Gary US Bonds: Quarter to Three (1961)

 |   |  2 min read

Gary US Bonds: Quarter to Three (1961)

In the DVD doco accompanying the box set version of The Promise -- the songs recorded while waiting to start a new album after Born to Run -- Bruce Springsteen talks about how he was a product of Top 40 radio, those great three minute songs which set you free just for that moment in time.

And E Street Band member Steven Van Zandt later says that Springsteen could have been one of the great pop writers, the evidence being all those songs he wrote which were framed by Ben E. King/Spanish Harlem, the Brill Building, Phil Spector's hit singles for the Crystals and Ronettes, and soul music.

Gary "US" Bonds was one of those Springsteen heard on Top 40 radio, notably his Quarter to Three which was his huge hit. In 1963 Bonds headlined a tour in Britian which had the Beatles further down the bill, but -- as with Helen Shapiro and others who also topped them on early tours -- the Beatles were to be Bonds' undoing.

Radio pop of the Gary kind changed when young men with guitars arived.

Springsteen however never forgot him and in concert he would cover Bonds' songs . . . and his own material like Sherry Darling (and any number of songs on the Tracks box set) are shaved from the Quarter to Three sound.

In the late Seventies Springsteen tracked down Bonds to a roadhouse on the New Jersey turnpike where he was playing and set wheels in motion to get Bonds a record del. Springsten signed on as producer and gave Bonds some of his own songs, and Gary US Bonds had a hit with This Little Girl (see clip below), and a hit alum with Dedication which had the E Street Band in for the sessions . . . and another Springsteen favourite, Ben E King on the exceptional Springsteen-penned Your Love.

Also in the backing vocals was songwriter Ellie Greenwich who wrote (or co-wrote) such hits as Da Doo Ron Ron, Be My Baby, Then He Kissed Me, River Deep Mountain High, Leader of the Pack and . . . . well, you can look her up.

51Iv_EHGM2L._SL500_AA300_What this meant for Gary US Bonds -- at 42 -- was a late career revival and although the Springsteen-Van Zandt produced follow-up On the Line didn't quite get the traction it should have (more songs by Springsteen, the E Street Band in again) it further answered a question that had briefly troubled him.

Apparently when Bonds was in that New Jersey turnpike lounge knocking out what he called his "Holiday Inn act" he was aware of a whisper going through the crowd as someone entered the room.

He was told who it was. 

But he was forced to ask, "Who the hell is Bruce Springsteen?"

Question answered. 

For more one-off or unusual songs with an interesting backstory see From the Vaults

Share It

Your Comments

Relic - Nov 29, 2010

This sound has never truly gone away for some of us, I caught a snippet of Paul Weller’s ‘Waking up the Nation’ on radio and one song sounded a hell of a lot like Willy De Ville, Le Chat Bleu era.

Relic - Mar 28, 2013

Bonds to this day has mantained a strong voice unlike Southside, who squandered his, and is part of the Jersey gang still issuing “top down and club style” records.

post a comment

More from this section   From the Vaults articles index

Lil Johnson and Black Bob: Press my Button, Ring My Bell (1932)

Lil Johnson and Black Bob: Press my Button, Ring My Bell (1932)

When Anita Ward scored a big disco hit with Ring My Bell in '79, the saucy yet somewhat lyrically bland song was in a long tradition of "ring my bell" metaphors in popular music. As... > Read more

Little Eva: The Trouble With Boys (1963)

Little Eva: The Trouble With Boys (1963)

When Little Eva died in 2003, most obituaries got in the story that she had been Gerry Goffin and Carole King's babysitter and, inspired by her odd dancing style, they penned The Locomotion for... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

THE POPE VOTE: Angels and Demons, black smoke, white smoke

THE POPE VOTE: Angels and Demons, black smoke, white smoke

Dan Brown's Vatican-based thriller Angels and Demons typically raises lots of questions: notably why would you buy the book now when you can just go see the movie? But to give Brown his due, he... > Read more

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . TOMMY QUICKLY: The career that couldn't be created

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . TOMMY QUICKLY: The career that couldn't be created

At the end of '63 the fresh and freckle-faced 18-year old Tommy Quickly was standing at the door of his dreams: he'd been signed by Beatles manager Brian Epstein (who had changed his name from... > Read more