We spoke with Don, Mike and Pat from The Cyrkle, the U.S. band known for the 1966 hits “Red Rubber Ball” and “Turn-Down Day,” and discussed all their Columbia singles, their Beatles connection, Paul Simon, and Sirius XM’s Phlash Phelps.
By Warren Kurtz
GOLDMINE:Thank you for making my summer of 1966 so enjoyable. I was eight and my mother sent me away to day camp from suburban Cleveland to the country. Each weekday, teenage Molly, home for the summer from Dennison University, would pick up the kids in a powder blue van and play our new rock and roll AM radio station, WIXY 1260. The ride to and from the camp was one of my favorite parts of the day, where we would listen to The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel and you. My summer began with “Red Rubber Ball” and ended with “Turn-Down Day.”
DON DANNEMANN: Really? We were your day camp traveling music? In concerts, I know you have heard me talk about “Red Rubber Ball” being No. 2 when The Beatles’ “Paperback Writer” was No. 1 with “Rain” on the flip side and then “Turn-Down Day” was out when “Yellow Submarine” was on the charts with “Day Tripper” as its flip side that summer. For many years after the band broke up and I went on to a career in advertising and I didn’t play our old records. Then, there was a time in the mid-‘80s, when I relistened to “Red Rubber Ball.” I had an epiphany and said to myself, “Oh my God! This really did deserve to be hit.” Until that time, I thought it was OK and cute and we were lucky that it was a hit. All of a sudden, all of the aspects of “Red Rubber Ball” flooded into me. You got the organ and then the lead guitar, and in one second you recognize it immediately. Then the vocal came in and I was impressed. We were right on. There was no autotune. The harmony was very perfect. It really had its own unique sound. I have come to respect that song and “Turn-Down Day” way more now than at the time when we did them.
GM:“Red Rubber Ball” is such a positive breakup song. It is cheery.
DD: I hear so often at our concerts’ meet and greet sessions that “Red Rubber Ball” was such a major influence for them at the time. I am so pleased to be able to meet these fans and know that I was part of this song that had an influence on them. One guy shook my hand, thanked me, and told me that “Red Rubber Ball” got him through his divorce. He said, “It was such a positive song. I would wake up every morning, play the record and hear, ‘I think it’s going to be all right. Yeah, the worst is over now.’ So, thank you.” Then a guy came up to me in a veteran’s cap and said, “I want to tell you ‘Red Rubber Ball’ was on this portable, battery operated, tape recorder that we had in Vietnam and I can’t tell you how many battles that song got us through.” Then we hugged each other with tears in our eyes. Wow! I am so honored to have been a part of a song that has had an influence on so many people.
GM:That is wonderful. I know one of our daughter Brianna’s favorite songs of the ‘60s is “Red Rubber Ball.” Now, let’s go to its flip side, “How Can I Leave Her.” That’s a song about dedication and a tender story that you and Tom Dawes wrote about staying with your girl, and not leaving her, when someone new comes along, just a great song about staying together.
DD: I had the verses done. I was really stuck on the bridge. Tommy, our deceased bass player and I made a deal. We were both writing, and we said, “Let’s just be like Lennon & McCartney.” No matter who writes what, we both get credit. He came up with the bridge, “How can I leave her all alone and blue?” He was very talented. It was written based on the concept of other songs that influenced me about lost love. The message was, to a new girl versus an existing girlfriend, how can I leave her because even if I fall in love with you, she was with me through all the past stuff, both good and bad. It was a tender loving problem.
Flip side: How Can I Leave Her
A side: Red Rubber Ball
Top 100 Debut: May 21, 1966
GM:In August 1966, in time for your concert with The Beatles, downtown at our stadium while the Cleveland Indians were away, your next single was released, “Turn-Down Day.”
DD: That is another one that is so recognizable, with the unique piano part. Tommy and I did the vocal, which we lip-synced when we performed on the “Hollywood Palace” television show.
PAT McLOUGHLIN: For that tour with The Beatles, The Ronettes and The Remains, Earle Pickens, now Dr. Earle Pickens who lives near you in Florida, was on keyboards, as he was always part of the band, but because he was in medical school, he couldn’t commit and sign the record company or management contracts. He stayed with The Cyrkle through the end of the summer before returning to medical school at the University of Florida. Then Mike joined the group that September on keyboards.
Poster photo courtesy of Pat McLoughlin, The Cyrkle - Facebook
GM:At the end of 1966, “Please Don’t Ever Leave Me” debuted. There is a west coast group called Don and The Good Times who had a single out the following spring called “I Could Be So Good to You.” Its flip side, “If You Love Her, Cherish Her and Such” reminds me of your song, in terms of being a very fun, pop song, both written by a songwriter with the last name of Haber.
