The Association

The AssociationFrom: Los Angeles, CA, USA

Beginnings

Jules Alexander (born September 25, 1943, Chattanooga, Tennessee) was in Hawaii in 1962 serving a stint in the Navy when he met Terry Kirkman (born December 12, 1939, Salina, Kansas), a visiting salesman. The two young musicians jammed together and promised to get together once Alexander was discharged. That happened a year later; the two eventually moved to Los Angeles and began exploring the city’s music scene in the mid-1960s. (Kirkman played in groups with Frank Zappa for a time before Zappa went on to form The Mothers of Invention). Eventually, at a Monday night hootenanny at the LA nightclub The Troubadour, in 1964, an ad hoc group called The Inner Tubes was formed by Terry, Jules and Doug Dillard, whose rotating membership contained, at one time or another, Cass Elliot, David Crosby and many others who drifted in and out. This led, in 1965, to the forming of The Men, a 13 piece folk-rock band. This group had a brief spell as the house band at The Troubadour.

After a short time, however, The Men disbanded, with six of the members electing to go out on their own (some of the remaining players continued on as Tony Mafia’s Men, one of the others, Mike Whalen, joined The New Christy Minstrels). At the suggestion of Kirkman’s then-fiancée, Judy, they took the name The Association. The original lineup consisted of Alexander (using his middle name, Gary, on the first 2 albums) on vocals and lead guitar; Kirkman on vocals and a variety of wind, brass and percussion instruments; Brian Cole (born September 8, 1942, Tacoma, Washington) on vocals, bass and woodwinds; Russ Giguere (born October 18, 1943, Portsmouth, New Hampshire) on vocals, percussion and guitar; Ted Bluechel, Jr. (born December 2, 1942, San Pedro, California) on drums, guitar, bass and vocals; and Bob Page (born May 13, 1943) on guitar, banjo and vocals. However, Page was replaced by Jim Yester (born November 24, 1939, Birmingham, Alabama) on vocals, guitar, and keyboards before any of the group’s public performances.

The new band spent about five months rehearsing before they began performing around the Los Angeles area, most notably a regular stint at The Ice House in Pasadena and its sister club in Glendale. They also auditioned for record labels but faced resistance due to their unique sound. Eventually, the small Jubilee label issued a single of “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” (a song originally recorded by Joan Baez, later popularized by Led Zeppelin) but nothing happened. Finally, Valiant Records gave them a contract, with the first result being a version of Bob Dylan’s “One Too Many Mornings”.

The Men were first managed by Doug Weston, owner of the Troubador, before switching to actor Dean Fredericks, who remained on board when the Association was formed and helped get them the Valiant deal. In 1966 Fredericks turned the reins over to Pat Colecchio, who managed the group for the next eight years.

First success

Their national break would come with the song “Along Comes Mary”, written by Tandyn Almer. Alexander first heard the song when he was hired to play on a demo version and persuaded Almer to give The Association first crack at it. The recording went to #7 on the Billboard charts, and led to the group’s first album, And Then… Along Comes the Association, produced by Curt Boettcher. A song from the album, “Cherish”, written by Kirkman, would become The Association’s first #1 in September 1966.

The group followed with their second album, Renaissance, released in early 1967. Somewhat surprisingly, the band changed producers, dumping Boettcher in favor of Jerry Yester (brother of Jim and formerly of The Modern Folk Quartet). The album did not spawn any major hits (the highest charting single, “Pandora’s Golden Heebie Jeebies” stalled at #35) and the album only reached #34, compared with a #5 showing for its predecessor.

Changes

In late 1966 Warner Bros. Records, which had been distributing Valiant, bought the smaller label (and with it, The Association’s contract). In 1967, Jules Alexander left the band to study meditation in India and was replaced by Larry Ramos (born Hilario Ramos on April 19, 1942, Waimea, Kauai, Hawaii) on vocals and guitar. Ramos had previously performed with The New Christy Minstrels and recorded solo singles for Columbia Records. He would later sing co-lead (along with Russ Giguere and Terry Kirkman) on two of The Association’s biggest hit singles, “Windy” and “Never My Love”.

