Garland Jeffreys

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Garland Jeffreys
Background information
Born (1943-06-29) June 29, 1943 (age 78)
Brooklyn, New York City
GenresRock and roll, Americana, reggae, blues, soul
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter, record producer
InstrumentsVocals, guitar
Years active1966—present
LabelsAtlantic, A&M, Epic, RCA/BMG, Universal, Luna Park

Garland Jeffreys (born June 29, 1943) is an American singer and songwriter in rock and roll, reggae, blues, and soul music.


Jeffreys is from Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, of African American and Puerto Rican heritage. He majored in art history at Syracuse University, where he met Lou Reed before The Velvet Underground became active.[1] In 1966, Jeffreys began to play in Manhattan nightclubs including Gerde's Folk City, The Bitter End, Gaslight, Kenny's Castaways and later Reno Sweeney, where he began to explore racially conscious themes in his work, sometimes utilizing blackface masks and a rag doll named Ramon in performance. Jeffreys played guitar on John Cale's 1969 debut solo album Vintage Violence and contributed the song "Fairweather Friend".[2] In 1969 he founded Grinder's Switch with Woodstock-area musicians including pianist Stan Szelest, guitarist Ernie Corallo, and percussionist Sandy Konikoff. Lewis Merenstein, producer of Van Morrison's Astral Weeks, produced this one album before the band dissolved in 1970.

In 1973, he released his first solo album, Garland Jeffreys, on Atlantic Records. Around the same time Atlantic also released a single, "Wild in the Streets," that was not included on the album. Jeffreys wrote the song after hearing about a pre-teen rape and murder in the Bronx. Dr. John played clavinet and helped arrange the song, with backing from guitarist David Spinozza, drummer Rick Marotta, the Brecker Brothers on horns and David Peel on background vocals. After the single's rerelease in 1977, the track received airplay on the progressive FM album-oriented rock radio stations, and became one of his best-known songs and something of an unofficial anthem for the skate community after the cover by The Circle Jerks was featured in the 1986 film Thrashin'. It has been covered by several musicians, including:

In 1977 Garland recorded his Ghost Writer album for A&M Records, with "Wild in the Streets" included on side two. Many of the tracks are autobiographical, encompassing bittersweet tales about coming of age as an artist in the big city ("Ghost Writer"), of racial separatism ("Why-O"), of interracial romance ("I May Not Be Your Kind"), and of overcoming conflict at home ("Cool Down Boy").[citation needed]

The next years saw a string of albums, five within five years, and the release of "Matador" (1979) from American Boy & Girl, which charted in the top five of a number of countries.[3] This burst of productivity culminated with Guts for Love, a meditation on the challenges of monogamy and fidelity. After a break, much of it spent woodshedding, reading and researching, Jeffreys released Don't Call Me Buckwheat, devoted to the complexities of race in America. The title was triggered by an incident at Shea Stadium where Jeffreys, enjoying the game and feeling carefree, stood to go get a hotdog when a voice shouted "Hey buckwheat, sit down!" The casual epithet was a jolt and it spurred a number of memorable songs, including "Don't Call Me Buckwheat," "I Was Afraid of Malcolm" and "Racial Repertoire." In February 1992, Jeffreys' recording of "Hail Hail Rock 'n' Roll" (RCA PB49171), was a big success in Germany where it reached No. 11. It also spent one week at No. 72 in the UK Singles Chart.[4]

After taking a lengthy hiatus to regroup and raise his only child, daughter Savannah, now "an impressive composer and singer herself"[5] Jeffreys began to perform again in the summer of 2001, and on December 6 he joined Bruce Springsteen at his legendary Christmas show in Asbury Park and began to also perform annually at the Springsteen supported The Light of Day Foundation shows to fund research for Parkinson's and other neurological conditions. With his band loosely referred to as "The Coney Island Playboys" on September 4, 2003, Jeffreys joined Jon Langford, Lenny Kaye and Ivan Julian in a benefit concert for Alejandro Escovedo, recovering from hepatitis C.[6] Jeffreys was featured in the 2003 documentary The Soul of a Man, directed by Wim Wenders as the fourth installment of documentary film series The Blues, produced by Martin Scorsese. The film explored the musical careers of blues musicians Skip James, Blind Willie Johnson and J. B. Lenoir. Jeffreys was also featured on the cover of Beyond Race Magazine in February 2007.

