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Spanky & Our Gang

Spanky & Our Gang is one of those odd groups that, despite having had a string of Top 40 chart hits in a two-year period from 1967 through 1969, somehow falls between the cracks of 1960s pop music history. Their hits, particularly "Sunday Will Never Be the Same," "Lazy Day," "Like to Get to Know You," and "Give a Damn," were as much a part of the ambience of the middle to late '60s as any of the best known songs of the Mamas & the Papas with whom they're frequently compared. Yet they fell short of the latter group as cultural icons; they lacked the L.A.-based group's distinctively accessible collective personality, or anything like its individual members' visual appeal, and they also had none of the Mamas & the Papas' in-house songwriting talent. They did have good voices and musical instincts, however, and a lot more to their sound than the cheerful anthems that made them famous.

Their sound most obviously displayed a folk-rock influence, but Spanky & Our Gang actually came just as much out of a pop-jazz background. Elaine McFarlane was into blues and jazz, and her first professional gig was in a jazz-based singing group called the Jamie Lyn Trio in 1962. By the start of 1963, lured by the booming folk music scene, she joined the New Wine Singers who mixed folk and protest songs with Dixieland jazz. It was during her tenure with this group that she acquired the friendship of trombonist/singer Malcolm Hale, and also the nickname "Spanky," owing to her resemblance -- in the eyes of fellow group member Arnie Lanza -- to George "Spanky" McFarland of the Little Rascals/Our Gang comedies.

By 1965, the New Wine Singers were history and McFarlane headed for Florida that winter where she met Oz Bach and Nigel Pickering at a hurricane party. Their three days of jamming while the storm left them stranded resulted in an invitation for them to join her up in Chicago, of which Bach and Pickering availed themselves later that year. McFarlane was working as a singing waitress at a club called Mother Blues when she was told by the owner, Curly Tait, to assemble a group to open for the outside acts that were booked. She recruited Bach and Pickering who began arranging their repertory for three voices; they also recognized that with an act thrown together at the last minute, they might be a little short on time, and so (following a tradition going back at least to the Kingston Trio), they wrote some comedy sketches.

The trio, which resembled nothing so much as a broken down jugband with a sense of humor -- similar, in fact, to the early Nitty Gritty Dirt Band -- with Bach on bass, Pickering playing guitar, and McFarlane playing washboard and kazoo. They called themselves Spanky & Our Gang as a joke, playing on their singer's nickname, but when local newspapers began reviewing their performances in favorable terms, the name ended up sticking. Malcolm Hale joined on guitar and percussion as the group moved out of Mother Blues and into bigger clubs, with Tait serving as their manager.

As folk-rock became the booming sound of 1965-1966, Mercury Records, which was based in the group's hometown of Chicago, began taking notice of Spanky & Our Gang, and by late 1966 they were signed. The group spent its first year with the label assigned to producer Jerry Ross, of Heritage Records fame, who gave them a very polished sound in the studio, not too different from that of the Mamas & the Papas. At their first recording session in New York, they were given a song called "Sunday Will Never Be the Same," which had already been offered to the Mamas & the Papas and the Left Banke. Malcolm Hale came up with the song's vamped vocal opening, which became the group's signature. The resulting single, released in May of 1967, peaked at number nine on the charts in June of 1967, one of the fresher pop-folk sounds amid the Summer of Love.

Drummer John Seiter joined in the summer of 1967 just as the group was breaking. A second hit, "Making Every Minute Count," although not as distinctive as their debut, rose to number 22 nationally, and then a third, "Lazy Day," reached number 14 late in 1967. The group's harmonies were impeccable, and their records and arrangement displayed a slick, smooth texture that overlapped with the sounds of pop-jazz and also with the singing that one often heard on commercials of the period; they availed themselves of that full range in preparing their debut album.

By the end of 1967, with the group now making appearances on national television as well as the national charts, Mercury Records couldn't wait for the album to be finished. The Spanky & Our Gang album was rushed out, its song lineup padded out with the three singles alongside a handful of new tracks and even several works-in-progress. There were some surprising songs there, including "Five Definitions of Love," a jazzy piece of pop music that was literally the dictionary definition of "love" set to music. The group was less than happy, however, that their unfinished rendition of "Brother Can You Spare a Dime" was on the album.

