The Lovin' Spoonful

The Lovin' Spoonful is an American rock band which was popular during the mid-to late-1960s. Founded in New York City in 1965 by lead-singer/songwriter John Sebastian and guitarist Zal Yanovsky, it is best known for a number of hits which include "Summer in the City", "Do You Believe In Magic", "Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind?", and "Daydream". The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000.

The Lovin' Spoonful
The Lovin' Spoonful in 1965
Background information
OriginNew York, New York, U.S.
Years active
  • 1965 (1965)–1969 (1969)
  • 1979
  • 1991 (1991)–present
LabelsKama Sutra
Associated actsEven Dozen Jug Band
The Mugwumps
  • Joe Butler
  • Steve Boone
  • Mike Arturi
  • Phil Smith
  • Murray Weinstock
Past members


Formation and early years (1964–1965)

The band had its roots in the folk music scene based in the Greenwich Village section of lower Manhattan during the early 1960s. John B. Sebastian, the son of classical harmonicist John Sebastian, grew up in the Village in contact with music and musicians, including some of those involved with the American folk music revival of the 1950s through the early 1960s. Sebastian formed the Spoonful with guitarist Zal Yanovsky from a bohemian folk group playing local coffee houses and small clubs called The Mugwumps, two other members of which, Cass Elliot and Denny Doherty, later formed half of the Mamas & the Papas.[1] The formation of the Lovin' Spoonful during this period was later described in the lyrics of the Mamas & the Papas' name dropping 1967 top ten hit, "Creeque Alley".[2]

Drummer Jan Carl and bassist Steve Boone rounded out the group, but Carl was replaced by drummer-vocalist Joe Butler after the group's first gig at The Night Owl in Greenwich Village. Butler had previously played with Boone in a group called The Kingsmen (not the hit group of "Louie Louie" fame). The group's first Night Owl performances were reportedly so bad that the club owner told them to go away and practice, so they practiced in the basement of the nearby Hotel Albert until they had improved enough to draw audience attention.[3]

The group made its first recordings for Elektra Records in early 1965, and agreed in principle to sign a long-term deal with Elektra in exchange for a $10,000 advance. However, Kama Sutra Records had an option to sign the Lovin' Spoonful as recording artists as part of a previously signed production deal, and Kama Sutra exercised the option upon learning of Elektra's intent to sign the band.[4] The four tracks recorded for Elektra were released on the 1966 various artists compilation LP What's Shakin' after the band's success on Kama Sutra.

Pop success (1965–1966)

The band worked with producer Erik Jacobsen to release their first single on July 20, 1965, "Do You Believe in Magic", written by Sebastian. Additionally, they wrote their own material (aside from a few covers, mostly on their first album),[5][6] including "Younger Girl" (which missed the Hot 100), which was a hit for The Critters in mid-1966.

"Do You Believe in Magic" reached #9 on the Hot 100, and the band followed it up with a series of hit singles and albums throughout 1965 and 1966, all produced by Jacobsen. The Lovin' Spoonful became known for such folk-flavored pop hits as "You Didn't Have to Be So Nice", which reached #10, and "Daydream", which went to #2.[5][7] Other hits included "Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind?" (another #2 hit) and "Summer in the City", their only song to reach #1 on the Hot 100 (August 13–27, 1966). Later that year, the #10 hit "Rain on the Roof" and the #8 hit "Nashville Cats" (which went on to become a staple in the concerts of bluegrass legend Del McCoury) completed the group's first seven consecutive Hot 100 hits to reach that chart's top 10. The only other 1960s act to achieve that feat is Gary Lewis & the Playboys.

The Lovin' Spoonful was one of the most successful pop/rock groups to have jug band and folk roots, and nearly half the songs on their first album were modernized versions of blues standards. Their popularity revived interest in the form, and many subsequent jug bands cite them as an inspiration. The rest of their albums featured mostly original songs, but their jug band roots showed up again and again, particularly in "Daydream" and the lesser-known "Money" (which reached only #48, in 1968), featuring a typewriter as percussion.

