Based in Cleveland, Ohio, the Outsiders was the brainchild of Tom King, a guitarist, composer and arranger. Initially known as Tom King And The Starfires, the line-up was completed by Al Austin (guitar), Met Madsen (bass) and Rick Biagiola/Baker (drums). The group was just a garden-variety bar band until the 1965 addition of eighteen year old vocalist Sonny Geraci infused the group with new life.
Tom King and his brother-in-law, Chet Kelley co-wrote a song called "Time Won't Let Me" and recorded it on their own. The song blended the group's core sound to brass and horn sections, in what was a fairly complex arrangement. On the strength of the recording, the group was signed by Capitol Records, but the label insisted that the band take a new name. King had been forced to abandon Pama Records, the label for which the Starfires had cut a dozen tunes and was owned by his uncle, who accused his nephew of being an "outsider" to the family.
"Time Won't Let Me" was issued in January of 1966, rising to number five on the national charts and selling over a million copies. An infectious slice of classic American pop, it introduced a series of similarly excellent top 40 songs, that included "Girl in Love" which went to #21.
By the spring of 1966, Capitol was ready for the group to record their debut album and Tom King called up Jimmy Fox, who had been the drummer for a slightly earlier line-up of the Starfires, to play on those sessions. Fox had left the group to attend college, but he came back to play on the album. In the wake of his brief reunion with his bandmates, Fox decided to forego college in favour of forming a band of his own, which would find their own success as the James Gang.
The sessions for some of the songs that would be on the group's second album (Outsiders #2) had already taken place and one of them, a version of the Isley Brothers number, "Respectable" was pegged as their third single, released in July of that year. The song rose to number 15 nationally in the summer of 1966, followed by "Help Me Girl" which stalled at #37 when it was successfully covered by Eric Burdon And The Animals.
Only six months after their big break, bad luck seemed to follow The Outsiders. They had access to a song called "Bend Me, Shape Me" ahead of anyone else, but turned it down as a single release, thus allowing the American Breed to rack up a major hit in 1968. The group's third L.P., "In", released in April of 1967, never charted and none of the group's subsequent singles reached the Top 100.
A single called "Gotta Leave Us Alone" rose to number 121, which apparently was sufficient to get the band a tentative go-ahead for a fourth album. By that time, King and Kelley had begun working with a Cleveland-based songwriter named Bob Turek, and the group's line-up had shifted somewhat. Mert Madsen had decided to get married and get off the road, and was succeeded on bass by an ex-member of the Starfires, Richard D'Amato.
The intended fourth album was scrapped partway through and instead, a "concert" album, entitled "Happening Live", appeared in its place. As was quite common in the mid-sixties, the producers went back to the multi-tracks of the originals and removed the overdubbed strings, brass, and horns, and simply added crowd noise to the existing recordings. The L.P. sold poorly and turned out to be the last for The Outsiders.
By 1968, with band members coming and going, Tom King quit the group and Sonny Geraci was left to keep the band alive. In tandem with Walter Nims, the pair attempted to record, but a law suit was launched over the right to use the name "The Outsiders" which King won in 1970.
Geraci and Nims went on to form a new group called Climax. Their first effort was a Nims written tune called "Precious and Few", which went to #1 nationally and was awarded a gold record in 1971. Climax toured the world and appeared on the current television shows of the time, The Smothers Brothers, Hulabaloo, Shindig, Where The Action Is, and American Bandstand.
The song "Rock and Roll Heaven" (a hit for the Righteous Brothers) was written originally for Climax and Sonny Geraci by their keyboard player, John Stevenson, although their version failed to sell. Further releases by Climax also flopped and Geraci returned to the Cleveland area, performing a night club act for casinos, cruises and corporate parties.
By 1980, Geraci had retired from music and went to work for his family's home improvement business. Five years later, he started getting calls to play at rock and roll revival shows and put a group back together. They have been doing summer tours since then.
Another Outsiders album called "30 Years Live" was released by a re-formed band that featured original guitarist Tom King, but minus Sonny Geraci. Predictably, it failed to gain any attention.
About this album
In 1985, Rhino Records acknowledged the group's legacy with a decent best-of LP, and in 1991, Capitol Records finally gave the group their long overdue recognition by adding them to its Capitol Collectors Series with a very good 25-song compilation
+ Although they really only had a three-year recording career, Cleveland's the Outsiders managed at least two enduring pop hits, 1966's "Time Won't Let Me" and "Respectable," and churned out four fairly decent albums for Capitol Records, each of which shows a sharply defined garage pop sound with artful use of horns and other suitable arrangement effects. This set has everything essential, including the above hits and near misses like "Girl in Love."
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