July 4 – Gary Needed ‘Dedication’ To Keep At It After 18 Years With No Hits

We wish all our American readers a very happy July 4th! And who (besides perhaps America) could it be more appropriate to feature today than a guy with the country’s name in his – Gary U.S. Bonds ? He had a huge comeback in 1981, hitting #11 this day 40 years ago with “This Little Girl.” It was his first foray onto hit radio in 19 years.

Bonds, born in Florida as Gary Anderson, was one of rock’s early teen idols. A producer came up with his new name, thinking it would be memorable and if seen in headlines, one that might get notice because people might think it was about government savings bonds! He quickly rolled out five top 10 hits between 1960-62, including a #1, “A Quarter to Three.” But as with many of his peers – think Dion, Neil Sedaka – his career quickly lost momentum in the ’60s as tastes changed and they didn’t. Or at least not enough. While Bonds put out a number of singles through the psychedelic-half of the decade, few paid any attention and by the ’70s, he was a second-string bar performer. He did have an important fan though in Bruce Springsteen.

Springsteen grew up listening to Bonds’ early hits and often played “Quarter to Three” in his own concerts. He met Bonds at an Atlantic City bar around the end of the ’70s, asked if he could sit in for a set, which Gary agreed to, not knowing who Springsteen was! But he noticed the crowd reaction when Bruce appeared beside him. The two became friends and Springsteen offered to help rejuvenate Bonds’ career. Which he did in a big way with the ’81 Dedication album. Bruce wrote three tracks on it, including this retro-sounding hit, which came out of a song he’d worked on but not finished for Darkness on the Edge of Town. The Boss also let his E Street Band, Max Weinberg, Clarence Clemons and all, perform on it. Springsteen, Steve Van Zandt and Rob Parissi, Wild Cherry’s one-time star performer, worked together to produce it.

The combination worked. The album sounded like a throwback but still modern and relevant. As allmusic pointed out, Bonds’ “elastic tenor” was heard “in much more clarity than it ever was” before. The album sold well and “This Little Girl” hit that #11 peak at home and #7 in Canada, and a respectable #26 in Australia. Springsteen continued being Bonds’ musical fairy godmother by writing his next (and last) big hit, “Out of Work” from his following album, On the Line.

Bonds just turned 82, and considers himself an “Honorary New Jerseyian.”

12 thoughts on “July 4 – Gary Needed ‘Dedication’ To Keep At It After 18 Years With No Hits

  1. Nice to see someone helping out an old hero of his. Looking at the footage Bruce looooves that song! As Max says, happy Fourth too. I’d offer a tip of the cap but I can’t seem to find a fittingly appropriate one…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thanks Obbverse! When’s New Zealand’s big day?
      Yeah, like I commented to MAx, it was probably a great career thrill for Bruce to be able to do that and succeed in getting Gary back in the public eye.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The closest to July 4 for us is still Waitangi Day, but there is a growing whiff of Colonialism to it. We don’t celebrate holidays with the same rah rah hoop-la and reverence that the States does. I got a call from my younger brother, Stateside. He was gathering family and neighbours for a barbecue, then a sit-down under the porch to watch the fireworks light up the fairground they have a fine view of. It all sounds so small town America, circa 1950s, marching band and all, but in a good way. Of course, a few Blue Ribbons were being raised in salute even before the fireworks, but that’s fine too.
        Here we are just happy to take the day off, sit back and take a cap off, relax and soak in the TV’s atmosphere with a quiet beer. Or two. All so very pedestrian here. But getting a paid day off is cause for mild celebration!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. What gets me is how big – and extended- they make Thanksgiving here. Of course Canada loves Canada Day but not quite as huge a deal as 4th is to Americans. But. I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s