LT. GARCIA'S MAGIC MUSIC BOX
H J BOYLE - JIM TRAGAS - RALPH DEPALMA - TOMMY MORRISSEY
CROSS THE BORDER
(KAMA SUTRA KLPS 8071)
Latin Shake (Artie Resnick - Joey Levine)
Salomila (Boyle - Morrissey - Tragas - DePalma)
O'Sagapo (Tragas - Morrissey - Boyle - Depalma)
Two Sides To Every Story (Boyle - Morrissey)
Children In The Playground (Boyle - Morrissey - Tragas)
Kumbaya (Boyle - Morrissey - Tragas - DePalma - Brydell)
A Young Girl Waits For Me (Morrissey - Tragas - Boyle - )
Sweet Lady Fair (Boyle - Morrissey - Tragas)
The La La Song (Boyle - Morrissey - Tragas)
Do Your Eyes Hurt You Sunshine (Morrissey - Boyle - Tragas)
Come On (Boyle - Morrissey - Tragas)
Produced By Kasenetz & Katz
The fact of the matter is that there weren't a lot of classic bubblegum albums in the first place, so declaring one of those few albums a "Top 5" candidate doesn't appear to mean much. However, this "Top 5" album achieves what even some of the other don't; it actually works as a real album. You know, the kind they used to make with solid numbers throughout, a sense of cohesion, worthy of repeat listening, etc.
Starting off the record with a Joey Levine/Artie Resnick creation reminds me of this guy named Paul McCartney who wrote a song called "Come And Get It" for a group named Badfinger. Both great songs but not very representative of either group's sound. Designed as a near-guarantee to get a hit, Latin Shake just didn't have all the bubblegum chops necessary to be a Top 40 contender. Even Harry Boyle's commendable Joey Levine styling and the "Do it, do it" refrain couldn't deliver the gold gum goods. Lucky for ears tuned to bubblegum and great pop, the rest of the album does deliver. Salomila sets the table by introducing the true sound of Lt. Garcia -- finely crafted pop with a flavor of countries other than the good old U.S. of A. The set doesn't begin and end in Mexico as each song seemingly takes us on musical trips to places like India, Greece and even Ireland.
This is a real band playing here. Three great singers having fun and, ahem, playing outside the box. It's difficult to not think about bubblegum groups in any other light but as singles generators. With that in mind, The La La Song should have been the big hit single here and Two Sides To Every Story could have been a contender. With a great sliding piano riff it really chugs along. Even Come On would have been a single candidate with a mix of sounds stretching from the Middle East, India, the psychedelic, and a little "running through the shadows" thrown in for good measure. Weather Lt. Garcia's Magic Music Box is entirely bubblegum is debatable. It's one of those cases where you're either "all-in" or "all-out." I tend to count them as borderline bubblegum (sorry!); guilt by gum association if you will. With all their extra-curricular activity (see below), the group may have naturally penned regular Top 40 fair but they added enough gum elements to place them squarely in the genre. Other than Shake and La La, each of the remaining album cuts singled out may sound Top 40 to most years but played in vicinity of other classic bubblegum songs, their bubblegum elements rise to the top. Children On The Playground is my favorite song. Of course, I heard their remake for the K&K Kollection, It's Gonna Be The Death Of You, years before I heard the original presented here but, regardless, it's a mature, transcending piece often associated with great lost "deep hidden tracks" on some progressive oldies stations. Like the group Steam, Lt. Garcia barely qualifies as gum yet released a near-perfect album and, then, they were never heard from again. Just another heartbreak for this little bubblegum heart.
- Andrew Bergey
There are a few unreleased Lt. Garcia tracks in addition to El Hombre and It's Gonna Be The Death Of You which can be found on the still-available K&K sets:
►SUPER K KOLLECTION VOL. 1
►SUPER K KOLLECTION VOL. 2
At least five more unreleased additional songs were recorded: Little Red Pot, Kiss Kiss, Her Name Escapes Me, Pineapple Princess and Sunshine Again. Harry Boyle has been working on releasing all the Scoundrel/Lt. Garcia tracks (a box-set?), so I'll be on the lookout for that.
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH HARRY BOYLE
FOR THE CLASSIC BUBBLEGUM MUSIC PAGE
Full name: Harold James Boyle
Date of birth & town: May 23 1944 Brooklyn N.Y.
Married to Darlene
Two sons -- Harry & David -- from a previous marriage to Nancy
"Darlene and I have a cat (Leo) and a dog (Lucky)"
ANDY: Tell me about your beginnings as a musician. What instruments did you play and what type of music did you play?
