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Friday, January 20, 2012

Smith - A Group Called Smith (1969 us, groovy sunny psych)

They only recorded two albums, and their first hit - the top-5 Baby Ws You -was by far their biggest Yet the band that went under the name Smith continues to hold a special place in the hearts of its fans, and the group's records hold up far better today than those of many of their contemporaries. Smith featured three lead singers, and their punchy rhythm and blues-influenced sound emphasized the Hammond B-3 organ, an instrument until then largely identified with soul bands...and with Smith's label mates, Steppenwolf.

Many popular acts of the late '60s had their roots in folk and pop music. Smith's female lead singer, Gayle McCormick, though, had worked her way up through the competitive St. Louis music scene, with a repertoire of songs popularized by Etta James, Tina Turner, and other serious women vocalists, By the time Gayle Annette McCormick was am sophomore in high school, she was in a band.

Within a couple of years, that group had mutated from The Chavels into Steve Cummings and the Classmen ("Steve was the drummer” Gayle explains, "and his father, managed us at the time"). Ultimately, they were the 11-piece show band Gayle McCormick and the Classmen, recording for the local Musicland U.S.A. label — also home for local heroes Bob Kuban and the In-Men (The Cheater) Jerry Carter and James Richard "Rich" Cliburn were on their way through St. Louis from Los Angeles, promoting a single, Norr Taste the Times, although their group, the Smiths, had already effectively broken up. Says Gayle, "They were looking for musicians to back them up locally, and got together with The Classmen. In the meantime, I was trying to make a career decision: should I continue with music, or should I pursue my original goal, which was to teach physical education — I had been accepted as a RE, major by Arkansas State College, Rich and Jerry invited me to go to Florida with them; they drove in their van, and I met them in Miami. Before long, the three of us had relocated to Los Angeles' Cliburn played guitar, Carter was a bassist, and all three sang.

Eventually, they brought on board drummer Bob Evans (originally from Detroit) and keyboardist Larry Moss (from Tulsa), forming the first edition of what was by then called, simply, Smith. Enter destiny, in the form of two former teen idols, "We were playing at a dub called the Rag Doll in North Hollywood, and doing pretty well/' says McCormick. "And one night, Del Shannon and Brian Hyland stopped in. They were taken with the girl singer and the band, and said 'We must talk'. We rehearsed in the music room of Del's house, as he brought representatives of record labels by to see us.

I remember that Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic Records liked us, but he wanted girl backup singers, like Aretha Franklin was using at the time. Finally, Jay Lasker, Steve Barri and Joel Sill of Dunhill Records came to the club. We were especially good that night, contracts were signed, and things were rolling." Smith's first single, supervised by Sill and Barri, was a version of Baby, It's You, that Del Shannon had helped them arrange. The song has been recorded earlier by the Shirelles and the Beatles; the Shannon-Smith arrangement was something altogether different, featuring McCormick's urgent singing and Moss's B-3. "When Jerry, Rich and I were forming the band, we always wanted a B-3," says McCormick. "Jerry would bring that big church organ down to the Rag Doll, and then, when we started to tour, he had it chopped down to portable size to take with him” The group broke big almost immediately, landing spots on "American Bandstand" and prime-time variety shows hosted by Ed Sullivan, Leslie Uggams and Red Skelton.

Their debut album, a group called..,Smith featured several songs from their chib act and a trio of new tunes — Jeff Thomas's I Don't Believe (I Believe), Chip Taylor and Al Gorgoni's I'll Hold Out My Hand (the hit single, by Texas group Clique, covered the Smith album cut, which had been slated as their next single release), and Mojalesky Ridge, written by Harvey Price, Dan Walsh and co-producer Sill. Lead vocals were divided among Cliburn, Carter and McCormick, though McCormick eventually ^merged (as she had in the Classmen) as the band's focal point, from a marketing standpoint, at least.

The album reached the top-20 nationally. In 1969, Smith was asked to record a version of The Weight, to appear on the soundtrack album for Easy Rider when the Band's version — used in the film — became unavailable due to licensing restrictions. The Easy Rider album reached No. 6 nationally, thanks in no small part to Smith's contribution. That record, incidentally, was the only Smith cut to use an outside musician other than horn players: Larry Knectal was brought in to overdub a piano.
by Todd Everett

1. Let's Get Together (Dollison, Powers, Webb) - 3:30
2. I Don't Believe (I Believe) (Thomas) - 3:40
3. Tell Him No (Argent) - 3:24
4. Who Do You Love? (McDaniel) - 2:56
5. Baby It's You (Bacharach, David, David, Williams) - 3:25
6. The Last Time (Jagger, Richards) - 5:38
7. I Just Wanna Make Love to You (Dixon, Lynch, Wackett) - 2:37
8. Mojaleskey Ridge (Price, Sill, Walsh) - 2:31
9. Let's Spend the Night Together (Jagger, Richards) - 3:52
10. I'll Hold Out My Hand (Gorgoni, Taylor) - 3:04
11. Weight (Robertson) - 4:30
12. Take a Look Around (Carter, Cliburn) - 2:25
13. What Am I Gonna Do? (King, Stern) - 2:53
14. Gonna Be Alright Now (Lambert, Potter) 2:47
15. It's a Cryin' Shame (Lambert, Potter) - 2:49

*Jerry Carter - Bass, Vocals
*Rick Cliburn - Guitar, Vocals
*Bob Evans - Drums
*Jud Huss - Bass, Vocals
*Larry Knechtel - Piano
*Gayle McCormick - Vocals
*Larry Moss - Keyboards
*Alan Parker - Guitar, Vocals

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Laurent said...

