I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that Al Kooper was influenced by a Chicago band, The Buckinghams, when he decided to form the brass-rock band Blood, Sweat & Tears after he left the Blues Project. Interesting, because the band itself has never actually included horn players, but horns were a huge part of their sound. They were actually influenced heavily by The Beatles and the British Invasion. They dressed like The Beatles and even played similar instruments, and while Buckingham Fountain is a well-known Chicago landmark, the name was chosen because it sounded British.
Guitarist Carl Giammarese and bassist Nick Fortuna joined a band called The Centuries in 1965, and soon after broke away with keyboardist Dennis Miccolis to join another band, The Pulsations, with drummer Dennis Poulos and vocalists George LeGros and Dennis Tufano. Soon they became the house band for a show on local station WGN-TV, and renamed themselves The Buckinghams. They signed a contract with USA Records in 1966 and recorded an album that included “Kind of a Drag,” their first big hit. It reached #1 on the Big 100 where it stayed for two weeks, and was later certified gold.
They met James William Guercio, who would go on to produce Chicago and Blood, Sweat & Tears, in 1967, and signed with Columbia Records after being courted by several labels. The band had four more #1 hits in ’67, including “Don’t You Care,” “Susan,” “Hey, Baby, They’re Playin’ Our Song,” and “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy.” In 1968 they parted company with Guercio, and while they released an album in 1968, they never enjoyed the success that they had with Guercio, and split up in 1970. John Gehron, the station manager at WLS, called Giammarese and Fortuna in 1980 to ask if they would be interested in appearing at ChicagoFest, which they did that August with Tufano, and they’ve been together in one way or another ever since.
The first song today is their first hit, “Kind of a Drag.” Notice Fortuna playing a Hofner violin-body bass like McCartney’s, and Giammarese playing a Gretsch Country Gentleman.
The second song is “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy.” Note that Giammarese has changed to the Epiphone Casino, as the Beatles had earlier that year.
You might want to check out their Facebook page, by the way.
The Buckinghams, your Two for Tuesday, September 3, 2013.