Wednesday, January 12, 2011

"Chicago Reader" Archives--Blast from the Past

From the publication, Chicago Reader, Jan. 12, 1989, an article by Adam Langer, entitled, "Glory Days," here are excerpts of Q&As with The Buckinghams-Carl Giammarese and Nick Fortuna. As we note today, The Buckinghams did indeed reunite, to the enthusiastic encouragement and support from fans across the country for, now 22 years since this article was published. Great music, like fine wine, just gets better with time, and the chance to appreciate it again.

Story begins: "January 12, 1989 News & Commentary » Feature

Glory Days
Members of five Chicago pop bands--the Buckinghams, Shadows of Knight, Cryan' Shames, American Breed, and New Colony Six--look back to the 60s, when they were making it, and look forward to making it again.
By Adam Langer

"Hardly anybody had heard of the Beatles. Steve Lawrence topped the Billboard charts with "Go Away Little Girl" and Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons were defying puberty while advising us to "Walk Like a Man." John Kennedy was entering the twilight of his presidency and Lawrence of Arabia was scooping up a bunch of Academy Awards.

In the basements of Chicago suburbs, small groups of teenage boys were forming rock 'n' roll bands with names like the Travelers and the Nitelites. They played at parties and high school hops and hoped that one day they might appear on the Ed Sullivan Show.

In time, a surprising number of them did indeed appear on the Ed Sullivan Show. They made hit records and toured the country and appeared on all of the talk and variety shows. They were chased by groupies and swamped with letters from fan-club members. Then, just as quickly, they fell victim to competition and infighting and the inevitable ups and downs of the business. The bands broke up and the members went their separate ways, fighting the horrifying suspicion that perhaps they had peaked before turning 21.

Today several of these bands are back together in one form or another, trying to recapture their past success. Some are doing it just for fun, while others are seriously trying to be stars again. Twenty-five years later, they're still playing clubs in Chicago and they're still singing the same songs."

Nick Fortuna, bass player, the Buckinghams:

"We played in a couple of bands before the Buckinghams. I had two friends from my neighborhood who played guitars, and I played on the basketball team with one of them. We would hang around together and he said, "I have an electric guitar--you should come over and check it out." So I did, and I was like "Oh, wow." I was awed by this. There was this great guitar and this great amplifier. I think it was a Silvertone; it was some kind of Sears product. And I thought, "Oh, this is the greatest thing." And he would just let me mess with it and it was like everything he learned, I would pick up. Eventually I ran into a person who had an acoustic guitar and didn't want it and I got it from them. Later, I got an electric guitar of my own and I'd mess around with some friends, It wasn't like a working band or anything. Once in a while, we would get together and have parties and play a couple of Ventures songs.

Eventually, I ran into Carl [Giammarese's] cousin and he said, "We're putting together a band--do you want to come over and jam?" And that's basically what we did. It started progressing. We played the basement circuit. We played dance-type places and ballrooms where they would throw dances on weekends. It was usually the basement of a restaurant or something like that."

Nick Fortuna, Buckinghams:

"Long hair was in, but it was a different kind of fashion. It was a different type of styling. The image was a little bit more of a continental-type look. The Buckinghams were always a pretty clean-looking band anyway.

The Beatles had a really big influence on us. The players and musicians really got touched by the Beatles. And that whole English scene. That little country really did a lot of damage here and it was a change of life, a change of thinking, a change of attitude, everything. Everyone that used to be wearing the motorcycle boots and the jeans and hanging out on the street corner, and getting into trouble, all of a sudden all of these guys I knew from back then were wearing these bell-bottom pants and growing long hair and walking around with flowers a few years later.

It was like everyone went to this place someplace else and came back different. I don't think it had anything to do with chemicals, even though everybody wants to put it that way. The reason they say people got like that is because they all got high. But it was more than that. I never even got high at the beginning of all that stuff. It was a way of life. Everybody changed their thinking."

