Gary James' Interview With Chad Stuart of
Chad and Jeremy
It was the time of the British Invasion, with The Beatles leading the way, that the world got their first look at and listen to a duo known as Chad and Jeremy.
From 1966 to 1964, Chad and Jeremy enjoyed seven Top 40 hits in the US, including "Yesterday's Gone" and "A Summer Song". They appeared on the TV series Batman. They also appeared on The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Patty Duke Show, as well as The Tonight Show, Shindig, Hullabaloo, Hollywood Palace, Andy Williams and Danny Kaye.
Chad Stuart talked with us about the Swinging Sixties and what Chad and Jeremy are up to these days.
Q - Mr. Stuart, you now make your home in Idaho?
A - Yes.
Q - Why wouldn't you live in one of the music cities like New York or Nashville or Los Angeles?
A - After being in L.A. for far too long, a freaking lifetime, I was invited up to Sun Valley by David Hemmings, who God rest his soul, was a very famous actor who became a very successful TV director in L.A. I was doing the music for a series he was directing. He just sold his house in Malibu and came up to Sun Valley. He called me up and said "Hey, why don't you come up for the summer? We'll write a musical." So I came up, brought my family with me and basically the rest is history. I fell in love with the place and stayed. I'd had it with the biz. I really had. I wasn't like setting the world on fire. It's a very tough thing to do. If you interview success stories, then that's fine. They're the lucky ones. You know what I mean? We can't all be movie stars or famous movie composers or whatever. And so, in the end I said the heck with this, I'm staying up here. I started to teach music, write musicals. I played Faegan in a production of Oliver up here, which was really a lot of fun. I just got on with life. I thought it was great, little thinking that Jeremy and I would try again.
Q - Before I ask about your reunion, do you teach music in a school or privately?
A - Private lessons. Organizations...I just don't fit into them. Up here there's a tremendous cross-section of interesting people. I've taught Bruce (Willis) and Demi's (Demi Morre) kids before. It's just kind of fun going from house to house and all the dogs and cats and brothers and sisters. It friendly. It's relaxed. It's not very arduous either. You only do it when they're out of school and that's like three hours a day, so that's not a bad life. (laughs) Of course I have my own recording studio which is really...the teaching kind of pays for the recording and composing. It's only lately with Jeremy's return that it looks like maybe, well there's a whole other part here obviously. The stage act has been invented and that's another question I have no doubt you'll get to in a minute.
Q - So, you and Jeremy are back to performing again. Does that also include new product as well?
A - Oh, yeah, new product for sure. I think there's basically a bit of hemming and hawing about what our product should be. In the same way the stage performances are more interesting because where we're both grown-ups who have gone our separate ways and I'm still trying to find the words for this; We've led separate lives and it makes it rather interesting when you get back together again because you're not the same callow youth that you were when you first performed together. We were barely out of our teens and we were pretty much a blank slate. I think it's much more interesting now and much more entertaining, not to mention the fact that the audience has grown up too. Going back to the studio, Jeremy is very much Mr. Acoustic. He's very much two guitars and a bottle of wine. Sort of half-jokingly I've christened the album he wants to make "Two Guitars And A Bottle Of Wine", whereas I tend to want to make something that's a bit more...I don't know...Dire Strait(ish), sort of guitar, bass, drums, keyboards. We've done both. We've got tons of stuff recorded. What we've been doing is just selling them at gigs. A different one for each year. We've had them for four, five, six and seven, so far. And when they're sold out, they're gone. There aren't any more.
Q - And where do you perform? Do you perform on these P.B.S. shows?
A - That's what started it, the P.B.S. show that we did in 2003. I think the audience reaction was like - they remembered us! Wow! How amazing! So, we just sort of kept going after that. But, if you're coming out of hibernation, literally emerging blinking in the sunlight after decades of being away, you can't expect people to beat a path to your door. I'd be lying if I said the schedule was booked up. It certainly is not and it took us a long time of floundering through those stadium gigs where there would be a bunch of 60s acts. We did some of those. And then we had sort of a very fallow year in 2005 because we'd gotten hooked up with some characters that we didn't really like and thought were ripping us off, in other words, very high commissioned management which you don't need if you're a grown-up. If you can take your kids to Disneyland you should be able to take yourself on the road I think. And so we do. Just the two of us. We don't pay a bass player anymore and we don't pay management. It took us a year to find a really good agency. Let's face it, agents really don't want to take on guys who are arguably yesterday's newspaper. They've got to work at that.
Q - There must be an audience out there for your type of music. State Fairs that draw a family-oriented audience.
