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The Buckinghams Biography
From Chicago's Holiday Ballroom to America's living room on The Ed Sullivan Show, across the USA and in the White House, The Buckinghams have stayed true to their Chicago roots. Audiences and critics have affirmed the demand for the music of The Buckinghams, proving that success is sweeter the second time around. Original founding members Carl Giammarese and Nick Fortuna continue to deliver a powerful replay of their hits and solid gold memories.
The trademark opening horn notes on their #1 hit, Kind of a Drag became a signature of the Chicago horn sound as identifiable as The Buckinghams themselves. Their first manager/co-producer, Carl Bonafede, signed them to Chicago's USA Records. With big band musician Dan Belloc as co-producer, and arranger Frank Tesinsky creating their horn sound, The Buckinghams recorded 12 singles. Performing on WGN-TV's All Time Hits, for 13 weeks increased their Midwest reputation. When USA Records released Kind of a Drag, no one anticipated the demand, as the single rocketed to #1 across the country. In 1967 Cash Box Magazine named them The Most Promising Vocal Group in America, and they delivered.
Columbia Records offered national label distribution, and the band chose James William Guercio, who'd written Chad and Jeremy's #1 hit, Distant Shores, as their new manager. The Guercio-produced Time and Charges and Portraits albums created 4 more Top 10 singles for Columbia. Dominating the AM radio airwaves, The Buckinghams set off a chain-reaction of demand nationwide in record stores, with hits including Don't You Care, Hey Baby, They're Playing Our Song, Mercy, Mercy, Mercy, and Susan.
While the single Kind of a Drag was still at the top of the charts, USA Records quickly released 12 earlier-recorded tracks, also called Kind of a Drag. Overnight, it became a major-selling album. Then USA also released Lawdy Miss Clawdy, which climbed the charts alongside Columbia's first release, Don't You Care. In 1967, The Buckinghams recorded in Columbia's New York and Los Angeles studios, in between more than 300 tour dates. With 3 chart hits at one time on 2 labels, in 1967, Billboard Magazine named them The Most Listened to Band in America.
While the airwaves were brimming with The Buckinghams' latest tunes, TV audiences saw them on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Smothers Brothers' Comedy Show, The Jerry Lewis Show, The Joey Bishop Show, and American Bandstand.
The Buckinghams played to capacity crowds in arenas and festivals, sharing the bill with Gene Pitney, The Beach Boys, Sonny and Cher, Neil Diamond, America, Tom Jones, The Hollies, The Kinks, The Yardbirds, and The Who. Thousands of teenage girls waited at concerts to rush the stage and rip clothing for souvenirs. Overnight, The Buckinghams became part of American teenage culture. Their faces were splashed onto national magazines, posters and album covers with a look and style that helped define 60s pop rock. Their horn sound turned Chicago's Royalty of Rock and Roll into One of America's Answers to the British Invasion.
Their third album marked The Buckinghams taking charge of their careers. With a new manager and a new producer, Jimmy The Wiz Wisner, in 1968, Columbia released In One Ear and Gone Tomorrow, from which Back in Love Again made the charts. Soon afterward, America's youth turned attention to war, Woodstock, and Monterrey Pop. When The Buckinghams decided to disband in 1970, each remained in the music industry.
Carl Giammarese, who'd focused primarily on lead guitar and backing vocals, and former lead singer Dennis Tufano formed a rock duo with an acoustic style. They played Chicago clubs and small venues, anonymous from their Buckingham identities, simply as Dennis and Carl. With guidance from The Buckinghams' drummer, John Poulos, as their new manager, Carl and Dennis were signed to Ode Records by legendary producer Lou Adler. Adler renamed them Tufano and Giammarese and gave them exceptional freedom to create their own music and a generous share of the publishing rights.
Three albums and several years of touring, sharing the bill with Carole King, Bread, and Cheech and Chong, were rewarding. Both decided to focus on their individual interests in the late 1970s. Giammarese found his solo voice and launched a productive career as a studio singer for national TV and radio advertising producers. Tufano followed his heart to California, and found home base in film/TV work.
Nick Fortuna immersed himself in rhythm and blues, exchanging his signature Hofner bass for a funkier Fender Precision bass. He played gigs across Chicago, with groups including Music Power '69, Jimmy V and the Ambassadors, and Baby Huey and the Babysitters. Fortuna later started his own band, Crystal, with Billy Corgan, Sr., and other talented musicians, playing solid R&B and creating their own sound that can still be heard in Fortuna's signature blues-style bass chops today.
Marty Grebb and his powerful songwriting/guitar/saxophone/keyboard skills landed him on tour with Bonnie Raitt, Leon Russell, Chicago, Eric Clapton, and Dave Mason. Until his passing in 1980, John Poulos continued to be involved in managing and producing musical acts, including The Boyzz and other groups, whose music would benefit from his dynamic personality and knowledge of the record industry.
