Q&A with legendary singer of The Buckinghams, Carl Giammarese - songs to chronicle the highlights of life

"To be successful always be honest and true. Whether it’s recording or playing live, you cannot fool your audience. You have to make your music honestly and hope that is what they want to hear and see. Also, that it takes a lot of focus and sacrifice. Always give your best, because you’re being given the opportunity to do what you love every day of your life. Respect and appreciate your fans."

Carl Giammarese: Baby Boomers Blues

Carl Giammarese is the lead singer of The Buckinghams if it ever comes up. When the band was originally formed in 1965 and through 1970 Carl was a founding member and their lead guitarist at the time. They broke up in 1970. After a 10-year hiatus, Carl was contacted by a rep of Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne's office to see if there was interest in a reunion for a citywide festival at Navy Pier. Carl reached out to the 3 remaining living members (founding drummer Jon Poulos had died earlier in 1980) and two others wanted to do that. The reunion was so popular, breaking attendance records, that the three founding members (with sidemen) did a handful of dates from 1980-1982. In 1982 Giammarese became permanent lead singer and together with Nick Fortuna, founding member who plays bass, they hired 3 sidemen, and with only a few personnel changes over the last 39 years, have been touring continuously and have been together now almost 8 times longer than the original 60s band. 

(Carl Giammarese Photo by Lou Bilotti)

Carl Giammarese began his music career as a founding member of The Buckinghams, as lead guitarist and vocalist, in 1965. The Buckinghams were an important part of creating the sounds of American rock music after the British invasion had arrived and changed everything. The Buckinghams enjoyed No. 1 status and other positions on Billboard’s music charts for 5 years. They released 15 hit singles and 4 albums that charted, and they toured nationally for five years. Near the end of the 1970s, the singer-songwriter music popularity was slowly giving way to disco sounds, and Carl transitioned into a career as a professional jingle singer from 1977–1980. He also continued to write songs and looked at putting together a band to perform the new music he was writing. In his spare time, you’ll find Carl at a Chicago Cubs or Chicago Bears game, same as any other devoted fan.

Interview by Michael Limnios

Special Thanks: Carl Giammarese & Billy James (Glass Onyon PR)

How has the 1960s Pop Culture influenced your views of the world and the life's journeys you’ve taken?

Of course, whatever is going on around you regardless of what time period you're in has some influence on you. Musically, you are also influenced by what is popular regarding style and what’s in the news. Of course, I find writing love songs is natural to me and timeless. I think in the 60's our music had a bigger influence on what was going on in the world just as the world influenced our writing. The Buckinghams were a pop group recording love songs, so we were not taking in say all the protesting like a Bob Dylan song

Why do you think that The Buckinghams music continues to generate such a devoted following?

Our signature hits are just good, well-written songs and great recordings that everyone could relate to. Now our success is thanks to all of those Baby Boomers that still want to hear our songs and reminisce about their youth. We are part of the fabric of their lives.

How do you describe your music philosophy and songbook? What do you think is key to a successful career?

Our songbook’s success is based on upbeat, catchy songs about love that everyone can relate to. Teenagers (Baby Boomers) were always falling in and out of love. Our songs tend to chronicle those highlights of life. We are still successful because we play our songs with authenticity still today. Fans expect to hear us in the same key with the orchestration they can even sing along to. Our hits are essentially feel-good songs filled with good memories. We also had the right look back in the day that our fans embraced, and when we pose for pictures with them, they feel 16 and 18 again, and so do I! So, giving the audience what they need and want to see and hear—reminding them of some of the best times of their lives—has kept us touring all these years later.

"More opportunities for young, upcoming artists. I know there are many more platforms to get your music out there, but there is so much competition and not enough opportunities to showcase your talent. Growing up we had local battle of the band competitions, and today if you don’t make it pass a mass city audition for “American Idol,” how do you get discovered?" (Carl Giammarese / Photo by Ron Elkman)

Recently you've been recording with the Badfinger ("I Don't Mind"). How did that relationship come about?

I first met Joey Molland on a Concerts at Sea cruise in February 2019 as The Buckinghams shared the stage all week with Peter Rivera, and 1910 Fruitgum Company among others. Those are always good experiences because when you’re not performing, you get to meet and visit with the other artists whose careers had them going different directions while yours were going another. In the 60s you knew who people were, but you had no time to really get to know them. Last year, I was approached by a friend, John Lappen, a veteran music executive who works with labels including Cleopatra Records. Through John, Cleopatra asked me to play lead guitar and vocals on the track "I Don't Mind." I was honored to be chosen to be a part of The Badfinger collaboration “NO MATTER WHAT: Revisiting the Hits” and be in the company of so many great artists.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future?

I miss that there are more memorable songs. One song could make a career for an artist. Now in this day of streaming music, songs come and go much faster in our throwaway culture. It is much harder to build a lasting career in music. I miss putting a collection of songs together and creating a concept just like this album “NO MATTER WHAT.” I miss autographing an album for our fans who will stand in line as long as it takes for us to personalize that night’s concert experience for them. I know vinyl has come back a little; it’s not the same, but it begins one album at a time. I miss the way radio was. I pray music remains relevant.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

More opportunities for young, upcoming artists. I know there are many more platforms to get your music out there, but there is so much competition and not enough opportunities to showcase your talent. Growing up we had local battle of the band competitions, and today if you don’t make it pass a mass city audition for “American Idol,” how do you get discovered?

"Our signature hits are just good, well-written songs and great recordings that everyone could relate to. Now our success is thanks to all of those Baby Boomers that still want to hear our songs and reminisce about their youth. We are part of the fabric of their lives." (Photo: The Buckinghams, Chicago c.1966)

What were the reasons that made the 60s to be the center of music/artistic research and experiments?

Many things came together it was like spontaneous combustion. In the later 60's when The Buckinghams were making hits, the recording industry made a giant leap. The Beatles opened our ears and minds, introducing us to a whole new sound, which encouraged and allowed everyone to be more experimental. Music was so connected to what was going on in the world at the time. AM radio was giving way to FM radio, previously considered underground. What used to fill the airwaves with songs of love very soon afterwards were calls for protests in anthems by those who didn’t feel like fighting a war they never started. People made decisions early in their lives that would forever change their lives.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

To be successful always be honest and true. Whether it’s recording or playing live, you cannot fool your audience. You have to make your music honestly and hope that is what they want to hear and see. Also, that it takes a lot of focus and sacrifice. Always give your best, because you’re being given the opportunity to do what you love every day of your life. Respect and appreciate your fans.

What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want your music to affect people?

It can have a lot of impact on your listeners, whether it’s how they feel or the way they dress. It can change attitudes. It can make people happy or sad. Music is very emotional. I would always want to send a positive message. I would love to be able to change attitudes and have the power to make people feel good. Sharing the love songs from our youth with adults who long to revisit those best times of their lives is a healing process for us and hopefully for the audiences. I have a lot of respect for those artists who send a positive message and their message is received, and we hear affirmative responses—loud and clear. Music is always the universal language and can be a solid healing influence. I’m not always sure what the message of today’s is, but I respect that our elders never quite got us or our sound when they were our age. Time and a lot of conversation does have a way of joining bridges and mending rifts between generations.

Carl Giammarese - Home

(Carl Giammarese / Photo by Ron Elkman)

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