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Profile: Gary "U.S." Bonds

By

Gary

Gary "U.S." Bonds

source: rockforever.com

Born:

Gary Anderson, June 6, 1939, Jacksonville, FL

Genres:

Rock and Roll, Beach Music, Calypso, Folk

Instruments:

Vocals

Contributions to music:

  • Progenitor of the raucous, echo-laden "Norfolk Sound"
  • One of the dance-craze era's biggest artists
  • Seamlessly blended rock and soul, inspiring countless bar bands
  • A talented songwriter who's been covered by pop and country artists

Early years:

The man born Gary Anderson was literally discovered on a street corner, singing in his hometown of Norfolk, VA with neighborhood friends in a group called The Turks. Local record shop owner Frank Guida, looking for an opening into the business, found the doo-wop group and asked them to record at his studio. It took the better part of two years to get that studio, but Guida, true to his word, came back and presented Gary -- the only one left in town -- with a country song, written by a local shoe store owner, called "New Orleans." Gary and Frank found a piano and within hours arranged the song as a rock number.

Success:

With its infectious "Hey hey hey hey yeah" chant, wall of saxes, and echo chamber, the song became an instant smash in Norfolk. It was packaged in a sleeve asking people to "Buy U.S. Bonds," a popular slogan used by the federal government; Guida had changed Gary's last name to Bonds in order to catch the eye. (Gary found out about the hit and the name change only when the song made it to local radio.) But convincing the national audience to give it a shot was tough; it was only with the blessing of Dick Clark, who featured the record's amateurish but party-friendly sound on American Bandstand, that the song took off.

Later years:

A string of hits followed, including "Quarter To Three," his greatest, and dance hits like "Dear Lady Twist." But when the British Invasion arrived, the hits dried up, leaving Bonds on the oldies circuit. Bruce Springsteen, a huge fan, engineered a solid comeback for him in the early Eighties by including "Quarter To Three" in his encores and then writing and producing two hits, "This Little Girl" and "Out Of Work," for the singer. That also didn't last long, but the oldies circuit has been good to Gary and his many fans; he continues to make live appearances and the occasional recording today.

Other facts:

  • "Buy U.S. Bonds" may have been inspired by an "Uncle Sam" poster hanging in a deli in Norfolk
  • "Quarter To Three" began as an instrumental by a local group, The Church Street Five, called "A Night With Daddy G"
  • Chubby Checker's 1962 hit "Dancing Party" is so similar to "Quarter To Three" that Bonds sued him
  • The Beatles backed Bonds on an early European tour, but were so bad they were fired; Bonds and Guida also threw away their demo
  • Spent six days on a prison farm in Norfolk on trumped-up charges
  • Wrote a Grammy-nominated song for country singer Johnny Paycheck called "Friend Don't Take Her (She's All I've Got)"

Awards/Honors:

  • Rhythm and Blues Foundation Pioneer Award (1997)
  • The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll (1995)
  • Norfolk VA Walk Of Fame (2002)

Recorded work:

#1 hits:
Pop:
  • "Quarter To Three" (1961)
Top 10 hits:
Pop:
  • "New Orleans" (1960)
  • "School Is Out" (1961)
  • "Dear Lady Twist" (1961)
R&B:
  • "New Orleans" (1960)
  • "Quarter To Three" (1961)
  • "Dear Lady Twist" (1961)
Top 10 albums:
Pop:
  • Dance 'Til Quarter To Three (1961)
Other popular recordings: "School Is In," "Seven Day Weekend," "Twist, Twist Senora," "This Little Girl," "Out Of Work," "Jole Blon," "Trip to the Moon," "I Know Why Dreamers Cry," "Mixed Up Faculty," "Cecelia," "Not Me," "Shine On Lover's Moon," "Havin' So Much Fun," "Gettin' A Groove," "Copycat," "I Dig This Station," "Where Did The Naughty Little Girl Go," "I Wanta Holler (But the Town's Too Small)," "Take Me Back To New Orleans," "Angelyne"
Covered by: Bruce Springsteen, Johnny Paycheck, Bill Wyman, Swamp Dogg, Tracy Byrd, Z.Z. Hill, Bill Haley, Ringo Starr, Sir Douglas Quintet, Dee Dee Warwick, Loretta Lynn
Appears in the movies: "It's Trad, Dad!" (1962), "Twist" (1992), "Blues Brothers 2000" (1998)
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