Although contemporaries of the early Beach Boys, and forerunners of the Association, many only remember the Cascades for their big 1963 hit "Rhythm Of The Rain," which is in constant top 10 rotation on most golden oldies programs. Yet, well into the 1970s this harmony pop group created a wealth of highly listenable vinyl, which makes one wonder why they were only a one hit wonder. Original lead singer John Gummoe shares the story of the Cascades and all quotes are from him.
Starting as a San Diego based navy group called the Thundernotes, the first Cascades-related disc came out on Bob Keane's Del-Fi label in about 1961. Ironically, it was an instrumental called "Pay Day". "It had a sound like the Theme From Bonanza." The song went nowhere. At this point the group went through some line-up changes that resulted in the vocal oriented "Rain" sound.
In 1962, Gummoe, along with bandmates Dave Wilson, Eddie Snyder, Dave Stevens and Dave Zabo ("everyone in the group sang") hooked up with a San Diego based guitar teacher with Hollywood connections - Andy Di Martino. Di Martino became the manager and took their demos to Barry DeVorzon's Valiant label, a Warner Bros.' subsidiary (and later the home of the Association). "Out of the stuff that was on the demo tape, DeVorzon liked 'Rain' and 'There's A Reason'." Valiant offered the group a deal and they changed their name to the Cascades. "The name was taken from a popular dishwashing detergent at the time."
"The entire first album was done at Gold Star Studios in Hollywood with studio musicians known as 'The Wrecking Crew', but we did all the singing. Hal Blaine and Glen Campbell played on those sessions. Phil Spector happened to be recording at Gold Star at that time and I remember him asking us if we were recording a demo for Rick Nelson."
"There's A Reason" became the first single in the summer of 1962, but it did not chart. The next single was 'Rain' which came out in the fall of 1962 and, as they say, the rest is history (BB #3, '63). (Future arranger extraordinaire, Perry Botkin, Jr., arranged all of the Valiant releases.) "To promote 'Rain', we went on the road. We played with the Beach Boys a few times and Al Jardine became a friend of mine. We were the opening act when the Rolling Stones first came to the US. Their very first date was in San Bernadino and we opened the show. One of the nicest groups were worked with at that time were the Four Seasons. We also toured with Chad & Jeremy, Gene Pitney, Marvin Gaye, the Shirelles, and Dick & Dee Dee."
After two more minor hits, "Shy Girl" (BB #91, '63) and "The Last Leaf" (#60, '63), things petered out for the group at Valiant and they parted ways. "One of the reasons we left Valiant was because they insisted that we do a lot of the stuff written by Valiant's publishing firm's writers, such as Bodie Chandler and DeVorzon himself. (Interestingly, DeVorzon later co-wrote with Botkin, Jr. "Nadia's Theme" and "In The City" with Joe Walsh for the Eagles.) DeVorzon was trying to build an empire. If we would have stayed with Valiant, we would have recorded 'I Wonder What She's Doing Tonight', a hit which DeVorzon cut himself as Barry And The Tamerlanes (BB #21 '63)." Another great Valiant single is "My First Day Alone" b/w "I Wanna Be Your Lover".
The next stop for the group was the major label RCA. The only hit there was the Jerry Fuller penned "For Your Sweet Love" (BB #86, '63). For RCA, the group also cut the pretty Burt Bacharach composition "Little Betty Falling Star" b/w the killer Gummoe tune "Those Were The Good Old Days." The RCA sides were produced by Joe Reisman. "Reisman was a staff producer for RCA whose claim to fame was that he had many hits with Henry Mancini. He was a very bad producer for us because he had no rock sensibility. Because of the success of the ballad 'Rain', we were kind of forced into continuing to do ballads, which my voice was better suited for anyway. But live we did a variety of styles." The RCA situation did not pan out either. "We did an album for RCA, but it was never released."
In between deals, in 1964 the group cut a fabulous lost single called "She Was Never Really Mine (To Lose)" for Di Martino's indie label CRC Charter, which of course, without promotion never had a chance to chart. Then, through Di Martino's relationship with Liberty Records, the band got another shot at the brass ring when they recorded the obscure Ray Davies' song "I Bet You Won't Stay". Released in 1965 (the first Cascade's single produced by Di Martino, and with arrangement by Perry Botkin, Jr.), with its layered vocals and Spector-like production, this recording really sets the standard for harmony vocal pop of the mid-1960s. Sadly, Liberty did little to promote this record, and the Liberty days were over as soon as they began.
In 1966, the group changed its direction bit to a more folky sound when it signed on with the small Beverly Hills based Arwin label (the former home of Jan & Dean), owned by Marty Melcher (Doris Day's husband and father of Terry Melcher). "Andy came to us all excited and said 'this is going to be great, they are going to put you into movies with Doris Day.' We knew the guy had money and nothing else was available at that time." The first Arwin single was "Truly Julie's Blues" b/w ""Cheryl's Goin' Home", both written by Bob Lind. "These songs came across Di Martino's desk; we knew about Bob Lind from "Elusive Butterfly" and we liked both songs. 'Truly Julies' Blues' bubbled under the hot 100 as I recall." The other single for Arwin was "All's Fair In Love And War", which was "written by the guy who wrote 'Gypsy's, Tramps and Thieves', Bob Stone." Again, the Cascades struck out on the charts.