DD: I know the general way that we picked songs to record is that we would go into our producer John Simon’s office and there was a huge stacks of 45 demos. We would sit there, and he would throw on one and we would listen to it, maybe for ten seconds and then it would go right into the waste basket, and then another one for ten seconds and right into the waste basket. I can’t tell you how many of these demos went right into the waste basket. With “Please Don’t Ever Leave Me,” as best as I can remember, was probably one from his stack, that when it came on, everybody would listen to it and go “Hmm, that might be interesting. Let’s give that a shot.”
MIKE LOSEKAMP: Isn’t that one that we decided to put out at that time instead of “Feelin’ Groovy?”
DD: When I think about it and the time that Paul Simon offered it to us and we foolishly rejected it, it might have been that “Please Don’t Ever Leave Me” was what we were working on at the time.
Photo left to right: Tom Dawes, Mike Losekamp, Marty Fried, Don Dannemann
GM:Your next single, which Paul Simon co-wrote with Bruce Woodley of The Seekers, as he did with “Red Rubber Ball,” reminds me a bit of The Association, called “I Wish You Could Be Here.”
DD: We would not have gotten that one from a stack of demos. We knew Paul and anything that he wrote, that we had a shot to do, we were interested in, forgetting “Feelin’ Groovy.” We heard that and said, “That’s another Paul Simon song and is very sweet. Let’s try it.”
ML: The flip side of “I Wish You Could Be Here” was “The Visit.”
GM:I like that flip side a lot. It is tender and has a Latin flavor.
ML: That was my first foray into doing a lead vocal with The Cyrkle. I love the song. When we have time, we are starting to perform that one in concerts now.
DD: That has been an actual request from Cyrkle fans.
Photo, Columbia promotion poster with keyboardist Mike Losekamp officially joining the group.
GM:The next single, “We Had a Good Thing Goin’,” is catchy with a creative recording at the time.
DD: Tommy Dawes and John Simon were basically freaking out in the studio, wondering what they could do gimmicky. We wanted to be The Beatles. We shared the same manager, Brian Epstein, so we tried some weird recording sounds with the tape sped up. That was a Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield composition and it was a good song. You can look at it a couple of ways, either, wow, that is a great recording or why didn’t they straighten it out and let it be the good song that it was.
GM:Mike, on “Penny Arcade,” your piano is wonderful, reminding me of The Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Summer in the City.”
ML: Many times, the producer would suggest parts to be played. At that time Charlie Calello was producing us and suggested that piano part. The record also had a 4 Seasons feel to it.
GM:You traveled with The Beatles. As an audience member a couple of times for your recent shows here in Daytona Beach, my wife Donna and I enjoy the story of you being on the 1966 tour airplane and meeting Paul McCartney. An act we first heard the following year, who seemed to be influenced by The Beatles, was The Bee Gees. Your next single, at the end of 1967, was your version of their “Turn of the Century.”
DD: We got to meet The Bee Gees too. Our American manager Nat Weiss, who partnered with Brian Epstein, had a relationship with Robert Stigwood, The Bee Gees’ manager, and they got us together once. We all met in a hotel room. Nat and our group were very impressed with their album that came out in America called The Bee Gees’ 1st. “Turn of the Century” and “Red Chair Fade Away” were both Bee Gees songs that we covered.
GM:Pat told me there is a teacher who uses a Cyrkle song each year in her class.
DD: Yes, it is “Reading Her Paper” from 1968. The writer describes something we have all been through in our life, sitting next to a pretty girl in class and trying to figure out how to talk to her. The email that we got was from a teacher. He referred to “Reading Her Paper” as an example that he uses for his acting class of spoken thought. The singer is expressing thought, not talking to anybody, just singing thoughts.
GM:That was your final single, which I have learned received airplay here in Florida and in Maryland.
DD: The recording took place as the band was breaking up. It was just Charlie Calello and me on “Reading Her Paper.” We were all going our separate ways at that point. I think Tommy was already getting started on commercials. I shortly followed him. Marty Fried went to law school. Then Mike, you went off to the band Green Lyte Sunday.
Green Lyte Sunday back album cover, Mike Losekamp bottom right
GM:I have listened to Green Lyte Sunday songs and have enjoyed them with you and Susan Darby both as lead vocalists, hearing you on a variety of keyboards including harpsicord and Fly Barlow on flute, sax and clarinet.
ML: I moved back to Dayton, Ohio, where I was from, and we formed Green Lyte Sunday. Our album, on RCA, was released in 1970, and I was with that group for about ten years. I had just started getting into writing at the time that I was living in New York with The Cyrkle and then when I went back to Ohio I continued to write. I had six original songs on that album. I really like the song “Happy Happy” and “High Up in the Sky,” well, I actually like all of them. “If You Want to Be Free” is a really good song, too. I remember writing “Lenore” when I was living in New York and was playing with The Cyrkle. I was riding on a bus and I saw this girl and imagined that she would be called Lenore and got that stuck in my head. I made up that name for her and went on from there to write that song. Also, before The Cyrkle, I was on the Philips label with Sonny Flaharty and The Mark V.