Lovin' Spoonful members termed their approach "good-time music". In the liner notes of "Do You Believe in Magic," Zal Yanovsky said that he "became a convert to Reddy Kilowatt because it's loud, and people dance to it, and it's loud." Soon-to-be members of the psychedelic rock band the Grateful Dead were part of the West Coast acoustic folk music scene when the Lovin' Spoonful came to town on tour. They credited the Lovin' Spoonful concert as a fateful experience, after which they decided to leave the folk scene and "go electric".

At the peak of the band's success, the producers of the television series that later became The Monkees initially planned to build their series around the Lovin' Spoonful, but dropped the band from the project due to conflicts over song publishing rights.[8][9] The band also gained an added bit of publicity when Butler replaced Jim Rado in the role of Claude for a sold-out four-month run with the Broadway production of the rock musical Hair. The Lovin' Spoonful's song "Pow!" was used as the opening theme of Woody Allen's first feature film, What's Up, Tiger Lily; the band also composed and played instrumental music for the film and appeared in some live performance sequences in the film (reportedly added during post-production without Allen's knowledge or consent).[10][11][12] Shortly thereafter, John Sebastian composed the music for Francis Ford Coppola's second film, You're a Big Boy Now, and the Lovin' Spoonful played the music for the soundtrack, which included yet another hit, "Darling Be Home Soon". Both films were released in 1966.[13] In addition, the Michelangelo Antonioni film Blow-up, also released that year, contained an instrumental version of the Spoonful song, "Butchie's Tune", performed by jazz musician Herbie Hancock.

Personnel changes (1967)

In early 1967, the band broke with their producer Erik Jacobsen, turning to Joe Wissert to produce the single "Six O'Clock", which reached #18 in the U.S.

Yanovsky left the band after the soundtrack album You're a Big Boy Now was released in May 1967, primarily due to a drug bust in San Francisco, in which he was arrested for possession of marijuana and pressured by police to name his supplier. He was a Canadian citizen and feared that he would be barred from re-entering the U.S., so he complied.[14][15] The incident resulted in a public backlash from the counterculture against the band, with a full-page ad in the Los Angeles Free Press (according to music critic Ralph Gleason) "urging people not to buy Spoonful records and not to attend their concerts and, to the girls, not to ball them."[15] Although Yanovsky went on to release a solo single and album, his musical career was severely harmed.[16] He later left the music business and opened a restaurant, Chez Piggy, in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. The restaurant is now owned and run by his daughter.[17]

Yanovsky, Sebastian and Boone all independently concurred in interviews that Yanovsky's sacking was due to Yanovsky's open disenchantment with the band's direction and Sebastian's songwriting. Sebastian's music was becoming "more personal" while Yanovsky desired a (probably unachievable) return to their early years club scene.[18]

Yanovsky's replacement was Jerry Yester, formerly of the Modern Folk Quartet. Around this time, perhaps coincidentally, the band's sound became more pop-oriented.

The new line-up of the Lovin' Spoonful recorded two moderately successful Wissert-produced singles ("She Is Still a Mystery" and "Money"), as well as the 1967 album Everything Playing. Sebastian then left the group by early 1968 to go solo.[14]

Final years (1968–1969)

The group was now officially a trio, and drummer Butler (who had previously sung lead on a few album tracks) became the group's new lead vocalist. Up to this point Sebastian had written (or co-written) and sung every one of the Lovin' Spoonful's hits; the band now turned to outside writers for their singles, and used a variety of outside producers. The band's last two Hot 100 entries, "Never Goin' Back (to Nashville)" written by John Stewart and "Me About You", were sung by Butler. In addition, "Never Goin' Back" only featured Yester and Butler's playing—the other musical parts were played by session musicians, which had not occurred since drummer Gary Chester played on Do You Believe In Magic.[19] "Never Goin' Back" was the highest-charting single of the group's post-Sebastian career, topping out at #73.

