Thursday, March 03, 2016

Passings: Gayle McCormick of Smith and "It's a Cryin' Shame" (1948 - 2015)

Gayle McCormick, who had hits both as a member of Smith and as a solo artist, died Tuesday in St. Louis at the age of 67. She had been suffering from cancer which was discovered which she was hospitalized last year for pneumonia.

McCormick began her musical career in the mid-60's with the St. Louis area band Steve Cummings & the Klassmen. The band recorded on the Musicland, U.S.A. label, releasing a couple of singles, but they were only popular locally and did not break on a national level.

In the late-60's, McCormick traveled to California with the Klassmen and ended up leaving the group and settling on the west coast. It was there that she joined a new group called The Smiths, later changing its name to Smith, who played in a number of L.A. clubs. It was while making an appearance at the North Hollywood Club The Ragdoll that they were spotted by Del Shannon who arranged for them to be signed to ABC-Dunhill Records. Shannon took them under his wing and produced the band's first single, a cover of the Shirelles' Baby It's You which went to number 5 on the Hot 100, higher than the original.

They followed with the album A Group Called Smith, produced by Steve Barri and Joel Sill, which was filled with covers of other classic rock songs save two originals. The LP also became a hit, going to number 17 nationally.

Smith only recorded one more album, Minus-Plus (1970 / #74), before breaking up and Gayle struck out on her own as a recording artist. From 1971 to 1974, she released three albums, Gayle McCormick (1971), Flesh and Blood (1972) and One More Hour (1974) with the first album including her one hit, It's a Cryin' Shame (1971 / #44).

By the mid-70's, McCormick had left the music business and, according to a page dedicated to her life by Jonnie King, she became "reclusive, she didn't want to do Interviews or discuss the Music Business with anyone."