After a long career on major labels, in 2011 Jeffreys formed his own Luna Park Records label and went back into the studio, resulting in the critically acclaimed comeback album The King of in Between. Co-produced by Larry Campbell and with players Steve Jordan, Brian Mitchell, Pino Palladino, Duncan Sheik and Junior Marvin it yielded the song "Coney Island Winter", performed on The David Letterman Show.[7] "Roller Coaster Town" was voted a "best of the year" in the WFUV staff poll[8] and audience poll.[9] The album made numerous annual Best Of lists with NPR naming it a "best of the year so far"[10] and Rolling Stone calling it one of the Best Under The Radar Albums of 2011.[11] The album won a third quarter of 2012 Schallplattenkritik Bestenliste prize in the Pop Rock category[12] and in 2013 Jeffreys was also awarded the Italian Tenco Prize. In 2016, he was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame.[13]

The Circle Jerks cover of "Wild in the Streets" was used in a commercial for Vans sneakers and can be heard in the 2012 video game Max Payne 3. Other TV and film placements for "Wild in the Streets" include Life on Mars, The Get Down on Netflix (also included on the official soundtrack), and a L'Oreal commercial directed by Louis de Caunes. On May 28, 2012, at the Pinkpop Festival in Landgraaf, Holland, Jeffreys joined Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band onstage for a performance of ? and the Mysterians' 1966 hit "96 Tears" which Jeffreys had covered on his 1981 album Escape Artist.

In September 2013, Jeffreys released the single "Any Rain" from his album Truth Serum on the LunaPark/Thirty Tigers label.[9] The album was crowd funded on PledgeMusic, co-produced by James Maddock and recorded at Brooklyn Recording and featured again Larry Campbell, Steve Jordan and Brian Mitchell.

On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Garland Jeffreys among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.[14]

On April 20, 2019, Jeffreys announced on his website that "I’ve decided to hang up my rock and roll shoes" and that in the future he would continue to write but would not perform regularly. His July 8, 2019 performance at the Olympia in Montreal, opening for Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul was listed as the final concert.




Year Single Peak positions Album
1973 "Wild in the Streets" single only
1975 "The Disco Kid" single only
1977 "35 Millimeter Dreams" Ghost Writer
1978 "Reelin'" 108 One-Eyed Jack
1979 "Matador" 4 1 2 2 6 American Boy & Girl
"Bring Back The Love"
1980 "Bound To Get Ahead Someday" (GER only) Garland Jeffreys
1981 "Modern Lovers" Escape Artist
"96 Tears" 66
"Wild in the Streets (Live)" Rock & Roll Adult
1982 "Surrender" Guts For Love
1991 "Hail Hail Rock 'N' Roll" 8 14 33 12 8 72 Don't Call Me Buckwheat
1992 "The Answer" 46 58
"Welcome to the World" 72
1997 "Sexuality" Wildlife Dictionary
"Original Lust"
"—" denotes releases that did not chart or were not released.

Contribution to others[edit]


  1. ^ Marc, David. "Alumni Profiles : Syracuse University Magazine". Archived from the original on October 1, 2016. Retrieved February 3, 2017.
  2. ^ "Fairweather Friend – John Cale | Song Info | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved February 3, 2017.
  3. ^ Garland Jeffreys, AllMusic, June 15, 2011.
  4. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 281. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  5. ^ "Garland Jeffreys". The New Yorker. Retrieved February 3, 2017.
  6. ^ Christgau, Robert (September 4, 2003). "Alejandro Escovedo Benefit". The Village Voice.
  7. ^ "Episode Guides David Letterman". October 7, 2011.
  9. ^ Krulik, Lawrence (January 5, 2012). "2011 WFUV Best Songs".
  10. ^ Powers, Ann (June 14, 2011). "All Songs Considered: Discussion: The Year's Best Music (So Far)".
  11. ^ Fricke, David (December 23, 2011). "Rolling Stone".
  12. ^ "Bestenliste 3-2012". (in German). Retrieved February 3, 2017.
  13. ^ "Garland Jeffreys". Retrieved May 12, 2021.
  14. ^ Rosen, Jody (June 25, 2019). "Here Are Hundreds More Artists Whose Tapes Were Destroyed in the UMG Fire". The New York Times. Retrieved June 28, 2019.
  15. ^ "Garland Jeffreys – US Hot 100". Billboard. Retrieved May 16, 2014.
  16. ^ "Garland Jeffreys – German Chart". Retrieved May 16, 2014.
  17. ^ "Official Charts Company: Garland Jeffreys". Official Charts Company. Retrieved May 16, 2014.
  18. ^ Jeffreys contributed his own "Color Line".
  19. ^ Jeffreys contributed his cover version of "I Walk the Line".
  20. ^ Jeffreys contributed his cover version of "Streets of Philadelphia".
  21. ^ Jeffreys contributed his cover version of "Washington DC Hospital Center Blues".
  22. ^ Jeffreys contributed his own "Ballad Of Me", "35 Millimeter Dreams" and "Wild In The Streets".
  23. ^ Jeffreys contributed his own "Coney Island Winter".

External links[edit]