The album of Scott McKenzie «The Voice of Scott McKenzie», released on ODE Records/CBS, 1967, Stereo. Produced by John Phillips and Lou Adler. Featuring «San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair»). The hit song has become an anthem for the Flower Power generation of the late 60’s.
Scott was born Philip Blondheim on January 10, 1939 (not on October 1 as often stated) in Jacksonvile, Florida. That’s where he lived for half a year before moving to Asheville, North Carolina. Scott’s father died in Asheville in 1941, just a few months after Scott’s second birthday.
Early in 1942, World War II had just begun, Scott’s mother moved to Washington D.C. where she’d found a job with the Administration. During the years of the war rents were very high as was travelling and thus Scott didn’t see his mother very often, usually just once a year. She had to share a room with colleagues because she couldn’t afford an appartment of her own. Until 1946 Scott lived with grandmother, then with three other families in North Carolina, Kentucky and Rhode Island.
Scott became interested in singing and playing guitar in the mid fifties. Singing always meant more to him than playing any instrument, although he entertained the fantasy of becoming a jazz guitarist for a while. His real love at the time was jazz. He used to spend hours singing along at the top of his voice to jazz vocal albums.
In the mid fifties Scott and John Phillips were both singing, but in separate vocal groups. They first met at one of John’s legendary parties in his apartment on Ramsey Alley in Alexandria, Virginia. John sat in a corner on the floor, singing and playing one of his songs on guitar. Scott told him he liked to sing and play guitar too. John said “Well, sit down and sing this part.” Scott did as he was told, and so began a long musical friendship.
John and Scott formed a quartet, which they named The Abstracts. They fashioned themselves after groups like The Four Freshmen, The Hi-Los and the Four Preps. In 1959, they made their first trip to New York and met an agent who had been in a group called “The Smoothies”, which had a big hit in the 40’s called “You’re an Old Smoothie”. “The Abstracts” became “The Smoothies” and began to work in traditional night clubs with chorus girls and comedians.
In 1960 “The Smoothies” recorded a few pop singles, produced by Milt Gabler, who was later inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for a lifetime of producing artists like Billie Holiday, Louis Armstong, and Bill Haley.
But in 1960 folk music was selling, and soon John and Scott were looking for a banjo player to form a folk trio. They found Dick Weissman, considered one of world’s finest 5 string banjo players. They became “The Journeymen” and recorded three albums for Capitol Records.
Then came The Beatles, and everything changed. John formed “The Mamas and the Papas” and throughout the 60’s wrote a remarkable body of songs that captured and chronicled the personal and social upheavals of the decade. Billy Joel refers to John as the “Stephen Foster of the 60’s.” One of these remarkable songs was San Francisco.
Early on the day Scott recorded San Francisco, some friends picked wildflowers and wove a garland, which he wore while he sang, as his friends sat on the floor and meditated in the studio.
In the rest of the world, especially in Eastern Europe, San Francisco became a freedom song. “During the Cold War the secret police threatened residents with imprisonment just for listening to western music. Many of these people adopted San Francisco as their personal anthem of hope and freedom. It is very humbling,” says Scott.
It had been intended that the John Phillips song Twelve Thirty (Young Girls Are Coming to the Canyon) would be Scott’s follow up song to San Francisco but contractual obligations resulted in the Mamas and Papas recording the song and Scott released Like An Old Time Movie, which was a minor hit, and to this day he is known as a ‘one hit wonder’. On stage Scott says that if you are going to be a one hit wonder, San Francisco is the hit to have.
There is a theory that Like An Old Time Movie was not a bigger hit, especially in Europe, because at that time Europeans did not really know what an old time movie was – they didn’t have late movies on television.
After his hit song and the subsequent album, The Voice of Scott McKenzie, Scott released an album of his own songs, called Stained Glass Morning. Sadly Scott passed away in his LA home on 18th August, 2012, after two weeks in hospital.
