The Left Banke Biography

Formed in 1965, the Left Banke was the brainchild of pianist/composer Michael Brown (Michael Lookofsky, 25 April 1949, New York City, New York, USA). The son of a noted arranger and producer, Brown’s early work appeared on releases by Reparata And The Delrons and Christopher And The Chaps, prior to the founding of the Left Banke. Steve Martin (vocals), Tom Finn (bass) and George Cameron (b. London, England; drums) completed the original Left Banke line-up, which scored a US Top 5 hit in 1966 with ‘Walk Away Renee’. This gorgeous song adeptly combined elements drawn from the Beatles and baroque, and became a major hit the following year when covered by the Four Tops. The band added Jeff Winfield (guitar) to the line-up and enjoyed further US chart success with the delightful ‘Pretty Ballerina’. They underwent the first of several personnel changes when Rick Brand replaced Winfield during sessions for an attendant album. Brown retired from touring shortly afterwards, with his place taken by keyboard player Emmett Lake. Internal ructions led to Brown completing a third release, ‘Ivy Ivy’, with the aid of session musicians (including future Spinal Tap member Michael McKean), but the band was reunited for ‘Desiree’, the Left Banke’s final chart entry.

Brown then abandoned his creation - he later formed Stories - and when Brand also departed, Finn, Cameron and Martin completed The Left Banke Too with guitarist Tom Feher. Although bereft of their principal songwriter, the band still captured the spirit of earlier recordings, but broke up in 1969 in the wake of a final single, ‘Myrah’, which was issued in an unfinished state. They briefly reunited in 1971 for a single on Buddah Records, credited to Steve Martin. A New York independent, Camerica, coaxed Finn, Cameron and Martin back into the studio in 1978. Although initially shelved, the set, which successfully echoed the band’s glory days, was belatedly issued eight years later as Voices Calling in the UK and Strangers On A Train in the USA. Several excellent compilations have been released since.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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