HARRY: I started playing guitar around 1958 playing stuff like Duane Eddy Ventures ,then Buddy Holly, Elvis etc. I only play guitar, and some bass.
What were your influences? Individual musicians, clubs, radio stations?
Elvis, Doo Wop (Heartbeats, Flamingoes etc.), Johnny Cash, Buddy Holly, Rockabilly. I used to listen to Alan Freed on WINS in N.Y.C.
What were some of the groups you played with prior to joining the Super K team?
I've only been in one group really. We started out (Me, Tommy Morrissey and Ralph Depalma) as The Echoes (along with another guy named Tom Duffy) in 1960. We had a hit record in 1961 called "Baby Blue." Jimmy Tragas replaced Duffy and we made records as The Scoundrels for ABC Records before joining Super K.
How did you join the Super K team (bubblegum producers Jerry Kasenetz and Jeff Katz)
We joined the team first as artists. When K & K found out about our songwriting and record production experience they invited us onto the team.
What were the sessions like?
Sessions back then were usually very structured. 3 hours at a time, and hopefully you recorded 4 songs.
Were K&K musicians?
No they were not. They were basically businessmen who were fans of POP music. I don't remember too much about Jerry, but Jeff was a record producer, he co-produced our album. We never received any credits because of the way their company was structured (to make it look like they produced), and the terms of the contracts we signed. If you look closely at the records you will SOMETIMES find credits for other people producing for Super K Productions. They seemed to write a few songs here & there.
Were they real writers or just trying to catch some royalty action?
In my dealings with them if we wrote a song they liked they would offer to buy it from us and put their name on it. I'm sorry to say we did that quite a bit because of our financial situation -- we were all married raising families. They may have written songs, but not to my knowledge.
Were there company get-togethers and Christmas parties. Non-junkyard, I mean.
Super K was all business, but it was a fun place to be. There were 5 or 6 rooms where songwriters and producers would work to get the songs ready to record, and I remember a lot of laughing and goofing around, remember Super K was flying high, and almost everything they did was sold to somebody and of course there were lots of HIT RECORDS.
Did K & K have an interest in producing the group?
As I said, Jeff Katz seemed to really like us as friends so we became close to him and he co -produced the LP.
At the time, what did you think of your label mates, the Ohio Express and 1910 Fruitgum Co.?
We didn't really know them well. Everyone was coming and going all the time. We were closer to the production people.
Did you ever hang with the Ohio Express guys? Did you ever consider recording with them? Any other label mates?
No we didn't, but we did become "The Ohio Express" in late 1969. I don't want to spoil the party for you, but most of the K & K records were made by studio musicians. In the case of The Ohio Express here's the real story. The first record "Beg Borrow & Steal" was made by a band who sold the recording to K & K who in turn sold it to Cameo-Parkway. In fact, in 1966 K & K came to us (The Scoundrels) and asked us if we wanted to be The Ohio Express which was a corporate name they made up and owned all the rights to. We turned them down. Later on K & K got involved with Joey Levine and began a very successful business arrangement, so from "Yummy Yummy Yummy" until, I believe, "Cowboy Convention", Joey sang the lead vocals and a group called The Tradewinds did the background. K & K then hired guys to perform as The Ohio Express and their pictures are on the albums and they may have even recorded some of the album cuts, but they never sang or played a note on any of the 45's. In 1969 K & K had a disagreement with the boys, and hired us (Me, Tommy, Tom and Gary Martin, who had replaced Jim) to tour as "The Ohio Express", even appearing on AMERICAN BANDSTAND in January of 1970. Joey Levine was replaced as producer by guys from England, who would later became 10cc. Whew!!!!! As far as the 1910 Fruitgum Co. was concerned, Mark sang lead on all the "A" sides of the records and sometimes the group played, other times studio guys (including me) played. The Music Explosion I believe did most of their own records. Most of the other groups were picked up by K & K, given a corporate name and just toured in support of recordings made by the Super K production staff. K & K were very shrewd businessmen, they really took advantage of their success, and though everything was legally correct, in retrospect their ethics and morality may be questionable. I know WE were hungry to recapture our own success so we made some very bad choices, but we made them willingly.
How was the group formed? Who was in the group? Where was the base of operations? How did you come up with the name for the group? How did you get signed to Kama Sutra?
