Carl Giammarese

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Carl Giammarese
Also known as The Buckinghams
Origin Chicago, Illinois, United States
Genres Rock & Roll
Years active 1965 — present
Labels USA Records
Columbia Records
Nation Records
BML Records
24/7 Records
Fuel Records
Biography on the Buckinghams Website
Members Carl Giammarese (Lead vocals and guitar)
Nick Fortuna (Bass and vocals)
Bruce Soboroff (Keyboards and vocals)
Rocky Penn (Drums)
Dave Zane (Guitar and vocals)

Carl Giammarese (born August 21, 1947) is an American musician, singer-songwriter and record producer. He is best known as the lead guitarist and vocalist for The Buckinghams.

Early years[edit]

Giammarese was born in northwest Chicago, Illinois. His study of guitar began in 1960 and continued at Catholic grammar school St. Thomas of Canterbury and high school at Lane Tech[1][2] in Chicago, . His first musical influences were The Ventures’ Don Wilson and Bob Bogle, and the Chantays, who started the craze of surfer rock, with their unique guitar riffs. Influenced by a high school teacher, Giammarese’s musical interests expanded from surfer rock to jazz and early rhythm and blues. His first guitar was a used Harmony open top guitar, a gift from his father in 1960. At home, Giammarese took in the big band sounds favored by his parents. His next musical influence was James Burton, who played guitar for Ricky Nelson’s band every week on The Ozzie and Harriet Show. Future legend and neighborhood guitarist Harvey Mandel was Giammarese’s next instructor, from whom Carl took lessons while part of his first band, The Centuries. By this point, he was using a solid-body Gibson SG guitar to play dates.

The Centuries, Chicago-area neighborhood garage band[edit]

From Mandel, Giammarese developed his string technique to reproduce the string-bending styles of the blues. When The Beatles came to America, Giammarese’s musical education extended to the unique chords and rhythms their new sounds offered. While he was studying with Mandel, Giammarese was invited by his cousin Gerald Elarde, a talented drummer and vocalist, to join a band Elarde was forming. The lineup for The Centuries included Elarde, Giammarese on lead guitar, Nick Fortuna, Elarde's classmate at Niles West High School, on rhythm guitar, and Curt Bachman, Elarde's neighborhood friend, for bass guitar and shared vocal duties. The Centuries quickly became popular as they played neighborhood events, teen parties, and weddings.

To set them apart from other local groups, The Centuries also created their first distinct "look", inspired by The Beatles. The Beatles' influence was reinforced by the Carnaby Street look that Giammarese and band members adopted as they selected suits from clothing stores on Chicago's Maxwell Street. The Centuries were one of the first Chicago bands to cover Beatles songs in their 1963–1964 appearances.

Giammarese traded in the Gibson, as he and fellow Centuries member, Nick Fortuna, bought white Fender Stratocasters. The Centuries played Chicago’s most popular dance club venues, including Dan Belloc’s Holiday Ballroom, the Embassy Ballroom, the Aragon Ballroom (later renamed The Cheetah Club), and Scott’s, and other teen hangouts. The Centuries played all the hits by The Hollies, The Byrds, The Kinks, and included James Brown’s latest hits in their repertoire.

The Pulsations, Chicago and Midwest teen band[edit]

From The Centuries, Giammarese was recruited to join another local group, “The Pulsations,” whose members included John Poulos, Dennis Tufano, Dennis Miccolis, Curtis Bachman and George LeGros (whose Army military duty in Vietnam caused him to leave before The Buckinghams became a national hit). When The Centuries broke up, Carl’s friend and fellow Centuries’ member Nick Fortuna took up the bass and began playing with rhythm and blues bands on Chicago’s Rush Street. The Pulsations’ new lineup quickly grew more popular and began to draw large crowds in the Midwest, including Iowa, Indiana, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

Becoming The Buckinghams[edit]

