Nick Fortuna (The Buckinghams)

The Buckinghams The Buckinghams

The Buckinghams

By Joe Gagliardo

In the mid-1960’s, as bands were popping up in cities all across the USA, one of the bands which garnered significant airplay and attention in Chicago were The Buckinghams.

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My first recollection of seeing an actual band walk into a venue carrying stage clothes in a suit bag was at a Buckinghams show in a local venue. It made a great impression on me, as I still remember it to this day, over fifty years later!

Influenced by the funk and soul of legendary Motown bassist James Jamerson; James Brown bassist Bernard Odum, who anchored “The Godfather of Soul” from the late 50’s to the late 60’s; and the melodicism of Paul McCartney – Nick Fortuna laid down the bottom then, and he remains the Buckinghams’ bassist to this day!

The Odum and McCartney influences can be heard on two of the band’s early singles.

Check out Nick’s driving descending bass line on “I’ll Go Crazy.”

And his work in the pocket on “I Call Your Name.”

While those early singles on the local USA imprint earned the band regional recognition, that all changed when, in January 1967, the horn-driven “Kind of a Drag”  (also on USA) shot to #1 on the national charts!

“Kind of a Drag”

The Buckinghams on “American Bandstand”

On a side note: the band’s producer, James Guercio, took his experience with the band’s horn-driven sound to produce Blood, Sweat & Tears’ first LP, and it helped define his subsequent work with the Chicago Transit Authority, which later shortened their name to Chicago and scored numerous platinum albums, Top 40 singles, and recognition in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The Buckinghams followed up their # 1 national smash with four more Top 10 hits after being signed to Columbia, including;

“Don’t You Care”

“Hey Baby They’re Playing Our Song”

“Mercy, Mercy”


Their phenomenal chart success led to multiple appearances on national television shows, including American Bandstand, The Smothers Brothers Show, The Ed Sullivan Show, The Jerry Lewis Show, Dean Martin Show, and The Joey Bishop Show.

American Bandstand

The Smothers Brothers

Nick with his Epiphone bass Nick with his Epiphone bass

Nick with his Epiphone bass

Nick can be seen in TV clips playing a Hofner violin bass, or an Epiphone, however his bass of choice for live performances for the longest time was a Fender Precision bass

Nick with his Fender Precision bass Nick with his Fender Precision bass

Nick with his Fender Precision bass

At the beginning of 1971, The Buckinghams run had come to an end.  Fast forward to the early 1980’s, and The Buckinghams reformed for an appearance at ChicagoFest.

In between 1971 and the reformation, Nick played with numerous bands, including funk bands Crystal, formed with Billy Corgan, Sr. (father of Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins), and Kracker, a Latin funk band that had its own history, including an opening slot on the Rolling Stones tour.

Since The Buckinghams reformed, they have been a constant force on the concert scene, including being regularly featured as part of the Happy Together Tours.

Check your local listings, and you will be able to catch The Buckinghams in your area, or on a cruise, with Nick’s soulful and R&B influenced bass chops, propelling the songs.

For several years, Nick has been playing a hot-rodded Ibanez 5 string bass, with EMG pick ups and electronics, usually through an Ampeg SVT.

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“Mercy Mercy Mercy” at the NYCB Theater Westbury:

In addition to their earlier releases, The Buckinghams have continued to have their hits re-issued on compilations, and they have continued put out new music, including a Holiday collection.

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