Although their stay in the Rock 'n' Roll lime light was brief, The Cyrkle have earned a spot in the hearts of Classic Rock lovers for their smooth style and tight harmonies.
The founding members of The Cyrkle, guitarists Don Dannemann and Tom Dawes, met while studying at Lafayette College. Together they formed a frat band called The Rhondells, with Earl Pickens on keyboards and Marty Fried on drums, and by 1963, were regulars at Eastern Seaboard clubs. They released one single on ABC Paramount records in 1965, "Parkin' at The Kokomo" b/w "Don't Say That You Love Me", which failed to gain any attention. While playing at New Jersey's Alibi Lounge they were spotted by New York attorney Nat Weiss, who brought them to the attention of Beatles' manager Brian Epstein. He signed The Rhondells to his NEMS roster and secured a deal with Columbia Records. Rumor has it that it was John Lennon who suggested the new name and attention getting spelling of The Cyrkle.
Before the band could get into the studio however, inner tensions temporarily broke them apart, leaving bassist Tom Dawes free to tour with Simon And Garfunkel. While on the road, Paul Simon played a song for Dawes called "Red Rubber Ball", a tune he co-wrote with Bruce Woodley of The Seekers. When the tour ended, The Cyrkle reconvened and Brian Epstein chose them to open for The Beatles on their 1966 Summer tour before crowds of 70,000, a sharp contrast to the usual house of 200 to which they played during their early days. The exposure sent their debut single, "Red Rubber Ball" to number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1966.
Although they had received some incredible breaks, not everything went right for The Cyrkle. The band had the first opportunity to record another Paul Simon composition called "59th Street Bridge Song (Feeling Groovy)", but decided to pass. Harpers Bizarre would take the song into the Top Twenty in 1967. Instead, the band followed The Beatles lead and featured Tom Dawes on the sitar for their follow-up song, "Turn Down Day", which rose to number 16 in August of 1966. The song seemed to capture the prevailing attitude of teenagers of the day, advocating the 'groovy' benefits of doing nothing on a summer's day simply because that's what one 'digs'. The song helped mould The Cyrkle's free spirited image and energy.
Although some of their album material was self-penned, they also picked from top composers, recording Simon and Woodley's "Cloudy", Burt Bacharach and Hal David's "It Doesn't Matter Any More" and the Bee Gees' "Turn of the Century", not to mention an inventive spin of The Beatles' "I'm Happy Just to Dance With You".
Their next single, "Please Don't Ever Leave Me", released in December 1966, peaked at #59 on Billboard's Hot 100, followed by "I Wish You Could Be Here" which reached #70 in February, 1967. Interest in the band seemed to tail off and keyboardist Earl Pickens was replaced by Mike Losecamp for their second album, "Neon". The Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield tune "We Had A Good Thing Going" charted in May of '67 at #72 and "Penny Arcade" (Another Fun Summer Song) followed in August, topping out at #95. The Cyrkle also recorded the soundtrack for a detective movie originally called Squeeze Play, in which they actually appear as themselves in one scene, wearing Sgt. Pepper-Type military uniforms, performing the song "Murray The Why". Unfortunately, the film was shelved until 1969 when it was re-titled The Minx (with an "X" rating) and did not receive wide release.
Things weren't going well on the hit making scene, but the worst was yet to come. On August 27, 1967, the band received the news that Brian Epstein had died at his London home from an overdose of sleeping pills.
Columbia released The Cyrkle's cover version of The Bee Gees "Turn of The Century" in November, 1967, but it couldn't crack the Hot 100, stalling at #112 in mid-December. From then on, the band's fortunes took a downward spiral and they finally broke up for good in January 1968 when Dawes and Losecamp quit. Two more singles were issued, "Reading Her Paper" (January 1968) and "Where Are You Going" (April 1968), but they failed to reach any charts, although WKBW in Buffalo, NY played "Reading Her Paper" and WDRC in Hartford, CT played "Where Are You Going" as 'Hit-bound.'
Judging by the depth and versatility of the harmonies and arrangements, it's not at all surprising that Tom Dawes and Don Dannemann, the group's lead singers, continued in the music business as jingle writers, each heading up their own firms in NY. Dannemann wrote for Continental Airlines and Swanson Foods while Dawes had particular success with, among other things, the Alka Seltzer "plop plop, fizz fizz" jingle. In 1981, Don Dannemann briefly re-emerged as a recording artist when he and his wife recorded an independently released single, "I Did It for You", as a tribute to John Lennon. Marty Fried left the music business to attend law school and graduated from Wayne State University in Detroit in 1972. He later went to work as a bankruptcy attorney in suburban Detroit. Earle Pickens became a surgeon in Gainesville, Florida.
The Cyrkle actually got back together to play a benefit in 1986 (in connection with Hands Across America) at Lafayette College where they met. It was the 20th Anniversary of their first hit single, "Red Rubber Ball". In 2003, Sundazed music re-released "The Minx" album on CD, along with their two original Columbia albums, all with bonus tracks, including a promotional record they recorded for Chevrolet dealers titled "Camaro" in late '66 or early '67, a hidden track, an interview disc from a teen magazine, and a jingle for the United Way.
They may seem square compared to the hard-rockers who followed, and may not have endured as long as some others, but The Cyrkle left us with a couple of the most easily recognizable tunes of the Classic Rock era.