It must have been tough being a musician in the late 60s if you were called James Hendricks. That other guy with the guitar who sung and wrote songs and had a very similar name was always going to make more noise than you, both literally and figuratively.
In the early 60s James ‘Jim’ Hendricks was a member of folk trio The Big 3 along with Tim Rose and Cass Elliot. In 1963 Hendricks and Elliot got married, and the following year they started The Mugwumps with Denny Doherty, John Sebastian and Zal Yanovsky. Less than a year later the group folded, and Sebastian and Yanovsky formed The Lovin’ Spoonful while Doherty and Elliot formed The Mamas And The Papas.
Hendricks moved to LA and after an unsuccessful stint in the wonderfully named folk rock band The Lamp Of Childhood he fell in with Johnny Rivers and began writing for his publishing company.
Hendricks’ song Summer Rain became a hit for Johnny Rivers in early 1968 after it was released on 45 in November 1967. The song reminisces about the recent Summer of Love, referencing The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s – the biggest album of that year – a couple of times. It’s a cracking pop-psych tune performed adroitly by LA’s finest session musicians. The track is also featured on Rivers’ 1968 LP Realization, a bargain bin staple well worth picking up. Somewhat surprisingly one of the other highlights of the LP is yet another version of Hey Joe.
Hendricks’ own version of Summer Rain also appeared on his first solo LP, also from 1968, as produced by Johnny Rivers and released on Rivers’ label Soul City. It’s a gentler, more bare bones version of the song, revealing its folk / country roots.
And if that version doesn’t seem like it belongs on a label called Soul City, Al Wilson’s version from the following year certainly does. Produced again by Mr Rivers, the song gets a groovy overhaul and Wilson’s soulful delivery suits the vibe perfectly.
It’s often said that the sign of a great song is that it can be performed in various genres and still sound fresh. By that reckoning Summer Rain is a great song.