American rock band King Harvest goes down to history as one of the countless one-hit wonders (despite the second and last single charted on the Top 100). Four American expats in Paris formed and became core members of King Harvest in 1970 although the band would undergo several lineup changes (the band even paraded three keyboardists at one time). They scored their one and only big hit “Dancing In The Moonlight” in 1972. Their subsequent singles failed to chart at all, even with the assistance and support from Beach Boys members Carl Wilson and Mike Love when King Harvest recorded and released another album in the mid-70s, where the band finally broke up. However, they reunited a few times in the 21st century.
From France to the United States
The formation of King Harvest occured in 1970 where four Americans Ron Altback, Davy “Doc” Robinson (both on keyboards), Ed Tujela (guitar) and Rod Novak (saxophone) met in Paris, France. Altback, Robinson, Tujela and Novak previously attended Cornell University together. This lineup would experience several changes later. New Yorker drummer Steve Cutler joined King Harvest in their final six months in Paris. He was also present while the band recorded “Dancing in the Moonlight.” Another American also by the name of Sherman Kelly joined the band one time, becoming a third member of the King Harvest’s keyboards unit alongside Altback and Robinson. Kelly’s brother Wells was a drummer who also introduced King Harvest to “Dancing in the Moonlight,” but he soon left France before the song was reorded. French musician Didier Alexandre also became a member of King Harvest at one time.
The band recorded “Dancing in the Moonlight,” while in Paris. It was released as a single in France (with “Lady, Come Home to Me” as the B-side) but it went unnoticed. The group broke up but in 1972 they reformed upon their return in the United States. King Harvest secured a recording deal with a small label Perception.
“Dancing in the Moonlight” — King Harvest’s only major hit record
The band’s first single on Perception was again, “Dancing in the Moonlight,” written by Sherman Kelly. This time, it became a big hit at home, peaking at #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1973. The single went to #5 on the Canadian charts as well. Their first album, also called Dancing in the Moonlight, went to #136 on the Billboard 200 and #50 on the R&B singles chart. Around the time of the release of King Harvest’s debut LP, Australian drummer David Montgomery (ex-member of Python Lee Jackson) joined the band and toured with them that spring.
As the band’s lineup continued to fluctuate, several musicians such as bassist Tony Cahill and drummer Boy Bobby Figueroa also joined King Harvest at one time.
However, King Harvest were unable to match their first single’s success with their following singles, such as a very minor hit “A Little Bit Like Magic.” By the mid 1970s King Harvest disbanded. However, the band formed a new version and this time were signed to A&M Records with the help of Beach Boys members Carl Wilson and Mike Love. Despite this, King Harvest was unable to achieve any more hits and they subsequently disbanded.
In 2007, King Harvest: The Lost Tapes was released, and the band reunited to perform the PBS production 70s Experience Live. In the summer of 2012 the band members reunited once more to perform their first concert in over 40 years; the following December Doc Robinson passed away and was buried in his birthplace in Cleveland, Ohio. In Robinson’s memory, the surviving three members — Altback, Novak and Tujela — got together again in the summer of 2013 and released a song titled “Doc.”
“Dancing in the Moonlight” cover versions
Despite having one hit, at least King Harvest made one memorable song with “Dancing in the Moonlight.” The song has been covered a lot of times already with such artists including Liza Minnelli, Joe Bean Esposito, Toploader, Alyson Stoner, The Keane Brothers, Orleans (whose one of the members was Wells Kelly, brother of one-time King Harvest member Sherman Kelly), My Morning Jacket, even Japanese singer ohashiTrio, among many others.