Because of band leader and Holiday Ballroom club owner Dan Belloc and new Pulsations manager Carl Bonafede, The Pulsations won a 13-week spot on WGN-TV’s All Time Hits program. By week 2, The Pulsations were known as The Buckinghams. By week 4 Giammarese had recruited Nick Fortuna to be their new bass player after Curtis Bachman decided to leave the group. The Pulsations were originally identified as “Rock and Roll Royalty” because of their superb look, sound, and style. The Buckinghams would later earn the new identity as “Chicago’s response to the British Invasion.” The Buckinghams made one final change to the lineup and added Marty Grebb on keyboards and vocals when Dennis Miccolis left the band after the WGN-TV shows were completed.[3]

In 1967, when the USA single "Kind of a Drag" went to #1 on the national charts, most of The Buckinghams were still under 21 and entered a series of business decisions by group vote, based on instinct rather than professional legal advice. The group chose a new manager, James William Guercio, and a new label, Columbia Records, for their future recording projects. On the strength of their first #1 single on USA Records, in early 1967, The Buckinghams were named “The Most Promising Vocal Group” by Cashbox Magazine.

In approximately 18 months' time, The Buckinghams had Top 5, Top 10 and Top 20 records with the release of singles every three months, including “Don't You Care,” “Hey Baby (They're Playing Our Song),” “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,” “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” (USA Records), "Susan" and “Back in Love Again.” Columbia quickly released two albums, Time and Charges and Portraits produced by Guercio. USA Records released an album composed of all the sides recorded at Chess Studios in 1965 that was simply titled Kind of a Drag on the strength of their #1 national hit. The Buckinghams were named by Billboard Magazine as “The Most Listened to Band in America” in 1967.

Early Buckinghams tours and TV appearances[edit]

For almost 18 months, The Buckinghams toured the country, playing over 300 dates in 1967 alone. They toured with Gene Pitney and The Beach Boys for several months with each performer. In arenas and festivals across the country, they shared the stage with Sonny & Cher, Neil Diamond, The Who, The Kinks, and The Zombies, and Tom Jones. When The Who first arrived in the United States, they performed as the opening act for The Buckinghams. The band was also featured on several national TV shows, including “The Ed Sullivan Show,” “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” “American Bandstand,” The Jerry Lewis Show, The Dating Game, and The Joey Bishop Show.[4] Audiences would see Carl's Gretsch guitar featured during their performance on The Ed Sullivan Show, a tribute to George Harrison's subtle influence on his music.

Columbia Records career[edit]

When Columbia released “Don’t You Care,” it moved quickly up the same charts that still held “Kind of a Drag” and “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” on USA Records, giving The Buckinghams three singles atop the Top 10 simultaneously on two different labels.

The end of the 1960s found The Buckinghams’ musical tastes changing with the times. They tried psychedelic looks and sounds, but Columbia Records preferred sticking with the proven pop rock sound and look. Convinced they could write, sing and produce their own material, The Buckinghams splintered, helped along by a series of events. They’d parted company with Guercio over publishing rights, royalties, and profits. Columbia assigned staff producer Jimmy “The Wiz” Wisner to produce their fourth album, “In One Ear and Gone Tomorrow.” Only one single, “Back in Love Again” would chart, but the album more closely represented the group’s developing musical talents.[5] Another Wisner-produced song written by Marty Grebb, “You Misunderstand Me,” would find new life on the Northern Soul circuit; Giammarese includes it in the band's current concert lineup.

Columbia assigned a fourth producer, John Hill, to record tracks and before The Buckinghams decided to split in 1970, they’d recorded several new songs, some of their own composition, which would later find modest success 30 years later. Two songs cowritten by John Turner, who joined on keyboards after Grebb departed (“It’s a Beautiful Day" and “Difference of Opinion,”) were included on Sony/Legacy’s compilation CD, “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,” which still shows strong sales.

