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Retro Redux: Jersey’s Answer To The Beatles

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In a recent piece about the Buckinghams I wrote about the British musical invasion of the Sixties and how it caused many American bands to change, but some groups didn't just emulate the haircuts and quaint English-style suits. They also made a conscious effort to sound like some of the biggest British bands.

The Knickerbockers came together in the early Sixties, a New Jersey group that was the inspiration of brothers Robert and John Cecchino, who would take the stage names Beau Charles and John Charles. Both brothers played guitar and sang, and were soon joined by drummer Jimmy Walker and saxman Buddy Randell, both of whom also knew their way around a vocal. The latter — whose real name was William Crandall — was probably the most experienced of the bunch, since he'd been a member of an earlier New Jersey group, the Royal Teens, who'd struck gold with 1958's "Short Shorts."

After kicking around for a while, the Knickerbockers managed to get a recording contract and the group's first hit — 1966's "Lies" — soon followed. Most music historians consider it to be the group's most obvious attempt at sounding like the Beatles, and the record did end up being their biggest seller. Unfortunately, it didn't quite make it into the Top Ten, and subsequent chart appearances with "One Track Mind" and "High On Love" (clip) were even lower, although the latter was a pretty good song.

Whether the Knickerbockers sounded anything like the Beatles is a matter of opinion, but they certainly didn't have the same kind of staying power. Various types of problems with the recording company might have been a contributing factor, but whatever the reasons the guys eventually drifted apart. Although various members of the group have reunited through the years in one form or another, Jersey's answer to the Beatles was pretty much a Sixties thing.


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