Nick Fortuna, Buckinghams:

"One day, everything is basically normal and you're living in this normal everyday situation, and one day you wake up and you walk into a store and you open the door, and it's like walking into a new world. It wasn't a slow process. It wasn't an overnight situation, but it sure seemed like it. It happened very quickly.

We didn't think at all about any of our business. The only thing we thought about was what we were going to wear that day and how hard we were going to party afterwards. Back then, mostly, we were existing. That merry-go-round was never going to end, but it does. Everything comes to an end."

Carl Giammarese, lead guitarist, the Buckinghams:

"It was great meeting Ed Sullivan. You really felt like you'd made it. 'Cause here you were on the show of shows, so to speak, and it was a great opportunity. We were mostly just goofing off then. I was 18 years old, and musically we weren't very developed. The music was kind of secondary. It was an exciting period, though. We had a good time. There was all that excitement and glitter that was happening around us."

Nick Fortuna, Buckinghams:

"Before "Kind of a Drag" came out, we all played basically the same circuit and we were all striving for the top rung on the ladder. After "Kind of a Drag," it was like we weren't in their league anymore. We went to the majors and they were still in the minors. I feel that, then, the competition and the resentment was left back with them. We didn't really look at it that way anymore. When we went on the road and we did interviews, we would talk about a lot of the local groups.

While the bands were making it big, the country was going through a period of change. Even though none of the bands from Chicago was particularly political, they all were affected by the "generation gap" and the civil-rights and antiwar movements. The American Breed, whose bassist, Charlie Colbert, was black, were particularly affected by the times."

Carl Giammarese, Buckinghams:

"We were a bunch of arrogant little kids. We thought we knew it all and we weren't taking crap from anyone. We had that kind of attitude. We started to realize that rock music was a big business and there was big money to be made, and our managers were making it all and we weren't....Finally, at the beginning of 1970, we decided to break up."

...Adam Langer continues:
"To varying extents, these groups have all re-formed in the 1980s.

The Buckinghams are the most successful of the re-formed bands. Giammarese and Fortuna lead this group, which performs over 150 dates a year and has a rather large fan club. Chuck Colbert, Al Ciner, and Gary Loizzo have returned to the American Breed, playing small venues and festivals. Bruce Gordon and Ray Graffia began fronting a new New Colony Six about a year ago; Ronnie Rice, who performs mostly as a solo act, joins them for an occasional performance. Jimy Sohns leads a Shadows of Knight that has remained faithful to the group's garage-band sound. Even though Tom Doody lives in California now, he flies in about 15 times a year to do concerts with Jim Pilster and the new Cryan' Shames. The bands have different goals. The Buckinghams and the American Breed expect to have new albums out within a year. The Cryan' Shames will probably never go into the studio again."

Carl Giammarese, Buckinghams:

"There seems to be this tremendous demand for 60s bands and 60s clubs. There's the baby boomer thing. They grew up listening to our music, all the tunes remind them of stuff they were doing back in the 60s. They broke up with their girlfriend, they were dating this person, the Vietnam war--all kinds of stuff. There are so many of us that want to hear that music again. That's why there's such a demand for it. Fifteen-year-old and 16-year-old kids go nuts for the music. It's like they're hearing it for the first time. They're hearing it on the radio. They're responding. It's new music to them.

We've built up a whole momentum thing in the last couple years. We've built up quite a following in the midwest again. We actually have a great working fan club again. We're starting to get interest from record companies. There's still a lot of music left and a lot of time left. We'll have to see what happens."

Another great blast from the past. The music of The Buckinghams lives on, thanks to Carl Giammarese and Nick Fortuna and the talented men, Bruce Soboroff, Dave Zane and Rocky Penn, who play those great songs with them as they continue to tour the country, and the DJs and radio stations who continue to play their songs, and most of all, the fans, first and second generation, who keep their music alive in their hearts, on their music players (iPod, iPad, Tablet, Walkman, you name it, in their lives.

The full story can be found at