THE GREATEST GARAGE BANDS OF ALL-TIME!!!
It all started innocently enough ... one of our readers sent in an email asking about the group ? and the Mysterians and, during the course of her letter, mentioned that, thanks to their #1 Hit "96 Tears", they had to be the greatest garage group of all time. After we published her letter, we started to get a ton of responses ... "What are you, crazy?!?! The greatest garage group of all time has to be The Kingsmen ... there is NO greater garage song than 'Louie Louie'!" ... which, in turn, prompted, "What about The Standells and 'Dirty Water'?" and "How can you even talk about garage bands and leave out The Shadows Of Knight? 'Gloria' is the ULTIMATE Garage Band song." More letters followed, nominating artists and tracks like "Surfin' Bird" by The Trashmen, "Wild Thing" by The Troggs and "Wooly Bully" by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs.
Suddenly, we knew we were on to something here ... so, in 2012, we decided to poll our readers in order to determine, once and for all, who are The Greatest Garage Bands of All-Time!!! Just over 9000 votes came in (9008 to be exact!) and, with THAT kind of response, I think we've been able to assemble the definitive list.
We counted down The Top 20 in Forgotten Hits (with 13 Runners Up ... we felt that any band that earned more than 100 votes deserved at least SOME sort of recognition!) and, during the course of the series mentioned that the band who WOULD have come in next (with 98 votes) would have been The Ides Of March, thanks to their 1966 Hit "You Wouldn't Listen".
We partnered with Mike Dugo of the excellent website 60sGarageBands.com and wrote brief bios on each of the finalists ... and then decided to expand the list to include The Top 50 so that we could permanently post something on the website. And that's what you're reading here today ... the results of our Forgotten Hits Survey to determine
THE GREATEST GARAGE BANDS OF ALL-TIME!!!
50 - The Nightcrawlers
An absolute garage band classic — and a staple for thousands of teen bands that performed during the prime garage band era — ‘Little Black Egg’ was recorded by Florida’s Nightcrawlers. Led by Chuck Conlon, the ‘Crawlers recorded a handful of singles, but their lone hit has been responsible for an Ace / Big Beat Records full CD retrospective, as well Cracking’ The Egg: The Untold Story of The Nightcrawlers, an excellent documentary released in 2008. (Mike Dugo)
"Little Black Egg" didn't chart here in Chicago ... so I wasn't familiar with it until the early '80's when a woman at work mentioned that it was her all-time favorite song ... and was the ONLY song that she could play on the guitar! Being the "music guy" that I am, I couldn't understand how a song that I had never even HEARD of before could be somebody's favorite ... so I did some research. Although The Nightcrawlers were out of Florida (where "Little Black Egg" was a #1 Hit), this girl grew up in Ohio where, she said, it was ALSO a huge hit ... so SOMEBODY had to be playing it! (I can't believe our AM Powerhouses WLS and WCFL passed on this track ... it perfectly fits in with the music they were playing on their stations at this time!) It ultimately peaked at #78 nationally ... not a huge hit by any stretch ... but a garage band classic nevertheless ... and enough of our readers felt so to award The Nightcrawlers the #50 position in our All-Time Favorite Garage Bands countdown.
