TICO AND THE TRIUMPHS
Tico and the Triumphs are a one of those rock and roll groups that have been largely overlooked throughout history.
Not much has been written or discussed about this fascinating group - until now. Here is the story about this mysterious 1960's group. The story begins in the summer of 1961 when a guy by the name of Jerry Landis aka Paul Simon (yep - that Paul Simon) was already a singer with quite a reputation.
Simon already had a few songs under his belt and was working with Amy Records producing music. His path would cross a group of young kids hanging out in the Kew Garden Hills area of Flushing, New York. Original member Marty Cooper had moved from Brooklyn and started attending Parsons Jr. High School.
He met Mickey Borack at school. "He took me under his wing and befriended me," remembers Cooper. "He was always an entertainer since he was a little kid." Like so many of their young friends at that time, Marty and Mickey would hang out on the street corner near the Honeycomb Luncheonette and sing.
There, they met up with Howie Beck - the other original member of the group. They also had a female member - Gail Lynn who didn't continue with the group when they later started recording.
They started performing together (Marty, Mickey and Gail) and later won a local talent contest at their school - Parsons Jr. High School, Flushing, New York. The group performed some more gigs and wound up one night at Forest Hills Jewish Centre.
Simon was in the audience that night and caught their show. Looking for new talent to produce, he approached the group about doing some work with him.
He wanted to hear them singing on the corner because, as Cooper says "that's where we do our best."
Simon liked what he heard and obviously recognized the group's talent. He started grooming them to record. "We used to go down in his basement every night and practice some of the stuff that he was interested in recording," remembers Cooper. Simon used the group to back him on a recording for Canadian American Records (the label made famous by such groups as Santo and Johnny and Linda Scott) in October 1961. They released I Wish I Weren't In Love under the name of "Jerry Landis."
Following the Canadian American release, the group joined with Howie Beck and recorded two songs for Madison Records - Motorcycle and I Don't Believe Them. Simon produced, arranged and wrote the songs. I Don't Believe Them is actually the same melody as I Wish I Weren't In Love.
On some of the Tico and the Triumphs' records, Simon can be heard singing lead and on others it is Cooper.
It would just depend on who Simon thought sounded better. On Motorcycle, its Simon on lead. On I Don't Believe Them - its Marty Cooper. Madison later went bankrupt and sold the master for "Motorcycle" to Amy Records. Amy released it again and in November 1961 the record did well hitting around 99 on the charts thanks to being featured on Murray the K's show in WINS. The song was the "pick of the week."
In addition, Motorcycle has a cult following among the 50's rockabilly/biker crowd. Its featured on an album called Motorcyle Gang featuring great biker related tunes.
Following the release of Motorcycle, the group did a lot of record hops. "That was very very exciting," says Cooper.
But Simon never performed with the group.
It was always just Cooper, Borack and Beck.
All the pictures on this page feature these three guys - Simon is never pictured!!
So, while Paul Simon certainly was a big part of the group's success and sound, it was really these three guys that were Tico and Triumphs. It was Marty Cooper that sang lead on all of the group's live performances. On one occasion, the group found itself following a performance of the Drifters. The only problem was that the Drifters had just done Shout and the guys were planning on doing the song as well. "We're gonna beat them at this - we're gonna do them one better," thought the guys. They went forward and did their rendition and an even bigger round of applause and reaction from the crowd. "Mickey was an unbelievable showman - he was out there. We did a great show." Of course, Mickey is now the famous DJ and promoter - Mickey B.
What was it like to work with the famous Paul Simon? Cooper says that: "He was fun, and a nice guy. He took us under his wing. He almost made us big stars." As for where the group's name came from, there was a legend that the name "Tico" came from the last two letters of Cooper's first name and the first two letters of his last name." In fact, Tico was a favorite record label of Simon's. And Triumphs of course was a popular model of cars at the time. Thus the name was born.
The group's next two Amy releases did not do as well however Cry, Little Boy, Cry (with Cooper on lead) was also a Murray the K pick hit for the night but it was released at Halloween time and eventually lost out to Bobby "Boris" Pickett's Monster Mash for the pick hit of the week. "For that one, we were trying to sound more like Dion." The B Side was Get Up and Do the Wobble (an attempt to seize on the dance crazy) featuring Cooper on lead again. Express Train, another Simon composition, was a less of a doo-wop tune.
"Paul was starting to write a little more advanced," says Cooper. Simon is once again heard on lead on both sides of that record (Wild Flower was the B side).
The group (credited only as Tico) without Simon went on to release Cards of Love b/w Noise in December 1962. Cooper took the lead on those. It was a return to the doo-wop sound that the group always loved.
At that point, Simon had moved on to running Amy and later Bell records and he turned his attention to other artists. The group backed Simon on The Lone Teen Ranger b/w Lisa (Amy 865 - 1962) and after that the group split up. Simon had been partners with a guy named Bobby Susser. Cooper teamed up with Susser and start writing and producing records.
They produced Florence Devore's Kiss Me Now (Phi-Dan 5000 - 1965). They approached Phil Spector about releasing the record. Spector added his famous Wall of Sound to the record and released it.
Borack kept on with his musical career. In the 1970's, Mickey's Men released Here Comes the Garbage Man (a song the Triumphs had written in the early 60's but never released). Cooper kept at it until about 1972. Around 1996, Cooper was a high school guidance counselor. One day, he got a tap on the back and it was Eddie Engel who was the gym teacher at the school. Eddie, always searching for lost doo-wopers, approached Cooper about creating some new material. The result was Cooper doing some songs for Eddie's Crystal Ball label.
Great stuff including the terrific Pictures to Remember and a remake of Express Train.
Cooper has kept at it for the past few years and it planning a new CD release soon. The CD will include new material and some remakes of Tico tunes. Cooper hopes to get Borack to join him on some of the recordings. Of course, releasing the new CD will mean that the guys will have to hit the road and do some live performances. We can't wait to hear and see these guys doing their thing again.