When Lovin’ Spoonful Members Reunited for a Great Cause in L.A.

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The last time that the three surviving members of The Lovin’ Spoonful performed together was when the New York-based quartet behind such hits as “Summer in the City” and “Do You Believe in Magic?” was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s class of 2000. That 20-year drought ended on Feb. 29, 2020, when John Sebastian, Steve Boone and Joe Butler joined with an all-star collective called the Wild Honey Orchestra at the Alex Theatre in Glendale, Calif., to pay tribute to the music the Spoonful created more than 50 years ago.

The nearly four-hour concert, a benefit performance for the Autism Think Tank, featured a parade of guests—including Micky Dolenz, Dave Alvin, Claudia Lennear, Susan Cowsill, Moby Grape’s Peter Lewis, Carla Olson, Marshall Crenshaw, the Smithereens’ Dennis Diken, Bill Mumy, Peter Case, Iain Matthews, Cindy Lee Berryhill, Bill Lloyd, the Cars’ Elliot Easton, Marti Jones, Carnie Wilson and the Three O’Clock—digging deep into the Spoonful’s catalog and, of course, playing many of the band’s hits.

Watch the Wild Honey Orchestra, with John and Mark Sebastian, and Joe Butler, perform “Summer in the City”

Since 1991, the Spoonful has existed as a vehicle for Boone and Butler, while Sebastian, who wrote and sang lead on most of the songs, has worked as a solo performer. The organizers of the benefit approached the three (Zal Yanovsky, the band’s lead guitarist, passed away in 2002) about participating in the benefit and all three agreed. In an interview published in Variety, Sebastian resisted describing the event as a full-scale reunion, citing Yanovsky’s absence, but expressed excitement about the opportunity to revisit the music with the large ensemble.

Watch Micky Dolenz perform “Daydream” at the benefit concert

According to a setlist from the concert, the program opened with Sebastian, Butler and Boone performing a number by Mississippi John Hurt, “Coffee Blues.” The song is notable in Spoonful history in that it contains the line “I wanna see my baby ’bout a lovin’ spoonful,” which, of course, gave them their name. Sebastian followed that with “Lovin’ You,” the song that opened the Spoonful’s 1966 album Hums of the Lovin’ Spoonful. Drummer Butler was up next, singing “Full Measure,” also from Hums.

As the evening progressed, the ensemble offered up such familiar tunes as “Nashville Cats” (sung by Lloyd), “Summer in the City” (co-fronted by John and Mark Sebastian, John’s brother, the song’s co-writer), “Rain on the Roof” (sung by Crenshaw), “Darling Be Home Soon” (Rob Laufer), “Six O’Clock” (Wednesday Week), “She’s Still a Mystery,” “Younger Girl,” “Darlin’ Companion,” “Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind,” “You’re a Big Boy Now,” “Daydream” (Dolenz) and “You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice.”

Watch Susan Cowsill sing “You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice”

The set also featured less-familiar Spoonful numbers such as “Butchie’s Tune,” “Pow!,” “Blues in the Bottle,” “Never Going Back,” “Money,” “Younger Generation” (sung at Woodstock by Sebastian, and here by Kathy McCarty), and “4 Eyes.”

Watch Dave Alvin and John Sebastian perform “Night Owl Blues”

Sebastian revisited his solo hit “Welcome Back” as well as an early signature Spoonful tune, “Jug Band Music.” He also blew harmonica on “Lonely,” the orchestrated instrumental (also known as “Amy’s Theme”), which the Spoonful created as part of the score for the film You’re a Big Boy Now.

Watch John Sebastian and crew sing “Welcome Back”

The show ended, to no one’s surprise, with the entire cast performing “Do You Believe in Magic?,” the first Lovin’ Spoonful hit, and a reprise of “Daydream.”

Watch the three original Spoonful members close the show with “Daydream”

Related: Our interview with John Sebastian

Watch Darian Sahanaja with the Three O’Clock perform “She’s Still a Mystery”

In past years, the Wild Honey Orchestra, which began in 1993, via organizer Paul Rock, and whose personnel changes from year to year, has saluted the Band, the Kinks, Buffalo Springfield, the Beatles and, of course, the Beach Boys, whose song “Wild Honey” gave the orchestra its name.

Watch “Pow!” featuring John Easdale of Dramarama on vocals, and John Sebastian on harmonica

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  1. Seakret
    #1 Seakret 1 March, 2020, 17:35

    No mention of the great Thomas Walsh of Pugwash? He’s a highlight of all of these Wild Honey Orchestra shows!

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  2. shipfitter
    #2 shipfitter 2 March, 2020, 00:24

    Miss the old days….would have liked to have been there….younger generation

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