By the way, the girl who turned me on to this track makes an excellent point ... not only about THIS song but about most garage band songs in general ... they were simple enough that virtually ANYBODY could learn to play them on the guitar! Three or four simple guitar chord changes and you were in business. These records weren't perfect ... far from it, in many cases ... but this was all part of their appeal. The fact that 9000 votes came in some 40+ years later certainly proves THAT point ... this music touched our lives ... and we still love it today! (kk)
49 – Nazz
The opening of ‘Open My Eyes’, the Nazz’ best-known song, was without question inspired by the Who’s ‘Can’t Explain.’ Philadelphia’s Nazz also incorporated the Who’s earlier mod rock look as well, at a time when psychedelia and bubblegum were taking over the airwaves. Okay ... we’ve gone beyond 50 words into our write-up and have yet to mention Todd Rundgren, who formed The Nazz and assuredly requires no introduction to Forgotten Hits readers. Be sure to check out the Nazz’ much slower take on Rundgren’s ’70 solos smash, ‘Hello It’s Me’. (Mike Dugo)
Numerous attempts to make both "Hello It's Me" (a very slowed-down version of the HUGE hit Todd Rundgren would go on to have as a solo artist) and "Open My Eyes" earned Nazz a bit of a cult following in the late '60's and early '70's ... but not much chart success. (Their version of "Hello It's Me" ultimately peaked at #47 after at least three separate single releases.) You voted them as your 49th Favorite Garage Band of All-Time. (kk)
48 - Michael and the Messengers
For the true scoop on this Milwaukee group, be sure to pick up Mike Markesich’s garage rock book, Teenbeat Mayhem! Two recording groups using the Michael & The Messengers’s moniker scored hits, covers of ‘In The Midnight Hour’ and ‘(Just Like) Romeo & Juliet’. Markesich’s book spells it all out, and is necessary reading for anybody that is reading this list. (Mike Dugo)
Might I also suggest the definitive book on Wisconsin Rock by Gary Myers. Michael and the Messengers scored big here in The Midwest, despite never hitting Billboard's Top Singles Chart ... "In The Midnight Hour" hit #5 and their version of "Romeo And Juliet" went to #12. (kk)
47 - The Gentrys
Memphis, Tennessee’s Gentrys recorded hits into the early ‘70’s, but none came close to topping 1965’s ‘Keep On Dancin’. A classic dance ‘n’ stomp tune, it made the Top 5 and solidified the Gentrys’ standing
as a teen band to be reckoned with. Follow up songs included ‘Brown Paper Sack’ (a very minor hit in 1966), ‘Every Day I Have To Cry’ and ‘Cinnamon Girl’. (Mike Dugo)
"Keep On Dancin'" is a personal favorite ... this song STILL sounds great today, so full of energy. (A whole new generation discovered this tune when it was for a "Little Boppers" advertising campaign!)
Jimmy Hart went on to become well-known in the Wrestling World as "The Mouth Of The South". (kk)
46 - The Fifth Estate
‘Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead’ is completely removed from what garage rock is commonly defined as, but there’s no denying the song’s appeal. It is, of course, based on the classic Wizard Of Oz song, and no doubt its genesis has been explained previously here within Forgotten Hits. Drummer Ken ‘Furvus’ Evans, who I’m thankful to call a friend, has assembled a new line up of The Fifth Estate, and the group released a well-received CD in 2011. Due to Wayne Wadhams’ (‘Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead’ arranger) unfortunate passing a few years ago, Evans’ has also been largely responsible for reissuing the band’s ‘60s recordings, of which many, many are truly great – including those by The D-Men, an earlier incarnation of the Connecticut combo. (Mike Dugo)
Furv has been a good friend to Forgotten Hits as well over the past few years ... and their "Anthology, Volume One" was just released in late 2012. It presents the wide variety of music these guys tackled over the years. And they're still sounding great ... their 2011 release "Time Tunnel", featuring all new material, remains true to their '60's roots while still offering a contemporary sound for today's audience. (kk)
45 - The Strawberry Alarm Clock
Has there ever been a band or song that defined an era better than The Strawberry Alarm Clock and ‘Incense & Peppermints’? The song’s backstory is too convoluted to recap here, but needless to say it struck an immediate chord for music listeners in the late ‘60s. The nonsensical lyrics tied nicely into the group’s psychedelic name and image, which helped them land appearances in two far our flicks, Psych Out and Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls. (Mike Dugo)
