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The Beau Brummels

Predating the advent of The BYRDS by several months, Bay Area garage outfit The BEAU BRUMMELS were arguably the first to be branded under the folk-rock motif. Although their tenure as a top pop group was quite brief, the outfit (whose sound was oft mistaken for one of the British Invasion-ites) secured two major Top 20 hits.
Formed in San Francisco, California in mid-‘64 by singer Sal Valentino, songwriter/guitarist Ron Elliott, guitarist Ron Meagher (later bassist), drummer John Petersen and Declan Mulligan, The BEAU BRUMMELS attracted a cult local following prior to signing for Tom Donahue and Bob Mitchell’s Autumn label. With help from producer Sly Stewart (aka SLY STONE), the quintet
had the two hits, `Laugh, Laugh’ and `Just A Little’, at the end of ’64 and early ’65 respectively, two flawless pieces of Merseybeat-styled pop, highlighting Valentino’s crystal-clear vocals.
On a parallel with The BEATLES (although a few years out-of-date), their debut Top 30 parent LP was INTRODUCING THE BEAU BRUMMELS (1965) {*7}. The band weren’t quite fully shaped into a folk-rock act as yet, examples being a cover of DON GIBSON’s C&W ditty, `Oh, Lonesome Me’ and Deadric Malone’s `Ain’t That Loving You’.
Without Declan and sounding near-clones of aforementioned BYRDS, the fresh-faced quartet delivered two further hits (`Don’t Talk To Strangers’ and `You Tell Me Why’) and a sophomore set, THE BEAU BRUMMELS VOLUME 2 (1965) {*6}. A major label deal with Warner Bros (who took over Autumn Records) led to a few personnel adjustments by way of the removal of main songsmith Elliott, who’d succumb to diabetes problems which forced him off the road; Declan Mulligan had also re-joined. Somehow Warner Brothers ill-advisedly encouraged the group to record a covers LP, the results BEAU BRUMMELS ’66 {*3} was truly unimpressive, only the PAUL McCARTNEY-penned `Woman’ (a hit for PETER & GORDON) and The BEATLES’ `You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away’ and `Yesterday’, were of any merit; one thinks the competitive jingle-jangle take of DYLAN’s `Mr. Tambourine Man’ won nil support from BYRDS acolytes; the others were:- `Louie Louie’ (The KINGSMEN), `Homeward Bound’ (SIMON & GARFUNKEL), `These Boots Are Made For Walking’ (NANCY SINATRA), `Play With Fire’ (The ROLLING STONES), `Monday, Monday’ (The MAMAS & THE PAPAS), `Bang Bang’ (SONNY BONO), `Hang On Sloopy’ (The McCOYS) and `Mrs. Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter (HERMAN’S HERMITS).
After the hits had dried up, The BEAU BRUMMELS (now a trio of Valentino, Meagher and the returning Elliott) evolved into a more formulaic folk-pop outfit that briefly deviated into psychedelia, courtesy of the enchanting `Magic Hollow’ (featuring harpsichord by VAN DYKE PARKS), a beauty taken from the 1967 set TRIANGLE {*7}. Okay, there were two suspect country-esque covers (MERLE TRAVIS’ `Nine Pound Hammer’ and RANDY NEWMAN’s `Old Kentucky Home’), but their cohesive harmony sounds had been restored through `Only Dreaming Now’, `The Painter Of Women’ and the title track.
Following Meagher’s departure, the duo of Elliott and Valentino cut a BEAU BRUMMELS country-rock album, BRADLEY’S BARN (1968) {*7}, before splitting. Augmented by top-notch Nashville session players Jerry Reed (guitar), Kenny Buttrey (drums), David Briggs (keyboards) and Norbert Puttnam (bass), the outfit were once again accused of tracing the footsteps of The BYRDS (a la “Sweetheart Of The Rodeo”). Mostly comprising Elliott-Valentino originals, the choice cuts stemming from `Turn Around’, `Cherokee Girl’ and `Little Bird’, the LP concluded with another RANDY NEWMAN dirge, `Bless You California’.
The group (Valentino, Elliott, Meagher, Petersen and fresh guitarist Dan Levitt) re-unified in the mid-70s, although the resulting eponymous album, THE BEAU BRUMMELS (1975) {*5}, was a run-of-the-mill set of watered down country-pop. One’s always questioned why so many Americans insist on the group’s folk-rock merits – but that’s what makes pop music so interesting.
© MC Strong 1994-2010/ rev-up MCS Dec2013

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