Spanky and Our Gang was a folk-pop group from the Midwest that put several hits on the charts in the 60's, including a top ten record for which they are remembered.
The group was formed in Chicago in 1966 with Elaine "Spanky" McFarlane as lead singer; she had been born in Peoria, Illinois in 1942. Other members of the group included guitarist Martin Hale, rhythm guitarist Nigel Pickering, bass player Paul "Oz" Bach, Lefty Baker (Eustace Britchforth) on guitar and banjo, and drummer John Seiter. Kenny Hodges later replaced Bach on bass. As the Mamas and the Papas faded from the charts in about 1967, Spanky and Our Gang came along with a similar sound and came into prominence, helped along by the somewhat similar appearance and vocal style of Spanky and Mama Cass Elliot. Spanky and Mama Cass had met each other earlier in the 60's.
McFarlane had been performing with a folk group known as the New Wine Singers when she joined with Pickering, Hodges and Baker to form Spanky and Our Gang. They recorded on the Mercury label and took their name from the Hal Roach-produced comedy short films from the 20's, 30's and 40's known collectively as Our Gang. In the decades that followed, the films (which featured a cast of child actors) were seen by many children when they were shown on television as The Little Rascals. One of the primary characters in some of these films was George Robert Goldman "Spanky" McFarland. Musicians Martin Hale and John Seiter signed with the Mercury label in the 60's, then later joined the band Spanky and Our Gang.
The group's first and biggest hit was Sunday Will Never Be The Same in the summer of 1967. It struck a chord with the record-buying public during the so-called "Summer of Love," went top ten, and put Spanky and Our Gang on the pop music map. They continued recording several albums, and some of their singles became hits including Making Every Minute Count and Lazy Day later in that same year, and Sunday Mornin' and Like To Get To Know You in 1968. This last one was to be the last top forty entry for Spanky and Our Gang. In the midst of this, band member Martin Hale died in 1968, reportedly from carbon monoxide poisoning emanating from a defective space heater.
In 1975 Spanky and Pickering joined with musicians Bill Plummer, Marc McClure and Jim Moon to form a new band. They recorded on the Epic label, performed on Roger McGuinn's first solo album, and toured until 1980, primarily in Texas. Spanky recorded some songs as a solo artist and in the early 80's she became the lead singer for the new Mamas and Papas. Mercury continued issuing albums containing the music of Spanky and Our Gang for decades. The group staged a reunion concert at the Tradewinds Lounge in St. Augustine, Florida in 1999.
Spanky and Our Gang are well-remembered by music fans of the 60's, especially for their initial hit Sunday Will Never Be The Same.
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