Chad Stuart and Remembering ‘A Summer Song’ at the Winter Solstice
One of the many minefields of age has claimed Chad Stuart, half of the 1960s British Invasion duo Chad and Jeremy, and while Chad and Jeremy won’t be carved into the Mount Rushmore of rock ’n’ roll, they were a solid stone along the trail.
Stuart, who retired from performing in 2016, recently suffered a fall at his home. He turned 79 on Dec. 10 and falling, sadly, is a deadly hazard of reaching that kind of age.
He was hospitalized and developed pneumonia, which proved fatal.
It is another of the universe’s many little ironies that an artist best known for “A Summer Song” would pass away at the Winter Solstice. No summer, alas, is endless.
On a cheerier note, one of the coolest things about being around for the original 1964 British Invasion is that, contrary to history that’s often compressed or altogether forgotten, it wasn’t just a bunch of guitar bands that sounded like each other.
Its two most enduring faces, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, make that point all by themselves.
Beyond them, the Kinks didn’t sound anything like the Dave Clark Five, who didn’t sound anything like the Hollies or the Who, who didn’t sound like the Moody Blues.
There were bubble-gum pop bands like Freddie and the Dreamers or Herman’s Hermits, blues bands like the Yardbirds and hard blues bands like John Mayall. There was the pure pop of Petula Clark and the more unsettling tales sung by Marianne Faithfull or Dusty Springfield.
And there were duets. Most notably, there were two: Chad and Jeremy (Clyde), then Peter (Asher) and Gordon (Waller).
Chad and Jeremy had three hits that were all over the place: “Yesterday’s Gone,” “A Summer Song” and “Willow Weep for Me.” Peter and Gordon had “A World Without Love,” “Nobody I Know” and “True Love Ways,” among others.
Give or take some orchestration here and there, these records played on the radio like folksongs, with stringed instruments and the blending of two voices. Besides being fine AM radio records, they underscored the fact that “rock ’n’ roll” on the radio was always a big tent. It welcomed dozens of styles and let them all play together.
Duets have been part of music forever, particularly prominent in country music through acts like the Monroe or Louvin Brothers.
Their place in the rock world, Peter Asher suggested in an interview earlier this year, was enshrined by the Everly Brothers.
“It was two voices that almost sounded like one voice,” Asher said. “You heard those harmonies on the radio and they were like nothing else.”
The Everlys inspired artists like Chad and Jeremy, and also helped keep radio’s door open for the duet style. When the Beatles’s “A Hard Day’s Night” hit the charts in July 1964, it took the spot vacated by “A Summer Song,” one slot above “A World Without Love.” They all played together.
Asher recalled that one of the running gags at the time was that there really weren’t two similar-sounding British duets — that Chad and Jeremy were Peter and Gordon. Or vice versa.
“We finally ended up playing one show together,” said Asher, “which proved we both existed.”
Duets had in fact enjoyed a modest surge in the early 1960s, with artists like Don & Juan, Paul & Paula, Dale & Grace and Dick & DeeDee.
If they were mostly one-hit wonders, the later ’60s had Simon and Garfunkel, two more musical children of the Everlys, who were multi-hit wonders.
As the ’60s wore on, though, record companies often dusted off an older ploy: ad hoc duets, temporarily matching two solo artists to generate some commercial excitement.
At its best, this produced the amazing records of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell at Motown. Other times it felt a little gimmicky.
Either way, record execs have fallen in love with that idea all over again in recent years. Mix-and-match duets feel more epidemic on the charts today than drum samples.
Needless to say, Chad and Jeremy were a different kind of duet than Red Cafe and Cardi B. For starters they had a whole lot less production, which to some ears has a real appeal.
Unlike some other pairs — Simon, Garfunkel and the Everlys come to mind — Chad and Jeremy got along. They did, however, take several breaks during a partnership of 50-plus years. Jeremy Clyde’s first dream was acting, and he left music several times to pursue what ultimately became quite a successful stage and film career.
Then he would return to music, and the last reunion continued until Stuart retired, at which point Clyde began periodically teaming up with Asher as Peter and Jeremy, playing the hits of both groups.
Their most recent tour, like every other tour in the world, was cut short by Covid.
Stuart did some acting himself, costarring with Clyde in Pump Boys and Dinettes in 1984–85. His best-known role was the voice of Vulture in the 1967 Disney classic The Jungle Book.
Stuart moved to the States in the ’60s and lived in L.A. for years while he toured the entertainment industry. He had jobs as diverse as musical director for the Smothers Brothers and producing radio commercials.
He eventually tired of L.A. and moved to Ketchum, Idaho, where he stayed. He hosted a radio show, wrote a children’s book, taught music, raised a family.
The multiple reunions of Chad and Jeremy often produced new music, much of it different from the sound of “A Summer Song.”
But it’s a business where you’re defined in significant measure by your hits, and Chad Stuart left a mark that still sounds like a warm breeze on the radio.