Where Are They Now? A Selection of 60’s Bands

One question we often hear from fans at Pop Daze is “Whatever happened to XYZ band or artist?” Sometimes seemingly successful bands suddenly disappear or fade quietly away. Often members of a band go on to very successful solo careers, while others move forward to have success with other bands. In our quest for knowledge of everything pop culture, let’s explore a few of these missing-in-action bands from the 60’s.

Tommy James & The Shondells

When you think of 60’s bands, one that often comes to mind is Tommy James & The Shondells. They were a rock band, formed in Michigan in 1964. Surprisingly, they only had two No. 1 singles in the U.S., “Hanky Panky” (July 1966) and “Crimson and Clover” (February 1969). But they also charted twelve other Top 40 hits, including five in the Hot 100’s top ten: “I Think We’re Alone Now,” “Mirage,” “Mony Mony,” “Sweet Cherry Wine,” and “Crystal Blue Persuasion.”

The band started as “The Echoes” 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 still in high school, the group released its first single, “Long Ponytail”, in 1962. In 1964, the still teenaged James renamed the band the “Shondells” because the name “sounded good”, in honor of a singer he admired named Troy Shondell. The band struggled a bit at first but did manage to record “Hanky Panky” with a local label, Released Records. While this version sold respectably in Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois, the label had no national distribution. The single failed to chart nationally at the time and the Shondells briefly disbanded in 1965 after its members graduated from high school. James was not to be denied, reforming the band with new members. “I had no group, and I had to put one together really fast,” recalls James. Starting out as straightforward rock and roll, on to what was then termed “bubblegum rock” (which James hated), and then into psychedelic rock. In March 1970, at a concert in Birmingham, Alabama, James collapsed from exhaustion after coming off stage from a reaction to drugs and was actually pronounced dead. He recovered, decided to move to the country to rest and recuperate and left the band. James would spend much of the 70s writing and producing music for other acts, as well as performing solo. One very notable song he wrote and produced was “Alive & Kickin” hit “Tighter, Tighter” in 1970. In the 80s, he would see several of his Shondells hits covered by newer artists. In the latter part of the 80s through the 90s, he began touring in oldies packages with other acts from the 1960s but with new backup musicians.

In more recent years, James wrote his autobiography, “Me, the Mob, and the Music”, released in 2010. The book is now set to become a biopic of his life and times. Very few people knew what was actually going on back in the day at James’ first national label,  Roulette Records. Presented publicly as a successful record company, the label was actually a front for the Genovese crime family, one of the ‘Five Families’ which dominated organized crime in New York City. On waiting to tell the story, James felt he had to keep it under wraps till it was “safe,” and the remaining mafia members were dead and gone. “I really wanted to tell this story – it’s a story I’ve been carrying around for 40 years and could never talk about,” says James.  Not surprisingly, the film will contain several of Tommy’s hits, including the song that started it all –  “Hanky Panky”, but producer, Barbara DeFina, made a point of saying, “This is a dramatic and provocative story that just happens to have music in it.  That’s why it won’t be the typical music biopic.” This will definitely be one to see.

Golden Earring

Dutch rock band, Golden Earring, started off in 1961 as “The Golden Earrings”, formed by teenage George Kooymans (13) and his young neighbor, Rinus Gerritsen (15). They ended up dropping both “The” and “S” by the end of the 60s. Initially, they were wildly popular in The Hague in the Netherlands, then they achieved international fame with their hit song “Radar Love” in 1973. The song would top the Dutch charts and make it to very respectable number 13 on the Billboard “Hot 100.”. They would follow that up with “Twilight Zone” in 1982, and the less internationally successful “When the Lady Smiles,” in 1984. The lack of success in the U.S. was mostly due to the fact that the music video for “When the Lady Smiles” was banned from MTV, because of nudity and a graphic scene portraying the rape of a nun. An edited version failed to entice the U.S. fans, and they returned to the Netherlands. During their career, they have had nearly 30 top-ten singles on the Dutch charts while releasing over 25 studio albums. They are known for their live performances and have performed an average of over 200 concerts a year, primarily in their home country. Not surprisingly, after nearly 60 years in the music business, the band continues to be popular today, and still tours in the Netherlands and Europe. Now that’s staying power.

Blind Faith

Blind Faith was a British supergroup that was formed after the breakup of Cream and Traffic. The group originated from informal jamming by Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood in early 1969. After Ginger Baker heard about the sessions and joined them in rehearsals, they decided to form a group. Ric Grech soon joined as the fourth member, and Blind Faith was born. The group played its debut concert on June 7, 1969, in front of an estimated 100,000 fans in London, but they felt they had not rehearsed enough and were unprepared. Add to it that the lack of material in the live set led to them re-introducing old Cream and Traffic songs that pleased the audience but disillusioned the band. Clapton became increasingly isolated during the tour, preferring to spend time with other acts away from the band. After the tour finished in August, various press reports speculated on future band activity, with Robert Stigwood even announcing that there would be further tours forthcoming, however in October, the band issued a press release saying they had split up.  This was hardest on Clapton, who had very mixed feelings about ending the group, mostly feeling guilty about abandoning a project that Winwood had put more involvement into than himself. He eventually went solo, after appearing on several notable albums with other artists. Baker had thoroughly enjoyed his Blind Faith experience and formed the band “Ginger Baker’s Air Force” with both Grech and Winwood initially. Winwood would only stick around for a couple of shows before also going his own way, but all the band members would team up time and time again in support of their individual projects until Ric Grech passed away unexpectedly in 1990 from a brain hemorrhage. Baker would continue to play with various bands until February 2016, when he announced he had been diagnosed with “serious heart issues” and canceled all future gigs until further notice. Writing on his blog, he said, “Just seen doctor… big shock… no more gigs for this old drummer… everything is off… of all things I never thought it would be my heart…” Sadly, Baker would never completely regain his health and passed away in 2020. Winwood and Clapton would continue to revolve in and out of each other’s orbit until the present day. While Winwood still plays gigs, Eric Clapton has recently announced his retirement, due to severe health issues. He is currently on his final world tour.

Tami Danielson is the main in-house blogger and Director of operations for Pop-Daze. She was raised in California and Florida and currently resides in Oregon. Tami has written for a variety of periodicals and has provided digital marketing services for a number of artists. She can be reached at [email protected].