With commercial success waning, the Lovin' Spoonful lasted only until early 1969. They split up following the release of their album Revelation: Revolution '69. In 1969 Boone produced an album for Mercury Records by a group known as The Oxpetals, a cosmic rock band inspired by The Moody Blues' "In Search of the Lost Chord". When the album failed to chart Boone bought a sailboat and lived aboard for the next 4 years in the Caribbean. In 1973 he moved back to Baltimore, Maryland, took over a recording studio built by engineer George Massenburg, and renamed it Blue Seas after a ship that was salvaged in the Caribbean. Blue Seas went on to record many well known artists, among them Lowell George and Little Feat, who recorded "Feats Don't Fail Me Now" there, Robert Palmer and The Seldom Scene. He went on the produce Live at Maguires Hill 16 by The Irish Times in Fort Lauderdale, Florida along with fellow producer Dan Obrien in 1994.

In 1970, following John Sebastian's 1969 solo performance at Woodstock, Kama Sutra issued the song "Younger Generation" as a single. Sebastian had closed his Woodstock set with the song.[20] The single version was taken from the two-year-old Everything Playing album and credited to "The Lovin' Spoonful featuring John Sebastian"; it failed to chart.

In 1976, however, a solo Sebastian scored another No. 1 Hot 100 hit with "Welcome Back", the theme song to the ABC sitcom, Welcome Back, Kotter. On this recording, Murray Weinstock (a current member of the Lovin' Spoonful) is playing piano.[21]

Reunions, revivals, and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction (1979–present)

The original group (Sebastian, Yanovsky, Butler and Boone) reunited briefly in the fall of 1979 for a show at the Concord Hotel in the Catskills for an appearance in the Paul Simon film One Trick Pony, which was released in October 1980.

In 1991, after a long-awaited settlement with their record company, Butler and Boone decided to start up the Lovin' Spoonful again with Jerry Yester. They were joined by Jerry's brother, Jim Yester (vocals and guitar), formerly of The Association. Sebastian and Yanovsky declined to participate. In March 1992 drummer John Marrella was added to the band to allow Joe Butler to concentrate on vocals. After a two-month rehearsal in the Berkshire Mountains, the group started touring, with Joe Butler now the most common lead singer. Keyboardist David Jayco was added in June 1992. Jim Yester left this new grouping in March 1993 and was replaced by guitarist Randy Chance. Jerry's daughter, Lena Yester (vocals and keyboards), replaced David Jayco at the same time. Randy Chance was sacked in June 1993 and was not replaced. Mike Arturi replaced John Marrella on drums in March 1997 and Phil Smith joined on guitar in 2000 replacing Lena Yester.

The original four members of the Lovin' Spoonful were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 6, 2000.[22] All four original members appeared at the ceremony and performed "Do You Believe in Magic" and "Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind?".

Yanovsky died in 2002.[17] Sebastian has stated that he no longer wishes to perform with the remaining members of the group because he wanted to move on when he left the group.[23]

Jerry Yester was fired from the group in 2017 after being arrested on 30 counts of child pornography.[24]

The current group, still led by Butler and Boone, continues to perform with Phil Smith (guitar & vocals), Mike Arturi (drums) and Murray Weinstock (piano & vocals).[25]


John Lennon's personal jukebox was found to contain the Lovin' Spoonful record "Daydream." Interviewed about the find, John Sebastian revealed he had been given a Beatles rehearsal tape that contained Lennon singing "Daydream."[26]

Paul McCartney has stated that "Good Day Sunshine" was "really very much a nod to The Lovin’ Spoonful's ‘Daydream,’ the same traditional, almost trad-jazz feel. That was our favorite record of theirs. ‘Good Day Sunshine’ was me trying to write something similar to ‘Daydream.’"[27]

Dave Davies of the Kinks has stated he and brother Ray Davies listened to the Lovin' Spoonful "above and beyond the Beatles". He cited the band "integrating lots of different elements - blues, country and folk music and a bit of rock."[28]



The band's name was inspired by some lines in a song of Mississippi John Hurt called the "Coffee Blues". John Sebastian and others in the jug-folk scene of the time such as Geoff Muldaur credit Fritz Richmond for suggesting the name.[29][30][31][32]