In early 1968, Oz Bach exited the lineup and was replaced by Kenny Hodges on bass who joined along with his friend Lefty Baker (real name Eustace Britchforth), a guitarist and singer. Despite their record of success working with Jerry Ross, the group felt that the sound they got with him was too polished and elegant and not truly representative of the group. Instead, they turned to Stuart Scharf and Bob Dorough, a pair of songwriter/producers who'd worked with the Chad Mitchell Trio on Mercury. It was the second lineup of Spanky & Our Gang, working with Scharf and Dorough, who created the Top 30 hit "Sunday Morning" built on a new six-part harmony sound. During the recording of their second album, another hit, "Like to Get to Know You," which ultimately gave its name to the LP, was created. In contrast to their debut album, the Like to Get to Know You LP also contained blues; '40s-style vocal jazz-pop; a radiant harmony number, "Stardust," which provided the inspiration for the Manhattan Transfer; and even one defiantly topical number, "Give a Damn," that managed to reach number 43 as a single despite a widespread ban because of its title.

Their third album, Anything You Choose/Without Rhyme or Reason, was devised as a continuous stream of music, with blues, jazz, folk, and pop influences in abundance. There was actually very little playing by the band members who were supplemented by studio musicians on much of the album, but that was less of a problem than the fact that there was no obvious, upbeat hit on the record in the manner of their two prior LPs. The material was too sophisticated and too serious, and nothing off of the album (apart from the earlier released "Give a Damn") got even as high as number 90 on the charts. They were in excellent voice and Scharf and Dorough were writing material and arrangements that were stretching the members' abilities to new levels of sophistication. In October 1968, however, the group received a devastating blow when Malcolm Hale died suddenly of pneumonia. The 27-year-old multi-instrumentalist also sang and arranged and pretty well kept the band together.

In the wake of Hale's death, the group played out its concert commitments and then reassessed its future. McFarlane was pregnant and not planning on performing with them too much longer, and Seiter had been offered a gig playing drums with the Turtles. Rather than reorganize around such key membership changes, the group decided to call it quits; McFarlane and her husband Charly Galvin (who had been the group's road manager) prepared Spanky's Greatest Hits, a somewhat controversial release for its inclusion of remixed versions of several of the key songs.

It wasn't the last word for the group from Mercury Records, however, which released Spanky & Our Gang Live in 1970. Prepared from an amateur (albeit good quality) recording of one of the group's earliest shows after being signed in 1966, it showed off their early sound before they'd ever recorded. The group members were less than pleased by this release, although real fans loved the glimpse it gave of their formative years.

In 1975, Nigel Pickering and Elaine "Spanky" McFarlane reformed Spanky & Our Gang around a country-western sound and cut an album (Change) for Epic Records. Although their sound had altered considerably, they attracted many old fans to their concerts they played in 1975 and 1976, which also included original member Oz Bach who rejoined after the new album was released. McFarlane later resurfaced most visibly as the replacement for the late Cass Elliot in the reformed Mamas & the Papas in the 1980s, but she also remained true to her folk and blues roots, participating in events such as a benefit concert for the terminally ill singer-songwriter Bob Gibson in 1996. Oz Bach died of cancer in September of 1998. ~ Bruce Eder
full bio

Selected Discography


Track List: The Complete Mercury Recordings

Disc 1

1. Lazy Day

2. (It Ain't Necessarily) Byrd Avenue

3. Ya Got Trouble In River City

4. Sunday Will Never Be The Same

5. Commercial

6. If You Could Only Be Me

7. Making Every Minute Count

8. 5 Definitions Of Love

9. Brother Can You Spare A Dime

10. Distance

11. Leaving On A Jet Plane

12. Come And Open Your Eyes (Take A Look)

13. The Swingin' Gate

14. Prescription For The Blues

15. Three Ways From Tomorrow

16. My Bill

17. Sunday Mornin'

18. Echoes (Everybody's Talkin')

19. Suzanne

20. Stuperflabbergasted

21. Like To Get To Know You

22. Chick-A-Ding-Ding

23. Stardust (Album Edit)

24. Coda (Like To Get To Know You)

Disc 2

1. Anything You Choose

2. And She's Mine

3. Yesterday's Rain

4. Hong Kong Blues

5. Nowhere To Go

6. Give A Damn

7. Leopard Skin Phones

8. But Back Then

9. Mecca Flat Blues

10. Without Rhyme Or Reason

11. 1-3-5-8 (Pedagogical Round #2)

12. Jane

13. Since You've Gone

14. Sunday Will Never Be The Same

15. Making Every Minute Count

16. Lazy Day

17. Commercial

18. (It Ain't Necessarily) Byrd Avenue (Greatest Hit(s) Version)