"Incense And Peppermints" topped our chart of Your Top 20 All-Time Favorite Psychedelic Songs (found elsewhere on this site) ... so I was a little surprised to see The Strawberry Alarm Clock "cross over" to the Garage Band Chart, too ... but we've had several instances of this, which you'll see as the countdown continues. These guys headlined Cave Stomp, an annual tribute concert to The Golden Days of the Garage Band Sound, a few years ago ... so apparently SEVERAL folks across the nation feel these guys belong here. (kk)
44 - The Gants
Singer and songwriter Sid Herring of The Gants was a huge Beatles fan, and the absolutely charming ‘I Wonder’ was an obvious ode to the Fab Four’s greatest song, ‘In My Life’. Although hailing from Mississippi, The Gants were strongly influenced by the British Invasion and, albeit somewhat obscure today, recorded several excellent songs, including ‘My Baby Don’t Care’ and ‘(You Can’t Blow) Smoke Rings’. (Mike Dugo)
Their biggest hit was a tune called "Road Runner", a remake of the old Bo Diddley tune, in 1965 ... it just missed The National Top 40, peaking at #41 ... but became a Top Ten Hit here in Chicago. You've got to be pretty knowledgeable about your garage bands to vote these guys into The Top 50 ... but that's exactly what happened ... further proof that this list was created by the fans of this genre of music. (kk)
43 - Bubble Puppy
Personally speaking, Bubble Puppy’s ‘Hot Smoke & Sassafras’ is perhaps the weakest song that entitled its recording group to make Forgotten Hits’ Top 50 Garage Band list. Released in 1969, as the “garage band era” was fading fast, ‘Hot Smoke & Sassafras’ reached the Top 20 and led to release of a full album, A Gathering Of Promises. Bubble Puppy would disband shortly thereafter. (Mike Dugo)
Another group that crossed over to our Psychedelic Chart (their hit "Hot Smoke And Sassafras" came in at #10), these guys, too, seem to have quite a cult following. This was, without a doubt, their claim to fame ... still, as a legitimate Top 20 Hit, shouldn't we hear this track at least once in a while??? (kk)
42 - The Rivieras
Much like ‘Brown-Eyed Girl’ by Van Morrison and ‘I Should Have Known Better’ by The Beatles, ‘California Sun’ by South Bend, Indiana’s Rivieras is a song that everybody seems to like. Interestingly, the song is the earliest recorded tune to make the Top 50 Garage Band list, riding the charts even before Beatlemania hit. The Rivieras had three other songs make the Top 100, but none have experienced anywhere near the lasting impact of the classic ‘California Sun’.
We have devoted many, many pages to The Rivieras in Forgotten Hits over the year ... hop on over to the other website and type "Rivieras" into the Search Engine and you'll find plenty. They never recaptured that magical sound of "California Sun", as Mike says, a universally appealing record ... that still sounds fresh and exciting today. All the more remarkable because it was a remake of an old Joe Jones B-Side! (kk)
41 - The Castaways
Minnesota’s Castaways rode their lone hit, ‘Liar Liar’, to a Top 20 placement on Billboard’s Hot 100 list in 1965, as well as appearances in the beach flick It’s A Bikini World and the forgotten daytime teen soap opera Never Too Young. The clever and simple song, based on the common child taunt, is truly unforgettable. (Mike Dugo)
The Castaways were a One Hit Wonder in the truest sense ... but what a classic, timeless hit that was. "Liar, Liar" sounds like nothing that came before it or since ... it's a haunting track that has stood the test of time ... not bad for a then bunch of teenagers out of Richfield, Minnesota! (kk)
40 - Richard and The Young Lions
Let’s get this out of the way: ‘Open Up Your Door’ is a truly fantastic song, and deserved much better than barely breaking the Billboard Hot 100. In fact, the song reached number one on charts across the country and went Top 10 in several locales as well. The fuzz bass and screams endear the tune to garage rock aficionados, but at its core it’s a classic catchy pop song. The group called Newark, New Jersey home. (Mike Dugo)
A Dave The Rave Favorite, "Open Up Your Door" spent exactly one week on Billboard's Hot 100 Pop Singles Chart ... and that week was spent at #99 ... so the fact that a track THIS obscure made such an impression on so many garage band fans to rank this group at #40 on our All-Time Favorites List is nothing short of remarkable. (kk)
39 - The Strangeloves
The Strangeloves — purportedly Giles, Miles and Nigel Strange, Australian sheepherders — were in reality the songwriting team of Bob Feldman, Jerry Goldstein and Richard Gottehrer. Everybody knows their infectious pop ditty ‘I Want Candy’, a song that it seems is remade almost every year, but garage rock fans are more likely to identify ‘Night Time’ as The Strangeloves’ greatest hit. Feldman, Goldstein and Gottehrer have had many musical highlights throughout the years, including involvement with a 1965 single by The Beach Nuts and, reportedly, discovering The McCoys.