Tufano & Giammarese[edit]

Marty Grebb left The Buckinghams and eventually formed the band “The Fabulous Rhinestones.” Nick Fortuna left to play in R&B bands, forming his own band, “Crystal,” and John Poulos pursued music management. Giammarese started writing songs, as did Dennis Tufano. Tufano and Giammarese decided to form a duo. Leaving behind national teen idol images and reputations, they used the names “Dennis and Carl” as they played small Chicago club venues.

The duo recorded a demo of their compositions and used several members of the group Poco as session players on the recording session. Acting as their first manager, John Poulos took the demo to multiple Grammy winner Lou Adler, who signed the duo immediately and insisted on producing their first album, which carried their new identity as the title: “Tufano & Giammarese.”

Lou Adler generously shared publishing rights and royalties with the new duo. Dennis and Carl wrote material for three albums recorded for Adler’s Ode Records, “Tufano & Giammarese,” “The Tufano-Giammarese Band,” and “The Other Side (released on the Ode/Epic label)” They worked with Adler, Jack Richardson (of Nimbus 9 Productions), Tom Scott and Hank Cicalo as producers on the second and third albums, respectively. Their first single from their self-titled album, “Music Everywhere,” went to the Top 50 on the charts as the duo chose not to capitalize on their previous identities as members of The Buckinghams.

Adler sent them on tour[6] with colleagues from Grammy winner Carole King, with good results, to Cheech and Chong, whose personalities clashed with the acoustic duo. Three albums later, the duo split and Tufano remained in California to pursue an acting career. Giammarese returned to Chicago.

Advertising jingle singer[edit]

In the late 1970s Giammarese returned to the music business as a freelance session singer for advertising agencies. Giammarese had a successful four-year career in Chicago, considered the hub of the advertising industry during this time. His voice was heard as a solo or group artist on commercials for McDonald’s, United Airlines, Lava Soap, Kellogg’s, RC Cola, Pizza Hut, Whopper’s Candy, and Coors beer.

In 1980 John Gehron, WLS program exec, called Giammarese at the invitation of Mayor Jane Byrne, to see if The Buckinghams would be interested in reuniting for a premiere new event, ChicagoFest, to be held at Navy Pier. Giammarese called Nick Fortuna and Dennis Tufano, who agreed. Carl went back to lead guitar–backing vocals, Nick on bass–backing vocals, and Dennis on lead vocals. Recruiting drummer Tom Radtke and keyboardist John Cammelot, they set event attendance records.

Buckinghams reunion for national tours[edit]

After two years playing selected reunion gigs, Dennis Tufano returned to Los Angeles and the film industry. At Nick Fortuna’s suggestion, Carl became lead vocalist, and in 1983 Tom Scheckel became the new drummer. John Cammelot returned on keyboards and Laurie Beebe was added as The Buckinghams were invited to join the “Happy Together” tour.[7] Sharing the stage with The Turtles, The Grass Roots, and Gary Lewis & The Playboys, 200 concerts in eight months, they were part of one of the Top 10 highest grossing national tours in 1985. As a result of the group’s resurgence in popularity, they released A Matter of Time on Red Label Records, from which the power ballad single “Veronica,” became an audience favorite.

In 1986, Giammarese and Fortuna recruited Bob Abrams (guitar/vocals) and Bruce Soboroff (keyboards/vocals), and in 2001 toured on the successful Solid Gold 60s tour, recorded for PBS, often rebroadcast during annual pledge drives. In 1998, Nation Records released The Buckinghams album “Terra Firma,” which featured a unique a cappella version of “Kind of a Drag” as well as original songs composed by Giammarese and Bruce Soboroff. The CD version of “Terra Firma” included a bonus video of “I Knew You When,” sung by Giammarese.