The song "Coffee Blues" is a tribute to Maxwell House Coffee, which Hurt describes, "rapping" in the beginning of the song, as being two or three times any other brand, ergo, he only needs one spoonful to make him feel all right, what he describes as "my lovin' spoonful" in the song. The song is part of a group of songs with a long history in recorded blues that generally use the term "a spoonful" to suggest sex, and in some cases use of a drug such as cocaine.[33] The term "lovin' spoonful" has been conjectured as referring to the amount of ejaculate released by a human male during a typical orgasm.[34][35][36][37][38][39][40]



Release year Label/Catalog # Titles (A-side, B-side)
Both sides from same album except where indicated
Certification Album
1965Kama Sutra 201"Do You Believe in Magic"
b/w "On The Road Again"
Do You Believe In Magic
Kama Sutra 205"You Didn't Have to Be So Nice"
b/w "My Gal" (from Do You Believe In Magic)
1966Kama Sutra 208"Daydream"
b/w "Night Owl Blues" (from Do You Believe In Magic)
Kama Sutra 209"Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind?"
b/w "Didn't Want To Have To Do It" (from Daydream)
Do You Believe In Magic
Kama Sutra 301X"Jug Band Music"
b/w "Didn't Want To Have To Do It"
Kama Sutra 211/211A"Summer in the City"
(211) b/w "Butchie's Tune" (from Daydream)
(211A) b/w "Fishin' Blues" (from Do You Believe in Magic)
US: Gold[42]Hums Of The Lovin' Spoonful
Kama Sutra 216"Rain on the Roof"
b/w "Pow" (from "What's Up Tiger Lily" Soundtrack)
Kama Sutra 219"Nashville Cats" /
"Full Measure"
1967Kama Sutra 220"Darling Be Home Soon"
b/w "Darlin' Companion" (from Hums Of The Lovin' Spoonful)
"You're A Big Boy Now" Soundtrack
Kama Sutra 225"Six O'Clock"
b/w "You're A Big Boy Now (The Finale)" (from "You're A Big Boy Now" Soundtrack)
Everything Playing
Kama Sutra 231"You're a Big Boy Now"
b/w "Lonely (Amy's Theme)"
"You're A Big Boy Now" Soundtrack
Kama Sutra 239"She Is Still a Mystery"
b/w "Only Pretty, What A Pity"
Everything Playing
1968Kama Sutra 241"Money"
b/w "Close Your Eyes"
Kama Sutra 250"Never Goin' Back (to Nashville)"
b/w "Forever" (from Everything Playing)
Revelation: Revolution '69
Kama Sutra 251"('Til I) Run with You"
b/w "Revelation: Revolution '69"
1969Kama Sutra 255"Me About You"
b/w "Amazing Air"
1970Kama Sutra 505"Younger Generation"
b/w "Boredom"
Everything Playing


U.S. albums

Studio albums

Release Year Label/Catalog # Album title Billboard 200
1965Kama Sutra
Do You Believe in Magic
1966Kama Sutra
Kama Sutra
What's Up, Tiger Lily? (soundtrack)
Kama Sutra
Hums of the Lovin' Spoonful
1967Kama Sutra
You're a Big Boy Now (soundtrack)
Kama Sutra
Everything Playing
1969Kama Sutra
Revelation: Revolution '69

Live albums

Release Year Label/Catalog # Album title Billboard 200
1999Varèse SarabandeLive at the Hotel Seville


