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Profile: The Lovin' Spoonful


The Lovin' Spoonful in the Sixties

The Lovin' Spoonful in the Sixties



1965 (New York, NY)


Pop, Folk-pop, Pop-rock, Folk, Country


John Sebastian (b. Match 17, 1944, Greenwich Village, New York, NY): lead vocals, guitar, autoharp
Zalman "Zal" Yanovsky (b. December 19, 1944, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; d. December 13, 2002, Kingston, Ontario, Canada): guitar
Steve Boone (b. September 23, 1943, Camp Lejeune, NC): bass
Joe Butler (b. Joseph Campbell Butler, January 9, 1943, Long Island, New York, NY): drums

Contributions to music:

  • Instrumental in popularizing "folk-rock" music
  • Helped provide an American response to the "British Invasion" of the Sixties
  • Brought a jug-band sense of instrumentation and arangement into the folk-rock genre
  • Leader John Sebastian is considered one of the era's most accomplished and uniquely individual songwriters
  • One of the first rock acts to revisit straight country music
  • The first rock band to record on a 16-track console
  • One of the first rock bands to perform on college campuses

Early years:

The Lovin' Spoonful had its genesis in the Greenwich Village folk scene of the early Sixties; indeed, leader John Sebastian had already played with several of the genre's leading lights before he and Zal Yanovsky met in 1964. Mutual friend Cass Elliot -- later of the Mamas and Papas -- invited both to her house to watch the Beatles' historic first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, and the two decided to form a rock band on the spot. By 1965, the Spoonful were a fulltime endeavor.


After landing a steady gig at New York's Night Owl cafe, the Spoonful were signed to the fledgling Kama Sutra label in 1965, scoring an immediate hit with "Do You Believe In Magic?" It epitomized the openhearted Spoonful style, specifically the songwriting of Sebastian; more influenced by jug-band and blues music than pure folk, the group epitomized the radio-friendly face of folk-rock. (The exception was their biggest hit, the uncharacteristically gritty and urban "Summer In The City.")

Later years:

In 1967, Yanovsky was busted for marijuana, however, and when he gave up the name of his dealer, his name became mud in the counterculture, forcing him to leave the group. Not sure what to do with psychedelia and the acid-rock of the late '60s, the group disbanded a few years later. Sebastian played Woodstock and enjoyed a somewhat successful solo career, scoring a #1 hit with the theme to the television show Welcome Back, Kotter (titled simply "Welcome Back"). Zal died of heart disease in 2002.

Other facts:

  • Also included Jerry Yester (b. November 24, 1939, Birmingham, AL): guitar (1967-1968)
  • An early performance of the Spoonful inspired future members of the Grateful Dead to "go electric"
  • Wrote and performed the soundtracks for Woody Allen's What's Up, Tiger Lily? and Francis Ford Coppola's You're a Big Boy Now
  • The band's name is taken from the lyrics to Mississippi John Hurt's "Coffee Blues"; supposedly a reference to the amount of ejaculate produced by one male orgasm


  • Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (2000)
  • GRAMMY Hall of Fame (1999, 2002)

Recorded work:

#1 hits:
  • "Summer In The City" (1966)
Top 10 hits:
  • "Do You Believe In Magic?" (1965)
  • "Daydream" (1966)
  • "Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind?" (1966)
  • "Rain On The Roof" (1966)
  • "You Didn't Have To Be So Nice" (1966)
  • "Nashville Cats" (1967)
Top 10 albums:
  • Daydream (1966)
  • The Best Of The Lovin' Spoonful (1967)
Other important recordings: "On The Road Again," "Didn't Want To Have To Do It," "Jug Band Music," "Pow!" "Lovin' You," "Darlin' Companion," "Coconut Grove," "Full Measure," "Darling Be Home Soon," "Lonely (Amy's Theme)," "You're A Big Boy Now," "Younger Girl," "She Is Still A Mystery," "Six O'Clock," "Money," "Younger Generation," "Never Going Back"
Appears on: "They're On The Outside", Sonny and Cher
Covered by: David Lee Roth, Joe Cocker, Slade, Bobby Darin, Joe Jackson, Butthole Surfers, The Beau Brummels, Tim Curry, David Cassidy, Right Said Fred
Appears in the movies: "What's Up, Tiger Lily?" (1966), "One Trick Pony" (1980)
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