The Classics IV Trio: ‘Spooky,’ ‘Stormy’ & ‘Traces’

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The Classics IV

They’re one of those bands that will never, ever get into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but we bet you fondly recall their three Top 10 hits—all logged within a period of less than a year and a half—and wouldn’t turn them off if they came on the radio right now. They were called The Classics IV, and those soft-rock hits with the single-word titles—“Spooky,” “Stormy” and “Traces”—were, well, true classics of the late ’60s AM radio scene.

But who were the Classics IV, and what became of them?

Their best known member was the Detroit-born singer Dennis Yost. At age 7, Yost moved to Jacksonville, Fla., where he first played drums in a mid-’60s band called the Echoes, followed by a stint with Leroy and the Moments. Yost’s drumset was manufactured by Classic and the group, which played cover songs, changed its name first to the Classics before settling on Classics IV (another band had already trademarked the Classics).

Yost quickly established that his greater talent was not drumming but singing, and after being discovered by talent agent Paul Cochran, who co-managed the group with Buddy Buie (who would also produce their records), the band—which also included guitarists J. R. Cobb and Walter Eaton and keyboardist Joe Wilson—relocated to Atlanta and signed a recording deal with Capitol Records. Their first single release, “Pollyanna” (written by Joe South), just missed the Billboard Hot 100 in the fall of 1966, despite a promotional appearance on Dick Clark’s Where the Action Is! TV program and, for the better part of the next year, the Classics IV languished.

Watch the Classics IV perform “Spooky” on the Upbeat show

But by late 1967, newly signed to Imperial Records, things began to look up. The Classics IV cut “Spooky,” originally a jazzy, saxophone-based instrumental written by Mike Shapiro (who had a #57 hit with it in 1967 under the name Mike Sharpe) and Harry Middlebrooks Jr. Cobb and Buie added the lyrics (beginning with the memorable if awkward line “In the cool of the evening when everything is getting kind of groovy, I call you up and ask you if you want to go and meet and see a movie”) to the bare bones of the tune.

The midtempo number featured an eerie whistling sound that gave it some distinction and, with Yost’s gutsy vocal and its coolly swaying beat the record catapulted to #3 in February 1968. With Yost now firmly established as the band’s frontman, the group added drummer Kim Venable on drums, while also replacing Wilson with keyboardist Dean Daughtry, formerly of Roy Orbison’s backing band the Candymen.

A followup single called “Soul Train” basically bombed but in the fall of 1968, now calling themselves Classics IV featuring Dennis Yost, they cut “Stormy,” written by Yost, Cobb and Buie, and returned to the top 10, settling at #5. Similar in style and tempo to “Spooky,” this song too had a bit of a melancholy feel to it and has found favor over the years with several other artists, including Santana, whose own cover in 1978 reached #32.

Watch the Classics IV perform “Stormy”

There would be just one more major hit for the Classics IV, “Traces,” even moodier than the first two Top 10s—and even more successful. Credited to Buie, Cobb and Emory Gordy Jr., the recording, which made use of a string section and oboe, went all the way to #2 in early 1969, and was later covered by the vocal group the Lettermen, jazz great Harry James and soul singer Billy Paul, proving its adaptability to various formats.

Watch the band perform “Traces”

Related: What were the other big radio hits of 1968?

Those three songs are, quite likely, the only ones you know by the Classics IV. But they were far from finished. There was another top 20 hit in the spring of ’69, “Everyday With You Girl,” followed by no fewer than eight further chart singles all the way into 1975, on Imperial, Liberty and MGM South Records (all of those latter sides as Dennis Yost and the Classics IV although there were several personnel changes along the way).

The Classics IV also placed four albums on the charts: Spooky (1968), Mamas and Papas/Soul Train (1969), Traces (1969) and Dennis Yost & the Classics IV/Golden Greats-Volume 1 (1969-70).

But as they say in the commercials, wait, there’s more! After the split, Yost launched a solo career. He didn’t fare well as a recording artist but continued to draw crowds for years, singing the old hits. Meanwhile, a couple of his old bandmates hit paydirt with a completely different sound: In 1971, Daughtry and Cobb split off from the group and joined with Rodney Justo (singer), Barry Bailey (guitar), Paul Goddard (bass) and Robert Nix (drums) to form the Atlanta Rhythm Section. (Justo and Nix, like Daughtry, had backed Roy Orbison.) Managing and producing ARS: Buddy Buie, the same fellow who had helped bring the Classics IV to the top of the charts.

It took several years, but finally, in 1977, ARS scored their first top 10 single with the #7 “So In To You,” followed by the #7 “Imaginary Lover” the next year. No fewer than 11 albums by the Atlanta Rhythm Section charted, including the platinum-selling Champagne Jam in 1978, although the lineup underwent several changes over the years (Daughtry remains involved today).

Although there is also still a working lineup of the Classics IV, tragedy arrived in 2006 when Yost fell down a flight of stairs and suffered brain trauma. A benefit concert was held the following year to raise money for his medical expenses, featuring hitmakers from the Moody Blues, the Turtles, Three Dog Night and other bands. However, on Dec. 7, 2008, Dennis Yost passed away at the age of 65, due to respiratory failure. The date marked exactly 40 years since the ascension of “Stormy” into the top 10.

Bonus video: Listen to the original instrumental version of “Spooky” by Mike Sharpe

Jeff Tamarkin

21 Comments so far

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  1. Dan
    #1 Dan 4 January, 2018, 15:14

    Always curious to read about two or three hit wonders and where are they now. The Classics IV seem to have been successful at making a living making music after the top forty hits stopped coming. Aside from Mr. Yost’s untimely passing, a great story.