"At this point (1967), I got burned out and left group. I became ill with a ruptured appendix and almost died. The group had started to go downhill. After I got out of hospital, I told Di Martino I did not want to continue. Gabe Lapano became my replacement as lead singer. Lapano was a singer from another San Diego band called Sandy and the Accents (which Di Martino also produced for Liberty). I stayed on to work in the studio with Di Martino as a co-producer and provided background vocals for his various projects, including the Cascades, up through 1970. My goal was to become a producer and solo artist."
Like a cat with nine lives, the Lapano-led Cascades got a new deal with Smash, a Mercury subsidiary which was hot at the time with pop acts like the Left Banke. The first Smash record, in 1967, was the wonderful vocal pop concoction "Blue Hours" (written by Lapano). For music history buffs, the Cascade's second most famous musical mark came that same year. "Neil Young and Jack Nitzsche came into the studio one day (pre-Buffalo Springfield) with the Young song 'Flying On The Ground' and as I recall they had already cut the tracks. I love this record (and also the flip side 'Main Street). Luckily, it was a good key for Gabe." Unluckily, the label never got behind this should have been a hit. This is one of the first (and probably best) covers of a Neil Young song.
Like most bands of that era, the Cascades took their shot (although unsuccessfully chart-wise) at psychadelia with the 1968 release on ABC/Probe, "Two Sided Man" b/w "Everyone Is Blossoming". This single (and the LP entitled "Everyone Is Blossoming") introduced Kent Morrill to the group as a singer/writer. Morrill was formerly of the legendary Tacoma, Washington rock band the Wailers, who hit the top 40 twice with the same song ("Tall Cool One", BB #36 in 1959, #38 in 1964), and who can lay claim to being the first rock and roll band to record the song "Louie Louie", in 1961.
In 1969, the Cascades made a comeback of sorts with a new, country rock sound. Russ Regan, who was later responsible for signing Elton John to his first US deal, signed the group to UNI Records. "The fist song we did for UNI, 'Big Ugly Sky', everyone thought it was going to be a smash because of the tie-in with air pollution which was big issue at that time. It was controversial and everyone thought it would be a hit. Instead, it bombed big time." The next single, however, the original tune "Maybe The Rain Will Fall", placed moderately well on the charts (BB #61, '69). There was also an LP of the same name released. This was the last hit for the group. (According to a 1987 Beverly Paterson interview with Kent Morrill, there was another UNI album recorded, but the title is unknown and it may have never been released.)
Di Martino and the group failed to give up. "Andy went to England (London Records) and they gave him a whole pile of money." IN 1972, London released the excellent Morrill co- written ballad "Woman's A Girl" by the Cascades, but it made not a blip on the charts. Part of the London deal involved Di Martino's rock discovery called Buckwheat, but labelmate ZZ Top ended up taking off, and the Cascades and Buckwheat went nowhere. At this point, Di Martino parted ways with the Cascades which then only consisted of Wilson and Snyder from the original line-up. The last known single the Cascades released came out in 1972 on Canbase Records. It was a reworking of the Gibb brother's "I Started A Joke", sung by Wilson and produced by Steve Douglas. "Snyder stayed with the group until the end when they broke up for good in 1975-76."
"When I left the group, Andy had talked to Steve Barri at ABC/Dunhill, which was hot at that time with the Mamas and the Papas and the Grassroots. Barri was very interested in me as a solo artist. He liked my voice and some of my new songs. The problem was, Barri wanted me to leave Andy to sign with Dunhill (Gummoe had an exclusive production deal with Di Martino) and have Barri produce me. I was extremely excited and wanted to do it in the worst way, but Andy would not let me go and do it. A single did eventually come out on Dunhill as a co-production between Di Martino and Barri called 'I'll Run' under the aka Johnny Paris & Co. I never wanted to use my own last name because people have always had trouble pronouncing it. I also had a single out with UNI. I was Johnny Garret and the Rising Signs for 'Get Around Downtown Girl', sort of a Herman's Hermit's type song. I hated the song, but I did it to get on UNI as a solo artist. I also did two or three solo singles for London. During this period, one of the most exciting things I was ever involved in was called 'Kentucky Express' a Di Martino produced group consisting of myself, Gabe Lapano and Kent Morrill. We did two albums for Cream Records, in about 1969. Nothing ever happened with it. It was sort of country rock, ala Crosby, Stills & Nash. By 1970 I was fed up with the business and left."
"In the late 1970s, personal managers Susie Frank and Piggy Smith (brother of famous big band singer Keely Smith) heard a recent demo that I sang. At the time, Frank was also an A&R person for Casablanca. Frank thought she could get me on a subsidiary label of Casablanca, but it never happened." Fast forward to 1999. "This year, I am working on a new dance mix of 'Rain', with my own vocals, which is being produced by a KISS FM Los Angeles DJ." With Gummoe's voice sounding as good as it did in 1962, if there is any justice in the world, we hope to hear this new version on the airwaves soon.
[Special thanks to Paul Barry and Beverly Paterson]Copyright 1998, Ben McLane
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