THE BUCKINGHAMS STORY
|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|
|SEPTEMBER 09, 1967||#10|
|SUSAN||DECEMBER 09, 1967||#8|
|BACK IN LOVE AGAIN||JULY 10, 1968||#46|
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. Later, Jim Wisner selected producer John Hill to produce The Buckinghams final tracks that produced their final chart singles, “It’s a Beautiful Day” and “I’ve Got a Feeling”. When they mutually decided to disband in 1970, they would all remain involved in entertainment.
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 joy 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 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.
Until his passing in 1980, John Poulos continued to be involved in managing and producing musical acts, including The Boyzz from Illinoizz and other groups, whose music would benefit from his dynamic personality and knowledge of the record industry.
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. Marty died on January 1, 2020, following a long illness.
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 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 sing the hits once again. 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 new sidemen to The Buckinghams to remain true to their original sound.
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.
During the past 3 decades, many fine musicians have joined Giammarese and Fortuna, to help stay true to The Buckinghams’ sound through the years. These include Curtis Bachman, John Turner, Tom Radtke, Tom Osfar, John Cammelot, Laurie Beebe Lewis, Barb Unger-Wertico, Larry Nestor, Bob Abrams, Dave Zane, and Bruce “Rocky” Penn. Keyboardist/vocalist Bruce Soboroff has backed Carl and Nick since 1986 and Tom Scheckel played drums from 1986–2010 and rejoined the band in 2023.
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 and Soboroff. 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, Three Dog Night, 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 2009, The Buckinghams had the honor of being invited to again headline the Bipartisan Illinois Agricultural Ball for the inauguration of President Barack Obama for the Presidential Inauguration festivities. Later that year, The Buckinghams were honored to be selected as new inductees into the 2009 class of the Hit Parade Hall of Fame. Sony/Legacy also reissued three of The Buckinghams 1960s albums as digital downloads as part of their Legacy Music Series.
Their DVD release on Renaissance Records/itsaboutmusic.com, “Up Close,” became a popular live concert recording from a recent performance at the Star Plaza Theatre in Merrillville, Indiana, a favorite venue. The DVD/CD box set includes all their million-selling hits and two popular medleys of solid gold classics including hits by The Beatles, Three Dog Night, Chicago, a 60s and 70s medley, and more.
As The Buckinghams are frequently asked to perform Christmas shows for corporate and public events, in 2009 “The Joy of Christmas” took flight as a new favorite holiday CD that features a rock version of favorite Christmas songs, plus new holiday songs written by Carl Giammarese. Their annual Christmas stage show, which combines seasonal favorites with their rock hits, is popular across the country.
The band’s most recent CD, “Gold,” is available on their website and at concert events, including festivals and cruises. Spotify playlists and YouTube channel plays of The Buckinghams’ hits prove over and over how timeless these classic hits are. Currently, The Buckinghams on Spotify has over 106,000 monthly followers, with additional playlists (The Buckinghams Radio and This Is The Buckinghams). On Pandora, The Buckinghams Radio station has over 101,000 monthly listeners.
Their music is regularly featured on Sirius/XM Channel 73, the 60s Gold Channel, In 2022 The Buckinghams were inducted into the Inaugural Class of the Illinois Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
In the 1960s the band was 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, The Doors, Billy Joe Royal, and Motown’s biggest acts of the 1960s and 1970s.
In 1985 and again almost every other year since 2010, Carl Giammarese and Nick Fortuna have been integral to the annual Happy Together Tour, which continues to draw record crowds across the country, along with the Turtles, the Cowsills, the Classics IV and others in package shows that play over 50 shows each summer. They still perform on select Happy Together concert dates, even if they are not appearing full-time on the tour.
In addition to headlining concerts, festivals, special events, and private occasions, the Buckinghams are part of the very successful American Pop music show which includes The Box Tops and the Grass Roots.
The Buckinghams are the headliners for the Cornerstones of Rock concert series that includes The Ides of March featuring Jim Peterik, the Cryan’ Shames, and the New Colony Six, all of whom gained their start in the recording business from their origins as Chicago garage bands.
Another popular concert pairing is The Buckinghams’ acoustic show, with Carl Giammarese, Nick Fortuna, and Dave Zane performing the hits and sharing some stories behind the songs. Paired with the iconic band America for two very successful concerts, the shows were hits with audiences. Other dates have welcomed The Buckinghams’ full band for unplugged shows in intimate venues for select audiences.
Carl Giammarese and Nick Fortuna continue to be a proud part of the soundtrack of American life in the 1960s and 1970s. From million-selling, chart-topping hits to creative new music, you are always at home, with the music of The Buckinghams.
Together with their band, Bruce Soboroff (keyboards, vocals), Tom Scheckel (drums), and Dave Zane (guitars and vocals), you are guaranteed a high-energy, fun show that celebrates the music you grew up falling in and out of love to, with memories that have endured for your lifetime. Fans stay in touch through social media on The Buckinghams’ Facebook page.
Frequent “meet and greets” with the audiences after shows offer opportunities to say hello, take photos and get CDs and other new merchandise autographed, venues and schedules permitting. Come see for yourself why a concert with The Buckinghams is a chance to enjoy the soundtrack of your life once again.
Carl Giammarese and Dawn Lee Wakefield