Who are the Beau Brummels?
The Beau Brummels are an American 1960s pop rock band originating from California in the early 1960s. The initial lineup consisted of lead singer Sal Valentino, guitarists Ron Elliott and Declan Mulligan, bassist Ron Meagher and drummer John Petersen. They were initially known for their beat music/pop sound that was reminiscent of the British Invasion bands, but later in their career they defined their own style by incorporating country, folk, garage and psychedelic rock, making them one of the key pioneers of the ‘San Francisco Sound’ in the 1960s. The band broke into the charts with “Laugh, Laugh” and went up a notch higher there with “Just A Little.” They were a talented and promising band who stressed importance on original content. However, Autumn label was financially too small to be able to promote their records on a national scale; it was later sold to Warner Bros. Records, who later ordered the band to record an album of Top 40 hits at the time, although the Brummels’ original material, while considered their strengths, was ignored by the label. Then the band released two albums, Triangle (1967) and the country-infused Bradley’s Barn (1968) – both of which were applauded by the critics. The band also underwent personnel shifts, due to Ron Elliott’s illness (Don Irving came to replace him), while Meagher and Petersen left for military service. In 1974, the four original Brummels members (plus one new member) got together to record their self-titled album in 1975 before fading from the limelight, with each of the members pursuing other musical projects. In 2013, the remaining original members resurfaced to record their latest album Continuum.
The origins of Beau Brummels were from San Francisco, California. Sal Valentino (lead vocals, tambourine) and childhood friend Ron Elliot (lead guitar, vocals, and songwriting) as well as other musicians Declan Mulligan (guitars, vocals), Ron Meagher (bass) and John Petersen (drums) were regular performers at a local club El Cid. Then they moved to a more lucrative gig at another club Morocco Room, in the neighboring city of San Mateo.
Meanwhile, disc jockeys Tom Donhaue and Bobby Mitchell were looking for fresh new talents for their just-established label Autumn Records. After being invited by the club’s owner to see the Beau Brummels play, the two men came to the Morocco Club and watched one of the band’s performances. Autumn Records signed the Beau Brummels right away, making them one of the label’s first artists. Sly Stewart — who would later be known as Sly Stone of the famed R&B/funk band Sly and the Family Stone — was the producer of the Brummels’ early recordings
Rise to popularity
The Beau Brummels released their first single in late 1964, “Laugh, Laugh” which was written by Elliott. The single was the first to emerge from the Bay Area as an answer to the British Invasion, which was dominating the US music scene at that time. “Laugh, Laugh” drew strong comparisons to the British Invasion groups particularly the Beatles and the Zombies, and its combination of folk, rock and beat music was seen as unprecedented, even before the arrival of The Byrds’ “Mr. Tambourine Man”.
“Laugh, Laugh” became the Beau Brummels’ first hit, peaking at #15 on the Billboard Hot 100. It predated the release of the group’s debut LP Introducing the Beau Brummels which came out in April 1965.
The album’s second single “Just a Little” had been co-written by Elliot and his frequent songwriting partner Bob Durand, and was released around the same time their album came out. “Just a Little” became the Beau Brummels’ best-performing single, reaching its peak position at #8 on the pop chart. Introducing the Beau Brummels stalled at #24 on the Billboard 200 album chart.
At the height of the band’s popularity, the Beau Brummels were seen as teen idols. To capitalize on their new found fame, the band appeared on several television productions such as American Bandstand, Shindig!, Hullabaloo and the cartoon series The Flintstones (as the animated version of themselves, the Beau Brummelstones). They appeared in movies as well, such as Village of the Giantsand Wild, Wild Winter.
Mulligan quit the band at the time they began recording for their second album. That album, The Beau Brummels, Volume 2, yielded the band’s last Top 40 single “You Tell Me Why.” Another single, “Don’t Talk to Strangers,” settled at #52. The band made fine records, but commercially they began to fall away.
In late 1965, Don Irving replaced Elliott, who began to suffer seizures from diabetes.
Their label, Autumn, was too financially limited to promote their records on a wider distribution, and was on the verge of collapse. Autumn was finally transferred to a major label Warner Bros. Records. Warner made an ill-considered decision to force the band, who stressed importance in creating original material, to record Top 40 covers. The resulting album Beau Brummels ’66 failed critically and commercially.
Around the same time Petersen and Irving left, reducing the Beau Brummels into a trio. Being able to write their own material again, the band recorded the critically-acclaimed albums Triangle (1967) and Bradley’s Barn (1968) which found the band at their most experimental form. These albums emerged the birth of country-rock, which was to become popular in the following years.
Shortly after the release of Bradley’s Barn, the Beau Brummels disbanded, with the former members pursuing their solo projects. By 1974, the band had reunited to do some tours especially around the California area. The following year, the Beau Brummels released their eponymous studio album before splitting once again.
Elliott and Valentino continued to keep themselves active in the music scene. Petersen passed away in November 2007, of a heart attack. In 2013, the surviving original Beau Brummels reunited once again to release their latest albumContinuum which featured new material as well as updated versions of their old hits.