Sunday 19 June 2022

Elaine "Spanky" McFarlane born 19 June 1942

Elaine "Spanky" McFarlane (born June 19, 1942) is an American singer and actress best known for fronting the vocal group Spanky and Our Gang in the late 1960s. She was nicknamed "The Queen of Sunshine Pop." 
New Wine Singers 1964

Before Spanky and Our Gang, McFarlane was in a jazz-based singing group called the Jamie Lyn Trio in 1962. In 1963, she joined the New Wine Singers who mixed folk and protest songs with Dixieland jazz. While touring with that group, she met trombonist/singer Malcolm Hale. Her fellow musician Arnie Lanza gave her the nickname "Spanky," based on what he saw as her resemblance to George McFarland who played "Spanky" in the Our Gang comedies. 

By 1965, the New Wine Singers were history and McFarlane headed for Florida that winter where she met Oz Bach and Nigel Pickering at a hurricane party. Their three days of jamming while the storm left them stranded resulted in an invitation for them to join her up in Chicago, of which Bach and Pickering availed themselves later that year. McFarlane was working as a singing waitress at a club called Mother Blues when she was told by the owner, Curly Tait, to assemble a group to open for the outside acts that were booked. She recruited Bach and Pickering who began arranging their repertory for three voices; they also recognized that with an act thrown together at the last minute, they might be a little short on time, and so (following a tradition going back at least to the Kingston Trio), they wrote some comedy sketches. 

The trio, which resembled nothing so much as a broken down jugband with a sense of humor -- similar, in fact, to the early Nitty Gritty Dirt Band -- with Bach on bass, Pickering playing guitar, and McFarlane playing washboard and kazoo. They called themselves Spanky & Our Gang as a joke, playing on their singer's nickname, but when local newspapers began reviewing their performances in favorable terms, the name ended up sticking. Malcolm Hale joined on guitar and percussion as the group moved out of Mother Blues and into bigger clubs, with Tait serving as their manager. 

As folk-rock became the booming sound of 1965-1966, Mercury Records, which was based in the group's hometown of Chicago, began taking notice of Spanky & Our Gang, and by late 1966 they were signed. The group spent its first year with the label assigned to producer Jerry Ross, of Heritage Records fame, who gave them a very polished sound in the studio, not too different from that of the Mamas & the Papas. 


At their first recording session in New York, they were given a song called "Sunday Will Never Be the Same," which had already been offered to the Mamas & the Papas and the Left Banke. Malcolm Hale came up with the song's vamped vocal opening, which became the group's signature. The resulting single, released in May of 1967, peaked at number nine on the charts in June of 1967, one of the fresher pop-folk sounds amid the Summer of Love. 

The band had major hits with "Sunday Will Never Be the Same," "Lazy Day", "Sunday Mornin'," and "Like to Get to Know You." McFarlane resisted being labeled a bubblegum pop artist. “It wasn’t a label I wanted or particularly aspired to. I do see how a song like ‘Lazy Day’ could be considered bubblegum, so then I came up with songs like ‘Like to Get to Know You’ and ‘Give a Damn’ which could not be considered bubblegum in any way, shape, or form.” 

On October 31, 1968, the group's lead guitarist Malcolm Hale died, leading the band to disband in early 1969. In the wake of Hale's death, the group played out its concert commitments and then reassessed its future. McFarlane was pregnant and not planning on performing with them too much longer, and Seiter had been offered a gig playing drums with the Turtles. Rather than reorganize around such key membership changes, the group decided to call it quits; McFarlane and her husband Charly Galvin (who had been the group's road manager) prepared Spanky's Greatest Hits, a somewhat controversial release for its inclusion of remixed versions of several of the key songs. 

In 1975, Nigel Pickering and Elaine "Spanky" McFarlane reformed Spanky & Our Gang around a country-western sound and cut an album (Change) for Epic Records. Although their sound had altered considerably, they attracted many old fans to their concerts they played in 1975 and 1976, which also included original member Oz Bach who rejoined after the new album was released. 

McFarlane had later success as a solo artist. She became a member of The New Mamas & the Papas, singing Cass Elliott's vocal parts. She also began an acting career, playing a bartender in the 1975 film Moonrunners and appearing as Bloody Mary in the Ferndale Repertory Theatre's production of South Pacific. 

She reinstated Spanky and Our Gang in the 2000s, playing with musicians who had played with Steely Dan, Bobbie Gentry, and others. The last concert I can find advertised was in 2015.

(Edited from Wikipedia & All Music)


boppinbob said...

For ”Spanky & Our Gang – The Complete Mercury Singles (2014 Real Gone Music)” go here:

1 And Your Bird Can Sing 1:50
2 Sealed With A Kiss 2:05
3 Sunday Will Never Be The Same 2:57
4 Distance 2:33
5 Making Every Minute Count 2:38
6 If You Could Only Be Me 2:05
7 Lazy Day 3:03
8 (It Ain't Necessarily) Byrd Avenue 2:37
9 Sunday Morning 3:02
10 Echoes 3:13
11 Like To Get To Know You 3:16
12 Three Ways From Tomorrow 3:05
13 Give A Damn 2:54
14 The Swingin' Gate 2:15
15 Yesterday's Rain 3:14
16 Without Rhyme Or Reason 2:34
17 Anything You Choose 2:58
18 Mecca Flat Blues 3:22
19 And She's Mine 2:46
20 Leopard Skin Phones 2:55
21 Everybody's Talkin' 3:14

Gazz Gazeer said...

Nice one Bob Ty

Don Dan said...

Here you have "The Complete Mercury Recordings" on 4 cds

Have fun !

Don Dan said...

And here is the booklet

Have fun...

boppinbob said...

Thanks Don for the extra bonus. Regards, Bob.