The Association: the first folk rock bandDec 30, 2019 03:28PM ● By Jan Weeks
Who knew that Monday night hootenannies at The Troubadour would give birth to one of the most enduring and beloved groups ever to record?
On February 10, 1965, this Los Angeles nightclub melded an unlikely group of musicians into a band. During one open mic session, the owner called the group aside—then called The Inner Tubes—and asked them if they’d like to be regulars. They tried out band names such as The Men and The Aristocrats until one member’s girlfriend suggested “association.” The rest is rock and roll history.
A BAND OF MANY FIRSTS
According to Jim Yester, one of the original members, the band loosely started as a 13-piece folk group. After coalescing as The Association, they moved from pure folk into rock and roll.
“We were the first group ever to be dubbed folk rock,” Yester said.
That wasn’t their only first. When they played an open-air concert in Ravinia, Illinois, The Association broke the attendance record for the venue, previously held by the band’s “heroes”—Kingston Trio. They went on to break Frank Sinatra’s record at the Latin Casino in Cherry Hills, New Jersey and were the first rock band to play Wolftrap in Virginia, the Greek Theater in Los Angeles and the opera house in Chicago.
“We’re very serious about our image and that’s what we gave the people,” Yester added.
While membership was very fluid at the start, now the group is solid. As the frontman, Yester does most of the talking as well as playing rhythm guitar. Paul Holland contributes a serious lead guitar, while Jules Alexander is the number two lead guitarist. Brian Cole’s son, Jordan, followed in his deceased father’s footsteps doubling on keyboard and guitar. The band also includes Del Ramos—the younger brother of Larry Ramos, who has also passed, and sang lead on “Never My Love” and “Windy”—and Bruce Pictor, the rare singing drummer since 1986.
After decades of performances, the group has maintained its popularity.
“Wonderful harmony and good music have a way of sticking around through the ages,” Yester explained.
Whimsy is also important, as is the fact that there is no drama among the group, just a lot of sweat and laughter. It’s not uncommon for the group to start ad-libbing if someone blows a lyric, and they like to include the audience in the fun. According to Yester, the audience reaction is the best part of performing, which can include both laughter and tears. When they sing “Cherish” or “Never My Love,” Yester gets so choked up he can barely sing.
Millions of fans remember the group best for their romantic hits. At every concert, people come up to the band and say, “That was our song!”
Perhaps the most poignant anti-war song ever written, “Requiem for the Masses,” touched men serving in Vietnam more deeply than any love song could. Yester recalled hundreds of veterans who have come to their concerts and approached them weeping, and said, “That song helped me survive. I knew that someone cared and understood what we were going through.”
MEET THE BAND
Band members are looking forward to meeting Grand Junction locals at Community Concerts of the Grand Valley's first show of 2020. After the concert, they’ll meet and greet audience members and sell CDs. Be prepared for old songs as well as some the group didn’t popularize, such as “Walk Away, Renee.” There’s also a tribute to The Mamas and Papas and an eight-song medley of all the people they’ve worked with over the years.
SEE THEM LIVE!
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