Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
SPANKY & OUR GANG
Vocal/instrumental group formed '66 in Chicago. Lineup: vocalist Elaine 'Spanky' McFarlane (b 19 June 1942, Peoria IL), rhythm guitarist Nigel Pickering (b 15 June 1929, Pontiac MI), drummer John Seiter (b 17 August 1944, St Louis MO), bassist Kenny Hodges from Jacksonville FL, Malcolm Hale and Lefty Baker (real name Eustace Britchforth, from Roanoke VA) on guitars/banjo. At age 18 in Chicago, Elaine had attended a Little Brother Montgomery recording session produced by Chris Albertson; the blues pianist/singer asked the producer if she could sing a song, and she recorded Bessie Smith's 'Oh, Daddy': and it was clear that hers was a voice to be reckoned with.
The folk-rock/pop style of the group formed six years later was similar to that of the Mamas & The Papas, whom they replaced in the charts late '60s, the comparison underlined by Spanky's non-sylph-like similarity to Mama Cass. Elaine/Spanky had worked with a folk/cabaret act the New Wine Singers, then formed a quartet with Hodges, Pickering and Baker, taking their name from the short comedy films made beginning mid-'20s by Hal Roach (a later star was Spanky McFarland; shown on TV the kid stars were called the Little Rascals). Hale and Seiter joined after they signed with Mercury.
Of nine Hot 100 entries '67-9, the biggest was the first, 'Sunday Will Never Be The Same', top 10 and still with a certain charm. Albums were Spanky And Our Gang '67, Like To Get To Know You (top 20 title single) and Without Rhyme Or Reason '68, a live LP and a Greatest Hits collection '70. Hale died of cirrhosis during the making of the third album. Spanky and Pickering reformed and made Change '75 for Epic with Marc McClure on guitar, Bill Plummer on bass, Jim Moon on drums, including a cover of Larry Norman's 'I Wish We'd All Been Ready' which was highly praised. They toured in Texas until '80; she sang on Roger McGuinn's debut solo LP; she had met Mama Cass in the early '60s and took her role in a re-formed Mamas/Papas 20 years later.