I suppose it’s usually not done, but I’ve decided to write this biography of myself in the first person, so actually, it’s my autobiography. It just felt too odd to be writing about myself as though I were someone else. So here goes.
I was born in Cleveland, Ohio on August 2nd, 1938 to John Corwin Gummoe and Beulah Foy Harris. John, my father, was the son of James Alfred Gummoe who came to America from Cornwall, England about 1880. I’m told that he jumped ship in New York, but did eventually become a naturalized citizen about 20 years after coming here. My mother also came from English ancestry and her side of the family goes all the way back to the early 1600’s and The New Haven Colony and The Massachusetts Bay Colony. Seems like so many people today are searching for their roots and I’m no exception. I’ve been bitten by the bug and along with music, genealogy has become one of my passions.
As a young lad, I first began singing at the kitchen sink with my much older sisters. My mother had me at the ripe old age of 38. When I arrived, there were already three sisters in thier teens. They were very much into the big band sound. Later on, in the sixth grade, I joined Mrs. Clark’s Boys Chorus. She seemed to like me and my voice (boy soprano), and she often had me doing solo efforts in school pageants. One year, a touring company from The New York Metropolitan Opera came to town with the opera “Carmen”. It starred Risa Stevens and Robert Merrill and Richard Tucker and Mrs. Clark’s boys were chosen to be the street urchins in the first act. Very exciting stuff for a 6th grader; costumes, make-up, big stage. It was truly awesome. We had to learn our part in French and we were to be sort of mimicking the soldiers in that scene. On into my teens, I drove my friends and family crazy as I was always singing with everything on the radio, on records or whatever. They were always telling me to keep quiet so they could hear the music. Little did they know, or I for that matter, that I would one day compose one of the biggest and most successful pieces of music in pop/rock history and actually record it with my own group, The Cascades. Last year, Broadcast Music, Inc. named my song “Rhythm of the Rain”, the 9th most performed song of the last century. My sincere thanks to radio DJ’s everywhere for all the plays. You are all much appreciated.
At 18 years of age, fresh out of high school, I had always dreamed of going to Ohio State University to study Veterinary Medicine, but there was just no money to be had for that and my grades, though not bad, were not high enough for a scholarship. Fate had other “ships” in store for me as off to the U.S. Navy I went for four years. That turned out to be exactly what I was meant to do as in San Diego, aboard the U.S.S. Jason, AR-8 is where I met two talented and wonderful guys ; David Wilson and Leonard Green . I’m proud to say that throughout the years, we still remain fast friends, although just a few months ago, sadly, we lost David to cancer. Needless to say I will miss him very much. David was a drummer and singer, Len played guitar and also sang, but more than that Len was a talented composer and quite an inspiration to me to give writing a try. These two men helped me more than anybody I can think of, to drag a shy, insecure young man into the joys of creating music. To you both I’ll always be grateful. Your encouragement and friendship has and will always be treasured. It’s been an honor and a previlage to have had you in my life.
My association with David and Len and the others that made up first, The Silver Strands, and then, The Thundernotes, and finally, The Cascades began with my taking over managing and booking the group. I was their biggest fan and at the point, had not done anything on stage. But, after much encouragement from David and Len, I began getting up on stage with David for some duets; mostly Everly Bros hits and similar two part harmony songs. I was frightened to death at first, but it was’nt long before I was performing solo with the group. Around that time, after watching Len create song after song, I though to myself, “Hey John, I bet you can do that too, if you try!”
And so I began writing lyrics, and again with encouragement from Len and David, I began the process of learning to play a musical instrument. I’d had little music training and my first instrument was the vibes, or vibraharp. You know, that big thing with metal keys that you strike with mallets. Well, it has the same keyboard as a piano so it was a natural progression to go there as time went on. Thanks to good genes from Mom and Dad and ancestors passed, I was also blessed with a natural ear for harmony, thus, learning chords came easy to me. So it wasn’t long before I was singing, composing, writing and performing as a full fledged member of the band.
Shortly before signing our recording contract, we lost Len Green. He decided, for reasons that to this day remain personal, to leave the group to persue other endeavors including going on to become a staff writer with Acuff-Rose Publishing in Nashville and evenually being nominated for his composition of “Slow Country Dancing”. You can read and hear all about it by linking up to his web page which you can do from here.
Our then manager, Andy Di Martino came and told us that Valiant Records was interested in us, and so with new guitarist, Eddy Snyder we moved on without Len Green. Thus began our whirl-wind climb to the top of the record charts; a period that even now feels like it was all a dream. A dream come true though, none the less. It was magical!! The chemistry was perfect. The group had a perfect sound for the era. We were recording at the famous Gold Star Studios, home of Phil Spectors “wall of sound” with the legendary Stan Ross engineering, Barry De Vorzon producing, Perry Botkin Jr. arranging and behind our smooth vocal sound was probably the best group of studio musicians available; including Hal Blaine on drums, Carol Kaye on bass, Glen Campbell (yes, the now famous Glen Campbell) on guitar. How could we go wrong? And of course, as rock and roll history attests, we didn’t go wrong.
I’m still composing, still singing and I hope I always will be. Here in my 63rd year on this earth, I feel like I’m better than I’ve ever been and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the record buyers, all the Cascade Fans (and there are still many around) and radio, especially Oldies radio for keeping my little ditty on rotation at your respective stations. I’m very grateful!!. It’s a great time to be alive and have this wonderful technology around so I can share my story and my thoughts with the entire world. WOW!! Hope those of you visiting my web site are enjoying this as much as I’ve enjoyed putting it together.
With much appreciation……… John Claude Gummoe, Composer of “Rhythm of the Rain” and lead singer with The Cascades. Visit my website here.