ritchie cordell

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Tommy James & The Shondells

Tommy James & The Shondells
by Bill Holmes

Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich reportedly wrote the song in twenty minutes as a filler track that became the b-side of a failed single. The Spinners, then trolling the bus tour circuit, had it in their repertoire to help get a few people out on the dance floor. Tommy James, nee Jackson, grew up near the Michigan/ Indiana border and would often check out the Chicago and Detroit bands that came through the area. And when James needed another song to cut with his band the Shondells for a local DJ named Jack Douglas, he remembered the dumb riff that caught his ear. Having only heard the song once, James didn't even know the words, so he made some up and mumbled the others. It was just a riff after all. Douglas released the song on his Snap Records label, and after the usual brief local buzz, the record faded away.

That was until Mad Mike Metro, a Pittsburgh DJ, found the record in a bargain bin and started playing it repeatedly on his show, until it eventually soared all the way to number one in the area. By the time he was able to track James down, some local entrepreneur had already bootlegged it and sold thousands of copies. To capitalize on the success of the single, James quickly tried to reassemble the original band, who had all graduated from school and started to go their separate ways. In one of the classic bad career moves of rock

Crazy Elephant

Crazy Elephant
by Bill Pitzonka

"There is no Crazy Elephant," insists writer-producer Ritchie Cordell. "That was just Bob Spencer." Robert Spencer was a member of the Cadillacs, who recorded the rock and roll classic "Speedo," a #14 hit from 1955. In the years that followed, Spencer kept active in the industry, often penning songs and selling them off without just compensation, according to Cordell. In 1969, Spencer linked up with Kasenetz & Katz just as their Super K bubblegum machine was churning out the hits full-throttle.

Kasenetz & Katz hooked him up with Cordell and Joey Levine, who together had penned the soulful "Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'." The searing single, featuring Spencer's scorching lead vocal and an obvious background vocal assist by Levine, was submitted to Buddah Records, the New York-based label with whom Kasenetz & Katz had been so continually successful. "We played it for [Buddah General Manager] Neil Bogart," the Super K boys recall, "but he said, 'No, I don't hear it.'" Undeterred, they walked Crazy Elephant over to Larry Uttal at neighboring Bell Records, who snapped it up. By May 1969, "Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'" hit #12 in Billboard. Its stateside success prompted a British release, where it also peaked at #12.

Kasenetz & Katz recruited a five-piece band of college-age youths to support the single on the road, pose for pictures, and fill out the inevitable album. According to the credits on that sole self-titled LP, the lucky winners of this strange sweepstakes were Larry Laufer (leader, keyboards and vocals), Ronnie Bretone (bass), Bob Avery (drums), Kenny Cohen (flute, sax, and vocals) and Hal King (vocals). The whole process was standard operating procedure for bubblegummeisters Kasenetz and Katz. More often than not, according to Cordell, they would "send five bands [with the same name] out on the road. They'd stick them in a room with the album and have them learn all the songs."

"Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'" was the only Crazy Elephant record for Cordell and Levine. When the Spencer-soundalike follow-ups "Sunshine, Red Wine" and "Gimme Some More" failed to click, Kasenetz & Katz took Crazy Elephant in a new direction

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