Saturday, March 09, 2013

Peppermint Rainbow

  • Bonnie Lamdin - vocals
  • Pat Lamdin - vocals
  • Doug Lewis - guitar
  • Anton Corey - percussion
  • Skip Harris (deceased) - bass
Thanks to Johnny Dollar for reminding us of Baltimore's forgotten 1960s "sunshine pop" band The Peppermint Rainbow (1967-1970). JD scored the group's lone LP Will You Be Staying After Sunday at a Joppa Road Salvation Army store and posted the cover on Facebook, leading us to scratch our heads as to why we had never heard of them.

A quick Google search informed us that the band - formed in 1967 under the name New York Times before changing their name to Peppermint Rainbow in 1968 and featuring sister singers Bonnie and Pat Lamdin - was discovered by "Mama" Cass Elliot (Baltimore's own Ellen Naomi Cohen), who caught one of their performances (and later sang a medley of The Mamas & The Papas tunes with them on stage) and was responsible for getting them signed to Decca Records, where their songs were produced by Paul Leka (who composed the No. 1 hit "Green Tambourine" for The Lemon Pipers and produced Steam and The American Breed). It was a logical fit, as Peppermint Rainbow played the same sort of sunny-tempered SoCal soft-rock as the Mamas & Papas, The 5th Dimension, and Spanky and Our Gang. (In fact, many see their hit single "Will You be Staying After Sunday" as a kind of sequel to Spanky's 1967 #9 hit "Sunday Will Never Be the Same" or 1968's "Sunday Mornin'.")

Though their first single, "Walking in Different Circles" b/w "Pink Lemonade" did not chart, their second single "Will You Be Staying After Sunday" (written by Paul Leka and Al Kasha and originally intended to be the third installment in Spanky and Our Gang's Sabbath Hit Parade) reached as high as  #4 on Los Angeles' KJH radio playlist in  April 1969 and No. 32 on Billboard's Hot 100 on May 3, 1969. The hit eventually sold over a million copies, earning the group a gold record and leading Cashbox and Billboard magazine to name them the year's "Best New Vocal Group." Gullbuy Music Review further sang the song's praises as featuring "one of the great drumfills in the history of one-hit wonders."

Peppermint Rainbow press photo
The proposed follow-up single "Rosemary" b/w "Don't Wake Me Up In the Morning, Michael"  was later flipped under the advice of co-managers Phil Lorito and Betty Sperber, who felt the B-side was the stronger candidate. Hindsight proved them right, as "Michael" was another minor hit, peaking at No. 8 on the charts, while the full-length album Will You Be Staying After Sunday, just missed the Top 100 album charts at No. 106. (Which might explain how it ended up at a Salvation Army store on Joppa Road!)

Spurred by their Top 40 success, Peppermint Rainbow spent a lot of the road touring the East Coast and also appeared on several TV programs, including The Mike Douglas Show, The Steve Allen Show and The Della Reese Show. They even opened for Eric Burdon and The Animals when the Brits played the Baltimore Civic Center.

Wikipedia reports that the band split up in 1970 after recording three more post-album singles that also failed to chart,  including "You're the Sound of Love" b/w "Jamais," "Good Morning Means Goodbye" b/w "Don't Love Me Unless It's Forever," and “Walking in Different Circles.

Though reviewer Patrick at Gullbuy Music Review characterized the band as "the ultimate 60s lounge band turned into a one hit wonder," the pop-loving folks at the (regrettably defunct) Not Lame record label used to carry the Peppermint Rainbow album, which they countered was "a real pot of gold for 60s sunshine pop seekers." Interestingly, the record features the band covering producer Paul Leka's "Green Tambourine" - and actually using the Lemon Pipers' original 1967 backing track!

Today, former Peppermint Rainbow singer Bonnie Lamdin Phipps is the President and CEO of Saint Agnes HealthCare in Baltimore, and serves as the Baltimore/DC/Kansas City, MO/Pasco, WA/Lewiston, ID Ministry Market Leader for Ascension Health.

