The Lovin’ Spoonful

  • Pop/Folk rock band formed in 1965 from New York City. The founding members were John Sebastian (vocals, guitar, harmonica, autoharp, songwriting), Zal Yanovsky (lead guitar), Steve Boone (bass guitar, occasional songwriting) and Joe Butler (drums, vocals).
  • Sebastian grew up in Greenwich Village, surrounded by music. His father was a professional classical harmonica player. In the early 60s, he started playing blues harmonica, and he became part of the 60s folk/rock scene in New York. He played in several bands, including The Mugwumps, which included Yanovsky, Cass Elliot and Denny Doherty (the latter two moved on to The Mamas & the Papas). With the split up of The Mugwumps, Boone and Butler joined Sebastian and Yanovsky to form The Lovin’ Spoonful in 1965. The name is derived from an old song, Coffee Blues, by blues artist Mississippi John Hurt.
  • The band performed at coffee houses and clubs, and soon generated interest from record companies. They were signed in 1965, and they released their first album, Do You Believe In Magic. Half of the album contained modern versions of old blues standards. The album’s original songs by Sebastian were folk songs with a pop music feel – cheerful, feel good music. The first 2 singles – the title track Do You Believe In Magic and Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind were immediate hits, peaking at #9 and #2 respectively on the Hot 100 chart.
  • In 1966, they released 2 albums – Daydream and Hums of the Lovin’ Spoonful, as well as a soundtrack album to the Woody Allen movie What’s Up, Tiger Lily?. The studio albums contained 3 major hits. Summer In the City became their biggest hit, topping the Hot 100 chart. The title track Daydream reached #2, and You Didn’t Have To Be So Nice peaked at #10. With 2 more top 10 songs from this records – Rain On The Roof and Nashville Cats – the band had their first 7 charting songs reach the top 10, in just 2 years.
  • The Lovin’ Spoonful adopted many styles into their music, including blues, folk, pop, country and a special emphasis on jug-band – utilizing home-made instruments including jew’s harp, slide whistle, and even a typewriter used as percussion.
  • Another soundtrack album was released in 1967, for the Francis Ford Coppola film You’re A Big Boy Now. The single Darling Be Home Soon reached #15 on the chart. Soon after its release, Yanovsky and Boone were arrested for possession of marijuana, and Yanovsky informed the police of the source of the pot. Yanovsky was Canadian, and he feared that he would be banned from the U.S. if he did not cooperate. This led to protests by the counterculture, who called for a ban on music by the group. Soon, Yanovsky left the group, replaced by Jerry Yester, who previously was a member of The New Christy Minstrels and The Modern Folk Quartet.
  • The group released 2 more albums in the 60s, but their music became less popular. In 1967, they released Everything Playing, with the song Six O’Clock managing to reach #18. In 1968, Sebastian left the group for a solo career (including performing at Woodstock), and Butler took over lead vocals for their final album in 1969. The original members reformed for 1 concert in 1979. In 1991, Butler, Boone and Yester reformed, and The Lovin’ Spoonful has continued to perform ever since (Yester left in 2017).
  • The original members of The Lovin’ Spoonful were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. They performed Do You Believe In Magic and Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind at the ceremony – the last time they performed together.
  • Here’s a clip of the band performing Do You Believe In Magic in 1965 – complete with a false start at the beginning, screaming girls, and Sebastian strumming his autoharp!

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