Rock with The Association at the Palace Theatre
From left: Jordan Cole, Jules Alexander, Russ Giguere, Larry Ramos, Jim Yester, Del Ramos and Bruce Pictor of The Association.
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Jim Yester and the other members of The Association don't need a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to mark their impact on music. They are reminded of it every time they take the stage.
Tonight, The Association -- whose catalog includes such 1960s hits as "Cherish," "Windy" and "Never My Love" -- takes the stage again as part of the Valentine's Day lineup at the Palace Theatre in Greensburg. They're sharing the bill with Jay and the Americans, who gave us "Come a Little Bit Closer" and "This Magic Moment."
"We used to laugh about seeing our fans starting to come to the shows with their kids," Mr. Yester said in a recent telephone interview. "Well, now they come with their grandkids."
It's worth it, as they share what Mr. Yester described as "rich, warm love songs" that still find their way onto radio station playlists.
One of the most impressive things about The Association is that the gentlemen who will be on stage tonight are pretty much the same guys who were singing and swaying on "The Smothers Brothers" show all those years ago.
"We're really like family," Mr. Yester said. "We've spent more time with each other than we have with our real families. Which, unfortunately, has led to the demise of several marriages.
"Of course, like any family, you know, we went through things, and we had conflicts. But we got over them. Guys left at various times. I was the next to last original guy to leave, and then I came back when we reunited for a show in '79.
"The first rehearsal, we had to bury a hatchet or two. But about halfway through the first song that we worked on -- which was 'Never My Love' -- we all kind of looked around at each other and were like, 'Whoa, this is pretty good.'"
The Association first came together in California in 1965. Founding member Jules Alexander was looking to form a rock 'n' roll group. The other five guys had backgrounds in folk music. Together, they found their strength with soft-rock-pop songs that were the soundtrack of AM radio in the late '60s.
The group was unique in that there was no front man, no leader. Different guys sang lead vocals on different songs. The downside of the arrangement, however, was that you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who could name their favorite member of The Association.
And, of course, as with any combination of creative people, there was conflict.
"Yeah, there were a couple of guys in the group who were not happy that we weren't a harder rock band and they were always pushing in that direction," said Mr. Yester, who was the lead vocal on "Along Comes Mary."
"But it was six and sometimes seven guys in the group, and it was very democratic. It wasn't like we were 'So-and-so and The Association.' We were The Association, and everybody had input and nobody's input was heavier than anyone else's. Probably to our demise. It probably held us back in a way, because everything had to be agreed on and there was a lot of compromise. But that was the nature of the beast.
"We have our niche. The strange part was that when we got creative and started to get out of that niche, the [radio] program directors wouldn't play it. That was kind of disappointing."
In their heyday, they not only were all over the charts -- they were all over the tube.
"In a period of three years we did 52 television shows," Mr. Yester said. "Bob Hope, Red Skelton, Dean Martin, 'The Tonight Show,' 'The Ed Sullivan Show,' 'The Carol Burnett Show.' We were everywhere. It was a great roller-coaster ride. It was a great time for music acts on TV shows. Now there aren't that many opportunities, not like there used to be."
And they toured, a particular point of pride for Mr. Yester. Fans came out to see them all across the country, and still do.
In 2003, The Association was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in Sharon, Pa. But don't look for them to find their way into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.
"Touchy subject," Mr. Yester said. "One of the guys in the band had a huge fight with a guy who runs the Rock and Roll Hall, so we'll never be in there.
"But be that as it may, one thing that we did do, we opened a lot of doors for bands, a lot of venues that had never been open for rock 'n' roll. We were the first rock 'n' roll band to play there. We had such a straight-ahead rep that they took a chance on us, and it opened the doors for other people.
"I guess we don't get the respect some of the heavier rock groups get, but we did what we did and they did what they did. The chips fall where they may. We still had a hellacious run, and thank the Lord it's still going on. I'm just grateful we're still doing it and having fun. One of the guys even said, 'This is so much more fun as an adult.' "
Now their empty cup is as sweet as the punch.
The Palace Theatre is on West Otterman Street in downtown Greensburg. The show begins at 8 p.m. and tickets range from $35 to $65.
First Published February 14, 2013 4:02 pm