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The Classics IV

Anyone who doesn't have a clear image of the Classics IV can be forgiven -- they went through so many shifts in personnel and sound (not to mention a name change after they'd started recording), they were little more than a name attached to some excellent (and very good-selling) records of the second half of the 1960s, without a personality or identity to grab onto easily.

Although they're considered a late-'60s phenomenon, owing to the chronology of their hits, the group can trace its roots back to R&B harmony (i.e., doo wop) music of the late '50s. Detroit-born, Florida-raised Dennis Yost, who joined on drums and moved into the singer's spot, came from a Jacksonville-area band called the Echoes; he was just old enough to remember '50s R&B when it was current and, among many other groups, loved the Five Satins; and in addition to playing the skins, he sometimes liked to sing when the calls came for a '50s number like "In the Still of the Night." After his own group broke up in the mid-'60s, Yost joined a band called Leroy & the Moments, which included Wally Eaton (bass, vocals), James Cobb (guitar), and Joe Wilson (keyboards). His arrival, along with the changing times, also signaled a change in the group's name -- as there was no "Leroy" anyway, that could go, and the Moments was already taken, so, taking their lead from Yost's Classic-model drum kit, they became the Classics.

Their sound was extremely diverse by all accounts -- they could cover most of the Top 40 note-perfect, which was ideal for audiences in Jacksonville but didn't necessarily give them much to work with as a recording act. Part of their act included a tribute to the Four Seasons, who were still burning up the charts in those days -- and, though they had a history that went back much further, were a lot like the Classics in that they could sing anything and were also a virtually self-contained unit instrumentally -- and when the group was signed to Capitol Records in 1966, they made their debut that fall with a Joe South song called "Pollyanna"; the single was virtually a faux-Four Seasons record in style and sound, and it was just different and fresh enough that it might have done well, except that the management of the actual Four Seasons reportedly took offense, and did their best to keep "Pollyanna"'s presence to a minimum on the New York airwaves; and to top it off, the group was threatened with legal action by a Brooklyn-based vocal outfit called the Classics, who'd already charted a single.

Thus, Florida's Classics became the Classics IV, and for all of that trouble, their debut record fizzled at number 103 on the charts. "Pollyanna" might have made a good debut in 1966, but releasing a remake of the Diamonds' 1950s hit "Little Darlin'" -- produced by Joe South -- in January of 1967 was plain bad timing for a good record that had no place to go (ironically, two years or so later, with the nostalgia craze starting to kick in, that might have been another story). The record was actually more important for its B-side, which had a faux-Righteous Brothers song called "Nothing to Lose," co-authored by guitarist James Cobb and Buddy Buie, who would soon take on a much bigger role; it was also sung by Cobb and Yost, subbing for Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield. By that time, the group had also relocated to Atlanta, and were unbowed in their quest for success, despite the end of the first recording deal.

Their Capitol contract was behind them by the spring of 1967, and the following summer the group moved on to Imperial Records. Once a home to New Orleans-based R&B stars like Fats Domino and Dave Bartholomew, Imperial had been absorbed into Liberty Records and was now a much more pop/rock-oriented operation, the imprint even being used for the early U.S. releases of records by the Hollies. It was at this point that things started going the group's way, when Buie and Cobb heard an instrumental entitled "Spooky," and came up with words for it, and a new arrangement by Cobb. The record, released in September of 1967, broke out in Louisville, KY, and began getting picked up by stations around the country, building slowly to a number three national hit that winter of 1967-1968. Suddenly there was a serious future in the offing for the Classics IV -- but not for Cobb as a member, nor for Yost as a drummer. The sudden infusion of royalty money on the shared copyright of "Spooky" eliminated the need for Cobb to remain as the group's guitarist; and suddenly Yost's position behind the kit on what was now a very heavy national touring schedule became untenable. Cobb kept writing and also sometimes doing the group's arrangements with Buie (who became the producer of the Classics IV), alternating with official arranger Emory Gordy; but he gave up playing on-stage with the band, preferring the less draining life of a session guitarist, and was replaced in the lineup by Auburn Burrell; and Yost stepped up to the microphone full-time while Kim Venable took over on the drums. They were no longer, strictly speaking, the "Classics IV" but that hardly mattered, as the band's lineup situation quickly got a lot more complicated.

As they were now a national-level act with an audience across a continent, it was decided by Buie and Imperial that there was no reason to limit themselves to the talents -- fine as they might've been -- of the actual members when it came to the sounds on their records. In place of the members, apart from group alumnus Cobb, the Classics IV's records soon began featuring some of Atlanta's top session musicians, among them drummer Robert Nix, while the touring membership included Dean Daughtry and Bill Gilmore on keyboards and bass, respectively, all late of Roy Orbison's band the Candymen. All of these personnel shifts, coupled with a bumper crop of Cobb/Buie songs, made for a strong debut album, entitled Spooky. The only problem, in retrospect, was that the sounds were too diverse -- it was hard to pin down an identity for the Classics IV, listening to the album, and given the diversity of personnel it's not surprising. Among top American groups, the Beach Boys also relied on session musicians after 1964, but they always made sure Carl Wilson's guitar was there, and their voices were easily recognizable. Apart from Yost's singing, there wasn't a lot of unity in the Classics IV's sound.

