Wednesday, February 16, 2011

New Oldies - First Love Never Dies by The Cascades

First let me apologize for not posting a New Oldie for several days. Every once in a while I have to stop playing and do some actual work! Today's sample of New Oldies - The Greatest Hits You've Never Heard comes to us from my current home town, San Diego. This song is actually a demo that was recorded for RCA records, but never released. The story behind the song gets a bit complicated! Maybe you should listen to it while you read the details.

I'm sure you remember The Cascades and their smash hit, Rhythm Of The Rain, on Valiant 6026 in 1963. The Cascades were John Gummoe (lead vocals and guitar), Eddy Snyder (piano), Dave Stevens (bass), Dave Wilson (saxophone), and Dave Szabo (drums). These guys put out a ton of records between 1962 and 1970! Leader John Claude Gummoe was born in Cleveland, Ohio (same as me!).

The founding members hooked up while serving in the Navy on the USS Jason, which was based in San Diego and served overseas in Sasebo, Japan. John Gummoe met the other band members while on board ship. They had been playing together as The Silver Strands and did gigs around San Diego when they were in port. John became their biggest fan, and then their acting manager. He had them playing five nights a week before long, and eventually started doing duets with Dave Wilson on stage.

When they left the Navy, they first called their band The Thundertones. Len Green wrote a couple of songs called Thunder Rhythm and Pay Day that they recorded for Bob Keene's Del-Fi Records (same label as Ritchie Valens). They had been playing mostly instrumentals, but around this time they started adding more vocals into the mix. Some personnel changes took place with Art Eastlick leaving to be replaced by bass player Dave Stevens. John Gummoe was doing vocals while also handling percussion and keyboards. Eddy Snyder came on board to play guitar. The group also included Dave Szabo on vocals and keyboards.

The guys were really starting to dig the harmonies of some cats just up the coast a bit -- The Beach Boys! They ran into a guy named Don Blocker at Liberty Records who told them to hunt down a young guitar teacher in San Diego named Andy Di Martino. They performed some songs for Andy and he took their audition tape up to Valiant Records in Hollywood, which was run by the very talented Barry De Vorzon and Billy Sherman. The demos ended up in the hands of Phil Spector who was doing work with Valiant Records (a subsidiary of Warner Brothers) at that time. He loved their sound and signed them up with the label, but insisting that they change their name to The Cascades (supposedly inspired by a box of detergent). Len Green left the group before they cut their first record for Valiant. A lover of Country music, he went on to become a staff writer for Acuff-Rose Music in Nashville.

The first single from The Cascades, There's A Reason, got a bunch of local airplay and became a regional hit in the summer of 1962. In November of that same year, the group went up to Gold Star Studios in Los Angeles to cut their next record, a song that John Gummoe had written while he was on watch aboard ship during a thunderstorm. Some powerhouse studio musicians sat in on this recording, probably because Phil Spector wanted to turn the song into a monster hit. Hal Blaine got on the drums, Carol Kaye played bass, and Glen Campbell (who had also been a member of The Champs with Jimmy Seals) played the guitar. Perry Botkin worked out the arrangements, and Rhythm Of The Rain was born. Rhythm Of The Rain broke out in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where it got heavy airplay on 920 WOKY-AM. The fuss it created there encouraged the label to promote it nationally. It hit the Billboard Magazine Top 100 Pop charts on January 12, 1963, and stayed there for 16 weeks, peaking at #3. It went to #1 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, and #2 in Cashbox. It also had success overseas, peaking at #5 in the U.K., #3 in Australia, and going all the way to #1 in Ireland! The Germans and Canadians missed it, however, as the song never charted there at all.

Now back to THIS song! Remember Summer Breeze by Seals And Crofts? That duo was Jimmy Seals and Dash Crofts, and it was Jimmy Seals who wrote First Love Never Dies. Remember The Champs who had a 1958 hit song called Tequila? That group included Dave Burgess, Dale Norris, Bobby Morris, Dean McDaniel, Gen Alden, Paul Saenz, and Benny Van Norman. The group picked up some musicians for their road tours, including Jimmy Seals, Dash Crofts, Glen Campbell and Jerry Cole. Jimmy Seals and Dash Crofts joined the Champs after moving to Los Angeles from central Texas where they were both born, and where they had been playing local gigs. They got together in a band called Dean Beard And The Crew Cuts. Jim Seals played guitar, while Dash Crofts was a drummer.

In 1961, The Champs, with Jimmy Seals, were touring with Jerry Fuller. You may not recognize his name, but he wrote a TON of songs in the 1960's, including huge hits like Travelin' Man, Young World, It's Up To You, and A Wonder Like You for Ricky Nelson, and also Lady Willpower, Young Girl, and Over You for Gary Puckett And The Union Gap. Unfortunately, Jerry's solo career never really took off. His biggest hit was a cover of Tennessee Waltz that only made it up to #63 on the charts (although it went to #13 in Canada on CHUM in Toronto, but I digress!) Champs bass player, Bobby Morris, was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Bobby Morris and Jimmy Seals wrote this song together, and they gave it to Jerry Fuller to record, which he did on Challenge 9114 in 1961. But that single didn't get much airplay and never made it on the charts.

In 1963, Frankie Avalon did a cover version of the song on Chancellor 1131, and so did The Cascades of San Diego. (The Walker Brothers also covered it in 1965.)

RCA never released the Cascades version of the song. It remained in their vaults for years. But it's here now, and it's probably the best sounding version of the song ever made.

So, John Gummoe of the Cascades was born in the same town I was, Cleveland. His smash hit, Rhythm Of The Rain, broke out in Milwaukee, the city where I lived for over 30 years. The Cascades were from San Diego, the city where I live today. All this means nothing, of course. But it sure is a pretty strange set of coincidences!

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