The story of The Strangeloves (and their connection to the aforementioned McCoys) became a major topic during our Forgotten Hits Countdown of Your All-Time Favorite Garage Bands. Too long to rerun here (and too involved to simply recap), may we suggest that you check out the original piece on the other Forgotten Hits Website:
38 - The Outsiders
As with many other groups of the era, the “one-hit wonder” tag doesn’t adequately apply to Cleveland’s Outsiders. Yes, ‘Time Won’t Let Me’ will forever be the group’s signature song, but ‘Girl In Love’, ‘Respectable’ and ‘Help Me Girl’ also scored some chart action. The Outsiders recorded several EPs and full albums and later legal entanglements led to lead singer Sonny Geraci forming the group Climax, who scored BIG in 1972 with ‘Precious and Few’, a soft rock song that is generally either loved or loathed. Like it or hate it, garage rock it ain’t. (Mike Dugo)
I was a little bit surprised to see The Outsiders on the list ... to me "Time Won't Let Me" was pure, infectious pop ... a little too polished to be considered for "garage band" status. "Girl In Love" is a lushly produced ballad and, while I love their version of "Respectable" (originally an Isley Brothers tune), it, too, is just a little bit too "clean" to fit the bill. (And forget about Mike's reference to Sonny Geraci's Climax hit ... that blows this right out of the water!) Still, The Outsiders rank as amongst Cleveland's "Favorite Sons" ... and the fans have spoken, placing them at #38 in our official countdown. Geraci's been through a rough round of brain surgery but is reportedly on the mend. Meanwhile, singer Dennis Tufano has been making appearances singing both Sonny's hits and his own chart-toppers for The Buckinghams, much like Sonny did when Rob Grill took ill, filling Grass Roots dates. As always, the show must go on. (kk)
37 - The Sonics
Without question the rawest band to grace the list, Tacoma’s Sonics more than exemplify what garage rock was / is / will always be. ‘The Witch’, ‘Boss Hoss’, ‘Psycho’, ‘Strychnine’ and ‘You Got Your Head On Backwards’ will all scare you if you dare listen alone. It’s no surprise why the Sonics never scored a national hit, but any discussion about garage rock wouldn’t be complete without including them.