19. Everybody's Talkin' (Single Version)

20. Sunday Mornin' (Greatest Hit(s) Version)

21. Like To Get To Know You (Single Version)

22. Give A Damn

23. Three Ways From Tomorrow

24. And She's Mine (Album Edit)

25. Yesterday's Rain (Album Edit)

Disc 3

1. Nagasaki (Live At The Gaslight Club, Florida/1967)

2. Amelia Earhart's Last Flight (Live At The Gaslight Club, Florida/1967)

3. Waltzing Matilda (Live At The Gaslight Club, Florida/1967)

4. Brother Can You Spare A Dime? (Live At The Gaslight Club, Florida/1967)

5. Steel Rail Blues (Live At The Gaslight Club, Florida/1967)

6. Oh Daddy (Live At The Gaslight Club, Florida/1967)

7. Dirty Old Man (Live At The Gaslight Club, Florida/1967)

8. The Klan (Live At The Gaslight Club, Florida/1967)

9. That's What You Get For Lovin' Me (Live At The Gaslight Club, Florida/1967)

10. Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives Me (Live At The Gaslight Club, Florida/1967)

11. Wasn't It You (Live At The Gaslight Club, Florida/1967)

12. You Got Trouble (Live At The Gaslight Club, Florida/1967)

13. Crying

14. Chick-A-Ding-Ding (Single Mono Mix)

15. Give A Damn (Single Version)

16. Yesterday's Rain (Stereo Single Mix)

17. Anything You Choose (Stereo Single Mix)

18. Everybody's Talkin' (Echoes) (Stereo Single Mix)

19. Give A Damn (Public Service Announcement)

Disc 4

1. And Your Bird Can Sing (Single Version)

2. Sealed With A Kiss (Mono Single Mix)

3. Sunday Will Never Be The Same

4. Distance (Mono Single Version)

5. Making Every Minute Count (Mono Single Version)

6. If You Could Only Be Me (Mono Single Version)

7. Lazy Day (Mono Single Version)

8. (It Ain't Necessarily) Byrd Avenue (Mono Single Version)

9. Sunday Morning (Mono Single Mix)

10. Everybody's Talkin' (Echoes) (Mono Single Mix)

11. Like To Get To Know You (Mono Single Mix)

12. Three Ways From Tomorrow (Mono Single Mix)

13. Give A Damn (Mono Single Mix)

14. The Swingin' Gate (Mono Single Mix)

15. Yesterday's Rain (Mono Single Mix)

16. Without Rhyme Or Reason (Mono Single Mix)

17. Anything You Choose (Mono Single Mix)

18. Mecca Flat Blues (Mono Single Mix)

19. And She's Mine (Mono Single Mix)

20. Leopard Skin Phones (Mono Single Mix)

21. Echoes (Everybody's Talkin') (Mono Single Mix)


Track List: Back Home Americana, Vol. 1

1. Sinnerman

2. And She's Mine

3. California Dreamin'

4. Don't Let Nobody Drag Your Spirit Down

5. Stewball

6. Brother Can You Spare a Dime

7. Everybody's Talkin'

8. Wild Women Don't Get the Blues

9. Ain't It Funny How Time Slips Away

10. Make Me a Pallet on the Floor

11. Give a Damn

12. Sunday Reprise


Track List: 20th Century Masters - The Millenium Collection: The Best Of Spanky & Our Gang

1. Sunday Will Never Be The Same

2. Making Every Minute Count

3. Lazy Day

4. Sunday Mornin'

5. Like To Get To Know You

6. Give A Damn

7. Yesterday's Rain

8. Anything You Choose

9. And She's Mine

10. Echoes (Everybody's Talkin')


Track List: Greatest Hits

1. Sunday Will Never Be The Same

2. Making Every Minuter Count

3. Brother Can You Spare A Dime

4. Like To Get To Know You

5. Lazy Day

6. Prescription For The Blues

7. Sunday Morning

8. Stardust

9. Anything You Choose

10. And She's Mine

11. Yesterday's Rain

12. Without Rhyme Or Reason

13. For Lovin' Me

14. Everybody's Talkin'

15. Give A Damn


Track List: Spanky & Our Gang: Live (At The Gaslight Club, Florida, 1967)

1. Nagasaki (Live)

2. Amelia Earhart's Last Flight (Live)

3. Waltzing Matilda (Live)

4. Brother Can You Spare A Dime? (Live)

5. Steel Rail Blues (Live)

6. Oh Daddy (Live)

7. Dirty Old Man (Live)

8. The Klan (Live)

9. That's What You Get For Lovin' Me (Live)

10. Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives Me (Live)

11. Wasn't It You (Live)

12. You Got Trouble (Live)


Track List: Anything You Choose / Without Rhyme Or Reason

1. Anything You Choose

2. And She's Mine

3. Yesterday's Rain

4. Hong Kong Blues

5. Give A Damn

6. Leopard Skin Phones

7. But Back Then

8. Mecca Flat Blues

9. Without Rhyme Or Reason

10. 1-3-5-8 (Pedagogical Round #2)

