I believe I first heard of the Blossoms when they appeared on Dick Dale’s “King Of The Surf Guitar” (I was lucky enough to be on that session playing guitar next to Glen Campbell but that’s another story). I’m not sure if the girls were at the date but I soon learned that they were singing background on just about everything in town. I also heard of their association with Phil Spector, The Crystals and Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans. (That’s Darlene Love, Fanita James, myself and Jeanie King in the picture.)
After I left Dick Dale, Mike Patterson and a few of us started a band called The Fugitives. We had been backing up the Righteous Brothers on various gigs around Southern California before their big hit “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'”. After that hit The Fugitives became the backup band for the Righteous Brothers. The Blossoms had been singing on most of the Brothers’ records so it only seemed natural that they join us on the road as the backup singers.
For some reason I became the designated driver for the girls, and the four of us spent a lot of time together. As we did most of our touring in the south (and this was the mid 60s) it became very interesting to see the look on peoples faces as I squired the gals around Louisiana, North Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. Two instances stick out in my mind. On one occasion we were driving to a gig through the back roads of North Carolina. We were lost and I stopped for directions at a small general store. All I remember is that the four of us were not greeted too warmly, and I said to the girls “let’s get out of here fast!” and we did. On another occasion we were at an airport somewhere in Louisiana. Evidently, it wasn’t generally appreciated that we should be traveling together, particularly as there was much obvious camaraderie and affection among us. Of course — we were lucky we didn’t get ourselves killed!
It became obvious at one point that Bill Medley and Darlene were very fond of each other. For whatever reason it never went beyond that, maybe because of the times. In any event, as the story was told to me, the relationship was the inspiration for the song “Brown Eyed Woman” written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. I always thought that was a great record, but it was only a hit in some major cities. I guess the country wasn’t ready for that sentiment.
Another tidbit Darlene mentioned to me was how Phil Spector wouldn’t record her or release her from her contract, so she was in limbo for a number of years unable to release records under her own name.
Mike Patterson was actively involved as manager and road manager for the Brothers, but after they broke up he continued his role as manager for Bill Medley and various other acts, including The Blossoms. One day around 1971 Mike asked my writing partner, Joe Reed, and myself to write and produce some sides for a Blossoms album. This became their only album and was released on Lion/MGM Records. It was great to be re-united with them again. They were always fun to be with and of course their singing was out of this world! We recorded it at MGM recording studios on Fairfax in L.A. and used a lot of the “cool” Motown players of the time, as well as Gene Paige as the arranger. Also, here is a picture of me on a ladder dropping a pawn shop guitar plugged into a Marshall amp, cranked to the max, for the explosion on “Shockwave”.
A few years ago I was pleasantly surprised, watching one of the Lethal Weapon movies, to recognize Darlene playing Trish. I was also pleased to hear that she appeared in the Tony nominated 1985 Broadway musical, Leader of the Pack, based on the songs of Ellie Greenwich.
I was sad to hear of Jeannie’s death of a heart attack in 1983. I haven’t seen or spoken to Darlene or Fanita since the 70s but I have such fond memories of working and hanging out with them so many years ago.