Saturday, May 20, 2006

Freddie Garrity R.I.P.

Freddie Garrity, leader of the British invasion band Freddie and the Dreamers, died on May 19th at the age of 69. He had suffered with emphysema and systemic sclerosis for many years.

Freddie Garrity started playing in various skiffle groups around Manchester while also working as a milkman. In 1959 he was playing with a skiffle band called The Kingfishers, which eventually evolved into Freddie and the Dreamers. The band differed from many of the contemporaries in incorporating a good deal of comedy into their act. For a while the group remained simply a part time profession for its members, until at last they passed an audition at the BBC in 1963. Their first single, a remake of James Ray's, "If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody," reached number three on the British charts. They were the first band to break the British charts that were not managed by Beatles manager Brian Epstein and the first band to do so that did not come from Liverpool.

Until 1966 Freddie and the Dreamers had a string of hits in the UK: "I'm Telling You Now," "Over You," and "Thou Shalt Not Steal." Like many British bands at the time, they eventually broke through in the United States. "I'm Telling You Now" became a top ten hit on the Billboard charts. Freddie and the Dreamers appeared on such shows as The Ed Sullivan Show, Hullabaloo, and Shindig. In the United States nearly as much attention was paid to Freddie's onstage antics as to the band's music. The odd dance he did on stage, swinging his arms and legs out from his sides, was dubbed "the Freddie" by Garrity. The group wrote a song around the dance called "Do the Freddie," which became a top ten hit in the United States. For a brief time the Freddie was the nation's latest dance craze.

Always a bit of a novelty act, eventually the novelty of Freddie and the Dreamers would overtake their talent as musicians. In 1966 they released an album of nothing but Disney songs. Their final album, Oliver in the Underworld, was directed squarely at children. As Freddie and the Dreamers became more and more a novelty act, their popularity declined even more.

Freddie and the Dreamers appeared in the films Seaside Swingers (AKA Everyday's a Holiday, Just For You, and Cuckoo Patrol. Freddie Garrity would later become the host of the children's show Little Big Time.

I am truly saddened by Freddie Garrity's passing. I always enjoyed their songs, particularly "A Little You," which numbers among my favourite British Invasion songs of all time. I always thought it a shame that they were always considered more of a novelty act than a serious rock band. Granted, their onstage antics could be silly, but they were also capable musicians who produced some good, bouncy pop rock songs.They definitely deserve to be remembered for more than the Freddie.

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