Fans expecting a return to the good old days when ‘60s pop stars Chad and Jeremy play the West Port Playhouse at 8 p.m. Saturday are in for a surprise.
“I don’t think it sounds like the old days,” Chad Stuart said. “I think, hopefully, we’ve improved, because everyone’s got this kind of rose-colored glasses memory of the old days. But it was pretty crummy in the old days, ‘cause the equipment was virtually non-existent and the PAs weren’t adequate. Fortunately, the girls were screaming so loud it didn’t really matter.”
But the music came through loud and clear on the radio, and Chad and Jeremy skyrocketed to fame and success with hits including “Yesterday’s Gone,” “A Summer Song” and “Willow Weep For Me.” Ironically for the duo, part of the British Invasion to hit the U.S. in the 1960s, “Yesterday’s Gone” didn’t start out as a pop hit.
“It was a hit on the country charts, until they realized we were English and had (long) hair,” Stuart said.
But the song transitioned to the pop stations and soared into the Top 20, reaching people with touching lyrics and a ballad-like style that became the duo’s hallmark and launched them on the road to popularity. All these years later, Chad and Jeremy are grateful for the success fans helped them forge. It’s why, whenever possible, they do charity concerts like Saturday’s, with all proceeds going to the Animal Protective Association of Missouri.
“I always try and include something worth doing,” said Stuart, who now lives in Sun Valley, ID. “If you’re lucky enough to be able to do what you like to do and get paid for it, then the very least you can do is help people.”
Tickets are $30 each and will benefit the APA’s work placing dogs and cats in forever homes. Eileen Musial, the APA’s Director of Development, said Chad and Jeremy were eager to help.
“They’re big animal lovers,” she said. “They did a 10-minute interview with Charlie Brennan, and it was really interesting to hear how they love animals and they’ve always wanted to do something for an animal organization. We’re lucky enough that they picked us.”
Musial has been listening to Chad and Jeremy songs lately, and she expects a terrific show.
“I like (their music), and I hear they’re just fabulous on stage,” she said. “I hear they’re engaging, and they’re funny, so I’m really looking forward to seeing them.”
Jeremy Clyde, who continues to reside in London, England, has a theater background, so he and Stuart have an interesting dynamic on stage.
“Jeremy is an actor, and he likes to run on rails,” Stuart said. “So from his perspective, it’s all mapped out. From my perspective, I’m not an actor and I don’t see it that way. In my late life … I’m just fascinated by communicating with the audience. I just find that really magical. Because if you’re not honest with them and you don’t communicate with them, then you have no chance in hell of getting that wonderful circle of energy interchange, where the energy flows back and forth.”
Out of respect for Clyde, Stuart won’t be too “self-indulgent” when it comes to his taste for chatting on stage.
“He likes to get on with it, and I like to sort of hang out and have a good time,” he said. “It’s an interesting pushing and pulling going on, a pulling tension. Not a nasty, uptight tension – just a little, you know, two different guys, really. The odd couple.”
But like that other “Odd Couple,” Chad and Jeremy are, ultimately, entertaining.
“It’s some strange happening, really, where you try to do music, but they like to hear stories, they like to laugh,” he said. “Everybody likes to laugh, and everybody likes to be part of it.”
Stuart’s goal is to make every concert unique.
“I don’t want it to be like last time,” he said. “I don’t want it to be two fools on stools. You know, just sitting there going, 'Hello, how are you,' and then singing a song. I don’t know – it’s just too predictable.”
The concert is billed as “An Evening With Chad and Jeremy,” Stuart said, with the casual connotation that suggests.
“When people say, ‘Oh, it was like being in your living room,’ that’s a good thing,” he said. “I can’t think of any other way to do that. That’s what it is, and everybody sort of likes that. And I like it when people chip in, and sort of yell out stuff, and that’ll remind me about something else.”
Chad and Jeremy became a duo through a serendipitous turn of events. Stuart was working solo, “getting a toe-hold in the music industry in London,” while Clyde was performing in repertory theater. But a strike by British Actors Equity left Clyde looking for something to do.
“We started gigging, doing folk songs, and that led to this whole Chad and Jeremy nonsense, which was crazy, because it was an accident,” Stuart said. “We didn’t remotely belong – we weren’t a band. I mean we had a band in drama school called ‘The Jerks,’ and it was a terrible band and it lived up to its terrible name. But we had fun. We all drank lots of wine and played student parties.”
The turning point came when talent scout-producer John Barry signed Chad and Jeremy to Ember Records. Another big step came when Stuart wrote “Yesterday’s Gone,” inspired, he said, by The Four Preps hit “Big Man,” which had “a really thumping piano part,” he said. “I sort of liked that, so I started playing thumping piano parts all over the place, and I came up with this riff, and one thing led to another.”
“Yesterday’s Gone” was a huge hit and put Chad and Jeremy on the map – and all over it as they toured – in the United States. Then “A Summer Song” came along and climbed even higher – into the Top 10 on the pop chart.
They started doing American TV, shows like The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Patty Duke Show, Hullabaloo, The Andy Williams Show, The Danny Kaye Show and even Batman.
“The television department really put us to work, even though in retrospect it was a little bit damaging to the musical street cred, because it made you a bit monkeyish, really, in the end,” Stuart said. “But there it is. It made us household names for a while.”
The fame and attention “was all crazy,” Stuart said. The first time Chad and Jeremy came to the States to perform, they were house guests of Dean Martin because Jeremy’s mother, Lady Elizabeth Clyde, was friends with the Rat Pack. During their second tour, with “A Summer Song” in the Top 10, Chad and Jeremy experienced a fan frenzy in Los Angeles.
“The (radio) jocks gave out the flight information, … so when we got off the plane, the girls had all played hooky from school and the airport (lounge) was filled,” he said. “It was our little replay of The Beatles arrival at Kennedy (Airport in New York). And the screaming was just absurd, and then they followed us to the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, just hanging out of car windows and screaming. The whole thing was completely nuts. It was almost like they all enjoyed being part of a sort of theatrical event.
“So then we screamed to a halt in front of the Beverly Wilshire, and we run for it,” he said. “But unbeknownst to us, this bridal party is having its picture taken. So we dash through the doors and bolt through the wedding party. We’ve often wondered, ‘Are they still married? Is this some sort of big anecdote for the family, the day Chad and Jeremy crashed our wedding?’ It was kind of insane. It was just like A Hard Day’s Night. That was probably the silliest, the most extreme. But I mean there was a lot of that.”
Now, Chad and Jeremy hear stories from fans about how much their music has meant. The concert at West Port will feature a meet and greet after the show where people can talk with Chad and Jeremy, take pictures and get autographs.
“I really like meeting them afterwards. It goes with the territory," he said. "There are two parts to this. You could say, ‘Well, we do a show and that’s that, thank you very much.’ But that’s not the way it is. You do the show – it’s not like a play or a movie – it’s a very personal thing. And then you meet them afterwards. You need to connect. If you don’t bother to do that, then you’re not being very nice. It’s like a shared experience, in a way. We’ve kept a lot of fans for half a century, and that’s probably because they like the music and all that. But it’s also because we’re nice to them, and I think that’s important.”
“An Evening With Chad and Jeremy” starts at 8 p.m. Saturday at West Port Playhouse, 635 West Port Plaza, Maryland Heights. Tickets are $30 and are available by calling Eileen at 314-645-4610, ext. 115.