The Buckinghams…They’re Playing Our Songs

Although songs by The Buckinghams have been popular for decades, all their hits are from just one amazing year!

The world was introduced to The Buckinghams with their #1 single “Kind Of A Drag”.  It was on the U.S.A. Records label from Chicago, just like the band.  The single became #1 on February 18th, 1967, and stayed there for two weeks.  How did this big hit come about?

The band had been called The Pulsations, but when they were regularly appearing on a local Chicago TV show, the band was asked to change their name to something that fit in better with the British Invasion.  From a list of possibilities, the band chose The Buckinghams.  The group felt there was still a connection with Chicago, because of the city’s Buckingham Fountain.

“Kind Of A Drag” was written by Jim Holvay, who was in another Chicago band, The Mob.  He didn’t think the song was right for his group, so he gave it to The Buckinghams.  Although the band didn’t include any horn players, arranger Frank Tesinsky used horns to help give the song a fresh sound.

And then the story gets weird.  After the U.S.A. label released the single, and before the song broke big time, the label dropped The Buckinghams!  It may be the only time in history when a band with a #1 hit was unsigned to a label, and had also been dropped by their manager.  What next?

Drummer John Poulos had a friend, who had a cousin, who was working for Chad & Jeremy…James William Guercio.  The Buckinghams met with Guercio (who was also from Chicago), and signed a management agreement with him.  Guercio then had the pleasure of pitching a band with a #1 hit, and Columbia signed them.

The new manager/producer selected another song by Jim Holvay (and co-writer Gary Beisbier)… “Don’t You Care”.  The song was their second hit, going to #6 in April of ‘67.

The Buckinghams’ first Columbia album is Time And Charges.  It includes their third big hit of the year, “Mercy Mercy Mercy” (#5).  I had purchased the single “Kind Of A Drag”, and then bought all of their albums as they were released.  My band also learned their hits as they came out.  I love the horn arrangements and the voice of lead singer Dennis Tufano.

Time And Charges has a very original arrangement of The Beatles song “I’ll Be Back”, and Tufano’s singing really makes it work.  It’s worth checking out.

Besides lead singer Dennis Tufano and drummer John Poulo, the 1967 Buckinghams included keyboardist Marty Grebb, and guitarists Carl Giammarese & Nick Fortuna.

By September of 1967, it was time for two more hits and another album.

“Hey Baby (They’re Playing Our Song)” made it to #12, and “Susan” went to #11.  Both songs were written by the same team of Jim Holvay and Gary Beisbier.

Billboard Magazine said The Buckinghams were the most listened to band in America in 1967.

The year ended, and so did the hits.  What happened?

The Buckinghams and James William Guercio had a falling out.  Part of the problem was a disagreement over the song “Susan”.  Guercio added a psychedelic section to “Susan”, and the band didn’t want it included.  Guercio released it his way, but radio stations agreed with the band, and took the highly unusual action of editing out that section.

Guercio and The Buckinghams split.  Guercio went on to produce the bands Chicago and Blood, Sweat & Tears.  The Buckinghams released In One Ear And Gone Tomorrow.

Unfortunately, the title pretty well told how the album performed, and where The Buckinghams’ recording career was headed.  It was their last album, and contained no Top 40 hits.  A friend at college, Roger Annin, often stopped in my dorm room and requested “Song Of The Breeze”.  I liked “Back In Love Again”, and even bought their single “Where Did You Come From” (that had the piccolo trumpet like “Penny Lane”), but alas, there were no more hits.  That was 1968, and by 1970 The Buckinghams had called it quits.

In the early 1980’s there were some special appearances by members of the group, and there have been various versions of The Buckinghams touring since then.  However, fans missed out on Lead singer Dennis Tufano, because he was not with any of the touring versions.

As sad as it is that The Buckinghams’ hit-making only lasted one year, think how many groups would have loved a year like that!  And The Buckinghams know… “Hey Baby (They’re Playing Our Songs)”…maybe forever.

One Reply to “The Buckinghams…They’re Playing Our Songs”

  1. I loved the Buckinghams’ songs as they were very singable and each song was completely different from the others. They didn’t do cookie cutter songs like some groups, (you know who you are). The group I was in, The Rock and Soul Society, had two excellent trumpet players who were worth their weight in gold. The harmonies were fun to sing and still are.

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