Compilation albums

  • What's Shakin' (1966 – Elektra EUK 250)
  • The Best of The Lovin' Spoonful (1967 – Kama Sutra Label) [US: Gold [42]]
  • The Best of The Lovin' Spoonful Volume 2 (1968 – Kama Sutra Label)
  • 24 Karat Hits: A Double Dozen Of All Time Best Sellers By The Lovin' Spoonful (1968 – Kama Sutra Label)
  • The Best of the Lovin' Spoonful (1969 – Deluxe Label)
  • John Sebastian Song Book Vol.1 (1970 – Kama Sutra Label)
  • The Very Best of the Lovin' Spoonful (1970 – Kama Sutra Label)
  • Once Upon a Time... (1971 – Kama Sutra Label)
  • More Golden Spoonful (1974)
  • The Best...Lovin' Spoonful (1976 – Kama Sutra Label)
  • Daydream/What's Up Tiger Lily (double LP) (1977 – Kama Sutra Label)
  • File (1977 – Pye Label)
  • So Nice (1979 – 51 West Label)
  • The Great Years (1979 – Mode Label)
  • Pop History (1972 – Polydor Label)
  • Greatest Hits (1981 – Kama Sutra Label, Quality Records in Canada)
  • The Best in the West (1983 – Buddha Label)
  • The Lovin' Spoonful's Greatest Hits (1985 – Buddha Label No. 252-2741 Rare German Pressing)
  • The EP Collection (1988 – See for Miles Label)
  • Do You Believe in Magic/Everything Playing (1988 – That's Original Label)
  • Collection Lovin' Spoonful (20 Hits) (1988 – Castle Label)
  • All the Best of the Lovin' Spoonful (1988 – Pair Label)
  • Greatest Hits (1988 – Hollywood Label)
  • 20 Greatest Hits (1989 – Big Time Label)
  • Anthology (1990 – Rhino Label)
  • Summer in the City – 19 Great Songs (1991 – Huub Label)
  • A Spoonful of Soundtracks (1991 – Repertoire Label)
  • In the Movies (1991 – Sequel Label)
  • Believe in Magic/Everything Playing (1992 – Castle Label)
  • The Best... Lovin' Spoonful (1994 – Kama Sutra Label)
  • The Lovin' Spoonful (1995 – Rhino Label)
  • Do You Believe in Magic/Hums (1995 – Kama Sutra Label)
  • The Very Best of the Lovin' Spoonful (1996 – Music Club Label)
  • Do You Believe in Magic & Other Hits (1997 – Rhino Flashback Label)
  • Summer in the City (1997 – Collectables Label)
  • Greatest Hits (1998 – Delta Label)
  • The Very Best of the Lovin' Spoonful (1998 – Camden Label)
  • Best 28 (1998 – BMG / RCA Label)
  • Collector's Edition, Volume 1 (1999 – Platinum Disc Label)
  • Collector's Edition, Volume 2 (1999 – Platinum Disc Label)
  • Collector's Edition, Volume 3 (1999 – Platinum Disc Label)
  • Collector's Edition, Volume 1–3 (1999 – Platinum Disc Label)
  • Lovin' Spoonful (2000 – Platinum Disc Label)
  • French 60s EP Collection (2000 – Magic Label)
  • The Lovin' Spoonful Greatest Hits (2000 – Buddha Label)
  • The Best of the Lovin' Spoonful (2001 – Paradiso Label) {identical audio to Do You Believe in Magic & Other Hits (1997 – Rhino Flashback Label)}
  • Platinum & Gold Collection (2003 – Buddha Label)
  • The Best of the Lovin' Spoonful (2004 – BMG International Label)
  • Very Best of the Lovin' Spoonful (2004 – BMG International Label)
  • Lovin' You (2005 – BCI Music Label)
  • Singles A's and B's (2006 – Repertoire Label)

In the AMC television series Mad Men, which is set in the 1960s, the characters Sally Draper and Glen Bishop are fans of the band. The band's song, "Butchie's Tune," is featured in the penultimate episode of the series' fifth season.[47] Jazz saxophonist Bud Shank released an album of jazz covers of Lovin' Spoonful songs A Spoonful of Jazz in 1967. In 2016 rock artist Richard Barone recorded a version of the Spoonful's "Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind?" featuring John Sebastian on harmonica and autoharp, and making a vocal cameo appearance. Bobby Weinstein and The Lovin' Cohens turned "Nashville Cats" into "Noshville Katz", a frequent Dr. Demento staple.[48] "Nashville Cats" was played in the Ken Burns docuseries "Country Music" episode "The Sons and Daughters of America (1964-1968)" on September 22, 2019 in referring to Chet Atkins and the stock of talented guitar pickers who created the "Nashville Sound".


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  • The Fingerpicking Blues of Mississippi John Hurt: A Spoonful of Classic Songs taught by John Sebastian and Happy Traum DVD. Homespun Videos. July 2004. ASIN B0002KWSJ4
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