In 1963, the closest thing to an American band getting to the top of the charts was The Four Seasons, and they were thought of more as a vocal group. The only Rock & Roll band with some serious hits was The Beach Boys. They had multiple Top 10 hits in ‘63, including “Surfin’ U.S.A.” (#3) and “Surfer Girl” (#7).
During 1964, there were plenty of British bands, but only The Beach Boys with “I Get Around” and The Four Seasons with “Rag Doll” broke through to #1 as American bands. Instead, we still had talented, but old fashioned artists like Louis Armstrong and Dean Martin topping the Billboard singles chart. That changed the following year.
Starting in 1965, there was an “American Revolution” of bands to counter the British Invasion. As The Beach Boys continued their success that year with “Help Me Rhonda” (#1) and “California Girls” (#3), they were joined by The Byrds.
The first hit by The Byrds was “Mr. Tamborine Man” (#1) in June of 1965. The song was written by folk singer Bob Dylan, but the rock arrangement & 12-string guitar were by Roger McGuinn. The Byrds followed up with another #1 hit, “Turn Turn Turn”. Folk Rock was the year’s hot new sound.
It should be pointed out that it was the electrified band sound that finally put Bob Dylan on the singles chart. In September of 1965, “Like A Rolling Stone” (#2) was his first major hit (& biggest hit), and “Positively 4th Street” (#7) followed that about a month later.
The Turtles had their first chart success by turning a Bob Dylan folk song, “It Ain’t Me Babe”, into a rock song. It went to #8 in September of 1965. The Turtles had a total of nine Top 40 hits (until 1969), including “You Baby” (#20), “Happy Together” (#1), and “She’d Rather Be With Me” (#3).
Another successful Pop-Rock act that emerged in 1965 was Gary Lewis & The Playboys. Once the band was signed to a label, they were augmented by professional writers, arrangers and musicians, including Leon Russell. Gary Lewis & The Playboys had twelve Top 40 hits, with the first seven making the Top 10. Hits included “This Diamond Ring” (#1), “Save Your Heart For Me” (#2), and “Green Grass” (#8). Their chart career ended after Gary Lewis (son of actor Jerry Lewis) was inducted into the Army in 1967.
The only other band to start their career with seven straight Top 10 songs was The Lovin’ Spoonful, which also became popular in 1965. John Sebastian was the lead singer and songwriter. His talented band had a very original sound that was a mix of rock, folk, and country music. The Spoonful’s hits included “Do You Believe In Magic” (#9), “Daydream” (#2), and “Summer In The City” (#1). Even The Beatles were fans of The Lovin’ Spoonful.
Another American band that helped develop the Folk Rock sound was The Beau Brummels. Their hits in 1965 included “Laugh Laugh” (#15) and “Just A Little” (#8).
You may remember the American band, The Strangeloves, had the hit “I Want Candy” (#11) in 1965. They were going to release “Hang On Sloopy”, and had recorded the basic track, but their label thought it was too soon for them to release another song. In order to beat The Dave Clark Five and The Yardbirds (who both wanted to record it), the record company had 16-year old Rick Derringer record the vocals onto the track already recorded by The Strangeloves. Released in September of 1965 by Rick’s group, The McCoys, “Hang On Sloopy” went to #1. The McCoy’s other big hit was a rock version of “Fever” (#7), the old Peggy Lee song.
Even though they weren’t American bands, a big part of the “American Revolution” were artists from Motown Records in Detroit. Among their #1 hits in 1965 were “My Girl” by The Temptations, “Stop In The Name Of Love” by The Supremes, and “I Can’t Help Myself” by The Four Tops. Motown continued to build on their sixties success.
A major addition to American music was the emergence of Simon & Garfunkel in late 1965. Their first hit, “The Sound Of Silence” moved into the #1 spot at the beginning of 1966. Paul Simon’s incredible songwriting and the beautiful blending of his and Art Garfunkel’s voices made them the most successful duo in history. Their other #1’s were “Mrs. Robinson” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water”. They also had five multi-platinum albums from 1965 to 1970, plus a Greatest Hits album that was 14-times platinum in the U.S. alone.
A couple of other American duos topped the charts in the mid-sixties. The Righteous Brothers had ”You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” (#1) and “Soul And Inspiration” (#1). Sonny & Cher had “I Got You Babe” (#1) and “The Beat Goes On” (#6).
Joining Simon & Garfunkel with their first #1 songs in 1966 were six new American bands.
In April of 1966, The Young Rascals first hit, “Good Lovin’”, went to #1. This New York band combined Rock and Soul into 13 Top 40 hits, including “Groovin’” (#1), “A Beautiful Morning” (#3), and “People Got To Be Free” (#1). By 1968, they decided they weren’t “Young” anymore, and just went by The Rascals.
While more of a vocal group than a band, The Mamas & The Papas were important to ‘60s music. They broke through with “California Dreamin’” (#4), and then hit #1 in May, 1966 with “Monday, Monday”.