11. Jane

12. Since You've Gone


Track List: Spanky's Greatest Hits

1. Sunday Will Never Be The Same

2. Making Every Minute Count

3. Lazy Day

4. Commercial

5. (It Ain't Necessarily) Byrd Avenue (Greatest Hits Version)

6. Everybody's Talkin' (Theme From "Midnight Cowboy")

7. Sunday Mornin' (Greatest Hits Version)

8. Like To Get To Know You (Greatest Hits Version)

9. Give A Damn

10. Three Ways From Tomorrow

11. And She's Mine

12. Yesterday's Rain


Track List: Spanky & Our Gang

1. Lazy Day

2. (It Ain't Necessarily) Byrd Avenue

3. Ya Got Trouble In River City

4. Sunday Will Never Be The Same

5. Commercial

6. If You Could Only Be Me

7. Making Every Minuter Count

8. 5 Definitions Of Love

9. Brother Can You Spare A Dime

10. Distance

11. Leaving On A Jet Plane

12. Come And Open Your Eyes (Take A Look)


Track List: Like To Get To Know You

1. The Swingin' Gate

2. Prescription For The Blues

3. Three Ways From Tomorrow

4. My Bill

5. Sunday Mornin'

6. Echoes (Everybody's Talkin')

7. Suzanne

8. Stuperflabbergasted

9. Like To Get To Know You

10. Chick-A-Ding-Ding

11. Stardust

12. Coda (Like To Get To Know You)


Report as inappropriate
Like to get to know you, One of my all-time favorite song! Great song.....
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Lazy Day music from a more peaceful era
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I miss Music like this, so Romantic!
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They touch my heart bring back those golden years
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Amazing artists
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1967-1968 come reminiscing back to my mind every time I hear their music. Always will!
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Love them!
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I don't know what it was, but something about this group always annoyed me back in the '60's. I still don't care for their sound.
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They were into the Bonnie and Clyde styles too. I always loved that.
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One of the best message songs from the 1960s
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Lazy Day - one of my all-time very favorite songs, I love this group.
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The Ambassadors of Flower Power! Groovy.
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Fun songs to listen to back then..,,,nev e r realizing until now, how much I enjoyed them.....
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I'd Like to Get to Know You imparticular l y brilliant.
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sunshine pop at its best
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I remember a lot of my friends really liked them while I was in college (class of 1973).
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Time. To fall in love age. CAREFREE
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Nags head n c 1967 laying in the sand trying to surf
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I'd like to get to know you! Ahhh... Best song of their s for me!!!
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♪♪♪♪ : )
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curitiba4lif e 5 0
You can have my sister Beyonce-Give Miss Spanky McFarlane & Mama Cass-And a whole lotta Janis Joplin, Aretha, Dusty, Dionne, & Petula.
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Gosh what a great song- I'd Like to Get to Know You. takes me right back to my teen years and all the emotions that went with them!
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Give a Damn was the theme song for The New York Urban Coalition in the mid 60's. Also Its not necessirily Bird Ave. was written about Coconut Grove, Fl. Great Group.
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I absolutely love their melodic sound...thei r combo of blues & jazz, pop & folk IS not exactly like any other group, even though similar to the Mamas & the Papas. Such mixed memories of the times for me, I only wished the group's unfortunate circumstance s wouldn't have prevented them from going forward into the '70s' with their sound intact.
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Sounds very similar to the Mamas and the Papas. My favorite song- I Like to Get to Know You and Sunday Won't be the Same
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sun will never be the same what a fricken great song and what vocals. yo scott the song that gets me and is my number 1 oldie is walk away renee
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give a damn! was my favorite
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"I'd Like to Get to Know You" by far my favorite by them.
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Hey Jonathan, not weird at all- I bought a used Teac reel-to-reel in '68 and I used to set the mike by the speaker of my folks' big Magnavox hi-fi; I tried to catch as much of Wolfman Jack as I could, when he was broadcasting on XERB, the Mighty 1090. Those were good times, huh? Southern California in the sixties... my God, where did the years go?
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Okay, this is a little weird, but I remember checking out my brand new Sony TC -260 reel to reel by recording "Sunday will Never be the Same" off the radio (WBZ), watching the reels go 'round and thinking how cool it all was... a warm day in June of '67...
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When I hear :sunday will never be the same:It still gets my emotions going just like I used to get when I was a kid.I'm 51 now.Figure that out? LOve to see her live in concert sometime before its too late.scooter
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"Yet they fell short of the latter group as cultural icons; they lacked the L.A.-based group's...or anything like its individual members' visual appeal"

aka they lacked michelle phillips' a** tits lips legs face and the rest of her.
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Good sound and harmony typical of late sixties folk rock.

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