Sonny Geraci Of The Outsiders And Climax Passes Away At Age 69

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Let’s take a minute to remember the work of Sonny Geraci, who holds the rare distinction of being the lead singer on two different “one-hit wonders” — from two different bands in two different decades and recorded in two very different styles.

The Starfires were a Cleveland Rock & Roll institution starting in the late 1950s, having built a reputation as the city’s go-to R&B party band. A personnel shakeup and a name change to The Outsiders in 1965 saw the band bring in 18-year old Sonny Geraci as lead vocalist, and soon after that, lightning struck.

The band’s song “Time Won’t Let Me” became a national hit reaching #5 on Billboard, and for good reason. I’ve always loved it, it’s got everything that makes a pop song great. A great opening line, great energy, great guitar solo, and a dramatic crescendo in the chorus that hooks you right in.

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What really made the song stand out from the pack was the horn section — which was pretty uncommon on Pop/Rock tracks in the age of the British Invasion – and it really represented the payoff for the band’s R&B roots. In fact one of the band’s touring musicians was Jim Guercio, who ended up managing the horn-reliant band the Buckinghams, and then later, he managed the horn-dominant breakthrough of the Chicago Transit Authority. Also, one of The Outsiders’ drummers was Jim Fox, who went on to form the James Gang.

I suppose it’s not really fair to call The Outsiders a one-hit wonder. They had four songs crack the Billboard Top 100, including an Isley Brothers cover “Respectable” which reached #15. But they could read the writing on the wall and disbanded acrimoniously in the late 1960s.

In 1970 Geraci hooked up with Los Angeles record producer Larry Cox, who was developing a strings-and-keyboard Soft Rock ballad sound that would later hit its zenith with Jefferson Starship’s 1975 masterpiece “Miracles”. Along with a couple other former members of the Outsiders, Geraci formed the band Climax, and completely bought in to the early-Seventies mellow L.A. vibe.

In 1972 Climax scored huge with the song “Precious And Few” which hit #3 and sold over one million copies. Say what you want, and I’m sure the song is way too syrupy sweet for most Rock fans, but there’s no denying it has a beautiful melody and it is easy to see why it was so popular among the masses. And under enhanced interrogation, I will admit sheepishly that I’ve got a soft spot for it too. So shoot me already.

Unfortunately Climax suffered from severe label mismanagement and couldn’t capitalize on the success of the song. After one album, the band split up in 1975, and after a couple more attempts Geraci left the music business altogether in the 1980s. In 2007 he jumped back in, working the oldies circuit until a brain aneurism sidelined him in 2012, and eventually got the best of him last weekend.

But he ought to be remembered fondly if only for these two songs, and these two amazing videos. Dig the different vibes, the different looks and the different sound of the two songs recorded only six years apart. It’s a reminder of just how big and how fast the Rock Revolution of the late 1960s really was.

Photo by Bell Records (eBay item photo front photo back) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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