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Classics IV



Anyone who doesn't have a clear image of the Classics IV can be forgiven -- they went through so many shifts in personnel and sound (not to mention a name change after they'd started recording), they were little more than a name attached to some excellent (and very good-selling) records of the second half of the 1960s, without a personality or identity to grab onto easily. Although they're considered a late-'60s phenomenon, owing to the chronology of their hits, the group can trace its roots back to R&B harmony (i.e., doo wop) music of the late '50s. Detroit-born, Florida-raised Dennis Yost, who joined on drums and moved into the singer's spot, came from a Jacksonville-area band called the Echoes; he was just old enough to remember '50s R&B when it was current and, among many other groups, loved the Five Satins; and in addition to playing the skins, he sometimes liked to sing when the calls came for a '50s number like "In the Still of the Night." After his own group broke up in the mid-'60s, Yost joined a band called Leroy & the Moments, which included Wally Eaton (bass, vocals), James Cobb (guitar), and Joe Wilson (keyboards). His arrival, along with the changing times, also signaled a change in the group's name -- as there was no "Leroy" anyway, that could go, and the Moments was already taken, so, taking their lead from Yost's Classic-model drum kit, they became the Classics. Their sound was extremely diverse by all accounts -- they could cover most of the Top 40 note-perfect, which was ideal for audiences in Jacksonville but didn't necessarily give them much to work with as a recording act. Part of their act included a tribute to the Four Seasons, who were still burning up the charts in those days -- and, though they had a history that went back much further, were a lot like the Classics in that they could sing anything and were also a virtually self-contained unit instrumentally -- and when the group was signed to Capitol Records in 1966, they made their debut that fall with a Joe South song called "Pollyanna"; the single was virtually a faux-Four Seasons record in style and sound, and it was just different and fresh enough that it might have done well, except that the management of the actual Four Seasons reportedly took offense, and did their best to keep "Pollyanna"'s presence to a minimum on the New York airwaves; and to top it off, the group was threatened with legal action by a Brooklyn-based vocal outfit called the Classics, who'd already charted a single. Thus, Florida's Classics became the Classics IV, and for all of that trouble, their debut record fizzled at number 103 on the charts. "Pollyanna" might have made a good debut in 1966, but releasing a remake of the Diamonds' 1950s hit "Little Darlin'" -- produced by Joe South -- in January of 1967 was plain bad timing for a good record that had no place to go (ironically, two years or so later, with the nostalgia craze starting to kick in, that might have been another story). The record was actually more important for its B-side, which had a faux-Righteous Brothers song called "Nothing to Lose," co-authored by guitarist James Cobb and Buddy Buie, who would soon take on a much bigger role; it was also sung by Cobb and Yost, subbing for Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield. By that time, the group had also relocated to Atlanta, and were unbowed in their quest for success, despite the end of the first recording deal. Their Capitol contract was behind them by the spring of 1967, and the following summer the group moved on to Imperial Records. Once a home to New Orleans-based R&B stars like Fats Domino and Dave Bartholomew, Imperial had been absorbed into Liberty Records and was now a much more pop/rock-oriented operation, the imprint even being used for the early U.S. releases of records by the Hollies. It was at this point that things started going the group's way, when Buie and Cobb heard an instrumental entitled "Spooky," and came up with words for it, and a new arrangement by Cobb. The record, released in September of 1967, broke out in Louisville, KY, and began getting picked up by stations around the country, building slowly to a number three national hit that winter of 1967-1968. Suddenly there was a serious future in the offing for the Classics IV -- but not for Cobb as a member, nor for Yost as a drummer. The sudden infusion of royalty money on the shared copyright of "Spooky" eliminated the need for Cobb to remain as the group's guitarist; and suddenly Yost's position behind the kit on what was now a very heavy national touring schedule became untenable. Cobb kept writing and also sometimes doing the group's arrangements with Buie (who became the producer of the Classics IV), alternating with official arranger Emory Gordy; but he gave up playing on-stage with the band, preferring the less draining life of a session guitarist, and was replaced in the lineup by Auburn Burrell; and Yost stepped up to the microphone full-time while Kim Venable took over on the drums. They were no longer, strictly speaking, the "Classics IV" but that hardly mattered, as the band's lineup situation quickly got a lot more complicated. As they were now a national-level act with an audience across a continent, it was decided by Buie and Imperial that there was no reason to limit themselves to the talents -- fine as they might've been -- of the actual members when it came to the sounds on their records. In place of the members, apart from group alumnus Cobb, the Classics IV's records soon began