Great Rock Bible

Gayle McCormick

+ {The Klassmen}

Regretfully underrated blonde, blue-eyed soul singer with a shockingly powerful larynx, Gayle was best known for her work as the main ingredient in the group called SMITH. Modest hit-makers by way of 1969’s `Baby It’s You’ (co-penned by BURT BACHARACH), the quintet were pencilled in as the next BIG BROTHER & THE HOLDING CO., but after some mysterious personnel changes, the L.A.-based combo split, leaving the way clear for a GAYLE McCORMICK solo venture.
Born November 26, 1948, St. Louis, Missouri, the classy singer had tried hard to encapsulate the soulful steps of TINA TURNER and ETTA JAMES, while her band, The KLASSMEN – soon-to-be billed as Gayle McCormick & The Klassmen – issued a couple of discs between 1967-68 for the Musicland U.S.A. imprint; namely `Can’t You Hear The Music’ (b/w `Without You’) and `Wonderous Time’ (b/w `Mr. Loveman’).
As said, not fully appreciated in her time sharing vocal duties with Rich Cliburn or Alan Parker on respective LPs `A Group Called Smith’ (1969) and `Minus-Plus’ (1970), fans of SMITH were split between the male or female led singers. Although enterprising in its JEFFERSON AIRPLANE/STARSHIP-type parallels, frustration led to Gayle looking for stardom elsewhere.
Almost instantly, there was some degree of success when `Gonna Be Alright Now’ entered the Hot 100, and things looked ever brighter when `It’s A Cryin’ Shame’ (another penned by producers Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter) soared into the Top 50. Sadly, when her eponymous debut set, GAYLE McCORMICK (1971) {*6} couldn’t sustain more than a week in the Top 200, Dunhill-ABC could no longer see her attraction. More fool them. As her minor-hit cover of SMOKEY ROBINSON’s `You Really Got A Hold On Me’ faded from the Top 100, and memories of her versions of `Rescue Me’ (a hit for FONTELLA BASS) and Bodie Chandler’s `Everything Has Got To Be Free’, it was time for Gayle to move in other directions.
Decca Records applied the sex card on her harder-edged sophomore set, FLESH & BLOOD (1972) {*5}, depicted as she was on the sleeve with tight cut-out jeans and a skimpy tank-top. Augmented by the heavy-weight rockers, Stan Seymore (guitar), Frank Collette (keyboards), Ray Neopolitan (bass) and Maurice Miller (drums), Gayle excelled in her role of feisty female rock chick; the title track, `Grey Line Tour’ and flop 45 `Take Me Back’, should’ve guaranteed her some degree of success. But no.
In 1973, she married and settled down in Hawaii, only to briefly revive her flagging career at Fantasy Records with a toned-down, part-gospel album, ONE MORE HOUR (1974) {*4}. One further single on the independent Shady Brook label (`Coming In Out Of The Rain’) was released in 1975, while sessions for the likes of Jimmy Rabbit and Renegade were too few and far between. Later on in life, Gayle moved back to St. Louis, thinking she’d been one of the forgotten ones of the post-psych period. Recently encouraged and astonished by internet reaction to her work with, mainly, SMITH, Gayle was at least content in the fact she’d made her mark in life. Tragically, after being hospitalized for pneumonia in 2015, doctors discovered she had a tumour in her lung, which, spreading faster than anticipated, led to her passing on March 1, 2016.
© MC Strong/MCS Mar2016

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  1. MikeyD'Ag

    I miss her.First time I heard her voice I was STUNNED…such power …raw energy….it blew my 11 year old mind!

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