The California based harmony group were founded by Gary Alexander (b.25 September 1943 Chattanooga, Tennessee) and Terry Kirkman, (b.12 December 1941 Salinas, Kansas) who were both experienced musicians by the mid 1960's. Alexander left school early to work as a guitarist/vocalist with several groups while Kirkman, a Chaffey College music major and trainee journalist at California State College, was a multi-instrumental who'd played with several rock groups including Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention.
Alexander and Kirkman's met first in Hawaii where Alexander was based in the US Navy and they agreed to meet up in Los Angeles after Alexander’s discharge. They formed a 13-member group known as The Men. After a few troubled months there was a split and Alexander and Kirkman along with former speech and drama student Brian Cole, (b.44 Tacoma Washington), Russ Giguere, (b.18 October 1943 Portsmouth, New Hampshire) and zoology major Ted Bluechel Jr., (b.2 December 1942 San Pedro, California) drums and guitarist Bob Page decided to form their own band. Before they perform together Page was fired and Jim Yester, (b.24 November 1939 Birmingham Alabama) a former business administration student at Los Angeles Valley College was bought in on guitar/vocals. Yester and his brother Jerry performed as The Yesters; Jerry went on to play guitar with The Lovin' Spoonful. The group was to be called The Aristocrats, but after browsing the dictionary Kirkman’s wife suggested The Association.
After an intensive period of rehearsal the group made their live debut at the Ice House in Pasadena in November ‘65, landing themselves a contract with the Jubilee label early the following year. Their debut single was 'Baby I’m Gonna Leave You'. They quickly switched labels to Valiant Records and recorded Bob Dylan’s 'One Too Many Mornings', like there debut it failed to chart. Their third US release was 'Along Comes Mary' after entering the US Hot 100 at No.79 it eventually climbed to No.7 in the summer of 1966. So unique was the arrangement of 'Along Comes Mary' that Leonard Bernstein explored it during a TV special. The follow up was a Terry Kirkman song 'Cherish', it was originally recorded by The New Christy Minstrels but Kirkman refused permission for them to release the song, which was good thinking as it eventually displaced The Supremes 'You Can't Hurry Love' at No.1. Three weeks later The Four Tops 'Reach Out I'll Be There' ended their spell at the top. Despite some strong radio plays of their two US hits the Association failed to dent the charts in Britain. Their third single, 'Pandora's Golden Heebie Jeebies', written by Alexander, peaked at No.35, while their first release of ‘67, Jim Yester's 'No Fair At All', could only manage No.51.
In early 1967 Alexander went to India to study meditation and Hawaiian born former New Christy Minstrel’s guitarist Larry Ramos (b.19 April 1942), who also played bass, saxophone and harmonica, takes his place. By the summer of 1967 they storm the US charts once again with 'Windy'. It became their second No.1, spending a month at the top. They follow it up with a No.2; Don & Dick Adrissi’s 'Never My Love'. 1966 had been a good year for the group with a gold disc for their debut album ‘And Along Came The Association’. 1967 was an even better year as 'Cherish' won 3 Grammy nominations, 'Windy' and 'Never My Love' won gold discs and ‘Inside Out’ was a million selling album. In the summer of ‘67 they were the opening act at the Monterey Pop Festival which featured Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, The Mamas & Papas and The Who.
Early in ‘68 they had their fifth US top ten single, 'Everything That Touches You'. In Britain both 'Windy' and 'Never My Love' got good radio airplay, but there are still no hits. In May 1968 the group finally get a British hit with another Don & Dick Adrissi song, 'Time for Livin’ which reached No.23, helped in no small part by an appearance on TV’s ‘Top of the Pops’ but it proved to be their only hit. 'Time for Livin' just made the US Top 40 (No.39). Later in the year they have a smaller US. hit with the autobiographical 'Six Man Band', it proved to be their last Top 50 hit. By the beginning of ‘69 Alexander had rejoined the group, using the name Jules. The band wrote the score for Paramount Pictures ‘Goodbye Columbus’; Ali McGraw’s first staring role. The title track just makes the US Hot 100.
At the turn of the decade Giguere left the seven-piece outfit to work as a soloist, before forming The Beechwood Rangers which included Warren Zevon. Giguere’s replacement was jazz multi-instrumentalist Richard Thompson from San Diego. In August ‘72 Brian Cole died from a drug overdose which contributed to the bands slow demise.
The Association essentially broke up in ‘73 around the time of their penultimate US hit, Names, 'Tags, Numbers and Labels'.. Just Bluechel remained to provide the core for a number of other musicians. In ‘80 the original line up reformed for an HBO TV special. They went over so well that they stay together and sign a contract with Elektra/Asylum records and toured once again. They even had one last nibble at the charts when 'Dreamer' got to No.66 on the US singles chart in early 1981. In 1985 the ‘original Association' break up yet again. Bluechel gave up music to become a church minister, Kirkman went to work as a drug and alcohol counsellor and Yester performed with his brother in The Lovin Spoonful and The Modern Folk Quartet; by the 1990’s he was singing with the Four Preps. New members were drafted into the Association but in 1987 Alexander decided to leave and settle in Texas to concentrate on song writing. Today the Association continue to perform all over the USA with original members Giguere and Ramos still with the band, amongst their sideman is Ramos’s younger brother Del.
In 1990 the BMI announced that 'Never My Love' and 'Yesterday', by John Lennon & Paul McCartney are the only two songs that have received over 5 million radio plays during the previous fifty years. When all is said and done The Association were one of the most successful bands from the Sixties. They have sold over 30 million records and been awarded 7 gold and 2 platinum discs. All this makes it the more surprising that they were a one, not very big, hit wonder in the UK.