A - I don't know where we fit in the scheme of things anymore. When people say what do you do? I say we're kind of like Simon and Garfunkel meet Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. We've got this documentary on our lives that's being shot right now actually. It's kind of amazing. One of the things Jeremy said is, "We play together and spend time together because we make each other laugh." I thought that was a rather telling comment. It really is. This is not a boring job for us. We did about 12 gigs last year. We've done 6 so far this year (2007). We won't do a lot because Jeremy is an actor in London. He's tied to that to some extent. The Performing Arts Centers that we like to play have a Spring Season and a Fall Season and that's basically when we work. We don't work the Summer and we don't work the Winter. And that's the end of that really. It's sort of a hobby. As we get better known again, we're getting better reviews. Once the word gets out that we're a good value, then I think we are going to be working more. We want to keep going until we drop. This is the best fun either one of us has had in decades.
Q - Did you meet Jeremy at the Central School of Drama in London?
A - Yes. The Central School of Speech and Drama. Correct.
Q - Would people confuse Chad and Jeremy with Peter and Gordon?
A - Oh, of course. That's one of those facts of life. I just got so sick of explaining. If they said "really loved World Without Love," I'd say thank-you very much and just go about my business. (laughs) You know what I mean? You don't have enough time in life to keep explaining that. I just gave up.
Q - Rolling Stone's Encyclopedia Of Rock And Roll said you guys were "sons of affluent British families." Is that true?
A - It's half true. It's two thirds true. (laughs) Jeremy was the grandson of the Duke of Wellington. Now, that old boy has died and his uncle is now the Duke. He (Jeremy) was educated at Eton. His father was a film producer and a partner of Douglas Fairbanks Jr. So, this boy is very socially connected. He was arguably born with a silver spoon in his mouth, certainly from my perspective, he was. I come from the North of England, solid middle class stock. My dad worked for a lumber company, but I did go to an expensive boarding school. I'm not quite sure why. I think it was because I got a scholarship to be a boy chorister when I was ten. That sort of started the ball rolling and my mother wanted me to go on to bigger and better things. I think she twisted my dad's arm to pony up the school fees for later. I feel badly about it because I think that whole boarding school education is over-rated. It's very alienating to get sent away to boarding school when you're 10 years old. It's like joining the army and you're a kid. Stiff upper lip and all that. It was the British way, wasn't it? But that's a class thing. That's the upper half of England tends to do that, go to boarding school, and the lower half doesn't. Frankly, I'm with the lower half, I think the rest of it is just pathetic.
Q - Isn't it amazing that you two guys got along so well! The music must've been the great equalizer.
A - Yeah. I think so. He likes to tell the story that I came one year after him and when word reached him that this new kid arrived at college who was a pretty good guitarist, we just got together. I was kind of mesmerized by him. He wanted me to teach him to play better. What I liked about him was, he was a very cool kind of guy. He wore like a World War Two pilot's coat, one of those leather jackets with the fleece collar, and he had his jeans tailored and he drove one of those Italian motor scooters. He was way cooler than me. I came from a grimy little town in Northern England and here was this guy who was totally connected. So, it was kind of a mutual fascination society. It was a good trade off really. He taught me. He would take me to things. We went to see Frank Sinatra at the Festival Hall. But before the show we went to dinner at Douglas Fairbanks's house. That blew my mind. Then we had a rock 'n' roll band in school called The Jerks and we got to play one of those Sweet Sixteen parties for one of his cousins. Going out to the Duke of Wellington's house was another mind blower. It was like this whole other world that I was being introduced to.
Q - Did you meet Frank Sinatra?
A - Oh, yeah.
Q - Several times?
A - I met him like three times. I don't know about Jeremy. I met him at dinner obviously, which is pretty amazing and then when we first came to America because of Jeremy's family connections, we went to L.A. and stayed for several weeks at Dean Martin's house in Beverly Hills. And so, Uncle Frank would come by several times and he wasn't a bit like his public persona at all really. It was pretty amazing to meet him.
Q - How did you get signed to Ember Records? Was that something a manager got you?
A - Oh yeah, that's another freakin' disaster. Jeremy's mother knew somebody who knew somebody who knew somebody. This manager character came in and dragged John Barry to see us. John Barry was a very successful record producer at E.M.I. and he asked us if we wanted to make a record and all that, which again kind of blew our minds. Yes, we'd like to very much. Unfortunately, Jeffrey Kruger had talked John into leaving E.M.I. and becoming a partner in Ember Records. He'd seduced him with visions of tons of money, artistic control and who knows what else. And of course it was a disaster. There was just no way a little independent label could compete in those days. There wasn't a successful indie (independent label) until Island Records. Chris Blackwell was the first independent to make it, and that's because he had such a strong constituency of immigrants from the West Indies. He got that whole Ska thing going. Ember was kind of a good news / bad news story. The good news was we got a record deal. The bad news was we got to number 45 with an anchor on the British charts and then John Barry bought himself out of his contract and we were stuck. I think we would've broken up then and there except for the fact that Noel Rogers, who published "Yesterday's Gone" fenced it off to this other company in America called World Artists and the rest is history. They got a hit for us.
