Okay, I've gotta admit it was a surprise to find this one in my digital archives. I interviewed Sal Valentino, lead singer of The Beau Brummels, in 1998 for my ill-fated, unfinished history of Nuggets and the garage-bred rock 'n' roll of the 1960s. Originally intended for Goldmine magazine, the whole project had to be abandoned and remains unfinished. I would have bet you money that I never even completed transcribing my interview with Sal Valentino...yet here it is. I adore the music of The Beau Brummels, and I'm delighted to finally let this previously-unpublished interview see the light of day.
The Beau Brummels, based in San Francisco, were lead singer Sal Valentino (nee Salvatore Spampinato), guitarist (and songwriter) Ron Elliott, guitarist Declan Mulligan, bassist Ron Meagher, and drummer John Petersen. Their debut single, the unforgettable "Laugh, Laugh," was a hit in 1965, and the follow-up "Just A Little" charted even higher, breaking into Billboard's Top 10. Success on the charts was brief, but lasted long enough for the group to make the TV rounds on Shindig! and Hullabaloo, to appear in the sci-fi flick Village Of The Giants,and to achieve pop-culture immortality in animated form, as Wilma Flintstone and Betty Rubble's favorite rock band The Beau Brummelstones on an episode of The Flintstones.
Attrition depleted The Beau Brummels' ranks; only Valentino and Elliott remained by the time of the final Beau Brummels album, 1968's Bradley's Barn, and Elliott had actually ceased touring with the group in 1965, due to health issues. But The Beau Brummels' recorded legacy is amazing, and has been rediscovered by pop fans over and over throughout the decades since.
Yes, I agree with you. I'm surprised that we're a part of this. I'm glad we are--Rhino has always been good to us. (laughs) Like baseball's been good to me, Rhino's been good to me.
We were good. We had a pretty good following down there. People really liked us, and they liked what we were doing. It was kind of isolated. We were probably the first band to do that much of that material. Still, you have to remember that Motown was happening at that time. There was a guy playing down the street, he was doing a lot of James Brown. We were the only real white band in town, and probably not the best band in town.
Let's see...according to Rhino, "Gentle Wandering Ways" and an earlier version of "Fine With Me" were on Vol. 44.
The band also appeared in the movie Village Of The Giants around this time, playing "Women" and "When It Comes To Your Love" for some frugging giant ducks. How did that come to pass?
Yeah, The Beau Brummelstones on The Flintstones! That's an amazing pop cultural reference point right there.
That was a favorite, Shindig!, because they'd bring you in, you'd re-record the track, and then you'd sing live. Hullabaloo was New York, and they were using us, you know. Shindig! was the real thing.
Why did Declan leave the band?
How did his departure change the dynamics of the band, both on stage and in the studio?
Was Declan still with the band when you recorded "You Tell Me Why," "Don't Talk To Strangers," and "Good Time Music"/"Sad Little Girl," your final singles for Autumn?
How weird was that, to suddenly find yourself on another label after coming back from a tour?
Did you have any further contact with Tom Donahue or Bob Mitchell?
John Petersen left The Beau Brummels after Beau Brummels '66. How did the band plan to re-invent itself at this point?
But next come Triangle and Bradley's Barn, two critically-acclaimed albums. Tell us about the recording of these albums.
What prompted the 1975 Beau Brummels reunion? Ron Meagher is credited for guitar and vocals on that album, but isn't as a member of the group. Why?
Yes. I did while John was still there, but then John found out that he was going to be replaced and quit. And so then I was stuck with Ron. I knew Ron didn't wanna play. And so when we finally got back from the last bunch of dates we did, Ron had this guy Al Schwartz, who was going to be Rainbow's manager or somebody's manager. And we were gonna get a record deal with a new band. I can't remember what it was gonna be called, but Ron had a bunch of songs. And we went in and started recording some of the songs, and at some point they didn't like what I was doing, so I left. And it turned out to be a band called The Giants. I don't remember who they did the album for--it might have been Curb, I'm not sure. I don't think it was Warner Brothers. But they got another singer. It didn't go anywhere. And that was it. I didn't want to be in The Beau Brummels at that point.
It might not have been what you expected, or what you wanted. The album was a singer and some songs, that was basically what it was, because we never performed that stuff that much. All we did was rehearse until the thing was released. Everybody was unhappy about it. In fact, Warner Brothers gave the album to Elliott.
Not that I know of. Declan was doing that in San Francisco for a while. It's kind of funny, you know (laughs); he got thrown out of the band twice, or left the band twice, and he winds up using the name for about 15 years. They got a hold of me and I went up there and played with him for a while, and I just stopped doing it. It wasn't going anywhere. I like Declan, and Declan is playing and singing and writing better than I'd ever heard him, but he had this manager, and him and his manager had their own ideas about what they wanted to do, and they decided they could do it without me. And I think Ron played with them a couple of times,too, but Ron never stayed too long. He never liked playin' live much. I've done some dates in the last three years--I did one this year--and that's about it. I did some dates with Donnie Brooks and some of his kind of revues.
Not too likely. I really don't think any of us has the energy to try and do it again. From time to time John Peterson talks like he wants to do it. But it's a sad story. When I was playing with Declan, I think this was in the '80s or so, I came North because my father was dying, and we were playing at the Abbey in San Francisco. John Peterson was in town one night, and he was in his truck comin' over to see us. And this guy ran a stop light, broad-sided him, and broke his neck. And he's been in and out of alcohol rehab a couple of times, He's never been right since. I saw him a few years ago, and he was talkin' about it then, he wanted to do it, and he didn't want to do it. Ron, from what I've heard--I haven't seen Ron or talked with him--has lost the use of one of his arms, from the diabetes. And he doesn't even do music anymore, he doesn't have a guitar. He's a painter. Ron Meagher, I did a date up here, and he came up here with his sisters. And actually I did a date, just South of San Francisco, and Ron showed. I got Ron in, and it turned out they asked him to play harmonica on "Laugh, Laugh." So he wound up on stage with me. It was kind of a thrill, because he had his son there, and he was happy about that. I don't know what Declan' doing. Declan always seems to have a band, you know, he just mostly plays Irish places. So I don't think it's very likely, for one reason or another.
POSTSCRIPT: Sal Valentino has released three solo albums since this interview: Dreamin' Man and Come Out Tonight in 2006, and Every Now And Then in 2008.