You may have heard this song performed by The Monkees, but this was the original version of the song, before it was turned into a silly novelty record. It was popular in New York City, and The Velvet Underground even used to include it in the mix they played through the public address systems before going on stage to perform at various clubs around town.
Here's I'm Gonna Buy Me A Dog by (You Got) The Gamma Goochie on Colpix 786 from 1965:
The story behind this song takes us through one of my favorite places in musical history, the famous Brill Building in New York City.
Here's me standing in front of The Brill Building!
The Brill Building is located at 1619 Broadway at 49th Street in Manhattan, just north of Times Square. It was built in 1931 as the Alan E Lefcourt Building and designed by Victor Bark Jr., but is now regarded as the heart of popular music in America. By 1962, the Brill Building contained 165 businesses that were all involved in the music industry. It was a one-stop shopping center where an aspiring recording star could find a publisher and printer, record a demo, and make a deal with a record promoter who knew exactly how to get a song played on radio stations all over the country. However, this was not the only home of the Brill Building Sound. Another building at 1650 Broadway was the original location of a music publishing company founded by Don Kirshner and Al Nevins in 1958.
Al Nevins, born Albert Tepper in Washington D.C. in 1915, played guitar with Three Suns for more than twenty years and co-composer of their 1941 hit on RCA Victor, Twilight Time, that sold over three million copies. The Three Suns also included Al's brother Morty on accordion and Artie Dunn sang lead vocals and played the organ.
Don Kirshner was a younger man, born in the Bronx on 17 April 1934, who had written some songs with Bobby Darin. He became known as The Man With The Golden Ear because of his amazing talent for discovering, predicting, and making hit records. He became a publisher when he latched on to two big songwriting teams, Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, and Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman. After bringing those two legendary teams on board, he combined forces with Al Nevins and together they created Aldon Music. In 1963, after putting over 200 songs into the Top 40 in just five years, Aldon Music was sold to Columbia Pictures and Don Kirshner became the head of their record division.
I swear I would have cleaned toilets just for a chance to work in The Brill Building back in the 1960's. One of my all-time favorite books about pop music is called Always Magic In The Air by Ken Emerson. I highly recommend it, and even have a copy of it on my iPad! It contains a ton of interesting stories about the people who contributed to The Brill Building Sound such as Burt Bacharach and Hal David, Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, Neil Diamond, Gerry Goffin and Carole King, Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry, Hugo (Peretti) and Luigi (Creatore), Artie Kornfeld, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, Shadow Morton, Laura Nyro, Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield, Paul Simon, Phil Spector, and many more.
I'm Gonna Buy Me A Dog was written by Brill Building legends and hit recording stars, Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart. The Gamma Goochee was actually a Dental Technician who made false teeth out in Southern California during the daytime, but became a wild rock and roll performer by night. His real name was John Mangiagli. He'd save his pennies all year so he'd have enough to cut a record every summer, always using a fake name, such as Johnny Knight, Johnny Donn And The Jazz Rockers, Johnny Marlo, John Mangelli, John Mangiagli, and (You Got) The Gamma Goochee Himself. Lester Sill signed Johnny to the Colpix label, which was being run at the time by Don Kirshner. Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart were brought in to produce this record with him. They gave him this song they'd written for a television project called The Monkees, a show about a singing group that was literally being assembled by Don Kirshner. Johnny Mangiagli was being considered for being included in The Monkees, but he wasn't interested. The backing track was made by The Astronauts, the surf music group on RCA Records from Boulder, Colorado (nowhere near an ocean) who made the surf instrumental hit Baja in 1963. The Astronauts included Rich Fifield, Jon "Storm" Patterson, Bob Demmon, Dennis Lindsey, and Jim Gallagher. However, Bobby Hart plays percussion on this track and Tommy Boyce is on piano. Many years later the original studio demo of the song with vocals by The Astronauts was finally released on a compilation CD called Rarities. Here's the original Astronauts demo version of the song in stereo:
Before the final lineup of The Monkees had been selected, future Monkee member Davy Jones was selected to play a member of a teenage rock and roll quartet called Moe Hill And The Mountains for an episode of The Farmer's Daughter that first aired on 7 January 1966. In this sitcom episode, the band cuts a demo of I'm Gonna Buy Me A Dog with the hopes of becoming recording stars. The demo is rejected, but that performance might have become a hit if it had actually been released at the time! Fellow Brill Building legends Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil are actually playing the instruments behind the scenes on this track! Here's a video excerpt from that episode:
The Monkees version of the song appeared on the group's debut album, and was also featured in a show that aired on 28 November 1966 called I've Got A Little Song Here. In that episode, Mike Nesmith has written the song and is about to be cheated by a guy named Bernie Class of the High Class Music Publishing Company. Of course, the other three Monkees come to his rescue with a plan to turn the tables and swindle the swindler instead. Veteran character actor Phil Leeds plays the part of the phony music publisher:
Here's Gonna Buy Me A Dog by The Monkees from Colgems LP 101 (The Monkees) from 1966:
I have no idea what happened to The Gamma Goochee Himself. For all I know, he could be one of my neighbors out here in California! The Monkees got mad at Don Kirshner because he wouldn't let them perform their own music on the show, so they fought for creative control and won, a decision that would soon tank their hit record-making careers. Al Nevins suffered a heart attack at the height of his career which forced him to quit working full time at Aldon Music in the early 1960's. He passed away on 25 January 1965 at the age of 48. Don Kirshner died of heart failure in Boca Raton, Florida on 17 January 2011 at the age of 76.
Stay tuned! MusicMaster Oldies is the place to be for pop music history!