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A & E

‘Joy of Christmas’ show coming to Egyptian Theatre

The Buckinghams return to play their hits, a selection of Christmas tunes

DeKALB – Carl Giammarese said he’s played “Kind of a Drag” probably thousands of times since it was a No. 1 hit for his band, The Buckinghams, in 1967, but he never gets tired of it because the audience always enjoys it.

It’s one of the tunes the band will play Dec. 16 at the Egyptian Theatre in DeKalb.

“It doesn’t make you crazy because you’re getting that response and that feedback from the audience and they want to hear it,” he said. “It feels good.”

Giammarese has been a member of The Buckinghams since they were known as The Pulsations in 1965. The Chicago band began as a garage band on the north side of the city and had a big break when it won the house band slot for WGN’s syndicated “All Time Hits” television program in 1965.

“We were a cover band at the time,” he said. The band had local hits covering The Beatles and James Brown. Once they recorded their first original track, “Kind of a Drag,” it rocketed up to the top of the charts within two months of its release.

They had a string of hits at the end of the decade. Between 1967 and 1968, the band had five Top 10 songs and seven in the Top 100. 

Giammarese said the band also had a number of Midwest hits and, because the 50,000-megawatt WLS radio station would broadcast their records, a fan base across the country and into Canada.

“We toured a lot back then,” Giammarese said. “In 1967, we toured probably 300 days that year.”

Fans of the band can expect to hear the hits and holiday tunes from the band’s Christmas album, “The Joy of Christmas.” 

“The Buckingham fans want to hear our hits and they want to hear songs they’re familiar with,” Giammarese said. Some of the Christmas songs they’ll play are covers of the old standards, but “The Joy of Christmas” also has original compositions, including the title track.

“I wrote it when I was feeling overwhelmed one year about getting ready for Christmas,” Giammarese said. Between the shopping and the planning and the parties, he said he was starting to be annoyed with Christmas, until he had a change of heart.

“In the end, you find out what it’s all about,” he said.

He said the band will adapt to what the audience wants. He described a show at Christmas time in Palm Springs, California, where they were expecting to do a lot of Christmas songs. When they explained that to the manager of the venue, he put a stop to it.

“Most of their clientele was Jewish,” Giammarese said. He said the band ended up playing a couple of secular songs about Santa.

“You just never know for sure what people want to hear,” he said.

The Buckinghams broke up in 1970, when people stopped wanting to listen to ‘60s music, Giammarese said, but reformed on a wave of nostalgia in the early 1980s. Since then, Giammarese and Nick Fortuna have been the core of the band, with other members coming in and out throughout the years.

Having The Buckinghams perform at the Egyptian Theatre is becoming something of a tradition. Giammarese said the band will play venues across the country every couple of years, and that he’s looking to play the Egyptian Theatre again.

“You don’t expect to come back to the same venue every year,” Giammarese said. “We are looking forward to coming back to the Egyptian Theatre. It’s such a nice venue to play and the people there are pros and I’m sure it’s going to be a fun show for us. ... It’s always a pleasure to come and play around Chicago. It’s still home for me.”

Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. Dec. 16 show at the Egyptian Theatre, 135 N. Second St. in DeKalb, cost $25 to $65 and are available at 815-758-1225 or www.egyptiantheatredekalb.com.

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