There's 5 more tracks that are not on my vinyl. Where they come from?. By cons, I don't know their second album. Fine group, of my memory.Thanks Marios.

Jamie (tacobueno) said...

Thanks Marios. Maybe those other tracks come from Minus Plus (their 2nd album from '69 - and the album I continue to seek out).

adamus67 said...

Well, very interesting stuff, quite good melodies and surprising sound and of course on CD.
Marios.... Many thanks!
@ Laurent,
CD reissue on the Varese Saranbande label of their 1969 debut album (LP Dunhill 50056) adds five significant bonus tracks: the singles "Take A Look Around" and "What Am I Gonna Do," Gayle McCormick's solo singles "Gonna Be Alright Now" and "It's A Cryin' Shame," and Smith's version of "The Weight," which orginally was included on the Easy Rider 1969 soundtrack album, even though the Band's original version was the one used in the film.
@ Jamie,
Their second album Minus - Plus 1970 (LP ABC/Dunhill Records DS-50081)

Jamie (tacobueno) said...

@adamus: Thanks for clarifying the bonus tracks info. Your comments are always very enlightening! Yes, that's the Minus Plus album I'm looking for in lossless in case anyone has it and can UL here or at phr*ck. I don't think it has ever come out on CD yet so a vinyl rip is probably all we can expect for the time being. I'll be quite happy with any lossless edition I get (assuming it doesn't have a lot of pops & clicks).

Troglodyte said...

This cd was quite expensive since it was out of print for many years. I have seen several sell for over $100 on ebay. The price has dropped in recent years. I think this was recently reissued but I'm not going to look it up to be sure. If so, it's most likely not expensive now. I have had this cd for many years. I also have 2 copies of the vinyl and 2 copies of Smith's other album, "Minus Plus". One of those I got recently and is STILL SEALED!! I also have 3 of Gayle's solo LPs. In fact I have 2 copies of 2 of those LPs. And I have a 7" reel to reel of this ablum. There is also an 8-track tape of this around here somewhere unless my wife through it out. And finally, I have "Baby It's You" on a 45 that I bought back in the day. Now, here's the $64,000 question: Do you think I kind of like Gayle McCormick? lol I remember seeing her on tv back in the day and I thought she was sooooo hot! Man, that's been a bazillion years ago. Nice post Marios! Needless to say, I already have a copy on my hard drive but this is a great post!

Marios said...

Hi Justme,
is it possible to upload a copy of "Minus Plus", to post it here or on PHROCK?
Thank you.

Troglodyte said...

I don't have it ripped. It takes me about 5 hours to rip one and I can't get motivated to do that very often. I haven't ripped an LP in several months. I will keep it in mind and send you a copy when I get it done but no telling when that will be. My rip will be de-clicked and have artwork though. That's why takes so long for me do one. I have Gayle McCormick's solo LP, "One More Hour" playing now from my rip. It was one of my first rips and it's not good enough to share or I'd send you that one now. Don't get me wrong, I don't think my new rips are audiophile or anything, but they have improved over time. My first ones were terrible and now they have improved so much that now they are just plain bad. lol

Marios said...

Thank you Justme,
I prefer a lossless version, I thought you had a CD version, I know vinyl rips are a trouble.

Troglodyte said...

I just looked and Minus Plus was issued on cd back 2007. I didn't even know that. I got my copy before 2007 and there was no cd then. I was looking for something on ebay one day recently and saw a still sealed LP and bought it. I didn't know it had been out on cd for years or I would have hunted one of those down before they became scarce. I see a copy of the cd located in Germany for $27. Since I have the LP, I'm not going to buy the cd right now unless I can find it cheaper. Take care!

sparkler said...

thanks Marios! i have this on vinyl. it's one of my favorite album covers for some reason. nice to have in flac with bonus tracks! :)

superflash said...

Here's a quality surprise for Gayle fans. An 80-minute 'Best of' in the best sound quality and De-Clicked. A labor of love.

I have yet to find "Minus-Plus" in lossless either. The fairly recent CD of it is ripped from vinyl anyhow.

Cover art included.

Or if you 'torrent'

superflash said...

I had never seen this promo video for 'What Am I Gonna Do' before until the other day.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the lossless, Great album.

If you don't mind 256 kpbs here you have Minus-plus:

chico said...

Another incredible band,thanks for re-up,the links are dead.

Marios said...


Cromagnon said...

There is a song that I think was Gayle McCormick´s song sometime between 1971 and 1973... I believe went by the name "Baby You Belong To Me". I had the 45RPM of it, but I don´t anymore and I just can´t find it anymore.

Kurt72cobain said...

Can you please re up?:(

Marios said...

Kurt72cobain, Smith fixed..

SIRMick said...

You can find it here my friend