In 1963, while in tenth grade, McNamara formed a rock and roll group with a few school mates; they christened their band Robin and the Hoods, performing locally in the New England area with McNamara as the lead vocalist. In the late 1960s, McNamara relocated to New York City, where he became a cast member of the Broadway musical Hair, playing the lead role of Claude from 1969 through 1971. In 1969, he was introduced to composer / record producer Jeff Barry, who signed him to his Steed record label. Together with McNamara's then songwriting partner Jim Cretecos, they wrote a song called "Lay a Little Lovin' on Me" which McNamara took to #11 on Billboard's Hot 100 survey in the summer of 1970. Lack of further chart success dubbed McNamara a one-hit wonder.