The Beau Brummels







Formed in San Francisco, California in 1964, the Beau Brummels were the first nationally successful rock group to emerge from the Bay area. Vocalist Sal Valentino had previously led his own group, Sal Valentino And The Valentines, which issued a flop single called "I Wanna Twist" in 1962. Guitarist Ron Elliott, bassist Ron Meagher and drummer John Petersen joined him in a new act, taking the name Beau Brummels in deference to their love of British beat music. (Beau Brummel was a dashing young Englishman who lived from 1778-1840 and was known for his wit and fancy clothes) Playing a steady diet of current hits, the quartet enjoyed a committed following within the city's Irish community prior to adding guitarist Declan Mulligan to the line-up. Spotted by local DJ Tom Donahue in a club in San Mateo (just south of San Francisco), the group was signed to Donahue's small San Francisco-based label, Autumn Records in 1964. Before the hits started coming, Mulligan quit the band, a decision he would later regret.

With Sly Stewart (later Sly Stone) as their producer, the band's first single , Ron Elliot's "Laugh, Laugh", soared to number 15 in the U.S. just a few months after they had played their first show together. The melancholy, minor-key original sounded so much like the British bands flooding the airwaves, that many listeners initially mistook the Brummels for an English act.

For a follow-up, the group released the Ron Elliot - Robert Durand composition called "Just A Little". This loosely recorded song, with a casual beginning and a sloppy fade at the end, reached number 8 in early 1965 and would prove to be the band's only Top Ten hit.

The Beau Brummels issued two albums in 1965, both dominated by strong original material that featured the band's ringing guitars and multi-part harmonies. Much of their early work was outstanding, yet the band was losing ground commercially, partially because Autumn Records, being such a small label, lacked promotional muscle. "You Tell Me Why" was their only other Top 40 hit, though "Sad Little Girl" and "Don't Talk to Strangers" were excellent singles. The band also shuffled personnel a few times, and Ron Elliott was unable to stay on the road because of diabetes.

Autumn Records was sold in 1966 to Warner Brothers, who made the mistake of forcing the band to record an entire album of Top 40 covers called "Beau Brummels 66" ignoring the fact that original material was one of the Brummels' strongest assets. A new member, Don Irving, was included on this collection, but LP was a marked disappointment, and failed covers of "Mrs. Brown," and "Louie, Louie" undermined the quintet's credibility. After this glaring flop, Don Irving left the band. As the Brummels started concentrating on live appearances, Drummer John Petersen also quit the group. He would join a band called The Tikis, who later became Harpers Bizarre. They would have a huge hit of their own with Paul Simon's "Feeling Groovy".

The remaining trio recorded a critically acclaimed, more experimental album called "Triangle", one of the era's most cultured and delicate LPs, but the loss of Meagher in September 1967 reduced the band to the central duo of Elliott and Valentino. The former undertook several outside projects, producing and/or writing singles for Butch Engle And The Styx, before donating songs and arranging skills on albums by Randy Newman, the Everly Brothers and Harpers Bizarre.

In 1968 the pair enlisted the help of several top studio musicians to complete "Bradley's Barn", an early and brave excursion into country rock, before embarking on separate careers. Valentino issued three solo singles before founding the band, Stoneground. Elliott completed an LP called "The Candlestickmaker", formed the disappointing group Pan, then undertook occasional session work, including a cameo on Little Feat's "Sailin' Shoes".

The original members of The Beau Brummels regrouped in 1974, but bassist Ron Meagher dropped out soon after. He was replaced by Dan Levitt, formerly of Pan and Levitt And McClure. A new album simply called "Beau Brummels" was in the works in 1975 when Petersen opted to assist in a Harpers Bizarre reunion. Peter Tepp provided a temporary replacement, but the project was later abandoned. Since then the Beau Brummels have enjoyed several short-lived resurrections, but conflicting interests, coupled with Elliott's ill health, have denied them a long-term future. Numerous archive recordings, many previously unreleased, have nonetheless kept the band's name and music alive. In 1994, the album "Autumn Of Their Years" was released, which included material recorded from 1964 to 1966.

The band also performed at shows such as the Baypop 2000 Festival and the 2002 Summer of Love Festival, both in San Francisco. In 2006, Sal Valentino released his first solo album, "Dreamin' Man". Another effort, "Come Out Tonight", followed later that year, and his third solo album, "Every Now and Then", was released in 2008.

Drummer John Petersen died of a heart attack on November 11, 2007.

Although they are mostly remembered for their two garage band style hits, The Beau Brummels are still a favorite of classic rock lovers and the Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame has chosen "Laugh, Laugh" as one of the 500 greatest songs in rock history.

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