Scott McKenzie was the perfect example of a one-hit wonder, although his talent and voice made him worthy of (and ultimately did earn him) somewhat more. Born Philip Wallach Blondheim in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1939, he was raised in Virginia, and was drawn to music and singing from an early age. Among the friends and acquaintances of his youth was John Phillips, who – in addition to being a rebel from the military family in which he grew up in Alexandria, Virginia – was also pulled toward music. The two ended up together in a late-’50s folk-influenced vocal group called the Smoothies, whose harmony-singing owed a lot to the Four Freshmen, and who enjoyed one minor hit (authored by Phillips) entitled «Softly», on the Decca label.
His stage name came about from an incident while performing with the Smoothies in Ontario, as he related in a 1991 interview with Spencer Leigh. They were on a bill with a pair of comedians, and the latter suggested – perhaps picking up on one corner of his Anglo-Scottish ancestry – that Blondheim resembled a Scottie dog, and started calling him Scott. Phillips added the “McKenzie” from the name he’d given to his daughter MacKenzie (born 1959) – the two names seemed to fit together.
McKenzie and Phillips worked together again in the Journeymen, a New York-based folk trio that got far enough to cut a short string of albums for Capitol in the early ’60s, none of which gave them the breakthrough they needed for a sustained living. They’d parted full-time company by the time that Phillips put together the New Journeymen, which eventually morphed into the Mamas & the Papas. McKenzie kept active in New York, even performing at one of the pavilions at the 1964 World’s Fair, while the latter group assembled and later headed west to fame and fortune in 1966 and 1967 – Phillips did produce a single for McKenzie on the Epic label that failed to chart, and the singer also failed an audition for a role as one of the Monkees (he apparently looked too old, at 24). McKenzie joined in helping to put together what was then known as the First Monterey International Pop Music Festival (there never was a second), organized by Phillips and producer Lou Adler, and at his suggestion Phillips wrote a song commemorating the event but, more importantly, embodying what it meant to celebrate. The result was «San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)», perhaps the most successful pop/hippie anthem ever recorded. With McKenzie’s smooth yet passionate and piercing vocal delivery (backed by the same band that had played behind the Mamas & the Papas on their records, and creating the same illusion of a unified group sound), a seductive melody, and vivid lyrics behind a languid overall tone and lush textures, the song soared to number four in America and hit number one in England and much of Europe.
Scott McKenzie (born Philip Wallace Blondheim III; January 10, 1939 – August 18, 2012) was an American singer and songwriter. He was best known for his 1967 hit single and generational anthem, “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)”.
Philip Wallach Blondheim III was born in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1939. He was the son of Philip Wallach Blondheim, Jr. and Dorothy Winifred Hudson. His family moved to Asheville, North Carolina, when he was six months old.
He grew up in North Carolina and Virginia, where he became friends with the son of one of his mother’s friends, John Phillips. In the mid-1950s, he sang briefly with Tim Rose in a high school group called The Singing Strings, and later with Phillips, Mike Boran, and Bill Cleary formed a doo wop band, The Abstracts.
In New York, The Abstracts became The Smoothies and recorded two singles with Decca Records, produced by Milt Gabler. During his time with The Smoothies, Blondheim decided to change his name for business reasons:
«[We] were working at one of the last great night clubs, The Elmwood Casino in Windsor, Ontario. We were part of a variety show… three acts, dancing girls, and the entire cast took part in elaborate, choreographed stage productions… As you might imagine, after-show parties were common.
«At one of these parties I complained that nobody could understand my real name… [and] pointed out that this was a definite liability in a profession that benefited from instant name recognition. Everyone started trying to come up with a new name for me. It was [comedian] Jackie Curtis who said he thought I looked like a Scottie dog. Phillips came up with Laura’s middle name after Jackie’s suggestion. I didn’t like being called «Scottie» so everybody agreed my new name could be Scott McKenzie».
In 1961 Phillips and McKenzie met Dick Weissman and formed the folk group, The Journeymen, at the height of the folk music craze. They recorded three albums and seven singles for Capitol Records. After The Beatles became popular in 1964, The Journeymen disbanded. McKenzie and Weissman became solo performers, while Phillips formed the group The Mamas & the Papas with Denny Doherty, Cass Elliot, and Michelle Phillips and moved to California.
McKenzie originally declined an opportunity to join the group, saying in a 1977 interview, «I was trying to see if I could do something by myself. And I didn’t think I could take that much pressure». Two years later, he left New York and signed with Lou Adler’s Ode Records.
