hills, in a home James Guercio had rented for us, and we played The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper” album so many times that we all felt fully inspired.

Of course there were some other things around the room that provided a little extra inspiration, but the point was that all five of us were together, united, acting in concert with each other with no acrimony at all. That time was probably the time when we were the closest to a “band of brothers” that people seem to think all bands were like at that time. His contributions to our success were great for the 22 months he was with us.

Eventually, though, Marty outgrew The Buckinghams. Once we’d left Guercio and were with new management, Marty was on his way to his next musical association with Lovecraft, and later on worked with The Fabulous Rhinestones. He did return, though, when Dennis and I formed The Tufano & Giammarese Band, to record the second album we did for Lou Adler’s Ode Records, and we also had our mutual friend, the late Darryl Warren, come in and play congas and percussion, so we had four Chicago natives at least in that band, too.

Marty would become an in-demand sax and keyboard player, mostly, for music powerhouses including Eric Clapton, a longtime player in Bonnie Raitt’s bands, and his list of associations and affiliations with other musicians took him in and out of the studio and found him back out on the road often, which he seemed to love.

Through the years, I’d see Marty and Dennis occasionally when we played California and they’d come see us and yet we were not in close touch. Dennis was working with Bernie Taupin, and one of the products was “He Who Rides the Tiger” (1980) and Marty was part of that album also.

In the past decade, though, we spoke by phone often. Handling all the business of Buckinghams Music, I kept up with Marty’s location—and I remember telling him when we recorded “C’mon Home” for a project many years ago, that his song was a real precursor to the sound of Chicago’s “Beginnings” track. In fact, in concert years ago, we used to play one right after the other as part of that genuine horn sound.

The one thing that initiated phone calls around for all of us was when one of us lost a parent. No matter where we were, that was one thing we would all do, is all find each other, wherever we were, and pay our respects in person or by phone, the way that families do at those times. Shared history is a permanent thing to be cherished and remembered.

It’s hard to imagine but about 5 years ago now, I got a call from Dennis Tufano, telling me that Marty was battling cancer, things didn’t look good, and that medicine/treatment was outrageously expensive. He proposed a one-time reunion in Chicago, and I agreed—five minutes later, Ron Onesti was all-in for The Arcada Theatre to host what was one of the most amazing concert experiences of any of our lives. Dolores Weissman posted some video on her Facebook page; here's one excerpt from that evening: https://www.facebook.com/delores.weissman/videos/10203088998300931/

Time warped, all barriers disappeared, and for a magical evening thanks to the generosity of our longtime fans and friends in Chicagoland, substantial funds were raised for Marty’s medical expenses in ticket sales and silent and live auction items. Videos of those performances are still on YouTube. About four weeks later in his L.A. home base, Dennis Tufano organized another fund-raiser at the Canyon Club in Los Angeles, in conjunction with the charitable organization Sweet Relief, where Bonnie Raitt and Leon Russell were part of the music lineup in Marty’s behalf.

The best part of the outcome of both fundraisers helped Marty and the medical treatments seemed to give him a new lease on life for a long time. In fact, Marty joined up with friends in the band The Weight, the band that formed to carry on the music of “The Band.” The Weight was so well received that a few years ago they started a national tour and Marty was able to be with them for a large part of that time. In his final band affiliation, then, Marty attained his greatest success and national visibility, which he had long deserved.

Others know more about his personal life and family times. I knew that he was devoted to his daughters, Nika and Anna, and he really loved having the opportunity to perform with Anna in several music gigs—that brought him a lot of joy. He released solo CDs “High Steppin’” and “Smooth Sailin’,” and was involved in recent years in music for various films with national releases, writing songs that were included.

His passing leaves a hole in our hearts, anyone who knew him personally, as his presence is already missed. The goal in writing these memories is to share some of the best times of my life with Marty but not to focus attention away from him. Perhaps it’s best not to think of him as an Exception, a Buckingham, a Lovecraft, a Rhinestone, or anything that would presume to group him into a unit that marched to a single tune.

Marty Grebb was the countermelody in many of the songs of our lives. He was close and yet he was always on a path of his own charting, following his own muse, and gifting us with his talent and time, most graciously, and to those who knew him better, longer, or more closely, look to them for the insight and details missed here.

Recently on Facebook he posted a link to his seasonal composition, "It's Christmas Tonight," https://clyp.it/iuhepzag?fbclid=IwAR2e3-DAouwaz4GkY4EVNjzqehGXaAhiWlu4cVilzpcoQKEN6GD4Bm81tYI and when you hear it, it offers a sense of comfort and peace as we remember him.

On behalf of Nick Fortuna, Dennis Tufano, and the entire Buckinghams family, we offer our prayers for comfort and condolences to Marty’s family and hope that the outpouring of love they receive in the days and weeks ahead will help them realize how truly loved and respected he was in his lifetime. God bless you, Marty Grebb, and we will always remember you as our friend and bandmate. Carl Giammarese