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Welcome back! And look who just dropped by… Now this is someone you may not know very well, if at all. Say hello to Gary “US” Bonds. I had kind of dropped out of the popular music scene from 1980 on, but I LOVED Bonds’ hit from 1961, “Quarter to Three.” He was just so full of energy. Let me know what you think of it.
Gary U.S. Bonds (born Gary Levone Anderson, June 6, 1939, in Jacksonville, Florida) is an American rhythm and blues and rock and roll singer, known for his classic hits “New Orleans” and “Quarter to Three”.
Born in Jacksonville, Florida, Bonds lived in Norfolk, Virginia, in the 1950’s when he began singing publicly in church and with a group called the Turks. He joined record producer Frank Guida’s small Legrand Records label where Guida chose Anderson’s stage name, U.S. Bonds, in hopes that it would be confused with a public service announcement advertising the sale of government bonds and thereby garner more radio airplay. (Seriously???) His first three singles and first album, Dance ‘Til Quarter to Three, were released under the U.S. Bonds name, but people assumed it was the name of a group. (So much for his brainy idea!) To avoid confusion, subsequent releases, including his second album Twist Up Calypso, were made under the name Gary (U.S.) Bonds. The parentheses were discarded in the 1970’s.
Bonds’ first hit was the song “New Orleans” (US #6), which was followed by “Not Me”, a flop for Bonds but later a hit for the Orlons, and then by his only number one hit, “Quarter to Three” in June 1961. “Quarter To Three” sold one million records, earning a gold disc. Subsequent hits, under his modified name, included “School Is Out” (#5), “Dear Lady Twist” (#9), “School Is In” (#28) and “Twist, Twist, Señora” (#10) in the early 1960’s. In a 1963 tour of Europe, he headlined above the Beatles. His hits featured solos by the saxophonist Gene Barge.
“Quarter to Three” appears on The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll list.
Bonds continues to release albums sporadically, and today is a mainstay of the nostalgia concert circuit.
While Bonds is mostly known for achievements within rhythm and blues and rock and roll, he often transcends these genres, e.g., his song “She’s All I Got”, co-written by Jerry Williams, Jr. (better known as Swamp Dogg), was nominated for the Country Music Association’s “Song of the Year” in 1972 when it was a big hit for Johnny Paycheck (Freddie North also charted his only pop hit with a soul cover of the same song). He is also a 1997 honoree of the Rhythm & Blues Foundation. Bonds is an accomplished golfer and often plays celebrity PGA Tour events. Bonds guested in Blues Brothers 2000 in 1998 as part of a rival blues super group the Louisiana Gator Boys.
Bonds released an album in 2004 called Back in 20, the title referencing his repeated sporadic pop-ups of popularity (his first hits were in the 1960’s, then again in the 1980’s, and now another significant album in the early 2000’s, each 20-odd years apart). The album features guest appearances by Springsteen and Southside Johnny. Bonds was also inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame on October 15, 2006.
In 2009 he released a new album Let Them Talk and toured the UK as a special guest of Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings. Most recently, in 2010, Bonds contributed duet vocals on the song “Umbrella in My Drink” on Southside Johnny’s album Pills and Ammo. He also made a guest appearance in the 3rd season of Lilyhammer which stars and is produced by Steven van Zandt.
“Quarter to Three” is still a popular song, adapted and expanded from “A Night with Daddy ‘G’ – Part 1” (Legrand LEG 1004), an instrumental by the Church Street Five, which was written by Gene Barge, Frank Guida and Joseph Royster, and sung by Gary U.S. Bonds. The song became a number-one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States on June 26, 1961, and remained there for two weeks. Dion DiMucci stated that “Quarter to Three” was the inspiration for his hit “Runaround Sue”, which was written by Dion and Ernie Maresca.
The single, which is augmented by cheers and claps and exciting spoken dialogue like “One more time”, was recorded with very rough sound quality (compared to other records at the time). Producer Frank Guida has been quoted on subsequent CD reissues that his production sound was exactly what he wanted it to sound like. Noted British producer and columnist Jack Good felt compelled to devote his entire Disc magazine column to praising the “fuzzy, muzzy, and distorted” sound of the U.S. Bonds hit release. The article was subtitled “This record could never have been made in Britain”. There have been books written, such as those of the series Rock On: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock N’ Roll by Norm N. Nite, that have stated that this record was recorded “accidentally” (that no one knew the tape recorder was on at a session).
I just want to add something on here. Another one of Bonds’ songs I loved, but I was more familiar with it from John Fogerty’s version much later. But as I said, there’s just something infectious about Bonds’ energy. How can you not at least tap your foot!!!
Picture Source: AllMusic