Actually, "Fred" was his middle name: John Fred Gourrier got his first chart record ("Shirley," Montel 1002, #82) in 1959 while he was still a student at Catholic High School in Baton Rouge. In the middle Sixties, Fred and his band started cutting tracks at Robin Hood Studios in Tyler, Texas, which Stan "The Record Man" Lewis picked up for his Paula label in Shreveport. Two albums (John Fred and his Playboys and 34:40 of John Fred and his Playboys went nowhere in particular but did get some local recognition. The third album, Agnes English, started out similarly, with the title song making no great waves, but "Judy In Disguise," a send-up of John Lennon's Lucy in the Sky, clicked, and ultimately displaced a Beatles recording ("Hello Goodbye") from the top of the charts early in 1968, despite, or perhaps because of, that line about "cross your heart, yeah, with your Living Bra." (To my knowledge, Playtex didn't sue.) The Agnes English LP was repackaged to promote "Judy," and new fans of the band were perhaps perplexed to find that this cute quasi-bubblegum number was actually put out by a solid R&B band whose sound was more Stax-Volt than Kasenetz-Katz. The next single, "Hey Hey Bunny" (Paula 294), was distinctly more Southern-sounding, and didn't do well. Fred and the band cut one more LP for Paula (Permanently Stated) and signed with MCA's Uni label for a brief excursion into mild psychedelia (Love My Soul) before going their separate ways, although Fred and various Playboys continued to perform on occasion until Fred's death in 2005.
Where can I get this on CD?
Jewel/Paula has licensed this track for a number of various-artists compilations; a good overview of Fred's Paula recordings was put out by Varèse Vintage in 2001 as Absolutely the Best of John Fred and His Playboy Band (VSD-6111).
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Copyright © 2005 by Charles G. Hill
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