by Randal Hill
George and Ira Gershwin’s iconic I Got Rhythm came from the 1930
musical Girl Crazy; three versions of the song soon ran up the hit record
Fast-forward to 1967 to the popular music world of psychedelic
experimentation, drugs, long hair and funky outfits. Enter a vocal group
of four clean-cut, short-haired, suit-wearing New Jersey guys, looking
more Wall Street than Woodstock. They say they want to record older songs—
some from as far back as the 1920s and 1930s—in the hope of achieving
success alongside the Doors and Jimi Hendrix and Jefferson Airplane.
Hmmn. Well, good luck, guys.
The cocky quartet liked to take
“oldies” and add their own spin—rich, tight vocal harmonies wrapped around upbeat tempos, elaborate orchestration defining each punched-up remake, and
the strong, confident tenor/falsetto of Bob Miranda out front. Somehow, this
“We met one night at a dance in East Paterson, New Jersey,” Miranda explained on classicbands.com.
“We actually met in the men’s room (where there was an echo). We sounded
pretty darned good, so we decided to get together.” They became the Four Graduates.
Miranda later became a songwriter in the music publishing
office of the Tokens, former singers who had hit big with The Lion
Sleeps Tonight years earlier. When the Tokens started a record label called B. T.
Puppy, Miranda brought in his other three Graduates pals and auditioned. The Four
Graduates then morphed into the more modern-sounding Happenings.
For their Gershwin remake, Miranda composed a brief introduction:
In this vast and troubled world, we sometimes lose our way But I am never lost; I feel this way because…
Once the Happenings’ version kicked into high gear moments later, the
listener was hopelessly hooked. “I Got Rhythm was a natural for us,” Miranda
explained. “There was so much space in the song for us to put these unique vocal
hooks…We just knew when we played it back that it was a hit.”
When Miranda was asked by Happenings fans just who wrote the
song, he would answer that it was George Gershwin.
Sometimes the response was, “Oh, is he in the group?”
Randal C. Hill, a former disc jockey, English teacher, record collector and author,
confesses to being hopelessly stuck in the past when it comes to music appreciation. He lives on the Oregon coast and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.