This Tutelage will be archived on my blog TUNEAGE TUTELAGE.
It was the early 1960’s and a young Felix Cavaliere (keyboards and vocals) was a student at Syracuse University and playing in a band called Felix & The Escorts. One day a call came asking if he would join the band Joey Dee and The Starliters (they of “Peppermint Twist” fame) for a European Tour.
This proved to be momentous, as Felix met two other members of the band, Eddie Brigati (vocals) and Gene Cornish (guitar) on this tour. As they made their way through Europe it soon became apparent to all three that this is not what they wanted for their musical lives – being back-up to a front man.
After a few months the three left the Starliters and recruited drummer Dino Danelli to join them in Felix’s basement.
Quickly the four realized they had hit gold…As told by Gene Cornish, "All of a sudden we hit magic in Felix's Lodi, NJ basement. We'd all been in bands before and we just looked at each other and went, 'woah!' It was just amazing; I can't explain it. That day literally changed my whole life. I think we blasted through 30 or 40 songs at that rehearsal. We knew we belonged together."
The band found a believer in one Sid Bernstein, who signed on as their manager. This was another huge move for the band as Bernstein was the promoter who would bring The Beatles to Shea Stadium in 1965.
Ahmet Ertegun saw the band playing in a club in Westhampton, NY on Long Island and offered them a contract that night, but before they could move on, one problem had to be addressed. Borrah Minnevitch's and Johnny Puleo's Harmonica Rascals, objected to their release of records under the name Rascals. So, Sid suggested the name the Young Rascals and history was made.
In the member’s own words, the band was about “Marvin Gaye's voice, Ray Charles' piano, Jimmy Smith's organ, Phil Spector's production and The Beatles' writing -- put them all together and you've got what I wanted to do." Says Felix.
On February 27, 1965, The Young Rascals appeared on the TV program “Hullabaloo” where they performed their debut single, "I Ain't Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore".
The song went to #52 on the US Charts and reached #23 in Canada. An even bigger break came when Bernstein put The Young Rascals in the lineup of August 23, 1995 concert when The Beatles took over Shea Stadium.
On March 28, 1966 the debut album THE YOUNG RASCALS was released. It was a collection of covers with only one original song “Do You Feel It” included.
The band was on the rise now and followed up their debut single with “Good Lovin’” from the first album, which rocketed to the #1 in both the US and Canada and earned the boys their first gold record.
The song writing team of Cavaliere and Brigati (Cavaliere wrote alone much of the time in actuality), began cranking out hits. Six of the 11 songs on their second album were penned by band members.
“You Better Run” (covered by Pat Benetar some 14 years later) reached #20, “Come On Up” topped off at #43 and “I’ve Been Lonely Too Long” went to #16.
These songs were included on the second album COLLECTIONS released on January 9, 1967 and the third album GROOVIN’ released on July 31, 1967.
In those days, singles were released prior to the album to build up popularity for the album. The song “Groovin’” was released on April 10, 1967 and jumped to the #1 spot on the charts and spent four weeks on top. Showing it (and the group's) crossover appeal, it also reached number 3 on the Billboard Black Songs Chart.
It was around this time that the band decided to drop the word “Young” from their name and became simply “The Rascals”.
In 1968, The Rascals had their biggest hit and their last #1 song with the political “People Get Ready”. Written in reaction to the Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy assassinations, there was some initial resistance to the song, but the fact that it was a damn good song it took hold.
"That the song was #1 in places like Berlin and South Africa meant a lot to me," said Felix.
In the next year the band took a different musical direction that resulted in less than enthusiastic support from the record label. PEACEFUL WORLD and THE ISLAND OF REAL were both more jazz-tinged and the commercial success balloon was punctured.
Cavaliere believed that THE ISLAND OF REAL was the best record he ever made, but the public did not agree.
With little support from Atlantic Records, the band moved to the Columbia label in 1971 but that did not cure the ills. Then personal frictions began to build and Brigati and Cornish left the band being replaced by Buzzy Feiten (from the Paul Butterfiled Blues Band) and Ann Sutton who had been singing with various soul and jazz groups in the Philadelphia area.
It did not help matters and the following year The Rascals were no more.
In 1974, Cavaliere began his solo career with the release of the album "Felix Cavaliere". Eddie Brigati recorded a solo album with his brother David in 1976. Cornish and Danelli started a new band called Bullfrog and later teamed up with former Raspberries guitarist, Wally Bryson in Fotomaker. In April, 1980, Felix Cavaliere released a solo single called "Only A Lonely Heart Sees", which climbed to # 36 on the Billboard chart. In 1982, Danelli joined Steve Van Zandt's Little Steven.
Danelli, Cornish and Cavaliere reunited in 1988 for a US tour, but split soon after and were involved in a nasty law suit over the use of the band's name. Cavaliere continued as a solo artist and a producer, releasing a new album in 1994 as well as playing keyboards for Ringo Starr's All-Star Band.
In 1997, The Young Rascals were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame, but even here, the tensions that tore the band apart, rose again. All four former members of the band appeared for the ceremony, but Eddie Brigatti refused to join the others, accepting his award from The E Street Band's Steven Van Zandt on the opposite side of the stage.
It wasn't until April 24th, 2010, that all four original Rascals gathered again at the Kristen Ann Carr Fund gala in New York after being invited by Steven Van Zandt. Van Zandt and his wife Maureen were honored by the charity for all of the work they've done for the fund, which was founded in 1993 by Bruce Springsteen's co-manager Barbara Carr and her husband Dave Marsh to honor their daughter, who died from sarcoma. Hopes for a more permanent reunion were dashed by Gene Cornish, who said: "I speak on behalf of the band when I say all the money offers in the world could not entice the Rascals to reunite."
A short run for a band with so much talent. Their songs still stand up today and have a special place in my memories…The Young Rascals.
I selected a mix of familiar and maybe not so familiar for TRAVIS' "Five On Friday", where you post five songs - your choice of subject matter, the set can be as random as - I love these five songs - I thought it would work well with this post, especially my doing the five songs inspired me to share their tale. Just hit the play button and all five will stream.
"If You Knew"
"People Got To Be Free"
"Island Of Love"