The King Harvest Connection
Prior to the formation of King Harvest, Wells, played in the band Chin (1969)
which included his brother Sherman, as well as, future King Harvest members Dave “Doc” Robinson and Eddie Tuleja. Sherman wrote “Dancing In The Moonlight” in 1969 while recovering from severe injuries after he was beaten up in the Virgin Islands.
The first recorded version of “Dancing In The Moonlight” was in 1969, and this is confirmed from Sherman Kelly’s bio, and it appeared on the Boffalongo LP
Beyond Your Head, BUT….it’s not that easy. During production of the LP, which would’ve been that same year, the band consisted of Larry Hoppen, Basil Matychak, Ritchie Vitagliano and, former Chin member, Dave “Doc” Robinson. No Wells, No Sherman, AND…..No “Dancing In The Moonlight”, and the LP “Beyond Your Head” was released…..The FIRST pressing of the LP. Shortly after completion of the LP Basil Matychak (Keyboards) left the band, being replaced by
Sherman Kelly (friend of Doc Robinson), and Ritchie Vitagliano (Drums) was replaced by Peter Giansante. Here’s what happened according to Larry, regarding the song and the LP “Beyond Your Head“; the label heard, liked and perceived the song to be a hit so it was quickly recorded and put on subsequent pressings of “Beyond Your Head“, however because the Label put little promotion into the song it failed to do well in the charts. While Wells does not play drums on this version of the song he does play an instrument called a Timbalia, which is a Latin percussion instrument. While I’ve never seen a copy of the 1st
pressing on the LP (I assume their weren’t many) it could’ve been released, as early as, 1969 or in 1970. The 2nd pressing of the LP, which is much more common to find, and includes “Dancing In The Moonlight” was released in 1970. By the way “Dancing In The Moonlight” is the only recording that exists of the new lineup of Boffalongo.
In late 1969 Dave Robinson would leave Boffalongo and regroup with Eddie Tuleja, Rod Novak and Ron Altbach in Paris, France (of all places) and form King Harvest. These four had all played together previously until they went their separate ways in 1969. So the period these four would be separate, and the period of Dave Robinson’s tenure in Boffalongo would’ve been brief. At the beginning of 1971 Wells moved to France and lived with the band, King Harvest, and introduced them to the song “Dancing In The Moonlight”. By the time King Harvest got a recording contract in the Spring of 1971, Wells had left the band and returned back to the U.S., joined Boffalongo and became their drummer.
Meanwhile, King Harvest recorded “Dancing In The Moonlight”, with Steve Cutler on drums, and the song was released, late 1971, in France. The song didn’t do well, and according to the King Harvest MySpace page the band broke up shortly thereafter. Their producers though continued to shop the song and finally got it released, in 1973, on a small U.S. label and that’s when the song hit big, which prompted the band to reunite. That same year Sherman Kelly was asked to join the band and tour in support of the hit record.
The Orleans connection with “Dancing In The Moonlight”. The Boffalongo version has both Wells and Larry on the recording, both founding members of Orleans. Sherman Kelly, while not in Orleans, would co write several songs with Wells that would appear on LP’s by Orleans Forever and Orleans 1980). The band Orleans would record “Dancing In The Moonlight” which the LP was named after in 2005, and featured Larry, Lance and John on vocals.
So, how classic is “Dancing In The Moonlight”, well after becoming an international hit in 1973 it was recently used in a TV commercial in 2009. One last interesting story. Most , if not all, the members of King Harvest attended Cornell University. Their was another guy by the name Huey Craig who attended Cornell during the same time period and possibly played with some of these guys, he certainly would’ve known them. According to some information I was able to find they all hung out at the Noyes Lodge which was a cafeteria at Cornell. Anyways, Huey dropped out of college in 1969 and returned to California. He would go on to have several big hits in the 80’s under the name Huey Lewis and The News.