CEO Phipps today (photo Baltimore Business Journal)

And the rest of the band? Well, in 2007, Mary Zajac profiled Peppermint Rainbow in Style magazine's "Where Are They Now" local oldie bands feature (Sept./Oct. 2007):

Carole King may have asked “Will you still love me tomorrow?” but Baltimore’s Peppermint Rainbow was a bit more specific. The band’s sunny pop single “Will You Be Staying After Sunday/ If We Can Make it to Monday” reached No. 32 on the Billboard charts in 1969 amidst the Beatles’ “Get Back” and debut singles by the Chicago Transit Authority and Three Dog Night. The tune, written by Al Kasha and Paul Leka, who had just scored a No. 1 hit in writing “Green Tambourine” for the Lemon Pipers, featured the rich vocal harmonies of Bonnie Lamdin (who sounds like a dead ringer for Spanky McFarlane on this cut) and her sister, Pat, and the backing efforts of a trio of guys— Tony Carey on drums, Doug Lewis on lead guitar and Skip Harris on bass.

Discovered by another Baltimorean— Mama Cass Elliot— in a Georgetown club, the group went from a low point of sharing one loaf of bread and a package of bologna five ways to brief fame touring the country with The 5th Dimension, Gary Puckett and the Union Gap, Sly and the Family Stone, even the ukulele-playing Tiny Tim. Lead singer Bonnie Lamdin Phipps remembers Peppermint Rainbow’s audition for the “Dinah Shore Show”— in Dinah Shore’s living room— and how Shore’s influence got the band invited to perform on the “Mike Douglas Show.” (“I still have the tape,” she says fondly.)

Peppermint Rainbow released only one album, “Will You Be Staying After Sunday,” which just missed making Billboard’s Top 100 albums chart in 1969. By 1970, Bonnie Lamdin had married and the band members, worn out from touring and feeling a little defeated by the album’s failure to chart, went their separate ways.

Only one of the band members, Doug Lewis, still plays music regularly, handling a variety of instruments and vocals in the local band The New Monopoly. (In the ’90s, he was part of the Delaware-based band the Hubcaps.) Tony Carey, who Lamdin Phipps describes as the band’s “free spirit,” lives in Alaska and paints houses for a living. Skip Harris is deceased. Pat (Lamdin) Brown works for the juvenile court system, and Lamdin Phipps returned to Baltimore from Atlanta last year to become president and CEO of St. Agnes Hospital, the culmination of a 30-year career in the health care industry. Lamdin Phipps is philosophical about her time as part of the Peppermint Rainbow. “Being in the band prepared me for making presentations,” she says with a laugh, “So I don’t get totally paralyzed when I have to do that.” —M.Z.
And, needless to say, Peppermint Rainbow are listed in the second edition of Joe Vaccarino's Baltimore Sounds (2012), which remains the best source of local music history.

Watch Peppermint Rainbow perform "Will You Be Staying After Sunday?"

From "The Generation Gap" TV appearance, May 2, 1969

And thanks to my pal Chris Long for alerting me to this groovy cover version of "Will You Be Staying After Sunday" by Rochester, NY 60s girl group revivalists It's My Party!:

See also:
Allmusicguide Biography
Peppermint Rainbow (Lorito Management)
"Where Are They Now?" (Style Magazine, Sept./Oct. 2007)
Robinson Video Center bio of Bonnie Lamdin Phipps
Peppermint Rainbow (Discogs)
Peppermint Rainbow (Gullbuy Music Review)

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

awesome sound of the original decca single by Peppermint Rainbow...

11:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of my favorite songs. Thanks for the update.

9:38 PM  
Blogger Xav said...

Bonnie's current 'do still looks very '60s. I can also see her catching people who work for her watching the video and saying "Play that again and your fired!" Happy 50th anniversary to the song. Thanks to Me-TV radio in various markets, new people are discovering it.

3:31 PM  
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