With the lineup settled, the group returned to the studio, this time with Bones Howe in the producer’s chair. The first fruits of this pairing would be the single “Windy” (About this sound sample (help·info)) written by Ruthann Friedman, topping the Hot 100 on July 1, 1967 and preceded by the album Insight Out, which reached #8 in June. On June 16, 1967, The Association had the unique honor of being the first act to perform at the Monterey Pop Festival. (The Criterion Collection DVD of the festival includes their performance of “Along Comes Mary” on disc 3.)

The group’s winning streak continued with their next single, “Never My Love”, written by Don and Dick Addrisi; it went to #2 in Billboard and #1 in Cash Box in October 1967. It became the group’s only double-sided charted record as its B-side, “Requiem For The Masses”, made a brief showing on the Billboard chart. Like “Cherish” and “One Too Many Mornings”, “Never My Love” had a vocal arrangement that was provided by Clark Burroughs, a former member of the Hi-Los.

“Never My Love” has been accredited by BMI as the song with the second most US airplay in the 20th century.

After rejecting the recording of an entire cantata written by Jimmy Webb, which included the song “MacArthur Park”, the group, in early 1968, produced its fourth album, Birthday, with Bones Howe again at the controls. This album spawned “Everything That Touches You”, the group’s last Hot 100 top 10 hit, and the more experimental “Time for Livin'”, the group’s last Hot 100 top 40 hit. Later that year, the group released a self-produced single, the harder-edged “Six Man Band”. This song would also appear on Greatest Hits, released in November.

Comings and goings

In early 1969, Jules Alexander returned to the group, which now made The Association a seven-man band (they acknowledged by changing the title and lyric of “Six-Man Band” to match.) The first project with the seven-piece band was music for the soundtrack of Goodbye, Columbus, the film version of Philip Roth’s best-selling novel. The title track, written by Yester, rose to #80. John Boylan, one third of the unknown Hamilton Streetcar, and who would become one of the most important record producers of the ’70s and ’80s, worked with the group on the soundtrack and stayed on board for the next album, The Association. Not surprisingly, many of the tracks have a decidedly country-rock feel. None of the singles made any impact, so the group re-teamed with Curt Boettcher for a one-off single, “Just About the Same”, a reworking of a song Boettcher had recorded with his group, The Millennium. This failed to hit as well.

Despite all this, the band remained a popular concert draw and on April 3, 1970, a Salt Lake City performance was recorded for The Association Live. In 1971 Russ Giguere left the band; he would release a solo album, Hexagram 16, that same year. The Association replaced him with keyboardist/singer Richard Thompson (no relation to the English singer-songwriter/guitarist), who had contributed to previous albums and would go on to be known primarily in jazz circles. 1971 also saw the release of Stop Your Motor. Despite some good tracks (notably a cover of Jimmy Webb’s “P.F. Sloan” with Brian Cole imitating Roy Rogers in the bargain), the album was their worst selling to date, reaching only #158 on the Billboard chart.

Stop Your Motor also marked the end of The Association’s tenure at Warner Bros. In early 1972, they resurfaced on Columbia with Waterbeds in Trinidad!, produced by Lewis Merenstein (best known for producing Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks). The album fared even worse than Stop Your Motor, reaching #194, while a single of The Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Darlin’ Be Home Soon” failed to break the Hot 100.

Breakup and re-formation

For their 1972 tour, the group expanded to nine members, bringing in session players Wolfgang Meltz and Mike Berkowitz on bass and drums respectively to add more musical versatility on stage and free up Brian Cole and Ted Bluechel to concentrate on singing only. But on August 2, 1972, 29-year-old Cole was found dead in his Los Angeles home of an overdose of heroin. For the rest of the 1970s, The Association was in a state of flux, releasing singles now and then along with sporadic touring.

At the end of 1972, Kirkman departed, as did Meltz and Berkowitz. The group was then moved over to the CBS distributed Mums label (which had been formed by Bobby Roberts, formerly of Dunhill Records) and put out a new single “Names, Tags, Numbers & Labels”. It failed to make much of an impression, though, and Mums folded by the end of 1974.

