When you look back it’s often funny to realise what used to confuse you. Remember when Boy George first popped up on Top of the Pops, and the amount of parents who asked the question is that a boy or a girl? Equally a friend of mine, back in the early seventies, went into a record shop to ask for the latest single by Alice Cooper and the confused young assistant replied who’s she? Well a decade before that there was confusion among the young American record buying public when they couldn’t work out if U.S. Bonds was a person or a group. Well it paid dividends for one Gary Anderson when he timely hit the top of the Billboard Chart in 1961 with Quarter To Three.
Gary Anderson was born in 1939 in Jacksonville, Florida but moved with his family to Norfolk, Virginia where, as he was growing up, heard and fell in love with the doo wop groups he heard on the radio. That led him to form his own group The Turks who earned themselves a few pennies by singing on street corners. He was spotted by Frank Guida, a songwriter, producer and owner of the Norfolk recording studios and took the young Anderson under his wing.
Guida had written a song with a shoe salesman friend of his called Joseph Royster called New Orleans. They asked Gary to sing it which he did, and suggested a slight alteration in the arrangement and added some drums to it. Guida thought Anderson needed a more catchy name so whilst getting his lunch in the deli that was located next door to the studio he saw a sign on the wall that reminded customers to buy savings bonds and thought that if he changed Gary’s name to U.S Bonds, he could promote him with the tag line, ‘why not buy U.S. Bonds.’ Guida hadn’t told Anderson this and when the record was pressed Gary noticed that his name was not on the record. Gary later said, “By that time it was too late for me to go back to my own name, but I did ask that all future releases be credited to Gary U.S. Bonds and it was agreed.” The song reached number 16 in the UK chart and 10 places higher in the States.
Four months later, Gary returned to the studio and whilst in there he saw a group called the Church Street Five who had released an instrumental track a year earlier called A Night With Daddy G which hadn’t done that well. During the evening and after a few drinks, saxophone player Daddy G, whose real name was Gene Barge, played the track to Bonds and asked him if could write some lyrics to it. Within 10 minutes he’d come up with something and they tried a run through, unbeknown to Barge, Bonds had hit the record button on the tape recorder and with Gary singing his own new lyrics, the song was renamed Quarter To Three and job was done. The recording sounded like a live recording and that was because the entire Church Street Five, including Frank Guida, provided the live atmosphere.
That ‘live’ sound was duly copied by Chubby Checker for his hit Dancin’ Party, Dion on Runaround Sue, The Beach Boys’ Barbara Ann and Trini Lopez’s If I Had a Hammer. Bonds initially wasn’t happy and thus tried to sue Chubby Checker in 1962, claiming, “He stole my song for his song Dancin’ Party.” The matter was eventually settled out of court.
Although Bonds had two further top 10’s in 1962 with Dear Lady Twist and Twist Twist Senora he then seemingly disappeared from the chart for almost 20 years, however in 1978 he was performing live at a club called the Red Baron in New Jersey when a local kid in the front row was showing signs of wanting to come on stage. Bonds thought he’d give him a break and brought him up on stage. He asked him his name and thus introduced him to the audience saying, “Please welcome a young man called Bruce Springsteen.” They sang a duet of Quarter To Three to a rapturously responsive audience. It wasn’t until a couple of years later that Bonds found out who Bruce Springsteen was and learned that he was a fan of the song and used to regularly close his show with it.
Bruce asked Bonds if they could work on an album together. Bonds agreed, but Bruce wanted to finish his then-current album he was working on, but once The River was completely the pair got together. The result was an album called Dedication which produced the single This Little Girl and saw Bonds back in the US and UK chart. The next two singles, Jole Blon and It’s Only Love were both minor hits, but all three had Springsteen’s trademark sound stamped all over it.
In 2004 Bonds released an album called Back in 20, the title poking fun at Bonds’ sporadic returns to popularity all 20 years apart. The album features guest appearance by Springsteen and Southside Johnny.
Bonds was also inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame on 15 October 15 2006 and was still touring the US in 2013.