The group was formed as The Echoes in 1960, Jim Tragas joined in 1965, we recorded as The Echoes from 1961-1965, had a hit "Baby Blue" in 1961, recorded as The Scoundrels from 1965 - 1967. H J Boyle, Tom Morrissey, Jim Tragas, and Ralph Depalma were the members of The Scoundrels and Lt. Garcia. The Garcia name was given to us by K & K who owned all the rights to it. After we left them we changed our name to Red Hook, and recorded under
that name from 1970 to 1984. K & K got us the deal with Kama Sutra.
How did Kasentz & Katz come to produce the album?
As I said before they were interested in signing us in 1966 to be the Ohio Express, when we finally signed, we produced the album along with Jeff Katz, Jerry was not involved. The single was produced by K & K with Joey Levine.
Were K&K hacks/competent/gifted? Did they have a certain style or approach? Did they know their way around the studio?
K & K were music fans and VERRYY shrewd businessmen. We only really worked with Jeff. Jerry did work with other people, but I don't know his style. Jeff's style was to record as fast and cheaply as possible. He had great instincts in the studio and always knew what he was after.
Where was the album produced?
Except for "Two Sides To Every Story" which we produced on our own at Broadway Recording, the album was made at ODO studios (which became the Studio 54 disco) in five days during the spring of 1968.
Any friction or "Behind The Music" anecdotes?
No, just the usual creative friction between people trying to make music
Were any singles issued? ("The La La Song" should have been a hit! "Salomila" would have made a great single too. Oh, heck, "Children In The Playground" would have made an excellent choice as well. What do I know?)
Just "Latin Shake" was a single. It didn't sell and shortly thereafter Jim and Ralph left the band, replaced by Tom Mooney and Gary Martin, and then we became "The Ohio Express" touring band.
Who sang on the songs?
I sang lead on "Latin Shake," "Salomila" (Jim sang 2nd part) and "Children In The Playground." Jimmy and I sang lead together on "Two Sides To Every Story" and "Come On." Jimmy sang lead on "O'sagapo," "Kumbaya," "Sweet Lady Fair" and "Do your Eyes Hurt You Sunshine." Tommy sang lead on "A Young Girl Waits For Me" and "The La La Song."
There's an international flavor on the album with the obvious Latin influence but also the Irish sound on "A Young Girl Waits For Me" and the Middle Eastern break on "Come On." How important were these influences to the group?
Well, it was K & K's choice to make it Latin sounding because they really thought "Latin Shake" was gonna be a smash, but truth be told "Osagapo" is a Greek song, as is the middle part of "Come On" (Jimmy was Greek). Tommy and I are Irish so that's where that comes from.
"Latin Shake" was written by Artie & Joey. Did Joey sing on the song? Did you ever work with Joey?
I worked with Joey on many occasions. His voice was on the demo of "Latin Shake" and I was told to copy his phrasing on it as close as I could.
Did you perform in the legendary Carnegie Hall concert?
Yes we did. I was one of the three frontmen. Jamie Lyons was one other and I can't remember who the third guy was -- might have been Mark from 1910 Fruitgum Co.
What's the story behind "Children In The Playground" and "Gonna Be The Death Of You" by the Charles E. Funk Rebellion and I understand that you and the rest of the group were all over the K&K Kollections.
I wrote that song while sitting watching my son and nephew playing in the back yard of my dad's house, where he had built a miniature playground (sandbox, swings, slide) for his grand kids. "Gonna Be The Death Of You" was written by Jimmy and maybe me and Tommy helping -- I'm not sure. Thats Jimmy singing ,and obviously we are ripping OURSELVES off - hahahaha! It was part of HUNDREDS of songs we sold to K & K for $50 a song. See how desperate and stupid we were? On Super K Kollection Vol. 1: "I Feel A Fever Comin' On" by J.C.W Ratfinks thats Tommy Morrissey and Jimmy Tragas on vocals. "House Of The Risin' Sun" by Charles E. Funk Rebellion is me on lead vocals. Really SUCKS!!! Can't believe they had the balls to put this out!! On SUPER K KOLLECTION Vol. 2: "The Gung Gung Song" by Carnaby Street Runners is us again with Jimmy on lead. "Sweetness Of Soul" by Fatmans Music Festival that's Jimmy and me on vocals. Does it ever stop? "Wasted" by Great Train Robbery. Yep, that's us with Jimmy on vocals. I know this was released on ABC because I have a copy. We also recorded "Bring Back Howdy Doody" and "Let's Get To Getting" as Flying Giraffe with me singing lead along with Gary Martin who took Jimmy Tragas's place in the band in 1969.
"El Hombre" is a classic! That and the fact that you were part of creating "Sticky Sticky" should put you in the Rock 'N' Roll Hall-Of-Fame! Tell me how these "toss-off" type of songs evolved.
