Hip to be Square
“Stormy” by the Classics IV (1968)
This is the story of a band few know the name of, but because they have been covered so often many have heard.
The British invasion was in high swing in mid sixties in the U.S. when this southern band formed in Jacksonville Florida. Doing covers of instrumentals (like the Ventures surf music), they were soon asked to sing. Dennis Yost the “stand-up” drummer as he was called started singing and drumming. The band, originally called the “Classics” was so named because of the brand name on his drum kit.
Gutarists Buddy Buie, J.R. Cobb, and Walter Eaton formed the rest of the band with keyboard player Joe Wilson. They were ‘discovered’ playing along Daytona Beach by Capital records and signed a deal to record a single. The single “Pollyanna” was done in a fashion similar to the Four Seasons which was what they were covering at the time. As The Classics, they went nowhere.
The band changed its name to the Classics IV, because they got a letter informing them that there was a band called ‘The Classics’ that already had a single titled “Till Then”. At that time they had 4 band members.
The booking agent Bill Lowrey who had gotten them the Capital deal, got them another deal at Imperial records. There was this jazz instrumental that was a regional hit in Atlanta called “Spooky” by a Mike Sharpe. Cobb and Buie added lyrics to it and they had a hit on their hands. In 1968 “Spooky” went to number three -the same year the Zombies released “Time of the Season”.
The Classics IV would be credited with being the creators of ‘southern soft rock’. Their lyrical style would influence other bands like the Allman Brothers, and Cobb would later form Atlanta Rhythm Section, which seems like the natural progression of their jazz rock sound.
Santana would do a great cover of “Stormy”. Atlanta Rhythm Section covered “Spooky”, as did Dusty Springfield, R.E.M., The Lettermen, Martha and the Vandellas, and Phish to name a few. I always loved the saxophone playing on “Spooky”, but apparently Mike Shapiro (who appeared as Mike Sharp) who played it was a bit tough to work with and wanted it to be pure jazz which did not sit well with Bobby Buie who produced it. Shapiro would never tour with them. Too bad really.