And I'll be the first to admit that I've never heard ANY of these tunes (and apparently for good reason! lol) Which makes it all that much more surprising to see them rank so high ... proving again that THIS list was put together by the connoisseurs of Garage Band Rock. (This is a true testament to the accuracy of our list ... our role is not to question it ... the votes came from the masses ... and this is how they landed. With that thought in mind, we must accept not only some of the bands we may not be familiar with but some of the unlikely Top Ten Finishers as well!) kk
36 - The Swinging Medallions
Considering their home town was Greenwood, South Carolina, the Swingin’ Medallions are today rightfully grouped as a Beach music band rather than a garage band. I won’t attempt to describe the differences here — but many similar groups have also been lumped in as garage bands. The Medallions’ ‘Double Shot Of My Baby’s Love’ was a remake of a song originally recorded by Dick Holler & The Holidays. They followed it up with ‘She Drives Me Out Of Mind’, which scored some minor chart action, but ‘Double Shot Of My Baby’s Love’ was and still is largely responsible for the group’s party band reputation. (Mike Dugo)
If we polled our readers for their All-Time Favorite Party Rock Songs, "Double Shot (Of My Baby's Love)" would most certainly come out near the top. (You'll find that true of many of our Garage Band finalists ... "Louie Louie", "Gloria", "Wooly Bully", "Mony Mony", "Surfin' Bird" ... ALL of these songs make the cross-over transition ... so why not The Swinging Medallions? (In fact, when deejay Phil Nee counted down Your Garage Band Favorites on his WRCO Radio Program "Those Were The Days", one of the first "extras" he played was "Double Shot (Of My Baby's Love)" ... and he hadn't even seen the rest of the countdown yet! Great choice ... party on! (kk)
35 - The Cyrkle
It’s somewhat difficult to pigeonhole The Cyrkle in any way as a “garage band”. Their two best known songs — Paul Simon’s ‘Red Rubber Ball’ and ‘Turn Down Day’ — are out-and-out pop, and it’s fair to state that they didn’t record even one song that could be called garage rock. Nowadays, however, many ‘60s groups that aren’t currently household names are seemingly classified as garage bands, whether or not their music represented that particular style. Despite recording two albums and a soundtrack, and releasing many singles, The Cyrkle is also remembered for their connection to Brian Epstein and John Lennon. (Mike Dugo)
Agreed that The Cyrkle's sound was a little too "clean" for garage band status, it DID make for good '60's Pop. Mike may be right about the lines being "blurred" just a little bit over time. We see it more between the psychedelic bands and the garage bands, all today lumped into a category called simply "nuggets". You'll see more and more of these cross-over artists as we continue to climb up to the top of the list. (kk)
34 - The Ides Of March
Another group whose biggest chart success, in this case the horn rock / classic rock ‘Vehicle’, would seemingly exclude them from a list of favorite garage bands, Chicago’s Ides Of March recorded many songs before hitting the national charts. ‘You Wouldn’t Listen’, ‘Rollercoaster’, ‘My Foolish Pride’, and ‘Give Your Mind Wings’ are all excellent, although definitely better classified as pop or garage pop than outright garage rock. (Mike Dugo)
Our original plan was to count down The Top 20 All-Time Favorite Garage Bands, as voted on by the Readers of Forgotten Hits. But as we tabulated the votes, we found that 33 bands had each earned 100 votes or more ... so we expanded the list to include "Runners Up" positions, feeling that ANY band that earned THAT many votes deserved a spot on the countdown. The guys who JUST missed (with 98 votes) was The Ides Of March, most certainly more for the likes of "You Wouldn't Listen" than "Vehicle", a classic rock chart-topper that STILL plays several times a day. I can personally vouch for their garage band status because I used to hang outside the basement where these guys used to practice back in the day with a bunch of my friends, trying to decipher and sounds we could through the brick and closed windows! The Ides Of March were pretty raw back then ... but were a bunch of teens still going to high school when their first record hit the charts! (It was a #7 smash here in Chicago ... and still ranks amongst our favorites from this era.) And The Ides (with four original members) still perform summertime shows in the area today! (Of course now they incorporate some of leader Jim Peterik's other musical accomplishments into the act, including songs by Survivor and .38 Special amongst their own hits.) We're currently in the midst of a campaign to get Jim Peterik a guest spot sitting in with Paul Shaffer and the band on the "Late Night With David Letterman" show! (kk)
#33 - The Balloon Farm
By far the most obscure group on the list (at least as far as the amount written on them), the Balloon Farm completely epitomizes the term “one-hit wonder.” ‘Question Of Temperature’ made Billboard’s Top 40 and was later immortalized by appearing on the Nuggets boxed set. The core members of New Jersey’s Balloon Farm also recorded singles as Adam and Huck Finn (as well as ‘Hurry Up Sundown’, the follow-up to their hit). Member Mike Appel found later success managing and producing Bruce Springsteen. (Mike Dugo)
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