The Lovin' Spoonful

The Lovin’ Spoonful In Their Own Words

Andrew Olson

This past Friday at the Head of the Lakes Fair The Lovin’ Spoonful folk rocked the crowd and played many of their well-known hits.

After over four decades on the road The Lovin’ Spoonful has traveled through many an era of music. Steve Boone, the original bass player and one of the founders of the Spoonful, told the story of the band during the show.

“If someone had told me in 1965 that in 2009 that I would be standing up, or making a good resemblance of it, I woulda’ laid off the recreationals right then. But anyway, over those 44 years we’ve had a really good time, and we’ve enjoyed every minute of it… We’ve enjoyed playing for you, and it makes us feel good… And like I read in the paper today, if you enjoy what you are doing you never work a day in your life... And so those 44 years have gone by just like that, and in those 44 years a couple of people have left that band and couple of new guys have joined the band… And since I know it’s real hard to tell who the new guys are…”

Joe Butler, current singer and former drummer yelled back, “That’s not funny...”

Boone continued, “In 1996 Joe here was our original drummer and there is one thing a drummer has to be able to do, and that is to count to four... And at our annual rehearsal, he got to three and there was a long pause.”

Butler responded, “You said one, two and I buckled my shoe, the buckle was squeaky… I didn’t hear three and four, but go ahead with your story.”

“So anyway,” Boone continued to explain. “Joe was a real gentleman about it, he said, you know something guys, I was in Chicago last week and I heard this drummer and he is fantastic… I think he would make a perfect guy to count to four… And I would love to see him join the band, and he did and we are so glad, he’s been a fantastic addition to the Lovin’ Spoonful… And we love him to death, please welcome fromChicago, Illinois, Mike Arturi.”

Then Boone joked as he introduced the youngest member of the band, Phil Smith, saying, “Jerry’s daughter told us about a guitar player from the town they lived in, he’s been with us since 1999, and he is a great singer and guitar player.”

“Alright now the two old farts of the band,” Boone said. “I’m gonna introduce them now. On my left is our musical director… And he’s been our musical director since 1967, so he bills himself as the new guy in the band, but the Association, The Turtles, Tim Buckley, Tom Waites, Aztec Two Step, Yanovsky; they’ve all enjoyed albums produced by Jerry. And he’s still our music director, he’s our lead guitarist, he’s our lead singer, and he’s also my father-in-law… from Harrisville, Arkansas, Jerry Yester.”

Most people might remember former member John Sebastian and the late Zal Yanovsky, who were founding members of the band. Boone explained their roles and paid respect to the former members.

“I wanna give a real tip of the hat to John Sebastian, and Yanovsky,” Boone said. “They were our original lead guitarist and singer… Original songwriter and extraordinary talent… I am sure without their participation the Lovin’ Spoonful we wouldn’t be up here tonight.”

To introduce former drummer Joe Butler, Boone said, “Drum roll…. Ladies and gentleman, I would like to introduce to you, the only man I know in all of show business that dies his hair white… I first met Joe back in the 1950s when he was in the Air Force and I was in kindergarten. He convinced my mom to let me quit kindergarten and join his rock band and we have been playing music together ever since. In 1964 we traveled into New York and teamed up with John and Zally to form the Lovin’ Spoonful. We’ve been musical partners ever since then, he’s our original drummer, and I wish he’d get on the kit someday because he is a great drummer. He’s our lead singer, he’s our autoharp player from the Dolly Parton School of Autoharp, and he’s also the father of the terrific actress Nancy Butler. Please welcome from the Greenwich Village in New York, Joe Butler.”

Then Joe Butler took over to introduce bassist and original Spoonful founder, Steve Boone.

“Thank you folks, we’ve had a great couple of years,” Butler said. “Even though Steve used to use Head and Shoulders and now uses Mop and Glow (referring to Boone, who is now balding). Also there was an embarrassing incident, you know, we were crossing the bridge, and Steve saw the word “Bong” and it was almost a traffic jam… He tried to smoke the bridge… We’ve had a great couple of years and been in alotta magazines… We’ve been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame, and alotta magazines, they picked “Summer in the City” as the all-time number one summer song, which was great for us, and tough melons for The Beach Boys! They also picked within the 10 essential folk songs the song we opened with, “Didn’t Have To Be So Nice”. Steve co-wrote those songs and he hails from North Carolina. I wanna hear a Superior welcome for Mr. Steve Boone.”

When the band wanted to play their song “Didn’t Want To Have To Do It” a heckler in the crowd started to yell back at former drummer and current singer Butler. He also commented on the location of the concert being by the side of the racetrack at the fairground.

“Well, now we really are gonna do a song that is a favorite of mine and I hope it’s a favorite of yours,” Butler said.

To which someone in the audience yelled out, “I don’t want your favorite, I want my favorite.”

“No man,” Butler answered. “I’m sorry, we’re not gonna do your favorite, that’s all there is to it (the crowd laughed). I know what your favorite is and we can’t do that one. If you wanna dance to this one feel free, you have a whole dance track.”

Butler also explained how folk music went electric in response to the British Invasion saying, “I was a folk singer at the time the Beatles came (1964) and I was kinda outta work after that period…. Until, like all the other folk singers, I started to raid the pawn shops and began buying up all the electric guitars, and forming alliances with drummers and bass players… And folk rock was born… And the Spoonful comes out of that folk tradition.”

After the show I managed to catch Steve Boone and ask him a few questions about their music, other folkies in their scene like John Phillips and Bob Dylan, and the road he has traveled.

“We had a good time up there tonight,” Boone said. “Folk music is a good era of music because the songs had alotta melody and you remember em’, you know, it’s one of those things, you know… Even though I like current music, I don’t dislike it at all, but it doesn’t have a lot of songs you remember. That’s the only difference… I mean the musicianship is probably better now… (but) We tried to write songs with melody and all the writers in the band were really interested in melody, I still am... You know, but there’s not much of a market for melody songs now-a-days.”

When asked if he knew artists like John Phillips of the Mamas and Papas he explained that, “It was a really small group of people in 1965… Really the American music scene was a hundred people maybe, because the English groups took over everything. I also played bass for Dylan for a while back then too.”

The Spoonful’s story is also immortalized in the Mamas & Papas song ”Creeque Alley”. “Alley” was written by John Phillips about how their band came to be from the same folk scene that the Spoonful was in. Visit for more pictures.