Popular Culture (Music) 20120413: The Lovin’ Spoonful

(9 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

First of all, I apologize for missing Wednesday’s installment of My Little Town.  If anyone is interested why, I shall be happy to explain in the comments.  Briefly, yesterday was very busy.

The Lovin’ Spoonful were a short lived band that several well known hits.  Their music was more catchy than substantive, but better than much of the pap that was available at the time.

This is the only time that I intend to write about them, but they were quite popular for a few years.  There is controversy about the origin of the name for the band, and we shall address that first.

One legend, likely bogus, is that the name came from the use of a spoon to dissolve heroin for injection.  As far as I can tell, there is no evidence that any of the band members at the time used hard drugs, but I could be wrong.

The more plausible story is that the name was taken from and old song by “Mississippi” John Hurt from his blues song Coffee Blues.  Here are the lyrics, so you decide.  The case is made stronger because band leader John Sebastian said that his band sounded like a combination of Hurt and Chuck Berry.

This is the “Coffee Blues” I likes a certain brand

– Maxwell’s House – it’s good till the last drop

just like it says on the can. I used to have a girl

cookin’ a good Maxwell House. She moved away.

Some said to


and some said to Leland

but I found her. I wanted her to cook me some

good Maxwell’s House. You understand

if I can get me just a spoonful of Maxwell’s House

do me much good as two or three cups this other coffee)

I’ve got to go to Memphis bring her back to


I wanna see my baby ’bout a lovin’


my lovin’ spoonful

Well I’m just got to have my lovin’

(spoken: I found her)

Good mornin’ baby how you do this mornin’?

Well please ma’am just a lovin’ spoon

just a lovin’ spoonful

I declare I got to have my lovin’ spoonful

My baby packed her suitcase and she went away

I couldn’t let her stay for my lovin’

my lovin’ spoonful

Well I’m just got to have my lovin’

Good mornin’ baby how you do this mornin’?

Well please ma’am just a lovin’ spoon

just a lovin’ spoonful

I declare I got to have my lovin’ spoonful

Well the preacher in the pulpit jumpin’ up and down

He laid his bible down for his lovin’

(spoken: Ain’t Maxwell House all right?)

Well I’m just got to have my lovin’

Here is the original lineup for the band which formed around 1964 in New York City:

John Sebastian, songwriting, vocals, and not much else except a zither!!???,

Zal Yanovsky, guitar,

Steve Boone, bass, and

Joe Butler, drums and vocals

One thing that I do give them credit for is that they did not use session folks to come and rescue them from not being able to play.  Love or dislike them, for the most part they did all of their own work.  For a while they were magic, to make a poor pun.

Unfortunately, release date information and chart performance is spotty for this band.  Their first single, released sometime in 1965 was the Sebastian song “Do You Believe in Magic”.  It charted to #9 in the US, not bad for a debut single.  Want to listen?

Embed was disabled, so here is the link.  It is pretty doggone good, and I DO believe in the magic in certain young girl’s eyes.  Yes, I am a little teary.

Here is what appears to be a mimed version from the old TeeVee show Shindig.  Did anyone ever dress like that?

Later than year a much less well known song charted at #10 in the US.  “You Didn’t Have to be so Nice”, another Sebastian song, is really pretty good as well.  The nice chorale arrangements sort of remind me of an amateur version of The Who.

It is not a bad song.  Here is a “live” version:

Having two consecutive singles making the Top Ten in the US is a big deal.  But having them being the first two singles from a band is phenomenal.  Could they follow up with another?  You betcha, you bet!

In 1966 “Daydream”, another Sebastian song, was released, and it charted at #2.  Three back to back songs, all in the Top Ten consecutively.  Not bad at all.

There are lots of opinions about the topic of this very short song, and they range from a girl, to marijuana, to LSD.  I tend to favor the LSD origin, because of the very long duration of the daydream.  However, love for a person is even longer when the emotions are favorable.  I still favor the LSD one, if for nothing else than it being released in 1966.