The Buckinghams' impact on the music scene didn't end when the band broke up. The musical trend they started in the 1960s was a prelude to shaping other legendary hits. In the 1970s, Al Kooper, creative founding force behind Blood, Sweat and Tears, acknowledged The Buckinghams' influence on his acclaimed album Child is Father to the Man.
In 1968, Guercio took his experience from The Buckinghams to become a staff producer for Columbia, crafting Blood Sweat and Tears' #1 album. At the encouragement of The Buckinghams, Guercio signed the group The Big Thing, or as they were renamed, Chicago, and produced their first 11 albums. The Buckinghams' creativity and talent inspired an award-winning musical legacy that includes three groups and spans four decades.
In 1980, the word again went out to find The Buckinghams. A call from radio programming executive John Gehron to Carl Giammarese brought an invitation to reunite on the WLS stage for Mayor Jane Byrne's ChicagoFest. The event drew enthusiastic crowds to hear Giammarese, Fortuna, and Tufano, backed by Chicago studio drummer, Tom Radtke, and keyboard player, John Cammelot. The Buckinghams found repeat success and acclaim as they played selected events the next two summers.
Giammarese and Fortuna committed to performing full-time, and Tufano returned to film work in California. Giammarese added lead vocal duties to lead guitar, and Fortuna, on bass, also found his solo voice, out front on a few songs. Together, these two founding members recruited an all-new Buckinghams to stay true to their original sound. In 1983, they added Tom Scheckel on drums, bringing incredible high-energy backbeats and memorable solos to the strong vocals and precise guitars of Giammarese and Fortuna.
Legendary agents David Fishof and Howie Silverman signed the back-in-demand group to the Happy Together Tour, performing with The Turtles, The Grass Roots, and Gary Lewis and the Playboys. It was one of the 10 top-grossing concert tours in 1985, as they performed in more than 150 cities to rave reviews.
Invitations to headline corporate events followed, and the demand for performance venues increased to include casinos, arenas, festivals, and theatres. In 1986, Giammarese, Fortuna, and Scheckel were joined by Bob Abrams (guitar/vocals) and Bruce Soboroff (keyboards/vocals), and this has been The Buckinghams lineup for more than 20 years.
In the 1990s, The Buckinghams' tracks found renewed national interest when Sony/Legacy released the Mercy, Mercy, Mercy compilation CD. In 1998 The Buckinghams signed with Nation Records and released Terra Firma, which featured songs by Giammarese, Soboroff, and Scheckel, brought to life by the guitars of Fortuna and Abrams. Fans stood in line for hours to meet Giammarese and Fortuna, who were the first to initiate meet and greet opportunities after concerts.
In 2001, renewed national interest brought an invitation to join the Solid Gold 60s Tour. The Buckinghams continued touring the country, sharing the bill with Tommy James and the Shondells, The Grass Roots, The Turtles, Paul Revere and the Raiders, and Gary Puckett. Today, The Buckinghams continue to perform across the nation as headliners, or together with Herman's Hermits, The Grass Roots, Blood, Sweat and Tears, and others.
In 2004 PBS invited The Buckinghams to join in The Sixties Pop Rock Reunion, a national program that chronicled the best music of the times. In 2005, The Buckinghams were invited to play the Twilight on the Prairie inaugural ball at the White House.
In 2007, Fuel Records, respected for R&B and classic rock reissues, signed The Buckinghams. Carl Giammarese had written 8 original songs at the request of fans, who'd been asking for more of that signature Buckinghams sound. Fuel released those songs on the Giammarese-produced Reaching Back in 2008. Standing Room Only, a re-issue of the Live and Well CD was also released, featuring Giammarese on lead vocals for all their 60s hits, with Fortuna taking the lead on Expressway and Domino.
In the 1960s they were at the forefront of a musical style that has come full circle, as The Buckinghams in concert today blend their hits with others made popular by Blood Sweat and Tears, Chicago, the Spencer Davis Group, James Brown, Three Dog Night, Billy Joe Royal, and Motown's biggest acts.
Carl Giammarese and Nick Fortuna, together with Tom Scheckel, Bob Abrams, and Bruce Soboroff continue to be a proud part of the soundtrack of American life in the 1960s, offering a chance to remember how and when you first fell in love and carefree times. The band's motto remains: 60 is the new 40! You can go back home again, with the music of The Buckinghams.
—Carl Giammarese and Dawn Lee Wakefield
Record Title Debut Date Peak Position
KIND OF A DRAG DECEMBER 31,1966 #1
DON'T YOU CARE MARCH 11, 1967 #6
LAWDY MISS CLAUDY MAY 05, 1967 #12
MERCY, MERCY, MERCY JUNE 17,1967 #5
HEY BABY,THEY'RE PLAYING
OUR SONG SEPTEMBER 09, 1967 #10
SUSAN DECEMBER 09, 1967 #8
BACK IN LOVE AGAIN JULY 10, 1968 #46