Thompson left at the beginning of 1973 and the remaining foursome of Alexander, Bluechel, Yester & Ramos brought in new members Maurice Miller (vocals, drums, percussion), Art Johnson (vocals, guitar) and David Vaught (vocals, bass, and later a member of the Lopez Beatles) and continued touring. Jim Yester was briefly replaced by his brother Jerry later this same year, only to return in 1974. When Jules Alexander left soon after to join Russ Giguere in a new vocal outfit, Bijou, Jerry again came in to play with the group until the end of that year.

1975 saw the band now on RCA and they put out another single, “One Sunday Morning”. An album called The Association Bites Back was to follow but never got released. Membership was a bit fluid in 1975-1976. Dwayne Smith (vocals, keyboards) joined and appeared on the above single but was replaced by Andy Chapin by the end of 1975. Ramos departed as well in mid-1975 and was replaced by Larry Brown (vocals, guitar), who came in for three years. Art Johnson stayed on board for a short while longer but was likewise gone by the end of 1975. The increased tour schedule led to Chapin’s departure in 1976. (He later played for artist Rick Nelson and perished along with Nelson and his band when his plane crashed on December 31, 1985.) Chapin was replaced, first by Jay Gruska, who had just finished a stint with Three Dog Night, and then by David Morgan in mid-1976.

During this period the band was offered a production deal with Mike Curb who wanted them to record a disco version of the prior hits, “Cherish”, “No Fair At All” and an original song which Larry Brown wrote and sang entitled “It’s High Time To Get High”. Reportedly, Curb was dissatisfied with the drum tracks and wanted to bring in session drummer Jim Gordon to play and the band refused, sinking the deal.

In 1978 Brown left to concentrate on session work and was replaced by Cliff Woolley. However, the prime gigs were fewer and far between by this time and Yester left, leaving Bluechel as the only original member. Keyboardist Ric Ulsky stepped in at this point and the group had two keyboardists for a short time. Russ Levine (who had played with Bobby Womack, Donna Summer and Ultimate Spinach) also arrived to replace Miller on drums but the band then dissolved shortly afterwards, leaving Bluechel with a huge debt. To help clear away some of it, on November 1, 1978, he leased the group’s name to another company who put a fake Association out on the road.

In September 1979 the surviving key members: Terry Kirkman, Jules Alexander, Russ Giguere, Ted Bluechel, Jim Yester & Larry Ramos, along with Richard Thompson and new bassist Joe Lamanno, reunited at the Ambassador Hotel’s Cocoanut Grove nightclub in Los Angeles for an HBO special called Then and Now (Kirkman was working for HBO at the time) and also appeared at a charity show hosted by Ed McMahon the same year in Dallas called Ed McMahon and Company. This led, in the early ’80s, to a few singles on Elektra Records (one of which, “Dreamer”, made the Hot 100 with virtually no promotion) and more touring.

In 1980 the originals (with Ric Ulsky returning in place of Thompson and Alexander taking over the bass) went back on the road for a concert tour. With the genuine article back out touring, the bogus band was eventually put out of business.

Happy Together Again and the 60s Package Tours

Jim Yester left again in 1983 and the group added Keith Moret (bass, backing vocals) as Alexander went back to playing guitar. Moret stayed only briefly until Joe Lamanno returned in 1984. That same year the group was invited to appear on the Happy Together Again tour, a multi-bill of 60s acts produced by David Fishof, headlined by the Turtles, and also including Gary Puckett and Spanky McFarlane of Spanky & Our Gang. Gary’s brother, Brian Puckett, played drums in the show for Gary and Spanky and likewise joined the Association for their set as well. But by the end of the year, there was a mass exodus as Kirkman, Bluechel, Ulsky, Lamanno, and Brian Puckett all departed.

In 1985 the band carried on as Alexander, Giguere, and Ramos recruited new members: Paul Beach (vocals, bass, who’d also played in the Happy Together Again show band), Bruce Pictor (vocals, drums, percussion) and Donni Gougeon (vocals, keyboards). Gougeon was briefly replaced in 1986 by Chris Urmston, but was back by the following year. Paul Holland took Gougeon’s place in 1988 before moving over to bass in 1989 when Beach quit. Gougeon then rejoined for a ten-year stint from 1989–1999, succeeded by Bob Werner, who had been the band’s light man and road manager in 1974-75 and fill-in member, as needed, from 1994 on. Jules Alexander turned in his notice in early 1989. Larry Ramos’s brother Del, who was doing sound for the group, then began adding his voice to the mix.