    Reply this comment
  2. Kobo Mac
    #2 Kobo Mac 9 December, 2018, 22:34

    It is actually surprising that they were successful singing soft rock before that genre became popular, but did not try to regroup in the heyday of soft rock.

    Reply this comment
  3. Jon B.
    #3 Jon B. 11 December, 2018, 18:03

    And there’s even more: ARS remade Spooky into a hit in 1979. The producer, once again, was Buie.

    Reply this comment
    • Herb
      Herb 30 August, 2019, 01:15

      Yeah, and I think it’s the definitive version of the song–mostly instrumental with extremely tasty guitar solos.

      Reply this comment
  4. Bobbo
    #4 Bobbo 21 February, 2019, 16:12

    I was just old enough to remember “Stormy,” “Traces,” and “Every Day with You Girl,” all of which bring back memories of my days as a first-grader. I also recall their 1972 top-40 single “What Am I Crying For,” which I heard frequently that fall. I also recall a very minor hit of theirs called “Rosanna” (not the 1982 Toto hit) from March 1973 or thereabouts.

    Reply this comment
    • DrLeery
      DrLeery 29 August, 2019, 19:06

      Just saw a version of the Classics IV at the Ohio State Fair, in the “Happy Together ” tour. I swear the gent doing the singing said HE IS Dennis Yoast !!!!

      Reply this comment
      • Jade
        Jade 30 July, 2021, 16:15

        Just saw the Happy Together Tour the other night and missed the name of the guy singing the Classics IV songs. Wondering who he is.

        Reply this comment
  5. David
    #5 David 20 July, 2020, 15:38

    I love those songs and think that Classics IV should be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The Zombies got inducted and they didn’t have very many hits either.

    Reply this comment
  6. RecordSteve
    #6 RecordSteve 1 November, 2020, 21:52

    Dusty Springfield did a good cover of Spooky.

    Reply this comment
  7. John Rose
    #7 John Rose 2 November, 2020, 12:50

    Met Dennis Yost on a package tour show back in the 80’s. Nice guy. No rock star attitude. Understood how important oldies radio was to his career.

    Reply this comment
  8. john runion
    #8 john runion 2 November, 2020, 19:35

    in the film the chicken chronicles they wanted to use music by jimi hendrix, but couldn’t afford them so they used classics IV tunes. the film made great use of everyday with you girl.

    Reply this comment
  9. Tracy
    #9 Tracy 6 December, 2020, 15:21

    I am producing a documentary on Studio One and have interviewed some of the players from ClassicsIV- most notably Buddy Buie, JR Cobb, Rodney Justo, and Dean Daughtry. Sadly Buie and Cobb passed away after my interviews with them. Documentary will cover some of the history of the Lowery days of Mastersound Studios and the formation of ARS.

    Reply this comment
    • Sam
      Sam 19 February, 2021, 23:48

      Do you have ANY IDEA when this doc will be finished and available to watch anywhere? I WANNA SEE THIS! The Classics IV was one of the most CRIMINALLY UNDERRATED bands from
      The 60’s and hardly anybody knows about them today unless you grew up in that era. Their story needs to be told and I’m glad someone is doing it. Where online can I be updated/informed on this?

      Reply this comment
  10. Batchman
    #10 Batchman 22 February, 2021, 19:15

    Well, I can remember one more Classics IV song: “Midnight” … barely charted in the summer of 1969.

    Reply this comment
  11. Jamie
    #11 Jamie 1 November, 2021, 00:14

    Hi guys, nice story on The Classics IV. But your suggestion that ‘Spooky,’ ‘Stormy’ & ‘Traces’ are the only songs most folks now from the band is simply inaccurate. ‘Every Day With You Girl’ is just as important in the band’s resume’ as the other three. Yes, it reached #19, not the top five, but that is still a major hit by anyone’s definition. You should have said that the band had four major hits that most fans remember, not three.

    Reply this comment
    • Jeff Tamarkin
      Jeff Tamarkin Author 1 November, 2021, 08:58

      Thanks. We did mention “Everyday With You Girl” in the story and noted that it did reach #19. Nowhere did we say the three top 10s were their “only” hits–the article mentions other songs both before and after. But no matter how you slice it, they had only three major hits. “Everyday…” didn’t get a lot of airplay and has been basically forgotten today. I’ve never once heard it on an oldies radio station.

      Reply this comment
  12. Doug D.
    #12 Doug D. 8 December, 2021, 12:02

    And to add insult to injury, Dean Daughtry just retired recently so there are no players left from the ARS classic lineup in the group these days.

    Reply this comment
  13. 122intheshade
    #13 122intheshade 20 July, 2022, 21:02

    For you collectors, Lowery Music put out a 2 LP promo in the late 70s featuring songs from Be-Bop-A-Lula to Moonlight Feels Right. Including the four major Classics IV hits. You can find it very reasonably priced on eBay. Still have my copy. I don’t think the station missed it.

    Reply this comment
  14. beatseeker
    #14 beatseeker 27 July, 2022, 13:40

    hey, jeff… i always thought it was “i call you up and ask you would you like to go with me and see a movie, not go and meet…

    Reply this comment
  15. Safari Bob Grilli
    #15 Safari Bob Grilli 8 December, 2023, 13:19

    Reminds me of the Buckinghams and their hits. Lead singers with distinct voices.

    Reply this comment

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