Here is a “live” version with poor sound quality.  I include it only because of the irony.  Sebastian’s father, also named John, was a virtuoso harmonica player!  Sebastian is “playing” the guitar, and it appears that Boone (I might be wrong) is playing harmonica here.

So how does a band follow up on so many Top Ten hits?  With another one, of course!  Yet another Sebastian song, “Did You ever Have to Make up Your Mind” was released in 1966 and also hit #2 in the US.  What a string of hits!  I like that song very much.

By the way, I HAVE made up my mind, but that is a quite different thing.  Please wish me well!

Here is a sort of OK “live” one.

So, how does a band follow this?  With their only #1 on the charts!  Interestingly, it was NOT written by John Sebastian, but his brother Mark and Steve Boone!  That is ironic.  It also must have been devastating to John.  Sibling rivalry can be quite hurtful.  The name of the song is “Summer in the City”.

Here is a very poor, recent “live” one.

They managed to get yet another song on the Top Ten in 1966.  I really like “Rain on the Roof”, another Sebastian song.

It is a simple little song, but sometimes simplicity is good.  Here is s synched version.

Their last Top Ten single was “Nashville Cats” which I did not like at all.

They never charted in the Top Ten again.  They only had two Top Ten albums, Daydream from 1966 and the compilation The Best of The Lovin’ Spoonful in 1967, charting at #10 and #3 respectively.

Zal Yanovsky left the band early in 1967, and they never recovered.  The reason was that he was “busted” for marijuana that spring, and rolled on his dealer.  That was not popular with the fan base, and for some reason the urban legend was that Sebastian was the one to rat.  I had believed that for decades, actually until I was doing the research for this piece.

Sebastian left the next year, and even though the band were active, they never achieved anything like the success that they had had before.  Sebastian thought that he could have a fabulous solo career, but never charted higher than #84 with one notable exception for singles.  His initial solo album, John B. Sebastian, charted at #20 and afterwards he never charted higher than #75.

The notable exception was his hit single “Welcome Back” that was used at the theme song for the TeeVee program Welcome Back Kotter (a very silly show, noteworthy for being the springboard for John Travolta).  I include it here just for nostalgic reasons.

My take on The Lovin’ Spoonful is that they were a mediocre band with flashes of brilliance, but they used up all of their good material early in their career.  I very much like a few of their numbers, but most of their songs are quite forgettable.  Please let us know what you think in the comments.

As far as my wrist goes, it is VERY slowly getting better with time.  It is frustrating for it to take so long to recover, but I am faithful with my supplements and NSAIDs.  I can write a bit now, but not much more than a telephone number and the like.  This presents a problem because I have to fill out my KY tax forms this weekend, five pages total.  That is beyond my current capability.  The Girl told me that she would fill them out if I told her what to put where, so that is taken care of at least.  The Federal ones are fillable .pdf ones, so they are not problem.  The state ones are just .pdf blanks.

Warmest regards,

Doc, aka Dr. David W. Smith

Crossposted at

The Stars Hollow Gazette,

Daily Kos, and



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  1. flashes of brilliance?

    Warmest regards,


  2. I very much appreciate it.

    Warmest regards,


  3. I know you know this Doc, but I feel compelled to explain a little for our other contributors.

    No one is obligated to post.  Things happen, maybe you’re just not feeling it (I get that all the time).

    If you’re a regular contributor you may feel ignored because usually I’m a mite busy to chat, but that doesn’t mean I don’t read everything and notice what’s missing.

    I’m not the taskmaster people think and you won’t get an angry email saying where’s your piece, but should you miss several deadlines I will worry that your life has taken an unexpected turn and I appreciate the reassurance that everything is ok.

    We’re all grown ups here and writing is something you should want to do, not a 500 word homework assignment.

    • RUKind on April 14, 2012 at 05:30

    Soon-to-be-members of the psychedelic rock band the Grateful Dead were part of the West Coast acoustic folk music scene when The Lovin’ Spoonful came to town while on tour. They credited The Lovin’ Spoonful concert as a fateful experience, after which they decided to leave the folk scene and “go electric.” [wiki]

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