Since 1982, original Buckingham Carl Giammarese has been the lead singer and guitarist, after spending 17 years behind a variation of guitars including a Fender Stratocaster, occasionally contributing backing vocals to songs that were atop the national music charts from 1965–1970. How the transition took place is a 40-year musical journey that has involved working with some of the most talented rock musicians, some lessons from those versed in the world of rock, rhythm and blues, and remembering the collective body of fans who make or break a career for any musician, to whom much respect and gratitude are due.
From his first days as lead guitar for The Centuries, Carl Giammarese has been at home on stage, playing music for people who enjoyed them in Chicago teen clubs. From The Centuries, Giammarese joined John Poulos, George LeGros, Dennis Tufano, and Dennis Miccolis, with Nick Fortuna joining quickly afterward, part of The Pulsations, where he contributed his lead guitar and Beatles look to their sound, as their Midwest popularity and identity quickly grew.
In 1965, WGN-TV sponsored a contest for a “house band” to perform on their upcoming show, “All Time Hits.” The Pulsations won the spot and were quickly renamed The Buckinghams, as a response to the wave of the British Invasion sweeping the country. The journey of a lifetime began when Giammarese watched their single, “Kind of a Drag,” soar to #1 on the national charts in a matter of weeks. That one achievement would change his life forever, launching a 4-decade career in the music industry.
The exciting career of The Buckinghams since 1965 has withstood time, some personnel changes, interesting and challenging business experiences, and the opportunity to work with some of the most talented people in the profession.
From 1965–1970 Giammarese was part of a group that is best described as “hitmakers.” In fact, Billboard Magazine named them “The Most Listened to Band in America,” as 8 singles and 3 albums made sales and chart history in a very short time. Along with the airplay, The Buckinghams toured the country with some of the biggest stars of the day, including Gene Pitney, Tom Jones, The Hollies, The Kinks, The Yardbirds, and others, like The Buckinghams, including Sonny and Cher, Neil Diamond, The Beach Boys and America, whose career continues.
Representing America’s pop rock music scene was important, but so was changing with the times. The 1970s was a period of musical growth for Giammarese, who began to write songs with a new intensity, newly performing as part of an acoustic duo. Partnering with Dennis Tufano brought a new identity, “Tufano & Giammarese,” a new producer, Grammy winner Lou Adler, and a new label, Ode Records. Three albums and four singles were released, and Giammarese was on tour once again, this time with artists as diverse as Grammy winner Carole King to the comedy team of Cheech and Chong.
As the opportunities to be center stage increased, Giammarese became interested in solo singing. Well-known Chicago vocal teacher, Dr. Vincent Odo, gave him the training, and professional session singers invited him to join a dynamic, but anonymous, venue of studio session singers. Giammarese’s voice was heard, but the former teen idol whose image was on posters, albums and national teen magazine covers remained unseen, as one of select musicians who created jingles for advertising agencies for national radio and TV audiences. Carl’s voice could be heard on commercials for clients including United Airlines, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Coors Beer, Lava Soap, and Whoppers Candy.
The only thing that could change Giammarese’s course was the chance to perform again as The Buckinghams, which came in 1980 as part of ChicagoFest. It was a rush to return to the stage with Nick Fortuna and Dennis Tufano, falling back into the natural rhythm of the band. For almost 2 years, the trio was joined by talented sidemen, and they played across Chicago to capacity crowds. In 1982, Giammarese and Fortuna committed to full-time performing and touring, and have done so continuously for 30 years now. With Giammarese singing lead and playing guitar, and Fortuna playing bass and singing lead on select songs, together as founding members, joined by Bruce Soboroff (keyboards/vocals), Dave Zane (guitar/vocals) and Tom Scheckel (drums/vocals), this group is, and remains, The Buckinghams.
In addition to performing in cities across the country for individual dates, The Buckinghams were part of two very successful tours, the “Members Only Happy Together Tour” in 1985 and the “Solid Gold 60s Tour” in 2001. In 2002 Giammarese also released his first solo album, “Trying Not to Fade.” After several years of playing arenas, festivals, casinos, and corporate events, The Buckinghams were given a special place in musical history after 40 years, chosen to headline the “Twilight on the Prairie” Ball at the White House for President Bush’s inauguration. In addition, they were chosen to headline the Illinois Bipartisan Agricultural Ball at the White House for President Obama’s inauguration. Their rendition of the national anthem still finds them in demand for this honor at football, baseball, and basketball games across Chicago and the Midwest.
Not simply content just to relive the songs of the 60s, Giammarese wrote 8 new songs, at the request of the fans, who wanted more music “in the same Buckinghams style” to go along with their favorite 8 chart-topping hits from the 60s. Distributed nationally on Fuel Records, “Reaching Back,” The Buckinghams’s latest studio album, contains 8 of Giammarese’s new songs, as well as 5 of The Buckinghams 1960s hits. The album is dedicated to the fans who’ve kept their music alive for over 40 years. For more on Carl, visit www.carlgiammarese.com
Few musicians have the opportunity to pursue their talents professionally in a business that produces more bands whose blazing fire of instant success fades to embers overnight. Attributing their longevity and popularity to the solid support of (now) two generations of Buckinghams fans across the country, Giammarese continues to enjoy playing guitar, writing, and singing lead. What’s ahead includes more new songs, more concerts and national appearances, with plenty of good times ahead for The Buckinghams. For a teenager from Chicago who bought a Fender Stratocaster in 1965 to go from the neighborhoods to the White House in a few short years, and remain part of the business is most rewarding. Great music is timeless and so, indeed, are The Buckinghams.
– Dawn Lee Wakefield