Their next couple of singles, "Soul Train" and "Mamas and Papas," didn't do more than a fraction of the business done by "Spooky," though the group was permitted to record a second LP, which failed to sell in any serious numbers, at least initially. One song off of the album, entitled "Stormy," was given a single release and suddenly the group was back in the Top Five in the fall of 1968, and for the first time also made the easy listening charts as well. They made a return visit, this time all the way to the number two spot, in the winter of 1969 with "Traces," another Cobb/Buie collaboration, this time with help from arranger Emory Gordy. The group's longevity seemed assured, but an interesting shift had taken place in their output across the preceding two years -- they'd gone from being a solid rock & roll cover band to delivering a much softer, more laid-back pop/rock sound with a Southern flavor but not a lot of wattage, and closer in spirit to, say, the work of Roy Orbison circa 1967-1968 than to what was considered rock music in 1969-1970. And their singles, although they still made the pop (i.e., rock) charts, were starting to place higher numbers on the easy listening (i.e., pop) charts, on records such as "Everyday With You Girl," which reached number 19 as a rock single and number 12 on the easy listening charts in 1969.

Amid this flurry of activity, the group's name was changed in the new decade, so that they were known officially as Dennis Yost & the Classics IV. Their chart action declined throughout 1971, however, amid the changing tastes of the public, and the reorganization of their record label -- which had merged with United Artists -- made the environment at Liberty inhospitable. Dennis Yost and the Classics IV shifted to MGM Records in 1972 and lasted through one album and a last pop hit, with "What Am I Crying For," along with a string of attempts through 1975. By that time, Cobb, Daughtry, and Buie had split off to form the Atlanta Rhythm Section. At that point Dennis Yost went solo, or tried to -- meanwhile, their ex-studio band emerged as the Atlanta Rhythm Section and, amid all of their other successes, enjoyed a new hit with "Spooky" in 1979, while Santana returned "Stormy" to the charts. Meanwhile, Yost became a fixture on the oldies circuit alongside his one-time Imperial labelmate Gary Lewis and other denizens of the mid-'60s singles charts, and also wrote songs and became a producer. He also secured the exclusive rights to the group name, and continued to perform into the early 21st century. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi
full bio

Comments

love this song many memerios
MEMORIES WAY BACK
One of my fav tunes
i love this fucken song
Wow, a blast from the past! Love it!
hisnhers1022 2
just some great,feel good music....i love it
Saw them at Andalusia High School in late '60's or early '70's!
cschobel
Mike Shapiro wrote the instrumental . Going by the name mike sharpe
They played at My prom in Hicksville.. . . . g r e a t band....Denn i s sang lead and got behind the drums for a great solo. JR Cobb was their also and he was great. 1971
ryan.lisa
I am sad that I was too young to appreciate this sound. I love it now and I'm sad that Dennis Yost has left us.
fcampanella6
Sorry guys but my husband John b. Replaced Dennis when he first left the band
dkutilek
Traces--my favorite song of the 60s
forren6
High School!!!
peaceful time memories, fabulous
red25377
a great sound
definitely a sound more or less exclusive to the late 60s and early 70s. granted they had a diverse style. you feel like your in an underground bar and you forget you're there
I've heard the ARS version. It's great.
f**kin classic!!!!!
Atlanta Rythym Section does a fantastic cover of Spooky. Find it if you can.
whata classic song!!!! love the tune!!
Dennis Yost's voice....wow . . . B r i n g back that sunnnnnnnny day=y=y one of the best...
Spooky is one of my favorite songs ever!
jodimacewan
This group is still going strong as before Dennis passed, he picked his replacement - an experienced singer names Tom Garrett. Garrett and the band now perform as the Classics IV as the licensed is leased to them by the estate of Dennis Yost. They are not a tribute band, but the current Classics IV, as The Legend Continues. See their stuff on the web page and YouTube, or do what we did, go see a show. They sound awesome and do a good mix of old and new stuff.
tsweiss3701
Great song
so true,this is definetly thumbs up
Great song !
jatirado
Love is kinda crazy
in the barracks, at Navel Training Center San Diego 1967 what a startr to revolution
cool
that's really sad to hear. much respect.
Sadly Dennis suffered severe brain damage in a fall in 2006 and died of respiratory failure on December 7, 2008. All of us musicians who enjoyed his friendship will miss him.
umm, who??
cogomez
Spooky was a great song to the next level.
Great great song!!!!! And his voice is so seductive and then strong, he has it all.
Love this song!
This was the 1st white groups I can remember that was played on a black radio station. Now that's saying somthing...L O L
"Oh Stormy"..... . awwww mannnnnnn... . . j a z z y as they wanna be. One of my favorite groups of alllllll timeeeee...: ) : )
sunrise1176
It still sounds good in 2010.
irishsnakey
spooky was ahead of its time
dillpickle4
I love this one!!!
dillpickle4
what a wonderfull voice easy listening great music
ithsmay
My favorite songwriting team Buie and Cobb.
i like their jazzy sound. very smooth and crisp!
the classic iv are good the Classics were great.
The Pop music world has lost one of it's greatest vocalists with the passing of Dennis Yost ....he was one of my faves. His warm, rich vocal tones will live on forever in our hearts
its still a classic
this is not the classics iv. it is the classics.com p l e t e l y d i f f e r e n t group
this songs really brings back memories to me ....i really love it

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