Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Tommy James and the Shondells - It's Only Love (1966)

Tommy James and the Shondells - It's Only Love (1966)

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Tommy James and the Shondells - It's Only Love

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The band The Echoes formed in 1959 in Niles, Michigan, then evolved into Tom and the Tornadoes, with 12-year-old Tommy James (then known as Tommy Jackson) as lead singer. While attending Niles Public High School in Niles, Michigan, the group released its first single, "Long Pony Tail", in 1962.

In 1964 James renamed the band the Shondells because the name "sounded good" and in honor of nearby Fort Wayne's own Troy Shondell, famous for his 1961 release "This Time." At this time, the band included Tommy James (vocals and guitar), Larry Coverdale (lead guitar), Larry Wright (bass), Craig Villeneuve (keyboards) and Jim Payne (drums). In February 1964 the band recorded the Jeff Barry–Ellie Greenwich song "Hanky Panky" (originally a B-side by the Raindrops). Although James could often be found playing at Niles High School events, his popularity locally continued to grow. James' version of "Hanky Panky" sold respectably in Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois, but Snap Records, the label under which "Hanky Panky" was originally released, had no national distribution. The band toured the eastern Midwest, but no other market took to the song. The single failed to chart nationally, and the Shondells disbanded in 1965 after its members graduated from high school.

After first considering taking a job outside of music, James decided to form a new band, the Koachmen, with Shondells guitarist Larry Coverdale and members of a rival group called the Spinners (not the hit-making group from Detroit). The Koachmen played a circuit of clubs in the Midwest through the summer and fall of 1965 but returned to Niles in February 1966, after the gigs dried up, to plot their next move.

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