Native New Yorkers The Youngbloods formed under the leadership of Jesse Colin Young in 1967 and played soft rock numbers with a light jazz feel, successfully avoiding the pitfall of playing cocktail pseudo-jazz.
Young got his start on the folk circuits of Boston and New York, and had already cut a couple of solo albums before forming The Youngbloods.
The band had a big US hit with Get Together which drew them to L.A. where they found the lifestyle and attitudes more in tune with their own, and based themselves in Inverness, California.
While Young was always the focal point of the band, their first two albums – The Youngbloods (1967) and Earth Music (1967) – also had songwriting contributions from their original guitarist Jerry Corbitt, who tired of commuting between New York and the West Coast and quit the band, leaving The Youngbloods reduced to a trio.
The band still had plenty of talent – notably multitalented Lowell ‘Banana’ Levinger, who played most of the instruments on Elephant Mountain (1969), which was produced by, of all people, Charlie Daniels. Reflecting the mellowing influence of San Francisco psychedelia, it was their best effort, featuring some of Young’s best songs.
Their two previous albums had presented them as purveyors of the same sunny folk rock and bluesy pop as The Lovin’ Spoonful, but their interests in jazz and dynamic subtleties marked them out from their new West Coast neighbours.
“We were able to engage an audience without being real powerful, loud and crunchy, like Blue Cheer and that type of scene,” Levinger observed in 2003.
The band released a few more albums in the early ’70s (some live), but on these the mellow California rock sound that had served them well on Elephant Mountain began to turn limpid and wimpy.
The group broke up in 1972, and Jesse Colin Young had a long and moderately successful career as a solo singer/songwriter.
Jesse Colin Young
Vocals, guitar, bass
Lowell ‘Banana’ Levinger III
Guitar, electric piano