Rhythm of the Rain

Seaman John Gummoe came up with the idea for "Rhythm of the Rain" in the early 1960s while stationed on the U.S.S. Jason (a Naval repair ship in operation since World War II that had more recently been used in Vietnam); the incessant patter against the ship's hull on a stormy night inspired the idea of rain "talking," in its subtle way driving home a particular loss or error in judgment, just the kind of subject matter suitable for a song. With lines like 'I can't love another when my heart's somewhere far away,' could it be he was caught up in the often-referred-to scenario of a sailor far from home? Seeing as how he was docked in San Diego, where he lived, it's somehow unlikely, yet his fate would be forever linked to those lyrics he'd written.

When John was born in 1938, he instantly inherited three teenage sisters obsessed with the big band hits of the day; this early exposure made music his lifelong love. Shortly after high school his Navy service began in San Diego, where he met local singer-guitarist Len Green and drummer David Wilson, both playing in a band called The Silver Strands. Gummoe started hanging around some of the night spots where they played, sometimes joining Wilson for duets of Everly Brothers songs. He began playing the vibraharp which, against odds, fit in with the band's preference for instrumentals. Soon he joined the group permanently, gigging at a restaurant called the Red Coat Inn at the University Lanes bowling alley while continuing to serve ship duty. Lineup changes made the outfit a six-man band with guitarist Eddie Snyder, bassist David Stevens and keyboard player David Szabo (that's right, three guys named Dave!), evolving into a hotter rock-and-surf group with a new name, The Thundernotes. A single, "Pay Day," written by Green and released on Donna Records (a subsidiary of Bob Keane's Del-Fi label) picked some airplay on San Diego radio in the fall of 1961.

Andy DiMartino, a music teacher with record company connections, caught the group's show and offered to manage them. Green left around that time to focus on a Nashville songwriting career and the band decided to highlight Gummoe's vocals; The Cascades name wasn't taken from the Cascade mountain range of the Pacific Northwest as one might suspect, but from the automatic dishwashing machine detergent (Cascade and competitor Electrasol had both hit the market in 1953 when dishwashers came on strong as a must-have appliance). A demo tape found its way to Valiant Records, a Warner Bros. subsidiary known mainly for Shelby Flint's hit "Angel on My Shoulder." Label head Barry DeVorzon liked what he heard and booked time for the band at Hollywood's Gold Star Studios. There was one hitch: the guys weren't allowed to play on the records, those duties going to experienced musicians like guitarist Glen Campbell, bassist Carol Kaye and drummer Hal Blaine. Gummoe composed and sang lead on "There's a Reason," a pleasant summer '62 ballad that became a top ten hit in San Francisco but had little exposure elsewhere.

For the next single, DeVorzon and arranger Perry Botkin, Jr. chose "Rhythm of the Rain" (or 'Listen to the rhythm of the falling rain' if you follow the lyrics exactly), complete with a distinct opening thunderstorm sound effect. Released near the end of the year, it broke out nationally in January '63 and had a strong February-through-April run in the top ten. Follow-up "Shy Girl" (written by DeVorzon and songwriting associate Bodie Chandler) managed some airplay in the spring but was eclipsed by its flip, "The Last Leaf" (penned by Chandler and Edward McKendry), which was more in the style of "Rhythm" but with wind effects in place of rain. Ultimately neither side went very high on the charts. The group left Valiant over the issue of being barred from playing on their records; Gummoe signed over his royalties for "Rhythm" in exchange for an early exit from the contract. Moving to RCA Victor, where they were allowed to play their instruments, the quintet worked with longtime RCA staffer/bandleader Joe Reisman, but had no luck with anything he produced. Two predictable ballads, "A Little Like Lovin'" and "For Your Sweet Love," scraped the bottom of the national charts in the latter months of 1963.

The Cascades, gone from RCA by mid-1964, had one release on the oddball C-R-C Charter label, then reconvened with Botkin on "She'll Love Again," a more rocking effort released by Liberty Records in the fall of '65. Back in San Diego, the group could again be spotted regularly at the Red Coat Inn. A single on Arwin, "Cheryl's Goin' Home" (written by "Elusive Butterfly" guy Bob Lind), gained a little traction in the spring of '66. Gummoe, weary of the constant performing and touring, quit the Cascades later that year; Gabe Lapano, who'd been in a group called Two Bits, replaced him. Two 45s on Smash and one on Probe preceded several for Russ Regan's Uni label including "Maybe the Rain Will Fall" (lead vocal this time by the song's composer, Carl Storie), a country-leaning track with a subliminal connection to the wet weather theme of the group's greatest hit. It put the Cascades back on the map (not the mountain range, it was there all along), a respectable mid-chart hit late in the summer of 1969. Through it all, Andy DiMartino remained in charge of both the group and John Gummoe as a solo act.

Not surprisingly, Gummoe didn't like using his given name professionally; he put out a series of singles over the next few years under creatively cloaked monikers. There was "I'll Run" by Johnny Parris and Co. on Dunhill in '67 and "Get Around Downtown Girl" on Uni (coming right after the Cascades' hit for the label), credited to Johnny Garrett and the Rising Signs. In 1971, the precipitation option was exercised again with "It's Raining" by Image featuring John Gummoe, an attempt to tempt fate by using his real name (like Simon and Garfunkel had once done with spectacular results). Around this time Gummoe and Lapano formed country-rock band Kentucky Express with singer Kent Morrill, stabilizing if only for a year or two. John eventually won back the rights to his early compositions in court, though by that time he had missed out on payments likely to total seven figures (or, egad! eight!). That might be an exaggeration, but this isn't: at the end of 1999, BMI named "Rhythm of the Rain" the 9th most-played song of the entire 20th century.

- Michael Jack Kirby


Rhythm of the Rain A Little Like Lovin'