60s Music

The History of the Buckinghams

The Buckinghams
Publicity photo of the musical group The Buckinghams. (Source: Wikipedia)

Who are the Buckinghams?

The Buckinghams were one of the best-selling groups in the 1967 and were one of the more successful sunshine pop bands to come out in the 1960s. Hailing from Chicago, Illinois, they gained popularity as the Pulsations while still in high school. The band changed their name into the Buckinghams to cash in on the onslaught of the British Invasion, and they were signed up to Chicago’s USA Records in the mid-1960s. Their 1966 single “Kind of a Drag” was a million-seller, and because of this success the band quickly moved to Columbia Records. From their move to a major label, the Buckinghams churned other hits such as their other Top Ten hits, “Don’t You Care” and “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” as well as “Hey Baby (They’re Playing Our Song)” and “Susan.” By the late 1960’s, however, the band’s subsequent singles were not doing well. The band broke up shortly afterwards. They reformed in 1980s and began touring again, while the group members maintained their solo careers.

 

From the Pulsations into the Buckinghams

The Buckinghams started out in the mid-1960s when Carl Giammarese (guitars) and Nick Fortuna (bass) joined as members of the Centuries. Later the duo was joined by Dennis Miccolis (keyboards), John Poulos (drums), George LeGros (vocals) and Dennis Tufano (vocals). The sextet was now playing as the Pulsations, until LeGros was drafted. Now a five-piece, the Pulsations landed a secure job on a variety show at their local TV station in Chicago, Illinois. To reflect the British Invasion, which was sweeping over the US music scene at that time, the Pulsations changed their name into the Buckinghams.

 

 

National exposure

In 1966, the Buckinghams signed their first contract with Chicago-based label USA Records. Tufano was the lead singer, and his vocals were supported by a distinctive brass section. Earliest singles include their cover of James Brown and the Famous Flames’ “I’ll Go Crazy” and the Beatles’ “I Call Your Name.” But it was their original song “Kind of Drag” that warranted the group considerable national exposure. “Kind of Drag” was written by The Mob’s Jim Holvay, who went on to write (or co-write) other Buckinghams hits.

“Kind of Drag” shot to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1967, selling over a million copies and going gold. Despite this, the single’s album (of the same name) only managed to scrape a #109 placing on the Billboard 200 album chart.

Miccolis had already left by late 1966, and was replaced by Larry Nestor. Nestor’s stint with the band was short-lived however, and Marty Grebb came in to replace him the following year. Now with new management and a major label in Columbia Records, the Buckinghams recorded and released many more hits in 1967.

 

These hits include “Don’t You Care” (#6 pop), “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” (#5 pop), “Hey Baby (They’re Playing Our Song)” (#12 pop), and “Susan” (#11 pop). The albums Time & Changes and Portraits were placed at #58 and #53 on the Billboard 200, respectively.

Despite these hits, things were not going smoothly between the band and their producers, who injected some psychedelic pop elements into their material (most particularly “Susan”) which the band wasn’t keen about.

Split, reformation and the “Happy Together” tours

The band released their fourth album In One Ear and Gone Tomorrow in 1968. But their fortunes changed this time — from four Top 20 hits last year, the group only managed to score a lone Hot 100 hit via the single “Back in Love Again.”

Despite efforts to bring back their earlier glory, the hits had dried up for the Buckinghams. The band split in early 1970.

About 10 years later, Giammarese, Fortuna and Tufano re-formed the Buckinghams along with newer members. After performing in several select dates in Chicago, Tufano left for good, leaving Giammarese and Fortuna the only remaining original members. The duo and a newer influx of members continue keeping themselves busy by going on the oldies “package tours.” Most notable of these are the Happy Together tours, which started in 1985 and have evolved since over the years with a slightly different lineup of the 1960s acts. These acts who have participated in these tours include the Turtles, the Grass Roots, Mickey Dolenz, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, and Mark Lindsay, aside from the Buckinghams, of course.

In the new millennium, the Buckinghams have also continued to release albums of new material, as well as several compilation and live recordings, the latest beingUp Close: CD and digital downloads in 2010. Giammarese and Fortuna are the only original Buckinghams who have still been active up to the present.

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