Teddy & the Pandas

Boston garage combo Teddy and the Pandas formed in early 1964, originally comprising guitarist Teddy Dewart (the group's nominal leader), singer Al Lawrence, rhythm guitarist Joe Daley, bassist Billy "Sonny" Corelle, keyboardist Dickie Guerrette, and drummer Jerry LaBrecque. Daley left the lineup soon after its inception, but the remaining members were far more serious about the endeavor -- steady gigging in North Shore communities like Danvers, Gloucester, and Manchester quickly established Teddy and the Pandas as a teen favorite, and in fact they grew so popular that they even formed their own corporation and hired legal representation, accountants, and a PR consultant. They also traveled with a four-man road crew. In late 1965, the band entered Ace Recording Studios to cut their debut single, the Dewart-penned "Once Upon a Time" -- issued on the local Coristine label. In the spring of 1966 the single reached the Top Ten on Boston radio stations WMEX and WBZ, its unique sound due largely to Guerrette's snap decision to abandon his keyboard in favor of a harpsichord left in the studio by members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. "Once Upon a Time" was such a hit throughout the northeast that the Musicor label signed to re-release the single nationally, although it stalled at number 134 on the Billboard charts. Session vocalist Toni Wine and guitar ace Hugh McCracken lent their skills to Teddy and the Pandas' second Musicor effort, "We Can't Go on This Way" -- another local smash, it fell just shy of the national Hot 100. The band spent the fall of 1966 on a six-week tour in support of Musicor superstar Gene Pitney, also appearing on the Dick Clark television series Where the Action Is. Teddy and the Pandas' third Musicor single "Searchin' for the Good Times" was also their last -- its label-mandated psychedelic trappings were a poor fit with the band's raw, energetic sound, and the record went nowhere. The group then landed at Capitol's Tower affiliate, but their lone full-length, 1967's Basic Magnetism, likewise suffered from a forced psychedelic sound. By the time the album was released, Dewart had left the band to attend college, and Paul Rivers was tapped to assume lead guitar duties before Teddy and the Pandas called it quits a few months later. The classic five-member lineup reunited for the first time on October 7, 1983 in Danvers, Massachusetts, and 15 years later they began work on their first new recordings in over three decades -- 2002 also saw the release of Rarities and Forgotten Gems, a collection of previously unreleased demos and alternate versions from Teddy and the Pandas' heyday. ~ Jason Ankeny

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