In July of 1966, simple & fun “Garage Rock” was at #1 with “Hanky Panky” by Tommy James & The Shondells. From that beginning as teenage musicians, the group had 17 Top 40 singles, including…”I Think We’re Alone Now” (#4), “Mony Mony” (#3), “Crimson And Clover” (#1), and “Crystal Blue Persuasion” (#2).
Another new band at #1 was The Association, with “Cherish” in September, 1966. They used sophisticated vocal harmonies, and were an accomplished live band. Their other big hits were “Along Comes Mary” (#7), “Windy” (#1), and “Never My Love” (#2), which is their most played song.
Another simple garage band song that topped the singles chart in October, 1966 was “96 Tears” by ? (Question Mark) & The Mysterians. They were one hit wonders..
The biggest new American band of 1966 was a group of musicians/actors put together for a television show. The Monkees climbed up the charts with two #1’s in a row, “Last Train To Clarksville” and “I’m A Believer”, which was the final #1 of 1966 and the biggest hit of the year. It doesn’t hurt having Neil Diamond write a song for you. Neil also wrote “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You” (#2) for them. The Monkees had eleven Top 40 songs through 1968, including “Pleasant Valley Sunday” (#3), and “Daydream Believer” (#1).
Another band that became popular in 1966, had actually formed back in 1960 in Portland, Oregon. Their name indicates that in 1964 they should have been able to warn us that the British were coming.
Paul Revere & The Raiders had moved to L.A. by 1965, and were the “house band” for the music TV show “Where The Action Is”. They used the show as a stepping stone to the singles chart in 1966. Their hits included “Kicks” (#4), “Hungry” (#6), and “Good Thing” (#4).
The Grass Roots (originally spelled as Grassroots) started charting in 1966, and had 14 Top 40 hits through 1972. Their hits included “Let’s Live For Today” (#8), “Midnight Confessions” (#5), and “I’d Wait A Million Years” (#15).
The first #1 of 1967 was “Kind Of A Drag” by The Buckinghams. It was a huge year for them, as they added “Don’t You Care” (#6), “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” (#5), “Hey Baby, They’re Playing Our Song” (#12), and “Susan” (#11).
1967 was the year music started to lean more to Rock than to Pop, and a new group, The Doors, were an example of that. The Doors had their own sound, and went to #1 with “Light My Fire”, a great 3-minute single on AM radio stations. But, it was the 7-minute album version that broke ground on FM stations. Their follow-up hits included “People Are Strange” (#12), “Hello I Love You” (#1), “Touch Me” (#3), and “Riders On The Storm” (#14).
The Box Tops’ first hit “The Letter” went to #1 in September of 1967. Their lead singer, Alex Chilton, was only 16-years-old. Their other songs included “Cry Like A Baby” (#2) and “Soul Deep” (#18). Alex Chilton went on to form influential cult band Big Star.
The album cover and the name, Strawberry Alarm Clock, scream psychedelic! Their one big hit was #1 in November of 1967, “Incense & Peppermints”.
We wrap up 1967 with three non-#1 (but influential) bands. Jimi Hendrix was from Seattle; however, he recorded his first album after going to London and forming a trio, The Jimi Hendrix Experience. The band wasn’t very successful on AM radio, but their influential FM songs included “Fire”, “Purple Haze” and “All Along The Watchtower” (#20).
They had one iconic hit, “For What It’s Worth (Stop, Hey What’s That Sound), which reached #7 in February, 1967. Buffalo Springfield’s blending of various musical styles was impressive, and a blueprint for other bands. Their songs that got a lot of FM play included “Mr. Soul” and “Bluebird”. Four members of the group went on to successful careers…Stephen Stills, Neil Young, Richie Furay, and Jim Messina.
Jefferson Airplane was one of the few Rock bands with a female lead singer, Grace Slick. She also wrote the band’s first two hits from 1967, “Somebody To Love” (#5) and “White Rabbit” (#8). Members of the band continued into the 1970’s and 1980’s under the names Jefferson Starship and Starship.
1965 through 1967 showed America was quick to develop bands that were able to respond to the British Invasion. They clearly added some great songs to the sixties. Hope you enjoyed remembering those songs, and seeing those 1960’s album covers & single sleeves again.
The combination of 1960’s bands from the U.S. and the U.K. greatly influenced young musicians, who then gave us a golden era of Classic Rock and Singer-Songwriters in the 1970’s.
For an article about British bands in the 60s, here’s the link:
(There are also individual articles on many of these groups.)
2 Replies to “American Bands Of The ‘60’s (’65-’67)”
When I first read the song title “Rag Doll, I pictured how I would always look for that on the juke box and play it. So many good songs by great artists. Love the article.
The fact that you didn’t mention Pet Sounds, in an article about the American rock music scene of 1965-1967 is incredible, and frankly a huge oversight on your part. Brian Wilson is a genius, and had a much greater influence on rock music than any of the other second-rate groups you gave huge paragraphs to.
Editor: Finn, you’re correct about Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys. They were the most influential American band of the 1960’s, but the article is about the bands that came after the British Invasion, and not individual albums. There’s a whole article dedicated to The Beach Boys and Pet Sounds…one of my favorite albums.