By Lola Rossi
The “Happy Together” Tour featuring The Turtles, a tour named after their 1960s hit single, comes to Spotlight 29 Casino in the Spotlight Showroom this Saturday, March 26, 2016 at 8 p.m. This tour will feature hits by The Grass Roots, Gary Lewis & The Playboys and The Buckinghams followed by The Turtles.
During an interview from his home in Chicago, Carl Giammarese of The Buckinghams, said he and Nick Fortuna, both original members of the band, are looking forward to being part of this years tour.
“The Buckinghams started in Chicago around 1965. We were together until 1970; we didn’t really perform at all during those years so I sang on over 300 radio and TV jingles during that time,” said Giammarese. “Then 1980 rolls around and there was a resurgence of 60’s music and we started playing again and we haven’t stopped since.” The Turtles, who started the first “Happy Together” Tour in 1984 invited The Buckinghams to join the tour in 1985. They did 200 concerts in 8 months and were part of the Top 10 highest grossing national tours that year. The “Happy Together” tour continues every summer with The Turtles featuring Flo and Eddie performing with various groups from the 1960s.
“Since then, we have been performing 60 to 100 dates every year. We have been very fortunate to still have a ‘Baby Boomer’ crowd who wants to hear our music, it’s because of them we can do, what we love to do.”
Their songs and melody lines were basically love songs, protest songs, and their music was connected with the temperament of what was going on in the world during the 1960s. “It’s always a surprise when someone comes up to me after a show and tells their story of where they were when they listened to one of our songs. One man told me he remembered hearing our music on Vietnam Radio and how listening to it made his life a little easier, being so far away from home.”
Giammarese was the oldest of two siblings, Rosalie and Victor. His Father was a professional singer before WWII and later became a part of The Continentals for the Glenn Miller Band, performing in England and France. His father knew keeping his son busy learning an instrument would keep him off the streets of Chicago and getting into possible trouble. He purchased his son a Harmony open top guitar when he was 13 years old and gave him guitar lessons from instructor Harvey Mandel. “I loved playing the guitar and really wanted to learn all I could. I listened to Elvis, The Ventures, James Brown, Big Band music and Jazz.”
During High School, his cousin, Gerald Elarde, who was a drummer and vocalist, invited lead guitarist Giammarese to join The Centuries which included Nick Fortuna on rhythm guitar and Carl Buchman on bass. They quickly became a very popular cover band playing at neighborhood events, teen sock hops, private parties and weddings. To set them apart, they created their first distinct “look” inspired by The Beatles. Then he was part of the Pulsations and earned the identity as “Rock and Roll Royalty” because of their superb look, sound and style. A few name changes and personnel changes led these talented Musicians to be called The Buckinghams and would later earn the new identity as “Chicago’s response to the British Invasion.”
Written by Jim Holvay, “Kind Of A Drag” was their number 1 hit off their first album, with the same name, on USA Records. It was released in 1966 and by February of 1967, became the number 1 Billboard hit. “It’s kind of funny because we were dragging our feet regarding the artwork on the album and they told us that if we didn’t get a picture of the band for the album they would leave the cover black. So, we had a friend, who had one of the first Polaroid cameras and we went down to Chicago’s lakefront at Grand Park where there was and still is the Buckingham Fountain; it lights up from April through October; we went down there and took a picture in front of the fountain. But, by the time they blew it up to the size of an album cover, the picture was so blurry that you couldn’t tell what was behind us.”
An album Terra Firma, which is Greek for solid ground, was released in 1998 on Nation Records, with a song “I Knew You When,” one of my favorites. In 2002, Giammarese released an album which included his own compositions with lyrics written by Michele Sweeney-Adams on 8 of the 11 songs. One of his songs, “Oh Lord, Make Me More Like You” was recorded by Christian Artist Lisa Ann, and featured on Chicago Radio, The Fish.
Giammarese most recently released a new album entitled Living In The Moment. He also has other projects in the works and believes, “Music keeps you young.”