GM:Yes, I listened to “Hey Conductor.” I like your organ playing on that one.
ML: Oh boy, I do too. My old Vox organ had a sound of its own.
GM:Don, please tell me about “The Great Space Coaster,” which I remember seeing as a children’s program, just before Brianna was born.
DD: When I got into commercials, over a period of time, we formed a relationship with an agency who had the Hasbro toy account. We did a lot of Hasbro and Playskool commercials for them. As a sideline, they produced a TV show called “The Great Space Coaster.” Due to the relationship, we were one of their main music suppliers. During the time of “The Great Space Coaster,” we had this extra chunk of time. We had our own recording studio and I had the ability to be a band. It wasn’t as common as it is today with computers, where anybody can be a band. I could play guitar, my partner played keyboards, I could play some keyboards, electric bass, and I even learned to play drums. With overdubs, we could do this for them at a reasonable cost, so we got to write and produce almost all of their music. It was an early morning show in the early ‘80s. If you didn’t have a kid at that time, you probably wouldn’t have seen it.
GM:Pat, What is the “Local Lix” radio show? Is this music by Ohio artists?
PM: That is how the original concept started. I live in the Columbus area with the central Ohio market and there was never an attempt to cover the history of the musicians living here, and within the state, like The Lemon Pipers, The Ohio Express, The Music Explosion and others. Mike was one of my first guests. The show started with one station and we’re now up to five stations. In January I signed an arrangement with a syndication company to distribute this throughout the state of Ohio. Now it has started to attract some national folks too.
GM:The first time I went back home to Cleveland, to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I was disappointed. Then when they opened the Ohio room on the first floor, I thought they got it in terms of the importance of Ohio musicians in rock and roll history.
PM: We will be donating books on the interviews to that room. We have a book of the first 73 interviews with quotes and photos of the guests. We are sitting at about 140 interviews right now. When we get to 150 interviews, we will donate two of the books to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for that very section and two to the Ohio Historical Society. Now that we are back from the Flower Power Cruise, which was great, The Cyrkle has more shows coming up. We will be on the border of Ohio at Wheeling, West Virginia on April 27 with the full band and then the three of us will be in Charlotte, North Carolina on Father’s Day weekend as part of a Beatles convention. Peter Asher will be joining us. We will also be doing a show with The Lovin’ Spoonful in July in Dearborn, Michigan along with The Shades of Blue. We have a live recording of our band, which we sell at the shows and it is available online too.
GM:In the meantime, we can hear you on Sirius XM’s 60s on 6 channel during Phlash Phelph’s morning time slot with the promotion that you recorded.
DD: After we did an interview with him, we set up a dinner with Phlash, who I learned didn’t live that far from me. I drove in from Delaware and Pat and his wife Sandy drove in from Ohio. After dinner, we went downstairs, and I set up a few things that I brought, and thought would be interesting to play for him. One was a theme song that I wrote for my college buddy, who was on the college radio station at Lafayette College, back in 1964. I called Tom and Marty over in my room at the fraternity house, and with a tape recorder, we recorded this thing and it turned out quite good. I played that for Phlash as a pre-Cyrkle recording by The Cyrkle. When it was done, Phlash closed his eyes, and said, “You know, if I had that for me, I could use it on the air.” So, having been in commercials most of my adult life, I thought I could do something. About three to four weeks later I surprised him. I told him I would send him a Phlash theme and he loved it and he put it on the air.
GM:With a “PH” in it, which he uses.
DD: Yes. With the “PH.” Pat and I did all the research on it, when he was here after dinner. It was the equivalent of getting an advertising assignment and looking up all the information you could about a subject. His “PH” thing is a big deal. With every email and text we got from him, every word that would start with an “F” was replaced with a “PH.” I end up laughing with every communication I get from him. He is really smart and can quickly replace the consonants. The trivia that we brought up to him is that the day that we premiered “Red Rubber Ball” on the television show “Hullabaloo” was the day that Phlash was born, April 11, 1966.
Photo, courtesy of Pat McLoughlin, left to right: Scott Langley – drums, Michael “Roscoe” Rousculp – bass, Don White – lead guitar, Pat McLoughlin – guitar, Don Dannemann – guitar, and Mike Losekamp – keyboards. All members provide vocals.
Warren Kurtz is a Contributing Editor at Goldmine. “Warren’s Fabulous Flip Sides” can be heard most Saturday mornings, in the 9 a.m. hour, Eastern time, as part of “Moments to Remember” at wvcr.com or iHeart Radio – search WVCR.