Spiral Starecase’s Catchy ‘More Today Than Yesterday’

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Spiral Starecase

Pat Upton (center) of Spiral Starecase

When lead singer Pat Upton of Spiral Starecase, who enjoyed a memorable 1969 hit single, “More Today Than Yesterday,” died July 27, 2016, his death was announced by the city of Geraldine, Ala., where he grew up. Three decades earlier, Upton narrowly missed the same tragic ending that claimed the life of singer Ricky Nelson.

“More Today Than Yesterday” was a peppy soul-based, horns-infused pop song written by Upton. The group, formed in Sacramento, CA, and commonly misspelled as “Staircase,” had two other minor hits.

These are the singles that blocked the song from the top on June 7, 1969

Upton originally sang gospel music in a quartet with his brother. Having become a fan of rock music, he formed the Fydallions, originally an instrumental quartet, for an Air Force contest in 1964. Upon his discharge from the service, Upton—joined by saxophonist Dick Lopes, keyboardist Harvey Kaye, bassist Bobby Raymond and drummer Vinnie Parello—began working regularly, in Las Vegas and other locales. They cut some demo recordings for an indie label that remained unreleased and were eventually discovered in El Monte, CA, by Columbia Records A&R executive Gary Usher, who had worked with the Beach Boys and others. Signed to the label in 1967, they changed their name to the deliberately misspelled Spiral Starecase, based on a 1946 thriller film.

“More Today Than Yesterday” was released in the spring in 1969 and though it peaked at only #8 at June 7 on Record World, it became the 50th best-selling song of 1969. It has subsequently been covered by Diana Ross, Sonny and Cher, Lena Horne, Andy Williams, Patti Austin and others. It was the first song Upton had ever written.

After Spiral Starecase disbanded, Upton’s career continued. He went on to become a session musician and became a member of Ricky Nelson’s band for four years, recording and touring with the singer. He was still a member of Nelson’s band in late December 1985, when they performed at PJ’s Alley, a club in Guntersville, Alabama, owned by Upton. Following that show, Upton drove Nelson and his fiancée to the Guntersville airport for a flight to a New Year’s Eve performance but chose to stay behind to take care of business at the club. Nelson, his fiancée and five members of Nelson’s band died that night when the plane crashed en route to Dallas. Only the two pilots survived.

Upon Upton’s death, Spiral Starecase wrote on their Facebook page: “Sad Sad news….The Music World has lost another great….Mr. Pat Upton of Spiral Starecase. RIP Dear Brother…You will be greatly missed! We love you Pat! God Bless & Comfort your Family & loved ones.”

Though “More Today Than Yesterday” peaked at just #12 on the Hot 100, it’s long-time popularity far exceeded its initial chart success.

Listen to the brilliant studio recording

Similar hits in that era including The Foundations’ “Build Me Up Buttercup,” “Sugar Sugar” by the Archies and “Dizzy” by Tommy Roe shared the airwaves with classic rock songs like the Rolling Stones’ “Honky Tonk Women” and Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary.”

Related: The top radio hits of 1969

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16 Comments so far

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  1. Oliasdoug
    #1 Oliasdoug 28 July, 2016, 13:54

    How well I remember hearing this great song on AM radio for the first time…it struck me right away as one of those songs where you found yourself thinking, “How could anyone NOT LIKE this song?” Effervescent, joyous, celebrating the spirit of the love generation…its feel-good vibe lives on to this day. Pat had an amazing voice which helped propel this song to the heights it deserved, and he will be sorely missed. Rest in Peace, my good man.

    Reply this comment
    • frankey'
      frankey' 7 November, 2016, 14:39

      ✨ Heartbroken learning of this news #thank you, thank you Pat -RIP ✝️✨

      Reply this comment
    • Bert
      Bert 7 April, 2019, 13:26

      Always love singing this song, my children are in their 20’s and they love it too!!

      Reply this comment
  2. David Casanova Miller
    #2 David Casanova Miller 30 May, 2017, 19:23

    Outstanding band best song ever. Love the group.

    Reply this comment
  3. Chocolate
    #3 Chocolate 8 April, 2018, 18:05

    Yes, how could anyone NOT LIKE this song?” I piggyback on the words mentioned. Just wonderful, happy, carefree times we had as old school music and songs. Effervescent, joyous, celebrating the spirit of the love generation…its feel-good vibe lives on to this day indeed.

    Reply this comment
  4. Robby
    #4 Robby 27 April, 2018, 03:18

    One of the best male singers ever!

    Reply this comment
  5. Lemwell
    #5 Lemwell 19 September, 2018, 02:49

    We miss your Song Pat which wer still heard every weekend in one of Manilas classic FzM radio station Wrock 96.7 and Magic 89.9.
    Rest in Peace brother. With love from your Philippine Music fans¡

    Reply this comment
  6. Janiegirl
    #6 Janiegirl 12 November, 2018, 21:24

    I went to a concert in my late teens and Spiral Staircase was one of the five bands playing! Loved those days; 1969-1971!
    They of course played, Pat’s song! You could just feel how much he loved this song! Even after they went off stage; you could hear him singing the chorus really loud. Loved it so much and hold such good memories of that night !

    Reply this comment
  7. Bob
    #7 Bob 31 January, 2019, 16:52

    Great song! Reminds me of being a little kid in the 1960’s. For years, I thought this was Stevie Wonder singing this song.

    Reply this comment
  8. Art Peterson
    #8 Art Peterson 15 April, 2019, 16:48

    I was crazy about this song when I heard it… we lived in San Bernardino, CA just after getting married… There was a night club in town and Pat performed at it for a short while… We’d go there as much as we could to hear him sing. My heart is broken to hear of his passing… It caused me not to sleep. One of my very favorites…

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  9. Bobby Ray
    #9 Bobby Ray 7 May, 2019, 03:30

    Being a professional musician for 45 yrs I can tell you that this is one of my favorite songs. Hard to sing cause its so high in range. I LOVE THIS SONG AND SINGER!!!!!!!

    Reply this comment
  10. Michael P.
    #10 Michael P. 28 July, 2019, 10:20

    This song, maybe more than any other, reminds me of my childhood and the summer of ’69. I would also recommend “No One For Me To Turn To”, one of their minor hits as alluded to in the article.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-K6jni3bLE0

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  11. v2787
    #11 v2787 30 July, 2019, 14:53

    Love this song so much. I got to see Pat Upton sing it live once, and he was great. I sang lead for a 10-piece horn band a few years back. We did a medley of “I Love You More Today Than Yesterday” and then segued into the Beatles’ “Got To Get You Into My Life.” It worked really well. RIP, Pat Upton. You were a great singer.

    Reply this comment
  12. Rob
    #12 Rob 26 December, 2019, 13:14

    Didn’t he also sing lead on “Na Na Kiss Him Goodbye” by Steam?

    Reply this comment
  13. Da Mick
    #13 Da Mick 28 July, 2020, 01:29

    The only person I can think of who is on par with Pat’s vocals was Stevie, who many folks mistakenly thought was singing this song. But it’s that walking jazz bass, and swinging backbeat that create the vibe that’s lovingly talked about by so many on this blog. Then on top of that you put that voice….. One of those songs that instantly makes you happy when it comes on, and you can listen to over and over, anytime. We’re at that dreaded point in time where we just keep losing the great ones nearly every day. Nevertheless, it was a great time to be alive, and a great time to be young.

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