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The Association Biography

Home > Music > T > The Association > Biography

Birth Place: California, United States
Years Active: 1965–present
Genres: Sunshine Pop, Folk Rock, Psychedelic Folk

The Association is a pop-rock/folk band from California that came into prominence in the 1960s. Jules Alexander met Terry Kirkmanin 1962 while in the navy and stationed in Hawaii. The two enthusiastic musicians connected immediately over music and began playing together. The friends stayed in touch and two years later moved to Los Angeles and formed the band The Inner Tubes with the addition of Doug Dillard. With each show a new member of the band would be added as local musicians came and went. At one time the band consisted of Cass Elliot and David Crosby. By 1965 The Association had become a 13-piece folk-rock group, calling themselves The Men and landing a gig as the house band at the famed Troubadour in West Hollywood.

Over time The Men disbanded, and The Association took shape with the original lineup consisting of Alexander on vocals and lead guitar, Kirkman on vocals, brass and percussion, Brian Cole on vocals, bass and woodwinds, Russ Giguere on vocals, percussion and guitar, Ted Bluechel, Jr. on drums, guitar, bass and vocals and Bob Page on guitar, banjo and vocals. Page was quickly replaced by Jim Yester on vocals, guitar, and keyboards. The band was signed to the small label, Jubilee Records and released the single “Babe I'm Gonna Leave You,” which led to the bigger label, Valiant Records offering the band a contract.

The Association became a household name with heir hit song, “Along Comes Mary,” which peaked at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart. Shortly thereafter the band's debut album, “And Then... Along Comes the Association” emerged. A song from the album, “Cherish,” became The Association's first #1 hit single in September 1966. The band's second album, “Renaissance” arrived in 1967, but did not fare as well commercially as its predecessor.

Later in 1967, Alexander left the band to study meditation in India and was replaced by Larry Ramos on vocals and guitar. Ramos joined the band while Alexander was still performing with them after bassist Cole's hand was injured by a firecracker; Alexander subbed on bass while Ramos played lead guitar. Ramos had previously performed with The New Christy Minstrels and recorded solo singles for Columbia Records. He would later sing co-lead (along with Giguere and Kirkman) on two of the Association's biggest hit singles, “Windy” and “Never My Love.”

With the lineup settled, the group returned to the studio, this time with Bones Howe in the producer's chair. The first fruits of this pairing would be the single “Windy” written by Ruthann Friedman, topping the Billboard Hot 100 in July 1967 and preceded by the album “Insight Out,” which reached #8 in June. On June 16, 1967, the Association was the first act to perform at the Monterey Pop Festival.

The group's winning streak continued with their next single, “Never My Love,” which reached #2 o on the Hot 100 in October 1967. “Never My Love” has been accredited by BMI as the song with the second most U.S. airplay in the 20th century.

After rejecting the recording of an entire cantata written by Jimmy Webb, which included the song “MacArthur Park,” the group, in early 1968, produced its fourth album, “Birthday,” with Bones Howe again at the controls. This album spawned “Everything That Touches You,” the group's last Hot 100 Top 10 hit, and the more experimental “Time for Livin',” the group's last Top 40 hit. Later that year, the group released a self-produced single, the harder-edged “Six Man Band.” This song would also appear on “Greatest Hits,” released in November 1968.

In early 1969, Alexander returned to the group, which now made The Association a seven-man band. The first project with the seven-piece band was music for the soundtrack of “Goodbye, Columbus,” the film version of Philip Roth's best-selling novel. The title track, written by Yester, rose to #80. John Boylan, one third of the unknown Hamilton Streetcar, worked with the group on the soundtrack and stayed on board for the next album, “The Association.” None of the singles made any impact, so the group re-teamed with Curt Boettcher in late 1969 for a one-off single, “Just About the Same” (released in February 1970), a reworking of a song Boettcher had recorded with his group, The Millennium. This failed to hit as well.

Despite all this, the band remained a popular concert draw and an April 1970 Salt Lake City performance was recorded for “The Association Live.” In 1971 Giguere left the band and The Association replaced him with keyboardist/singer Richard Thompson (no relation to the English singer-songwriter/guitarist), who had contributed to previous albums and would go on to be known primarily in jazz circles. 1971 also saw the release of “Stop Your Motor.” The album was their worst selling to date, reaching only #158.

“Stop Your Motor” also marked the end of The Association's tenure at Warner Bros. In early 1972, they resurfaced on Columbia with “Waterbeds in Trinidad!,” produced by Lewis Merenstein (best known for producing Van Morrison's Astral Weeks). The album fared even worse than “Stop Your Motor,” reaching #194, while a single of The Lovin' Spoonful's “Darlin' Be Home Soon” failed to break the Hot 100.

1972 saw the band embark on a tour, however tragedy hit when session player, Brian Cole was found dead from a heroin overdose. Despite not being a permanent member of the band and hired specifically for the tour, Cole's death hit the band hard. Kirkman departed the band later that year, along with Meltz and Berkowitz. The remaining group members moved over to CBS distributed and released the single “Names, Tags, Numbers & Labels,” which failed to make an impression on the charts, or audiences. A year later in 1973, Thompson left the band, reducing The Association to a four piece consisting of Alexander, Bluechel, Yester, and Ramos. Maurice Miller was brought in on vocals, drums, percussion; Art Johnson on vocals, and guitar; and David Vaught on vocals and bass.

1975 saw the band signed to RCA Records, who put out the single, “One Sunday Morning.” The album, “The Association Bites Back” was to follow but never got released. Over the next twenty years the band would see members come and go, some members died, others joined new bands, and with each new incarnation The Association continued to release music to moderate success. By 2010, the band included Russ Giguere, Larry Ramos, Jim Yester, Del Ramos, Bruce Pictor, and Jordan Cole on keyboards. 2011 saw the band on the “Happy Together: 2011” tour with The Grass Roots, Mark Lindsay, The Buckinghams, and The Turtles featuring Flo & Eddie.