"El Hombre" is another $50 a song DEMO. We thought we were getting over on K & K by doing whatever came into our heads, because as I said before we had families to feed. Anyway the main voice is our friend and manager Joey Napleone doing a comedy bit with me (I play the "FLASH" "SINGER" and "THE MEXICAN") about a real guy we knew from our neighborhood. We thought it was just filler to make money, little did we know!!!!!!! "Sticky Sticky" is altogether different. Tommy and I were in one of K & K's rooms working on some songs when Jeff and Jimmy Calvert (a very talented guy who worked on a lot of stuff) came rushing in. Jeff said the new 1910 Fruitgum Co. record was needed at the pressing plant and they didn't have a flip side. Jimmy sat down at the piano and started playing a riff, Tom turned his guitar over and started thumping on its back, while I took the pen I had in my hand and picked up a metal ashtray that was there and started playing that like a cymbal. There was a friend of ours with us (Bill Perry) and he played something too (can't remember). Jeff turned on the rooms tape recorder (every room had one to capture the songs we were working on) and we just made it up as we went along with Jimmy and I yelling "STICKY STICKY" every so often, until Jeff stopped it (if you listen it ends very abruptly) and ran out the door. I think the title is Jimmy Calvert's idea.
How was El Hombre released? As a B-Side to what?
As far as I knew "El Hombre" was never released until the "Kollection" CD came out.
How did "Dark Part Of My Mind" with Crazy Elephant come about?
Another $50 a song DEMO. The original release had a different song on the flip, and for reasons unknown to me K & K decided to change it. Our song was a parody of Jimi Hendrix. We thought we were giving K & K our absolutely worst efforts, but little did we know that's exactly what K & K wanted . . . FILLER!
Why no second Lt. Garcia album?
We were very unhappy with the results. We had to record in the morning and work in nightclubs at night. We were disappointed that the record wasn't promoted as promised. AND most importantly no one asked us to make another one. We kept writing songs and they were being released as other groups: Flying Giraffe, Zebra, and others I can't remember.
What did you do after Lt. Garcia?
As I said before by the end of 1968 Jimmy Tragas and Ralph Depalma were so unhappy they left the group. Tom and I replaced them with Gary Martin on Bass and Tommy Mooney on drums. In 1969 we were offered the job of being "The Ohio Express" again (remember K & K offered us the job in 1966). We took it with the understanding we would be recording under that name also. That never happened. K & K hired some British guys (including 10CC) to produce "Cowboy Convention" and "Sausalito" and others. We toured twice and appeared on American Bandstand (Jan 1970) and finally got fed up with K & K, and asked to be let out of our contract. We then went over to Cashman & West Prod. (Terry had been the producer of our 1966 - 67 ABC Scoundrel recordings). We changed our name yet again to Red Hook and made some music with them that never got released. I played on Jim Croce's first album (YOU DON'T MESS AROUND WITH JIM), but the group never released another nationally distributed record. Tommy Morrissey left in 1974 to be a federal Marshall, and I continued on with other members recording and releasing music on a local level.
Are you still involved in music?
Yes I am. BLUE LION RECORDS released an album of mine, of all instrumental "New Age" music in 1995. I moved to Ft. Myers Fl. in 1996. I now play with Jim Randall (keyboards) and we call ourselves "Reunion" (don't tell Joey L. -- hahaha) . We release music locally here. We have 5 CD's available.
Do you have any projects in the works?
Yes . I continue to write songs ,and have two pending for major label release. One called "(Life Looked Better) In Black And White" has been recorded by a MAJOR COUNTRY MALE SINGER (I'll let you know when it's official).
How 'bout the rest of the group?
Tommy Morrissey is now a retired Federal Marshall living in Arizona. Jimmy Tragas is living in Florida. Ralph Depalma is living in Long Island. They all have stopped performing music. I'm the only one silly enough to keep going!!!!
Which songs did you consider bubble gum but others didn't or you didn't consider bubble gum but others did?
I don't consider "Two Sides To Every Story" or "Children In The Playground" to be bubble gum, in fact with the exception of "The La La Song" I don't think anything on the album was. (OK, "Latin Shake" was but we had nothing to do with it, besides putting my voice on the pre-made track.)
Did you care about the label of bubblegum?
I don't think it fit our group, but I LOVE those Ohio Express, 1910 Fruitgum Co. records. They were great records!!! We were happy to be a part of it mainly because it was exciting and we hoped we could record some great music.
(Blog about the boys in the box)
Thinking inside the box?