Remembering Freddie Garrity of Freddie and the Dreamers

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Monday, May 19, 2014
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Remembering Freddie Garrity of Freddie and the Dreamers

Eight years ago today, the world lost the man who put the “Freddie” in “Do the Freddie,” not to mention in the band responsible for providing us with that short-lived dance sensation in the first place: Freddie Garrity, the bespectacled frontman for the Manchester quintet known as Freddie and the Dreamers.

Born on November 14, 1936 in Manchester, England, Garrity had a fascination with music early on, but while playing in local skiffle bands like the Red Sox, the John Norman Four, and the Kingfishers, he still had to make ends meet, so he also spent some time as a milkman, too. Eventually, however, the Kingfishers evolved into Freddie and the Dreamers, and as history reveals, the group got caught up in the world at large wanting to find the next Beatles, and – thanks in no small part to the single “I’m Telling You Now,” which hit #2 in the UK and topped the charts in the States – they managed a brief stint as the UK’s “next big thing.”

Okay, sure, it was a very brief stint, all things considered. After all, the aforementioned “Do the Freddie” was the band’s only other top-20 hit (it climbed to #18), and they only had three other songs hit the charts beyond those two biggies: “You Were Made for Me” (#21), “I Understand” (#36), and “A Little You” (#48). But let’s keep things in the proper perspective, shall we? It’s 50 years since the band’s first and biggest hit, and yet whenever journalists discuss the artists who found success on our side of the pond during the so-called “British Invasion,” Freddie and the Dreamers are high on the list of the usual suspects to be cited.

And why wouldn’t they be? Not only is “I’m Telling You Now” an incredibly catchy piece of pop, but there’s certainly no denying that Freddie Garrity, with his big ol’ glasses and his gawky, flailing frame, had a look that made a real impression whenever he turned up on the TV screen. (There was even a brief discussion about teaming the band with British comedian Terry-Thomas for an American TV series, but it never came to pass, sadly.) They also played pretty well on the big screen, apparently, as the band actually appeared in four films during their heyday: What a Crazy World, Just for You, The Cuckoo Patrol, and Every Day’s a Holiday(a.k.a. Seaside Swingers in the States).

Alas, the success of Freddie and the Dreamers proved to be relatively short-lived both here and in the UK: their last entry in the British charts was 1965’s “Thou Shalt Not Steal,” which couldn’t even crack the top 40. (It stalled at #44.) Despite continuing to release singles all the way through the end of the decade, they never managed another hit.

Perhaps the most depressing bit, though, is the fact that Garrity took a shot at reviving the Dreamers’ fortunes by rebooting the band in 1970, this time with the future members of 10CC backing him, and releasing a single called “Susan’s Tuba” that actually topped the French charts. In the UK, however, it never even charted, nor did the accompanying album, Oliver in the Overworld. Sigh.

And as long as we’re sighing, the same fate met the attempted late ‘70s comeback album, Breaking Out, and its accompanying single, “Here We Go.” Thankfully, the failure to secure any further hits never stopped Freddie and some incarnation of the Dreamers from touring regularly and playing to crowds who were quite happy to have him trot out the familiar numbers that brought the band fame in the first place. In February 2001, Garrity was forced to retire as a result of pulmonary hypertension, but it must be said that he was still offering highly entertaining performances ‘til he hung up his hat…or at least ‘til 1999, which is when this television appearance took place.

Although Garrity succumbed to his health problems in 2006, he left behind a musical legacy that’s quite enjoyable and well worth investigating. We’ve put together a playlist of 20 singles released by Freddie and the Dreamers during the course of the ‘60s. If you dig the sound of the British invasion at all, we think you’ll find it’s pretty gear.