Sound description: Pre-Beatles pop rock.
RIYL: The Temptations, the Association, the Righteous Brothers, Rosie and the Originals, Betty Turner & the Chevelles
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- "Curious Objects From San Diego's Past" · Jan. 30, 2013
Inception: San Diego, 1960
Influences: 1950s doo wop, Annette Funicello, the Temptations, the Ronettes, the Supremes, Lulu, Shelly Fabres
The Cascades were an American vocal group best known for their hit single "Rhythm of the Rain" in 1963, which has been described as one of the last great songs of the pre-Beatles era.
In 1960, the Silver Strands were a group of U.S. Navy personnel serving on the USS Jason based in San Diego, California, who were led by guitarist Lenny Green and played local shows. They recruited John Gummoe and left the Navy to become the Thundernotes. Green had the idea of performing rock and roll music with an exotic twist, along the lines of Arthur Lyman and Martin Denny. To help capture this new sound, they introduced an electric piano, and Gummoe became the group's lead singer. Their first release was an instrumental on Bob Keene's Del Fi Records label called "Thunder Rhythm." It was not a hit and Green left the group, eventually becoming a successful songwriter in Nashville, Tennessee.
At this point, the group's membership consolidated as John Gummoe (lead vocals), Eddy Snyder (guitar), David Szabo (keyboardist), Dave Stevens (bassist), and Dave Wilson (drummer).
The group started to get more interested in vocal harmony, influenced by the Beach Boys. They recorded demos which ended up with Barry De Vorzon at Valiant Records, a subsidiary of Warner Brothers, who signed them up and also changed their name to the Cascades -- supposedly inspired by a nearby box of detergent. Their first release, "There's a Reason," became a small regional hit.
In November 1962, the group cut "Rhythm of the Rain," a million-seller later bought by tens of thousands of San Diego kids, at Phil Spector’s Gold Star Studio in Hollywood, using an echo chamber to layer voices, instruments, and drums. Gummoe’s solo voice combined with the Everly Brothers’–style harmony (ahhhh, gone away; pitter pat, pat-pat-pat), the rinky-ding-ding melody on glockenspiel, and that peerless opening — thunder crash, falling rain, tune rolling in, one of the sweetest blends ever of lyric and sound effect to texturize a pop tune.
Gummoe had written the song in his Navy days while on watch during a thunderstorm. The musicians on the recording included the "Wrecking Crew" -- Hal Blaine on drums, Carol Kaye on bass, and Glen Campbell on guitar -- and was arranged by Perry Botkin. "Rhythm of the Rain" was issued in November 1962. It rose to the top three on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart in early 1963, and became a major hit in over 80 countries. In March 1963, the top selling Billboard slot was “Walk Like a Man” by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.
In 1963, Cascades members recorded several singles with Betty Turner, a 1960s Northern Soul singer who recorded singles as a solo artist for Infinity Records in 1961 and 1962. In 1963, she signed to San Diego's Crescent label and began recording with the girl singers as Betty Turner & the Chevelles. Their first single "I'll Keep Loving You" b/w "Blue Star" was produced and written by former Silver Strands player Lenny Green, an early member of the Cascades, and recorded in a garage studio built by Cascades singer John Gummoe. Players included Green on rhythm guitar, and two other Cascades: Dave Wilson on drums, and Dave Stevens on bass. The 1964 Betty Turner & the Chevelles single "The Winds Kept Laughing" (b/w "Little Miss Misery") was produced and written by Gummoe and Green, with horns played by local high school students and seniors. After its release, Turner went back to being a solo artist.
By the mid-60s, they were among the most well-known bands in San Diego, regularly landing gigs all over town, thanks to being able to list "Rhythm of the Rain" on their bio sheet and flyers. "I recall in the summer of 1965, the Cascades would have hour long Saturday afternoon shows for all-ages at the Red Coat Inn," recalls Jan Tonnesen. "It was kinda exciting to be in a 'night club.'"
The Cascades continued to record, producing an album and several further singles under their own name, including the follow-up "The Last Leaf," but none matched the charm or success of their big hit. The group did continue to receive major radio airplay in their hometown, San Diego. The Cascades' cover version of Bob Lind's "Truly Julie's Blues" received spins on KCBQ and KGB in 1966, and their song "Maybe the Rain Will Fall" did fairly well on San Diego radio charts in the summer of 1969. The group stayed active for some years, playing local San Diego clubs like the Cinnamon Cinder, and at other times, touring widely. John Gummoe left the group in 1967 to pursue a solo career and later formed the band Kentucky Express.
By Autumn 1976, the Cascades had paired down to a trio and were playing local venues such as Prime Time (formerly the Red Coat Inn), a bar-in-bowling-alley is on 59th and University. Their setlists were now sprinkled with dance hits like “Shake Your Booty,” “Play That Funky Music,” and “Show Me The Way,” although they also did adventurous left field versions of tracks like “Caravan” and “The Good, Bad, and the Ugly,” with snappy, ringing guitar chords and lines.
"Rhythm Of The Rain" has remained one of the most recognizable songs even among younger generations of fans. It has been played over six million times, making it #9 in BMI’s Top 100 most performed songs of the century. Other records released by the Cascades were "The Last Leaf," "For Your Sweet Love," "Truly Julie’s Blues," "Shy Girl," "Angel on My Shoulder," "Let Me Be," "Dreamin’," "Lucky Guy," "First Love Never Dies," "Good Day for the Blues," "Lisa’s Eyes," "I Just Came By to Get a Smile," "My First Day Alone," "Punch and Judy," "I Wanna Be Your Lover," "Was I Dreamin’" and many more.
Gabe Lapano also played with another successful local 1960s ensemble Sandi & the Accents, as well as fronting The 7 Sons. Essentially a one-shot Lapano project, the 7 Sons released one single in 1967 on VTI Records, "On the Run," produced by Al DiMartino (producer for both the Cascades and the Accents) and John Gummoe (original Cascades singer). In the '80s, Tony Grasso was managing a service bay at a Santee Chevron station.
The foursome of John Gummoe, Gabe Lapano, Tony Grasso, and Chuck Crews reunited in 2005 for a series of revival concerts that kicked off in Manila, the Philippines. Manila was one of the final stops for the band's 2007 farewell tour. At the time, one key player in the band, Dr. Ron Lynch, was working as a drama director and teacher at the Bear Creek School in Redmond, Washington.
A compilation CD of the Cascades’ best moments was issued in 1999. In late 2014, a new compilation collected all of the band's Valiant and RCA material from 1962-1964, including eight later songs previously not issued on CD, such as a 2005 slower version of "Rhythm of the Rain." The package features thirty-three tracks, a twelve-page booklet with label scans and rare pictures, and an introduction by original lead singer John Claude Gummoe.