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'Rhythm of the Rain' written by Gummoe became a legendary sixties
hit, he tells GARY JAMES how he managed to wrestle back his royalties...

John Gummoe When it was first released, 'Rhythm of the Rain' by The Cascades was a big hit. It has been described by the BMI as the ninth most performed song of the twentieth century.

The singer and songwriter of that song, John Claude Gummoe, spoke with us about his group 'The Cascades' and that magical time in pop music - the 1960s…

© 2002

GJ: John, I would guess The Cascades were one of the last American groups to have had a hit before the British Invasion? The others would've been The Surfaris with 'Wipe Out' and Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs with 'Sugar Shack'

A: Oh yes. And Paul and Paula with 'Hey Paula'.

GJ: You were playing in a club in San Diego called the Peppermint Stick when you were 'discovered'?

A: I don't think we were 'discovered' there because we had already been recording. Andy Di Martino who was a guitar teacher in San Diego came out to see us play. He was sent to see us by Don Blocker of Liberty Records. We were stupid and naïve and still wet behind the ears. We were knocking on doors in Hollywood and, of course, most people wouldn't talk to us at all. But there were a few and Don Blocker was one of them.

He told us you need to get representation and he directed us towards a guy who submitted our demo tapes to Barry de Vorzon at Valiant Records who signed us. Barry was the lead singer with Barry and the Tamerlanes.

GJ: What kind of place was the Peppermint Stick?

A: It was a dance club. They had a nice stage and would put on shows. During the time we were there, Brian Hyland appeared and Joey Dee and the Starlighters. It was not our regular venue in San Diego; normally we played at a place called the Red Coat Inn, a bowling alley.

The Cascades were not just a vocal group, they were a full-blown band much like The Beach Boys. In fact we worked with the Beach Boys quite a few times.

GJ: Why didn't The Cascades stay with Valiant Records?

A: One of the reasons we left Valiant was that they wouldn't let us play on our own tracks. But when we went to RCA Victor we played on all the tracks. Of course, we didn't have any hits with RCA either! (laughs). Valiant was a subsidiary of Warner Brothers, so that's why some sources claim we were discovered by an executive at Warner Brothers.

That's why I have set up a website to correct a lot of the false information that's out there about us. For instance, many books say I was the lead guitar player in The Cascades. I've never picked up a guitar in my life. I play keyboards (laughs). I never did that very well, I was mainly the lead singer.

I started out in a group called The Thundernotes when I played vibes. Basically I threw a few lines in with the vibes, and did some chords in the background. I'm a very lucky man, I've always been blessed with a natural ear for harmony. I knew chords intuitively without studying music. So I was able to kind of just play along. Of course, rock 'n' roll in the '60s was pretty basic and simple stuff.

GJ: How long did it take you to write 'Rhythm of the Rain'?

A: (laughs) That's an interesting question because I wrote the lyrics to it first. I pretty much had the chords figured out in my head. I was in the Navy at the time, on board ship to Japan. It wasn't until I actually got back to san Diego that I was able to sit down and work on the musical part of it.

GJ: What kind of mood were you when you wrote that song?

A: That's a good question, too. I was standing midwatch up on the bridge of the ship. It was raining and storming outside. I was pretty much up there by myself and I was probably feeling lonely. I had my pad and paper and I was just fooling about with different ideas. I had the title in my mind for quite a long time. I just liked the sound of it. And that title is not sung anywhere in the song. the first line of the song is 'Listen to the rhythm of the falling rain…'

GJ: How many copies of that record were sold?

A: I never had a complete count of it, but it was the third largest selling record in the world in 1963.

GJ: On your website, you have a photo of The Cascades from the early days. GAC (General Artists Corp) were booking the group and they also booked The Beatles. Did they help you get some good gigs?

A: Actually, no. We weren't with them for very long. We were also with the William Morris Agency for a while.

GJ: Were they any better?

A: No, I think a lot of that had to do with our manager Andy di Martino who was very inexperienced. He didn't trust anybody. He thought everybody was out to get us. When he pulled us from the William Morris agency, he said they were selling you on the road for thousands of dollars but paying us less and pocketing the difference. I never really knew whether this was true or not.

When we left valiant, he said that we weren't getting a fair publishing royalty. For instance on 'Rhythm of the rain' one of their songs was on the B side, a song called 'Let Me Be'. He said they were making more money off the flip side.

I'm an artist, not a businessman so I trusted Di Martino but with hindsight I don't know whether he made the right moves…

GJ: So many 60s and 70s artists were ripped off by dishonest managers…

A: I signed away my mechanical rights, the royalty for record sales, for 'Rhythm of the Rain' when we left Valiant. That was one of the conditions of getting released from them.

In 1995 I went to an organisation in New York called Artists Rights Enforcement and via their attorney had all this reversed. They renewed my publishing deal with Warner Brothers and got me an advance close to a million bucks. Of course, half of that goes to the IRS but the other half went to the attorney.

GJ: So you got $250,000?

A: I'm not complaining because in the process I got my rights back and so if anybody else records 'Rhythm of the Rain' I will get royalties again. A little bit of something is better than nothing at all.

GJ: Is there a Cascades group in existence today?

A: No, I left the group in 1967, I got tired of living out of a suitcase and being on the road all the time, and not having a life…

We went on the road quite a bit. We never did a European or Asia tour. We spent most of the time touring across the US and Canada playing small towns when we should have been playing big cities. It was all poorly handled. I have no regrets because that song brings me a nice living.

GJ: Was there ever a follow-up to 'Rhythm of the Rain'?

A: It was a song called 'The Last Leaf' backed by 'Shy Girl' and it made the Billboard charts. They were both nice songs but the record got 'split' play, some stations played one song, some played the other. Consequently, neither really became a big hit and it sort of died. I think the singles for RCA were not really done as well as they might have been because our producer didn't know too much about pop or rock. And they were never promoted properly.

GJ: What are you doing these days?

A: I have a small little studio in the back of my house here. I still rite, I still make demos. Just recently, I was asked to participate in a book 'Songwriters on Songwriting', a coffee table book with the likes of Paul Williams, Grace Slick, Peter Yarrow and myself in it. There is also a CD narrated by Graham Nash. It will be out in October (2002). And sometime in the next couple of weeks I'm going back in the studio to start work on a full-blown CD so, yes, I keep myself occupied.

© 2002 Gary James. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved.


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