Phillips wrote and co-produced «San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)» for McKenzie. John Phillips played guitar on the recording and session musician Gary L Coleman played orchestra bells and chimes. The bass line of the song was supplied by session musician Joe Osborn. Hal Blaine played drums.
It was released on 13 May 1967 in the United States and was an instant hit, reaching number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 2 in the Canadian RPM Magazine charts. It was also a number 1 in the UK and several other countries, selling over seven million copies globally.
McKenzie followed the song with «Like An Old Time Movie», also written and produced by Phillips, which was a minor hit (number 27 in Canada). His first album, The Voice of Scott McKenzie, was followed with an album called Stained Glass Morning. He stopped recording in the early 1970s and lived in Joshua Tree, California, and Virginia Beach, Virginia.
McKenzie also penned the song «Hey! What About Me» that launched the career of Canadian singer Anne Murray in 1968.
In 1986, he started singing with a new version of The Mamas and the Papas. With Terry Melcher, Mike Love, and John Phillips, he co-wrote «Kokomo» (1988), a number 1 single for The Beach Boys.
By 1998, he had retired from the road version of The Mamas and Papas, and resided in Los Angeles, California, until his death. He appeared at the Los Angeles tribute concert for John Phillips in 2001, amongst other 1960s contemporary acts. McKenzie died on August 18, 2012 in Los Angeles. He had suffered from Guillain–Barré syndrome from 2010 until his death.
There was more to Scott McKenzie than «San Francisco», though this album came out so long after that single peaked on the charts that few people ever bothered to buy it. There’s nothing here quite like the title song, and none of the rest captures a magical mood or moment the way that the single did, though there is some very pretty music.
McKenzie’s rendition of Donovan’s «Celeste» has a languid beauty, while his version of John Sebastian and Zal Yanovsky’s «It’s Not Time Now» is a more standard, rhythmic folk-rock piece. For reasons perhaps best known to himself, however, McKenzie’s voice doesn’t have as much range or flexibility on those two numbers as it seemed to show on «San Francisco». But when he does one of his originals, his expressiveness blooms, and he stays fairly strong on all of the rest. That includes Tim Hardin’s «Reason to Believe» (one of the better renditions that song has ever received) and «No, No, No, No, No», a hook-laden piece about sexual pursuit and frustration with an exquisite orchestral accompaniment behind a lean, punchy acoustic band sound; and Hardin’s haunting, cautionary «Don’t Make Promises». Still, the songs that McKenzie does best here are the John Phillips-authored works – beyond the title cut, those include «Like an Old Time Movie» and «Twelve-Thirty». The latter has a poignancy here that the more familiar version by the Mamas & the Papas misses; one gets the illusion of a personal confessional, so closely does McKenzie seem to embrace the lyric. Some of his singing is still a bit too bland, but overall this would have been a promising first effort, had McKenzie been of more of a mind to follow it up quickly. The album was later repackaged in England as San Francisco, with a different song order, and has been reissued by Sony U.K. under that title. (AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder)
Scott McKenzie – The Voice Of Scott McKenzie  (Full Album)
A1 San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair) (John Phillips) – 2:58
A2 Celeste (Donovan) – 3:55
A3 It’s Not Time Now (John Sebastian, Zal Yanovsky) – 2:45
A4 What’s The Difference (Chapter II) (Scott McKenzie) – 2:41
A5 Reason To Believe (Tim Hardin) – 2:25
A6 Like An Old Time Movie (John Phillips) – 3:09
B1 No, No, No, No, No (Michel Polnareff, Geoff Stephens) – 2:19
B2 Don’t Make Promises (Tim Hardin) – 3:25
B3 Twelve-Thirty (Young Girls Are Coming to the Canyon) (John Phillips) – 3:55
B4 Rooms 3:25
B5 What’s The Difference (Chapter I) (Scott McKenzie) – 2:18
Producer – John Phillips, Lou Adler
Tracklisting on the back cover is incorrectly ordered.
Label: Ode Records (2) – Z12 44002
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album
Released: Dec 1967
Genre: Rock, Pop
Style: Pop Rock, Psychedelic Rock
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