The Knickerbockers formed in 1962, when the Cecchino brothers, Beau and John, met former boy-wonder Buddy Randell.
Singer, songwriter and sax player Randell was 16 when his group The Royal Teens hit it big in 1958 with Short Shorts, but his career went on hold when his parents made him finish high school.
Guitarist Beau and bassist John had both sang in a group called The Dynamic Supremes (named after a liquor store in their hometown of Bergenfield, New Jersey). After joining forces with Randell, they found drummer Jimmy Walker and took the name The Knickerbockers.
The group began gigging in upstate New York, where they became local heroes and attracted the attention of producer/songwriter Jerry Fuller.
Fuller arranged for the group to cut some demos in New York and the Knickerbockers’ fame continued to grow with two albums and a single, All I Need Is You, written by Fuller.
Then Fuller got the group a gig at the Red Velvet Club in Hollywood, California. At about the same time (November 1965) the million-selling single Lies, penned by Beau Charles (his stage name) and Randell, took off.
The jangling guitars and close vocal harmonies led many listeners to suspect that Lies was really recorded by The Beatles under a pseudonym. The Knickerbockers found themselves on a sudden rollercoaster of success.
They shared the stage with The Byrds, Manfred Mann, Peter and Gordon, Roy Orbison and even The Rolling Stones. They played on such mid-60s television shows as Shindig! and Hollywood A Go-Go, and became semi-regulars on Where The Action Is, touring nationally with the Dick Clark Cavalcade of Stars.
A follow-up hit to Lies proved elusive, however. One Track Mind peaked at #46 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Things fizzled out for the band as quickly as it had all come together for them. It may have been different if they were with a major label. Instead, they were with Challenge Records, with just nine employees.
Randell was the first to jump ship, in 1967, due to personal problems at home. Walker followed soon after when he received an offer from Bobby Hatfield to replace Bill Medley, who had left to go solo, in a new edition of The Righteous Brothers.
Beau and John Charles attempted to carry on as The Knickerbockers in a variety of incarnations, even playing Las Vegas as a six-piece show band. They hit the bottom in 1970 when the North Hollywood club they were playing was torched, destroying all their instruments.
Beau Charles dropped out of performing and turned his attention to commercial jingles. John Charles began a catering business. Randell kept on gigging in bar bands, then turned to Christian music. Walker got a day job at a Cybernetics lab in Napa Valley.
Then one day in early 1989, Beau Charles got a call from Al Quaglieri, a former fan from upstate New York who had never forgotten The Knickerbockers. Quaglieri, a writer, had located the band’s original masters in Nashville at Tree Music.
The tapes were digitally remastered and Quaglieri compiled an extensive discography for a state-of-the-art Knickerbockers CD recording, released by Sundazed Music in April 1989.
The original line-up reformed in 1990 for a series of gigs in Florida.
Beau Charles (Cecchino)
John Charles (Cecchino)