We are going to take a one-week break from writing about Elvis. This week, I am covering another explosive entertainment act: Darwin and the Cupids. Haven’t heard of them? Just keep reading.
Darwin Lamm is the editor and publisher of Elvis…The Magazine. He puts out a wonderful, slick, professional product, aided by at least one article per issue written by me. We are friends, and I just love being in his aura at Elvis Week when he puts on his concerts. Darwin knows everybody still alive who had anything to do with Elvis’ life. Backstage at his shows is like an old homecoming for all the performers. In addition, other folks with non-musical connections to Elvis show up. One big happy family, gathered together by Darwin, and I’ve been able to hang out with them three times.
So, now I am proud to announce that Darwin’s talents are not restricted to writing, editing, publishing, and concert promoting. In addition to that, Darwin is a singer. Or at least, he once was. I learned this when a wonderful CD arrived in the mail. I knew in advance it would be coming, but I didn’t know what it was. Darwin hinted it was rare and teased me with a supposed value of $999.99. For a while, I allowed myself to think he was sending me a special Elvis goodie, but I knew better. Darwin has sent me lots of Elvis stuff over the years, but nothing valued like that.
No, it wasn’t an Elvis CD, it was Darwin’s Musical Journey. Splashed across the CD cover is a photo of eighteen-year-old Darwin Lamm. He looks good, and his attire gives you a hint of the music inside. Darwin was wearing a preppy-looking sweater and a tie. Sort of in the Frankie Avalon-Bobby Vee mode. This didn’t look like a guy that cranked out full-throttle rock and roll. My guess was that it would probably be soft rock, and that turned out to be right.
When I opened up the case, I was delighted to find a booklet full of liner notes. It started with an article from Discoveries magazine in 1990, written by Jerry Osborne. Now, Jerry is one of those folks with a non-musical connection to Elvis who ends up backstage at Darwin’s concerts. Jerry met Elvis six times and is the author of many books on Elvis and Elvis collecting. He is one of the very best experts on Elvis collectibles, and he covers the field with all the items available on his website www.jerryosborne.com.
Jerry Osborne was the founder and publisher of Discoveries magazine (for record collectors) when he wrote the article about Darwin and the Cupids. I have stacks of old Discoveries down in the basement, and I think they go back beyond 1990, so I’m going to dig out the issue and see the real article about Darwin.
The Discoveries story began with eighteen-year-old Darwin living in Vancouver, Washington in 1960. A multi-talented musician, he sang, wrote music, and played guitar. Darwin used these talents to create several songs, ones that sounded much like the very popular group, The Fleetwoods.
Then one day he heard singer Bonnie Guitar would be appearing in Vancouver at the Frontier Dinner Club. Bonnie Guitar had been a star since 1957 when she had a top 10 hit “Dark Moon.” But Darwin knew an obscure fact about her — that she discovered The Fleetwoods and gave them their start. The Fleetwoods were composed of a male lead singer and two female singers.
It would have been little trouble for Darwin to sound like The Fleetwoods. He probably had all three of their hit records up to that point, including two # 1’s: “Come Softly To Me” and “Mr. Blue.” You can imagine that much of his practice time was spent listening to those records and honing that Fleetwoods’ sound.
Darwin knew instinctively that he must meet Bonnie Guitar. On the night of her show, he grabbed some songs he had written in Fleetwoods-style and headed down to the club where Bonnie Guitar was playing.
Darwin got to the backdoor of the place, but the doorman stopped him from entering. Darwin had to think quickly, and he used his rolled up music sheets as a prop. Somehow, he convinced the doorman that he had important papers to deliver to Ms. Guitar. Darwin must have been able to show enough sincerity to pull it off, because to him they were important papers.
He was told to wait in the back. After Ms. Guitar finished her show, Darwin was standing by the door as she reached her dressing room. He sucked up his courage and gave her the pitch. He said one thing that sparked her interest. He said the word — Fleetwoods.
Darwin had no way of knowing how good his timing was. Can you imagine what kind of euphoria he must have been in when Bonnie Guitar told him she was looking for another Fleetwoods-like group? Darwin convinced her he had two college girls that were ready to sing with him, making a trio, just like The Fleetwoods.
Next thing you knew, Bonnie handed Darwin her guitar so he could sing her some of his songs. When he finished, Darwin had closed the deal. Pretty good job for anyone, let alone an eighteen-year-old.
Bonnie Guitar knew just what to do with Darwin. She took him to a Seattle music distributor, Jerry Dennon, who was itching to get into the recording business. He created Jerden Records and signed Darwin as its first singer. Darwin and the girls practiced a bit and headed to the recording studio. Darwin and the Cupids were born.
The result was a single titled “How Long,” issued as Jerden 1. Darwin hit the road and visited disc-jockeys at radio stations all over the Northwest, plugging his new release. Here’s what the Discoveries article said about Darwin and the Cupids from that point on:
“Within weeks, ‘How Long’ was the Northwest’s hottest hit, reaching the top of the charts. Darwin and The Cupids were in constant demand.” Darwin did weekend gigs in towns like Pullman and Wala Wala, Washington, and Salem and Eugene, Oregon to crowds of 300 and up. Without question, the highlight of Darwin’s performing career was getting on the bill of two “Show of Stars” concerts in Seattle, each attended by 10,000 fans. How’s this for a line-up?
And ……………Darwin and The Cupids
Darwin was on the bill with four high-energy bands and two singing stars. He was singing his brand of music in front of large crowds and having success in his career.
“How Long” was included on the album Original Great Northwest Hits, Volume 1. Darwin followed it with another equally popular single “Goodnite My Love,” which appeared on Volume 2 of the Original Great Northwest Hits. He had a co-writer on “Goodnite My Love” — Don Robertson, another aspiring singer/songwriter who played piano. Robertson went on to write nine songs for Elvis, including “There’s Always Me” and “I’m Counting on You.”
After the two regional hits, Darwin moved to Los Angeles, and signed with Dore Records. He put out several more records, including one selected by Dick Clark to be on American Bandstand’s Rate-A-Record feature. It was “There Ought To Be A Dance,” which unfortunately is not on Darwin’s CD. Missing studio tapes, I suppose. He says he doesn’t remember what rating his song got. Yeah, right.
Darwin made some bucks doing singing commercials for the soft drink Squirt and the shampoo Head and Shoulders. He also produced records for other artists for Dore Records, as well as other L.A.-based labels Liberty and Dot.
By 1965, the singing career was over, but Darwin had learned about other aspects of the music business. Ahead of him were three different careers. First he was a talent agent for CMA, second largest agency in LA. Then, he started the Creative Radio Network, putting out dozens of syndicated radio programs that featured Elvis and other stars. And after that, he had another career with his magazine known over the years as:
Elvis International Forum (1988-2001)
Elvis International, The Magazine (2002-2005)
Elvis…The Magazine (2006- )
So, although the story of Darwin and The Cupids ended, he moved on. As Jerry Osborne said in his article, “Singing was an exciting chapter in Darwin’s career, and along the way, it shaped his life for a great journey in the entertainment business.”
Good CD, Darwin. Thanks for sending me one. And keep on having those concerts at Elvis Week.
© 2009 Philip R Arnold, Original Elvis Blogmeister All Rights Reserved www.ElvisBlog.net
Darwin and The Cupids CDs are available, not for $999.99, but just $9.99. E-mail elvisint@AOL.com.