First solo CD[edit]

In 2002, Giammarese, playing an acoustic Martin D41 6-string guitar, released his first solo album. The release included his own musical compositions and lyrics written by Michele Sweeney-Abrams(ASCAP)on eight of the eleven songs, including the Title Track,“Trying Not to Fade”. One of the songs written entirely by Giammarese, “Oh Lord (Make Me More Like You),” was recorded by Christian recording artist, Lisa Ann, and featured on Chicago radio station, The Fish. The song was subsequently recorded by artist duo Azure Fields and featured on their album, "The Way to Grace".[8]

Current career highlights[edit]

Since 1985,[9] The Buckinghams have toured steadily and performed in arenas, theatres, festivals, and casinos as well as private corporate events. The current band lineup is founding member Carl Giammarese (lead vocals, guitar), founding member Nick Fortuna (bass guitar, vocals), Dave Zane (guitar, vocals), Rocky Penn (drums, vocals), and Bruce Soboroff (keyboards, vocals). The "Buckinghorns", a group of Horn players who perform regularly with the band, include Carlo Isabelli (trumpet), Charles Morgan (trombone), Rich Moore (sax), and Steve Frost (trumpet).

The Buckinghams were given a special place in musical history after 40 years, chosen to headline two Washington, DC, inaugural balls: the 2005 "Twilight on the Prairie Ball” for President Bush's inauguration and the 2009 “Bipartisan Agricultural Ball” for President Obama’s inauguration. Their rendition of the national anthem still finds them in demand for this honor at football, baseball, and basketball games across Chicago and the Midwest.

In 2008 two new albums were released: “Standing Room Only” (also released on BML as The Buckinghams’ “Live and Well”) and the studio album, “Reaching Back,” distributed in retail stores on Los Angeles-based Fuel Records. Giammarese wrote 8 new songs for this studio CD, as a response to fans who had been requesting new songs from The Buckinghams that reminded them of the 60s horn rock sound.[10]

In 2010 Giammarese produced "Up Close", a DVD/CD recording of the band's live concert filmed at the Star Plaza in Merrillville, Indiana the previous year. The project was released by Buckinghams Music Ltd. In 2011 Giammarese released his solo CD, "My Journey," as a companion to his biography, coauthored with Dawn Lee Wakefield, entitled "The Buckinghams: My Journey".[11]

In 2012, Carl Giammarese (together with Nick Fortuna) are on the 2012 Happy Together Tour as The Buckinghams join The Turtles, Micky Dolenz, Gary Puckett, and Grass Roots for the 3rd consecutive anniversary year.

Nomination to Hit Parade Hall of Fame[edit]

In 2008, The Buckinghams were nominated for induction into The Hit Parade Hall of Fame.[12] This organization was initiated by radio programming executive John Rook and Gil Bateman, who assembled a board of directors of extensive experience in radio broadcasting and the record industry.

IN 2012, Giammarese was presented with the "Man of the Year" award by the Secret Agent Foundation, a Chicago-area music charity that provides music instruments and instructions to underserved Chicago youth.


  1. ^
  2. ^ Media biography, The Buckinghams’ official Web site, 2008:
  3. ^ Media biography, The Buckinghams' official web site, 2008
  4. ^ Biography, The Buckinghams’ official MySpace page, 2008: <>
  5. ^ Biography, The Buckinghams’ official MySpace page, 2008: <>
  6. ^
  7. ^ Personal interview, Carl Giammarese, March, 2008.
  8. ^ "Billboard". online resource. Billboard. Retrieved 3 September 2011. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ Dawn Lee Wakefield, Liner notes, “Reaching Back,” Fuel Records, 2008
  11. ^ Giammarese, Carl. "Artist Web Site". Artist biography. Retrieved 3 September 2011. 
  12. ^ Hit Parade Hall of Fame, Buckinghams' nomination


  1., Editor, 2008 "Personal communication through"
  2. Quaglieri, Al, Liner Notes, “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” CD, Sony Legacy, 1991.
  3. Personal interview, Carl Giammarese, March, 2008.

External links[edit]