The “Golden Hits Of The 60s” 

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(Burt Bacharach, Mack David, Barney Williams)

Dunhill 4206

No. 5   November 1, 1969





Before her bluesy rock days, Gayle McCormick (b. Nov. 26, 1948) attended Pattonville High in St. Louis

and sang high soprano with the Suburb Choir, a 150-voice unit that performed annually with the St.

Louis Sym­ phony.   In 1966, fronting a foursome she met while enrolled in a music class–the Chevels,

named for a hip Chevy–Gayle and group played the hops, became reg­ulars at “Chain of Lakes Splash

Party,” and waxed a few singles–released as by Gayle McCormick & the Klass­ men–for Musicland U.S.A.

“Without You” and “Mr. Loveman” were passed over with little national fanfare. In late 1968, the Smiths,

disintegrating L.A. band, came to town touring behind a Columbia single, “Now I Taste the Tears.”

Most of the Smiths’ members had departed, and replacement players were needed.


“The Klassmen were being strongly promoted by KXO radio, the rock station in St. Louis; especially by

johnny Rabbit, the n a umber one DJ” said Gayle, in an exclusive interview.   “Jerry [Carter (bass) J and

Rich [Cliburn (lead guitar)]–what was left of the Smiths­ needed a band to back them for their

appearances in town, and Ernie Cummings, our drummers’ dad and our manager, was a go-getter.   He

pushed for it, and we got to back them.”


With thoughts in her head that “these guys are big­ time, L.A. and on their way,” Gayle left the Klassmen

and St. Louis–with Jerry and Rich–in order to con­tinue promotion on the 45.   “When we got to L.A., we

put an ad in the musician’s union paper and started playing the Rag Doll,” said Gayle, “with Bob Evans,

the drummer and Larry Moss, the keyboards.   We were now a five piece and Smith.”


Right from the start, the heart and soul of the new grouping was McCormick.   She was only 20 years old

that day in 1969 when out of the blue, dimming stars Del Shannon and Brian Hyland stopped in to wet

their whistles at the Rag Doll, a San Fernando Valley bar.   Smith had only been together a month or two,

but Shannon loved what he heard.


“Del was real excited about the group.   I mean, may­be he saw us as a financial thing or a way to advance

his career, but he said, ‘Hey, this is want I want to do….  Come out to the house; I got some songs for you.

‘Baby It’s You’ was one of ’em.   It had always been a favorite of mine, by the Shirelles; not the Beatles



Once at Shannon’s home, with the roomful of recording equipment, Del showed them the outlines of the

song; working with them until he got the sound just the way he heard it in his head.   “I don’t know if he

had this vision that it would be a hit, or what. McCormick said.  “But using the Red Dog as the spot, he

had [Atlantic Records] Ahmet come in to hear us.   He had Liberty, Decca, *********************.   It was

like an imme­diate celebration. It was electric, and unreal. Within nine months, we were doing ‘Ed

Sullivan; the ‘Mama Cass Show; and ‘Red Skelton’-and he never had rock groups on-and had this Top

five record.”


The tale gets foggy from this point on. Even Gayle’s not clear as to why, but before even a second 45 was

needed, Del was gone. “I think it was a business deci­ sion; [the label] just wanted to do their own thing,

with Joel [Sill] producing and Steve [Barril sweetening;’ said Gayle.


“Take a Look Around,” a fairly tough follow-up, sold well (#43, 1970), but with the release of Group

Called Smith, their debut LP, Jerry and Rich were, as Gayle phrased it, “released.” “We were incurring



within the group-personal-and they didn’t receive any royalties from the hit or the album that they

played on.” Brought in were AI Parker (lead guitar) and Jade Hass (bass).


“The group thing was about through;’ said Gayle. “All this nit-picking; with nobody getting on. We were

promoting ‘What Am I Gonna Do’ [Smith’s third and penultimate 45], when Larry quit, then Bob; so

there’s just Gayle McCormick and two guys that weren’t in the original group. I didn’t feel that I had any

control either, so I told ’em, ‘I’m a goner, too: They got some girl to finish the tour.” Minus Plus, a second

album was pieced together.


Gayle McCormick carried on for a while with lone solo releases on Dunhill, MCA, and Fantasy. “I got

lost;’ said Gayle. “With each album, I got further away from the Smith sound. I think people expected

more of a gritty sound. By the last stuff, I was being produced by this guy who was doing Dianne Carroll …


“But I could have only gone on for only so long­ my voice would have been gone if I had carried on. I

wasn’t born to be a professional singer. It wasn’t meant to be more than it was. One of the guys-I ain’t

sayin’ who-said, ‘It’s a good thing that we only had one hit, . . :’cause I liked drugs too much. It woulda

killed me.” Gayle works for Sears, in St. Louis. Rick lives in the wilds of Oregon, phoneless; Bob owns a

refurbishing company in North Ridge, California; Larry runs a con­ struction company in Tulsa and plays

organ in a Pente­ costal Church. Jerry’s whereabouts are unknown.


As for Gayle’s first group: The Klassmen, in 1970, traveled to L.A. in search of success. No such luck; no

fur­ ther 45s. Their saxman, five foot-six and blond, Jimmy Koerber, went on to work with Ike & Tina