Q - According to Irwin Stambler, author of Pop, Rock and Soul, "A Summer Song was previewed on British TV's Juke Box Jury in 1964. Ringo was one of the panelists and called it a miss, but suggested it might do well in the US. His prediction proved accurate It reached the Top 20 in the US in 1964." Why was "A Summer Song" more suitable for the US market at that time than the British market or the European market?
A - I think that's a very hard one to figure out. I think nobody thought of it as a hit really. The American market was bigger. I don't know. England is tiny. You'd never hear something that sweet in the British charts. I just don't think you ever would. For some reason in America it worked. I have no explanation. I don't honestly know why.
Q - Do you remember those 60s tours? Who was on the bill with you guys?
A - OK. I want to back-track. I told you I don't know. But, I started to think about something I'd heard several times from females actually, talking about us in relation to the 60s. The 60s are fondly remembered as being a lot of things that may or may not have been true. But one of the things people don't really talk about is the Vietnam War and the fact that it was a pretty horrendous time in many respects. People were getting hauled off and running into Canada. It was a very difficult time. The only explanation that I've heard is that we unwittingly offered a sweet, kind gentleness as sort of antidote to all this hostility and stridency. Yes, we did a couple of anti-war things like "No Tears For Johnny", but we weren't' singing like Stephen Stills with "...something's happening here", with the riots on The Strip. I admire those guys for the things they did. I guess it was kind of nice to have people come up to me and say thank-you for providing a gentle alternative to the sort of stridency that was going on.
Q - I don't believe the protest to the Vietnam War was all that organized or full-blown in 1964.
A - Maybe not. Maybe that explanation is more of a general explanation for why people like us. Maybe it doesn't explain the success of "A Summer Song" at all. I don't know.
Q - OK. Back to the tours. Who did you share the bill with?
A - The first tour we did was the Johnny Rivers Tour with The Ventures and Ronnie And The Daytonas. I remember that. How could I forget? (laughs) Those dreadful buses. There were no tour buses in those days. It was just a bus. If you were lucky, you got to sleep in the luggage rack.
Q - Bands today just can't relate to that.
A - Of course not.
Q - They complain about the private jets!
A - Yeah. (laughs) Nowadays they don't know how primitive it was. And of course there was no such thing as Showco or any of those guys setting up wonderful rigs for you. You just staggered up to whatever theatre you were at and you were lucky if they had a half-way decent P.A. system. Quite often they didn't at all and they would just have some crappy little speakers in the ceiling and a microphone. I mean, it was a joke.
Q - Well, at least the girls screamed, so who cared?
A - Well, exactly. When we did a reunion in the 80s, when we did British Invasion Two, I always tell people we were really in state-of-the-art tour buses then, with some of the other British bands. I always tell people it felt like the Wright Brothers had been given their first flight in a Lear jet.
Q - Did Chad and Jeremy ever appear on Ed Sullivan?
A - No. It was one of those strategic decisions made that we signed a deal with The Hollywood Palace. They were trying to have a West Coast rival to Ed Sullivan. A lot of acts played that. The Stones played it. So, it was a strategic decision that may have been stupid.
Q - Appearing on The Patty Duke Show was a big deal for you, wasn't it?
A - Yeah. They all were. The biggest deal was with Dick Van Dyke because that was the first thing we did. We'd done the Hollywood Palace, but once they found out there were people paying attention...it was look at this, we've got authentic British Invasion Mop-Tops, and they were at drama school! We also had a very aggressive television agent too. His name is John Hartman. Phil Hartman's older brother. He was very aggressive and he got us Dick Van Dyke. How cool is that? One minute you're unknown and the next minute you're sitting around reading a script with Mary Tyler Moore and Dick Van Dyke. Carl Reiner is the producer. It was pinch me, I'm dreaming time, is what is was. The thing about Dick Van Dyke was the writing was funny. It was very well written. Something like Patty Duke was obviously fun to do and she's a sweet heart, but I mean it wasn't exactly a brilliant script. It was OK. Batman was a kick, but we weren't an intricate part of the story really. The story was sort of woven around us, but it was definitely a good experience and a fun experience. Ironically, Adam West (TV's Batman) lives just up the road from me in Sun Valley. So that's kind of interesting.
Q - You were the musical director for The Smothers Brothers Show. Now, what did that entail?
A - Well, music directors do the music. You write charts and you have to write charts for guest artists. What I really wanted to do was score films. Tommy Smothers heard "Cabbages And Kings" and he liked it. He called me up and the rest is history. I remember him saying "Did you really write that yourself? Can you write music?" He couldn't believe that a Pop star could actually orchestrate. So, once I convinced him, I got the job.