The Lovin' Spoonful was an American folk/rock band of the 60's that had the distinction of placing seven consecutive singles in the top ten in the middle part of the decade.
John Sebastian was born in New York City in 1944. Under the name "John Benson," he performed with the Even Dozen Jug Band in 1964. He toured with legendary blues musician Mississippi John Hurt for a time, spent time singing in the coffee houses of Greenwich Village, and did some session work with Electra Records. Sebastian is a good singer and songwriter. He hooked up with Zal Yanovsky who had been a member of the Mugwumps with Denny Doherty and Cass Elliott, both of whom went on to perform later with the Mamas & the Papas. Yanovsky, from Canada, was often seen wearing fringed jackets and cowboy hats. In 1965 Sebastian and Yanovsky started the Lovin' Spoonful with Sebastian on lead vocals and Yanovsky on lead guitar. They recruited Steve Boone to play rhythm/bass guitar and Joe Butler to play drums and provide vocals. The name Lovin' Spoonful was taken from a line from a Mississippi John Hurt blues number.
Recording on the Kama Sutra label, and mostly using material written by Sebastian, they began a notable string of hits almost right from the beginning. Do You Believe in Magic and You Didn't Have To Be So Nice were immediate hits for the Lovin' Spoonful late in 1965. They followed the next year with four more top ten singles: Daydream, Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind?, Summer In The City, and Rain On The Roof. And early in 1967 Nashville Cats became their seventh consecutive and last top ten single. All had been produced by Erik Jacobsen. The group has been described as one which recorded in an electric jug-band style, and their unique sound fit the times well. The 60's was a turbulent decade and the Lovin' Spoonful was a group that managed to inject a spirit of optimism into the mix, as evidenced by the lyrics of their songs as well the song titles themselves. They recorded a number of successful albums in the mid to late 60's.
The group continued recording and had other hits, including Darling Be Home Soon from the Francis Ford Coppola movie You're A Big Boy Now. They began to undergo changes. Yanovsky was arrested for possession of marijuana in San Francisco and left the group a short time later. He was replaced by Jerry Yester. Joe Wissert replaced Jacobsen as their producer, and the group came to have a sound that was more pop oriented. Some more minor hits followed, such as Six O'Clock, Money and She Is Still A Mystery. Sebastian left the group in 1968 to pursue a solo career. The remaining members of the group continued as a trio, with songs written by professional songwriters and new producers, but met will little success before calling it quits in 1969.
Sebastian continued writing songs and performing for many years. He performed at Woodstock in the summer of 1969. His most visible accomplishment in the ensuing years was when he wrote and sang Welcome Back, the theme song for the television sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter. It was a surprise hit and went to number one in 1976. The four original members of the Lovin' Spoonful reunited briefly in 1980. In 2000 the Lovin' Spoonful was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Yester, Boone and Butler revived the band, recruited two new members, and continued to perform as the Lovin' Spoonful into the twenty-first century. Zal Yanovsky returned to his native Canada and became a successful restaurateur in Kingston, Ontario, before he died from congestive heart failure in 2002; his daughter has assumed management of the restaurants.
The Lovin' Spoonful comprised an outstanding 60's band and the inspiration for many jug bands that were to follow. Two of their hits, Daydream and Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind?, were number two on the pop chart, and the one that made it all the way to number one was Summer In The City.
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