Introduction to Blues Magoos
Blues Magoos are a rock group formed in New York during the 60s music era, with the founding members consisting of Emil “Peppy” Thielhelm (also known “Peppy” Castro), Dennis LePore, Ralph Scala, Ron Gilbert and Jon Finnegan. Rising from their days in Greenwich Village, the band wasted no time from moving on with their original blues-infused rock to fit in with the prevalent psychedelic scene, which explained the “tripped-out” sound of their name. Their first hit was “(We Ain’t Got) Nothin’ Yet” in early 1967; it went to the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 late that year. However, because of the falling sales of their subsequent releases, they split in late 1960s. However, they band quickly reformed and returned to their blues roots, but still struggled to make it big again, and they eventually split. But in 2008 they reformed, and since then they have continued to perform in live shows up to the present.
Formation and their biggest hit “(We Ain’t Got) Nothin’ Yet”
The members that would make the Blues Magoos started out as the Trenchcoats in The Bronx, New York in 1964. The original lineup consisted of guitarist and singer Emil “Peppy” Thielhelm (aka “Peppy” Castro), lead guitarist Dennis LaPore, keyboardist and vocalist Ralph Scala, bassist Ron Gilbert and drummer Jon Finnegan. Blues was actually their forte (with garage rock leanings), but when the psyechedelic era loomed and became prevalent, they wasted no time in fitting in with the scene and tweaked their sound into a more psychedelic style. They also brought in Mike Esposito to replace LaPore as lead guitarist, and Geoff Daking to replace Finnegan behind the drum kit.
Their earlier singles (released on Verve label) gained little notice. However, in 1966 they attracted the attention of Mercury Records who immediately signed them. The Blues Magoos released their debut LP Psychedelic Lollipop later that year, which carried the lead single “(We Ain’t Got) Nothin’ Yet.” Some parts of the song such as the organ part seemed to be inspired by a riff from Ricky Nelson’s rendition of “Summertime.”
Written by Esposito, Scala and Gilbert, “(We Ain’t Got) Nothin’ Yet” climbed to its peak position to #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 in late 1966. Its album Psychedelic Lollipop went to #21 on the Billboard pop album chart.
Minor hits, disbandment, and reunion
However, “(We Ain’t Got) Nothin’ Yet” became the group’s only major hit. Following singles such as “Pipe Dream,” “There’s a Chance We Can Make It,” “One by One” and “I Wanna Be There” only became minor hits. The albums that came after Psychedelic Lollipop such as Electric Comic Book and Basic Blues Magoos did not meet their expectations. Disappointed by the state of their career, they disbanded in 1968.
However, their manager attempted to bring them back again, but this time with a more revamped lineup, to which the other members contested. Only Castro agreed to the reformation and lineup “face-lift,” so to speak. However, the album by the revamped Blues Magoos — Never Goin’ Back to Georgia and Gulf Coast Bound — failed to attract public attention and sales. Seeing that the group’s career was going nowhere, the Blues Magoos disintegrated in 1970.
In 2008 however, Castro, Scala and Daking reunited for the first time in several years and reformed the Blues Magoos once more, performing their hits in several concerts (including the one in New York City where The Zombies also performed). In 2014 Blues Magoos released Psychedelic Resurrection, their first album in over four decades.
Oldies music and classic rock fans will surely go back to listening to the Blue Magoos’ music over again.