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Spotlight Artist - The Lovin' Spoonful

The Lovin' Spoonful

The 60s Official Site's Recording Artists of the Month are The Lovin Spoonful. The Lovin' Spoonful was by far one of my favorite groups during the 60s. The band had its roots in a bohemian folk group called The Mugwumps, who played coffee houses and small clubs, some members of which split to form the Lovin' Spoonful and the Mamas and the Papas.

John Sebastian, who grew up in contact with music and musicians, was the son of a much-recorded and highly technically accomplished harmonica player. He had reached maturity toward the end of the American folk music revival that spanned from the 1950s to the early '60s. Sebastian was joined by guitarist Zal Yanovsky in the Spoonful. The band also featured popular drummer-vocalist Joseph Campbell Butler and bassist Steve Boone.

The Lovin' Spoonful became part of the American response to the British Invasion and was noted for such folk-flavored hits as "Jug Band Music", "Do You Believe in Magic", "You Didn't Have to be So Nice", and "Daydream". Putting an "anti-drug" spin on the traditional folk song "Blues in the Bottle", the Lovin' Spoonful endeared themselves to radio stations across the United States. Soon they were a cross-over hit, topping both rock-and-roll and country charts with "Nashville Cats". Other hits were "Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind", "Six O'Clock", and "Younger Girl". Their only song to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart was the hard-edged "Summer in the City".

    

Early in their recording and airwave career, Lovin' Spoonful members termed their approach "good-time music". Soon-to-be-members of the psychedelic rock band the Grateful Dead were part of the West Coast acoustic folk music scene when the Lovin' Spoonful came to town while on tour. They credited the Lovin' Spoonful concert as a fateful experience, after which they decided to leave the folk scene and "go electric".

The chart-topping band was originally selected to perform on the television show that became The Monkees, and also gained an added bit of publicity when Butler replaced Jim Rado in the role of Claude for a sold-out four-month run with the Broadway production of the rock musical Hair. The Lovin' Spoonful's music was also featured in Woody Allen's first feature film, What's Up, Tiger Lily. (Their song, "Pow!" was the opening theme song)

Zal Yanovsky quit the band after the album You're a Big Boy Now was released in May 1967, primarily due to a famous drug bust in San Francisco, in which Yanovsky was arrested for possession of marijuana and pressured by police to name his supplier. As a Canadian citizen and fearing he would be barred from re-entering the U.S., he complied. That act stirred anger among the group's fans and turmoil within the group itself, which led to his departure. He would later open a restaurant in Canada.

Yanovsky's replacement was Jerry Yester, formerly of the Modern Folk Quartet. Sebastian left the group by early 1968 to go solo. Without the power of Sebastian, the Lovin' Spoonful lasted only until the end of 1968, with very little success, and split up following their album Revolution '69. There were resurgences of interest in the Lovin' Spoonful upon their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000, as well as with the release of the 1995 film Die Hard: With a Vengeance which used their song, "Summer In The City", during its opening credits.

A brief reunion of the original group occurred for the Paul Simon film One Trick Pony in 1980. Yanovsky died in 2002. Sebastian has stated that he no longer wishes to perform with the remaining members of the group because of personal differences. Boone, Butler, and Yester (with Butler now handling lead-singing chores) are still touring under the group name, with the addition of two new members.

Some of the their most popular singles besides Do You Believe in Magic, Younger Girl  and Summer In the City were You Didn't Have To Be So NiceDaydream; Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind / Didn't Want To Have To Do It; Rain on the Roof; Nashville Cats; Darlin' Be Home Soon; Six O'Clock; You're A Big Boy Now; She Is Still A Mystery.

 

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