featuring some of Atlanta's top session musicians, among them drummer Robert Nix, while the touring membership included Dean Daughtry and Bill Gilmore on keyboards and bass, respectively, all late of Roy Orbison's band the Candymen. All of these personnel shifts, coupled with a bumper crop of Cobb/Buie songs, made for a strong debut album, entitled Spooky. The only problem, in retrospect, was that the sounds were too diverse -- it was hard to pin down an identity for the Classics IV, listening to the album, and given the diversity of personnel it's not surprising. Among top American groups, the Beach Boys also relied on session musicians after 1964, but they always made sure Carl Wilson's guitar was there, and their voices were easily recognizable. Apart from Yost's singing, there wasn't a lot of unity in the Classics IV's sound. Their next couple of singles, "Soul Train" and "Mamas and Papas," didn't do more than a fraction of the business done by "Spooky," though the group was permitted to record a second LP, which failed to sell in any serious numbers, at least initially. One song off of the album, entitled "Stormy," was given a single release and suddenly the group was back in the Top Five in the fall of 1968, and for the first time also made the easy listening charts as well. They made a return visit, this time all the way to the number two spot, in the winter of 1969 with "Traces," another Cobb/Buie collaboration, this time with help from arranger Emory Gordy. The group's longevity seemed assured, but an interesting shift had taken place in their output across the preceding two years -- they'd gone from being a solid rock & roll cover band to delivering a much softer, more laid-back pop/rock sound with a Southern flavor but not a lot of wattage, and closer in spirit to, say, the work of Roy Orbison circa 1967-1968 than to what was considered rock music in 1969-1970. And their singles, although they still made the pop (i.e., rock) charts, were starting to place higher numbers on the easy listening (i.e., pop) charts, on records such as "Everyday With You Girl," which reached number 19 as a rock single and number 12 on the easy listening charts in 1969. Amid this flurry of activity, the group's name was changed in the new decade, so that they were known officially as Dennis Yost & the Classics IV. Their chart action declined throughout 1971, however, amid the changing tastes of the public, and the reorganization of their record label -- which had merged with United Artists -- made the environment at Liberty inhospitable. Dennis Yost and the Classics IV shifted to MGM Records in 1972 and lasted through one album and a last pop hit, with "What Am I Crying For," along with a string of attempts through 1975. By that time, Cobb, Daughtry, and Buie had split off to form the Atlanta Rhythm Section. At that point Dennis Yost went solo, or tried to -- meanwhile, their ex-studio band emerged as the Atlanta Rhythm Section and, amid all of their other successes, enjoyed a new hit with "Spooky" in 1979, while Santana returned "Stormy" to the charts. Meanwhile, Yost became a fixture on the oldies circuit alongside his one-time Imperial labelmate Gary Lewis and other denizens of the mid-'60s singles charts, and also wrote songs and became a producer. He also secured the exclusive rights to the group name, and continued to perform into the early 21st century. ~ Bruce Eder
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Top Tracks

  1.   Track
  2.   Spooky
  3.   Traces
  4.   Stormy
  5.   Everyday With You Girl by Dennis Yost
  6.   Mama's and Papa's
  7.   Daydream Believer
  8.   Most of All
  9.   Free
  10.   Nothing To Lose by Dennis Yost
  11.   Games People Play by Dennis Yost
  12.   Poor People by Dennis Yost
  13.   Little Darlin' by Dennis Yost
  14.   Change of Heart
  15.   Welcome Me Love
  16.   All In Your Mind
  17.   Teenage Lovers
  18.   Unchain My Heart
  19.   What Am I Crying For
  20.   Mr. Blue
  21.   Bus Stop
  22.   Goin' Out of My Head
  23.   The Letter
  24.   It's Time For Love by Dennis Yost
  25.   Just Between You and Me by Dennis Yost
  26.   Dancing by Myself by Dennis Yost
  27.   Strange Changes
  28.   Where Did All the Good Times Go
  29.   My First Day Without Her
  30.   Midnight
  31.   Sweet Surrender
  32.   The Funniest Thing
  33.   It's Not Unusual
  34.   Don't You Care / Mercy Mercy / Hey Baby, They're Playing Our Song (Medley)
  35.   24 Hours of Lonelines / Midnight / Everyday With You Girl (Medley)
  36.   Nobody Loves You But Me
  37.   Soul Train
  38.   Ladies Man by Dennis Yost
  39.   Bed of Roses by Dennis Yost
  40.   God Bless the USA / America the Beautiful (Medley)
  41.   Your Turn
  42.   Wishes by Dennis Yost
  43.   Hush by Dennis Yost
  44.   The Days of Our Lives
  45.   Where Did the Goodtimes Go
  46.   A New Horizon
  47.   Little Darling
  48.   Our Day Will Come
  49.   By the Time I Get to Phoenix
  50.   You Are My Sunshine
  51.   Waves by Dennis Yost
  52.   Book a Trip by Dennis Yost
  53.   Cry Baby by Dennis Yost
  54.   Pollyana by Dennis Yost
  55.   Mary, Mary Row Your Boat
  56.   24 Hours of Loneliness
  57.   Something I'll Remember by Dennis Yost
  58.   Sunny
  59.   Pity the Fool
  60.   I Wouldn't Have It Any Other Way by Dennis Yost
  61.   Sentimental Lady
  62.   People Gotta Be Free / Put a Little Love in Your Heart (Medley)
  63.   Bed of Roses
  64.   Laugh It Off by Dennis Yost
  65.   Aint It the Truth
  66.   Rosanna
  67.   It Ain't Necessarily So by Dennis Yost
  68.   Pollyanna
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