Friday, 1 February 2013

The Sandpipers - Guantanamera

The Sandpipers were an American easy listening trio/quartet, who carved a niche in 1960s folk rock. They are best remembered for their cover version of "Guantanamera", which became a transatlantic Top 10 hit in 1966, and their Top 20 hit "Come Saturday Morning" from the soundtrack of the film The Sterile Cuckoo in 1970.

Founding members Jim Brady, Mike Piano and Richard Shoff first performed together in the Mitchell Boys Choir, before deciding to go it alone as 'The Four Seasons'. It was pointed out to them that a group of that name already existed in New York, and they changed their name to 'The Grads'.

Although The Grads did not enter the charts with their early recordings, they performed well enough to secure them a residency in a Lake Tahoe nightclub, where a friend brought them to the attention of A&M Records' Herb Alpert. Alpert was impressed with The Grads, but after a couple of singles without success the group agreed upon a name change to 'The Sandpipers', apparently unaware that a girl trio in Florida was already using that name. After the name change, their producer, Tommy LiPuma, recommended they record the Cuban anthem, "Guantanamera", and they had their first hit. Along with the name change, came a fourth member.

Although sidelined by the original trio for reasons which may never become clear, Pamela Ramcier had now become an integral part of The Sandpipers' sound. Her lyricless vocals were used much like second strings, adding an ethereal quality to The Sandpipers' sound. For the Sandpipers' first live show, in San Diego, their management hired two females, the well-known folk singer Penny Nichols and Pat Woolley. They too were replaced by subsequent backup singers.

"Guantanamera" charted in the US in September 1966, and in the UK the following month, and remains the group's biggest hit. Nevertheless they had many lesser chart entries, including cover versions of "Louie Louie", "Quand Le Soleil Dit Bonjour Aux Montagnes" ("The French Song"), and songs from the movies, The Sterile Cuckoo and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.

The record sleeve for their 1966 album, Guantanamera, was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Recording Package. Dolores Erickson appeared in part of the sleeve's design.

In 1967, they recorded a cover version of the Lovin' Spoonful's "Daydream", for their album, Misty Roses. Their 1971 album A Gift of Song, contained at least two more covers: "It's Too Late", and "An Old Fashioned Love Song".

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