The Beau Brummels - Biography
By Nick Castro
Beau Brummels were one of the many successful groups of the 60's to have rode the wave that the Beatles' splash made. The band was created in late 1963 in the Bay Area of California, by Sal Valentino on vocal, Ron Elliot on guitar, Decland Mulligan on guitar, Ron Meagher on bass and John Peterson on drum, though Elliot and Valentino had been playing together since high school, in the late 50's, and were popular on the North Beach music scene of San Francisco. By 1964, they were already a tight band, who was working in clubs in San Mateo and San Francisco. In these early days one can hear the obvious Beatles and British invasion references abounding on their recordings, especially on songs like "Laugh, Laugh" and "Just a Little", both of which were massive hits for the group. The band also prided themselves on their dress, which attempted to mimic the Cavern Club look of England, complete with winlepickers boots and three button suits. The Beau Brummels, named after the first true dandy in history, were rigtfully often mistaken for a British band, though in the latter portion of their career, their style and sound would lean towards the America's once again. But all of these constructs, designed to garner attention, did not alter the act that the group was first rate, both in musicality and songwriting.
The Beau Brummels were spotted by Tom Donahue, a popular radio DJ, saw the group the Morocco Room, in San Mateo, where the group had a residency. Donahue quickly had them signed to his Autumn record label and the band released the song "Laugh, Laugh", backed with "Still In Love With You Baby" in 1964. The record went into the top 20, with the production help of Sly Stewart, later known as Sly Stone, but their next single, "Just a Little", issued in early 1965, made it into the top ten, and charted for over two months. Elliot stood out on these early recordings, both for his masterful pop rock songwriting abilities and for his great guitar work, often on 12 string electric. Autumn quickly followed up with the album Introducing the Beau Brummels (1965 - Autumn), which was mostly writtenby Elliot. The album helped to establish the group as pioneers of the 60's rock sound, though their contributions are often forgotten today. Some of the standout tracks on the album include the first two singles, along with "Stick Like Glue" and "They'll Make You Cry".
Towards the end of 1965, Autumn followed up on the Beau Brummel's success and debut recording, with the album Volume Two (1965 - Autum). This second album finds the band making their first maneuvers towards an American sound, especially on the Byrds inspired "Don't Talk To Strangers", which has become a cult classic amongst fans of 60's music. Unfortunately, Autumn was suffering from financial difficulties and could not adequately promote the record. Though the album stands as one the finest efforts by the band, there were no significant hits on it. Shortly after its release, Autumn crumbled under the weight of its many financial obligations. The remaining contracts, of which the Beau Brummels' was one, were sold to Warner Bros. This disaster for Autumn may have seemed like a blessing in disguise for the Beau Brummels, but proved to be even worse. Though the group had financial backing, they also now had all of the obligations that go along with that. They were forced to record second rate version of other people's songs, like "Louie Louie", "Mr. Tmabourine Man" and "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" for their debut release for their new label, Beau Brummels 66 (1966 - Warner Bros), after a series of singles for the label. Though the record is a fine covers record, in and of itself, it was when Elliot was writing the group's material that they would find moments that brilliantly shined. The band did get some television exposure though, most notably, their appearance, in cartoon form, on The Flinstones, as the Beau Brummelstones. They were also in the film, Village of the Giants, later immortalized by Mystery Science Theater 3000.
In 1965, Mulligan, originally from Ireland, left the Beau Brummels. Without Mulligan in the band, they recorded Triangle (1967 - Warner Bros). This album really marked the change of sound for the group. The album features Van Dyke Parks, on harpsichord. The album was based on a dream cycle, mostly written by Elliot, along with Valentino. Unfortunately for the group, the album did not much for their careers. They released another album, for Warner Bros, called Bradley's Barn (1968 - Warner Bros), which was one of the first country rock records of its time. With the help of Lenny Waronker, who has worked with Arlo Guthrie and Randy Newman, on production, the band is full of session musicians and in top form, including Jerry Reed on guitar and Kenneth A. Buttrey on drums. Recorded in Nashville, the album displays the maturing songwriting ablities of Elliot and Valentino, who were now the only original members of the group, due to many interpersonal problems. This new album has some memorable moments, like the songs "Turn Around" and "Deep Water". Shortly after the release of this album, the group finally disbanded formally.
After the break up, the various members of the Beau Brummels pursued solo ventures. In the mid 70's, the group had a go at a reunion album, and subsequent tour, when they released The Beau Brummels (1975 - Warner Bros). The album actually sounds very much like their 60's efforts. Elliot handles the songwriting duties on the record and Valentino's voice is in top form. Often this album in overlooked by collectors and music fans, but there is no reason other than its release date. The album was in stark contrast to the big stadium rock sound of its time and it quickly faded into obscurity. There was also a live album issued, many years later, of one of their 1974 concerts, leading up to the reunion album, called Live! (2000 - Dig). Sal Valentino can still be seen performing in the San Francisco area.