Music Composer, James Holvay
Reprinted from liner notes written by: Clark Besch Music Writer/60’s Pop Historian based in Omaha, NE
“Jimmy Holvay and Chicago Pop, Rock & Soul of the 60’s”
The Chicago pop music scene in the mid-1960’s was an exciting time. With the blending of old Chicago blues with the new British Invasion, a whole new sound was being created in the Windy City. Small, Chicago, indie record labels gave local teen talent a chance to get their music heard for the first time. One of the most prolific young writers and producers of the day in Chi Town was Jimmy “Soul” Holvay. He composed, produced, arranged and played on some of the best music to come out of the city during that period of time. Jimmy showcased talent that was established recording stars as well as young artists looking for their first “big break”.
Ral Donner an Elvis sound-a-like had been a star in Chicago for years with national hits, “Girl Of My Best Friend”, “You Don’t Know What You’ve Got” and “She’s Everything”.
Holvay penned 2 sides for Ral (“It Will Only Make Me Love You More” b/w “If You Love Him”, released on Red Bird Records, a Leiber & Stoller owned label out of New York.
Dee Clark began his career in Chicago in the late 50’s and had dozens of pop releases and several national hits. (i.e. “Hey Little Girl”, “Just Keep It Up” and “Raindrops”.)
Clark was ready to adapt to the times and now looking for a Motown-styled sound. His producer Bill “Bunky” Shepherd of the soul classic “Duke Of Earl” and many others, along with former label CEO of VJ Records Ewart Abner reached out to young Holvay. Jimmy provided them with “She’s My Baby” b/w “I Can’t Runaway”, released on Abner’s Constellation Records.
Bryan Hyland had scored big with “Itsy Bitsy Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” and “Sealed With A Kiss”. While touring with the “Dick Clark’s Caravan Of Stars” he met Jimmy (working as the back-up guitarist). Together they wrote “Stay Away From Her”, which was released on Phillips Records.
The Beatles had not only changed pop music but inspired a number of teen combos (often referred to as “garage bands”) all over the country. One of the many Chicago “garage bands” that benefited from the Beatles influence was a group called The Buckinghams. After getting a recording contract with a local label (USA Records), the group cut 13 tunes, which were mostly cover versions of songs they had performed at their live gigs. After 3 failed records, they had one more release left in their contract, which would fulfill the labels commitment to the band. Against the labels plans, they managed to convince them to release “Kind Of A Drag” as their last single. As fate would have it, the song went to #1 nationally and has sold well over a million copies.
With a #1 record on the Billboard charts the group was now free from their recording contract with USA Records. Chicagoan, Jim Guercio (a friend of Holvay’s from the Dick Clark tours and bass player), was contacted thru a relative of The Buckinghams, to manage the band. At the time Guercio was playing bass behind Chad & Jeremy, while also acting as their road manager. He immediately saw the opportunity, signed The Buckinghams and took them over to meet the newly appointed head of A&R at Columbia Records, Clive Davis.
With the group now inked w/a major label, Jimmy G. reached out to Holvay for more material and headed into the studio. Holvay provided him with more songs, all of which became Top 10 hits. (i.e. “Don’t You Care”, “Hey Baby They’re Playin’ Our Song” and “Susan”.) With the success that Guercio had achieved using a horn section (ala’ Holvay’s band The MOB), with the Buckingham’s songs, Clive D. asked him if he could work his magic with a group who’s first LP had not done well. (i.e. “Child Is Father To The Man”)
Again, Jimmy G. saw an opportunity and produced the extremely successful album, “Blood, Sweat & Tears”. Following the success of the album, he had musical differences with the band and they parted ways. Guercio, in search of another artist to produce signed a MOB influenced horn band from his hometown called The Big Thing. They later changed their name to C.T.A. and due to a copyright infringement again changed their name to CHICAGO.