It’s a hot time, Summer in the City. And The Lovin’ Spoonful are coming back to Suffolk Theater in Riverhead on July 10 to ask their perennial question: Do You Believe in Magic? They played Suffolk Theater last summer—they were great, and the capacity crowd loved it.
In fact, The Lovin’ Spoonful, one of the pioneering groups of folk-rock, are still packing in the crowds all over the country. But the East End of Long Island is special to them. This is where they’re from.
“I’ll be visiting my brothers Skip and Charlie in Westhampton while I’m up there,” says bassist Steve Boone, who graduated from East Hampton High School as a member of the Class of 1961. “I still love the Hamptons, and I always try to get out to East Hampton whenever I’m in the area for a concert.” This time, Boone plans to sneak out to Wainscott to visit some high school chums—that is, if he can manage to beat the summer traffic. This, after all, isn’t the sleepy East End of Boone’s youth.
“Last time I tried it, I couldn’t make it beyond the bypass and I just turned around,” Boone says.
It was back in 1961 that Boone joined the local precursor of The Lovin’ Spoonful that included his brother Skip and drummer Joe Butler, who was serving in the Air Force and was stationed at Westhampton at the time. The band bought their first electric guitars on a trip to Sears on Main Street in Riverhead, according to Butler.
“‘Silvertone’ they were called. They were the cheapest you could get!” Butler recalls.
As members of the Kingsmen, Boone and Butler played at bars and restaurants across the East End, including at the Cottage Inn in East Hampton and Bowden Square in Southampton (Now Southampton Publick House), before departing for New York City and hooking up with John Sebastian to form the Spoonful.
Last year, Boone published a book, Hotter Than a Match Head, in which he recounted a lot of this early history of the band—it’s a very interesting read, especially if you remember the East End music scene of the early ’60s.
In the book, Boone tells how, before they hit it big, the nascent Spoonful returned to the Hamptons and spent the winter of 1965 rehearsing at the emptied-out Bull’s Head Inn in Bridgehampton—the building that now houses the Topping Rose House. Later, the East End would continue to figure in the Spoonful’s career in various ways: Sebastian would rent a house in North Haven—locals can still recall the band hanging around Sag Harbor with Mama Cass Elliot and Steven Stills. And, as a curiosity, the playful last track on the Spoonful’s classic album Daydream is titled “Big Noise from Speonk,” an inside joke for East Enders.
The Spoonful went on to produce a remarkable string of singles that blended pop, folk, country and jug band music into a catchy, cheerful mix—John Sebastian called it “Good Time music.” It put the Spoonful at the top of the charts in ’65 and ’66—their list of Top 10 singles from that time includes the Motown-inspired “Do You Believe in Magic,” the joyful “You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice,” the jug band classic “Daydream,” and the fizzy “Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind.” They hit number 1 with the heavier “Summer in the City.”
You’ll hear all of these great songs and more at the Lovin’ Spoonful’s Suffolk Theater concert. Although Sebastian doesn’t travel with the band anymore, Boone and Butler are joined by Jerry Yester, who played piano on the Spoonful’s first hits, and who has been associated with the band from the beginning. The band is rounded out by more recent additions. All of the carefully arranged vocal harmonies heard in the original Spoonful arrangements are faithfully delivered. It will be a knockout show.
The Lovin’ Spoonful plays Suffolk Theater at 118 East Main Street in Riverhead on Friday, July 10 at 8 p.m. Bar and restaurant open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets $49, 631-727-4343, suffolktheater.com.