The Beau Brummels had a brief run on the charts in the mid-sixties and left their mark as hitmakers in that decade.
The group started in the San Francisco Bay area in 1964, led by Sal Valentino (who had been born Sal Spampinato in San Francisco in 1942) on lead vocals and Ron Elliott (born in Haddsburg, California in 1943) on lead guitar. Other members of the group included Declan Mulligan (born in County Tipperary, Ireland in 1938) on rhythm guitar, Ron Meagher (born 1941 in Oakland) on bass, and drummer John Petersen (born in 1942 in Rudyard, Michigan). Valentino, Elliott and Petersen had known each other and began to form a band; they met Mulligan at a rehearsal and added him to the group, and brought in Meagher a little later.
As the British Invasion was beginning to take hold in American pop music circles in 1964, a number of bands around San Francisco took note, and some of them went on to draw notice later in the decade. Among these were We Five, Country Joe and the Fish, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Sopwith Camel, and the Beau Brummels. It was fashionable for some groups at the time to adopt names that sounded British -- it could possibly help record sales at a time when British bands were hot. Some of the groups that took this approach were the Guess Who from Winnipeg, the Sir Douglas Quintet from San Antonio... and the Beau Brummels from San Francisco. And besides, "Beau Brummels" records would appear right after those by the Beatles, when arranged alpabetically in the record bins. (Beau Brummel was an early nineteenth century British dandy who was known as a fashion leader).
The group played locally and came to the attention of local pioneer FM disc jockey Tom Donahue and his partner Bobby Mitchell, who signed the group to their Autumn record label. The Beau Brummels embraced Beatles-like hairstyles and clothing. Working with talented record producer Sylvester Stewart, they began recording and it was not long before they came up with a hit. With words and music written by Ron Elliott, and most certainly influenced by music then being released by the Beatles, the Beau Brummels' Laugh, Laugh broke nationally, rising to number 15 early in 1965. "I hate to say it but I told you so, don't mind my preachin' to you, I said 'don't trust 'em, baby' now you know, you don't know ev'rything there is to know in school..." It established the group as the first bay area band to answer the British Invasion.
They followed a short time later with another huge hit, Just A Little, that rose to number eight. And by the end of 1965 the Beau Brummels had their third and final top forty hit with You Tell Me Why. All three listed Elliott as their writer or co-writer. They also issued an album that was a big seller that year, Introducing The Beau Brummels. They appeared as themselves, as did Freddy Cannon, in the 1965 risible science fiction/comedy motion picture Village of the Giants. The band appeared in the movie Wild, Wild Winter, in an episode of The Flintstones as the Beau Brummelstones, and on various musical variety shows.
Music was changing, and the Beau Brummels changed with it. Their sixth and final top 100 hit was One Too Many Mornings in 1966, but by this time Autumn had been sold and they were recording for the new owner, Warner Brothers. The group began to undergo personnel changes and attempted to discard its image as a Beatles-type band, starting with Ron Elliott, who was unable to tour with the band after having problems with his diabetic condition. He was replaced at times by Don Irving, who left a short time later when he was inducted into the armed services. Drummer Petersen left to join Harpers Bizarre. A 1967 album Triangle was recorded by the only three remaining members of the band (Valentino, Elliott, and Meagher) with guest guitarist Van Dyke Parks shortly before Meagher was drafted. The 1968 album Bradley's Barn, with more of a country-type sound, was recorded with some studio musicians but did not fare as well as it had been hoped. By 1968, Valentino and Elliott decided to go their separate ways and the group was disbanded. By this time the record producer from their early sessions, Sylvester Stewart, had become a recording star in his own right as Sly Stone, with his group Sly & the Family Stone.
Valentino struck out to attempt a solo career, recording some singles on his own and forming the band Stoneground. Elliott recorded an album as a solo artist, The Candlestickmaker, in 1969 then did session work, working with artists such as Van Morrison, Randy Newman, and Little Feat, and he formed a group that he called Pan. Elliott also produced an album for the Everly Brothers. The original members of the Beau Brummels reformed in 1974, along with guitarist Dan Levitt, and recorded an album for Warner Brothers, but broke up the following year. Various reunions have taken place in one form or another over the years.
As time went on the Beau Brummels came to be regarded by many music fans and rock critics alike as one of the really top-notch bands of the 60's. Most fans remember them today for their two giant hits from 1965, Laugh, Laugh and Just A Little.
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