Besides the Happy Together tour, the group became mainstays on many other 60s package tours, including the 1988 Super 60s Tour with Gary Puckett, The Grass Roots and The Turtles and Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Tour in 1989, sponsored by VH1.

During the 1980s & 1990s the group’s recorded output was minimal. They recorded a few new tracks and some covers of popular 60s songs for a few compilation albums on the Hitbound label made through Radio Shack’s Tandy Corporation in the mid-80s, re-recorded some of their older material for another album, Vintage, for CBS in 1983 and put out another album full of cover tunes, The Association ’95: A Little Bit More, in 1995. But most of what has been released from the 80s on have been various collections of their hits.

In September 2003, they were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, joined by former members Yester, Alexander, Kirkman, and Bluechel at the induction ceremony at Cafaro Field, a Cleveland Indians Minor League Baseball Stadium in Niles, Ohio. Yester, Alexander, Kirkman, and Bluechel again rejoined the others for the taping of a PBS 60s rock music special 60s Experience on December 9, 2004 at Dover Downs Showroom in Dover, DE.

By 2010, the band included Russ Giguere, Larry Ramos, Jim Yester (who rejoined again in 2007 as Bob Werner departed after an eight year stint), Del Ramos, Bruce Pictor, and Jordan Cole (son of Brian) on keyboards, who joined in 1999. The Association continued to tour, mostly on bills with similar styled acts of the late 1960s, like The Grass Roots, The Buckinghams, Tommy James of Tommy James and the Shondells, and Gary Puckett. During the summer of 2011, The Association appeared in a heavy touring schedule throughout the U.S. as part of the “Happy Together: 2011” tour, along with The Grass Roots, Mark Lindsay, The Buckinghams, and The Turtles featuring Flo & Eddie. The Happy Together appearances featured only Yester, Giguere, and Ramos, who were backed up by the Happy Together show band. In September 2011, guitarist Godfrey Townsend (from the Happy Together show band) came in while Larry Ramos took a hiatus to recover from health problems. In January 2012, after Townsend’s schedule prevented him from continuing, Jules Alexander agreed to return to stand in for Ramos and stayed on in the group even after Ramos returned in March 2012.

Million sellers

The following songs were certified as having sold over one million copies, and were each awarded a gold disc: “Cherish”, “Windy”, and “Never My Love”.

~ Wikipedia

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Tracks played on Psychedelicized…

From the 1965 single Jubilee 45-5505

  • Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You

From the 1965 single Valiant V-720

  • One Too Many Morning
  • Forty Times

From the 1966 album And Then…Along Comes the Association
nd Then...Along Comes the Association

  • Along Comes Mary
  • Cherish
  • Enter The Young

From the 1966 album Renaissance
Renaissance

  • All Is Mine
  • No Fair At All
  • Pandora’s Golden Heebie Jeebies

From the 1967 album Insight Out
Insight Out

  • Never My Love
  • Requiem for the Masses
  • Wantin’ Ain’t Gettin’
  • Wasn’t It A Bit Like Now (Parallel ’23)
  • We Love Us
  • Windy

From the 1968 album Birthday
Birthday

  • Barefoot Gentleman
  • Everything That Touches You
  • Like Always
  • The Time It Is Today
  • Time For Livin’

From the 1968 album Greatest Hits!
Greatest Hits, The

  • Six Man Band

From the 1969 album The Association
Association, The

  • Dubuque Blues
  • Goodbye Forever

    From the 2002 album Just the Right Sound: The Association Anthology
    Just the Right Sound The Association Anthology [Rhino]

    • The Machine

    From the Monterey International Pop Festival
    Monterey Pop Festival

    • Along Comes Mary (Live at Monterey 16-06-1967)
    • Windy (Live at Monterey 16-06-1967)