February 5, 2017 – Sonny Geraci (Outsiders and Climax) was born Emmett Peter Geraci on November 22, 1947 in Cleveland Ohio. Sonny was a street kid, growing up in Cleveland to the music of Motown, the British invasion and all the music that came before.
Still in high school he joined a group called The Starfires. Actually his older brother Mike played sax for a number of groups in the greater Cleveland are and when the Starfires needed a new singer, as theirs was called up for military draft, Mike suggested his brother Sonny. After he joined the group, he pushed the rest of the band to record and change the drummer and change the guitar player and finally change the name to The Outsiders and started to record songs. It was a good move.
The first single “Time Won’t Let Me” was almost an afterthought as they were planning to cut a Beatles song, but instead opted to record an original.
The song broke nationally in 1966, hitting nr. 5 on the charts and soon they started touring with Paul Revere and the Raiders. Geraci was just out of high school. What followed was a tour with Chad and Jeremyn and a Gene Pitney tour. It was a six week tour of one-nighters that included talent like Len Barry, The McCoys and B.J. Thomas, Bobby Goldsboro and others. Actually they toured for the next 3 years. The Outsiders put four singles on the U.S. pop charts during the late 1960s, including “Time Won’t Let Me,” “Girl in Love,” “Help Me Girl” and “Respectable (What Kind of Girl Is This),” a remake of the Isley Brothers tune.
By the time he turned 21, he decided to move to Los Angeles to try his luck, the place where music happened (and still does) because he wanted to see how a normal life was, off the road and a new town every night. He took a year off to feel his way around before forming a new band with the guitarist from his Outsiders’ time, Walt Nims.
They started writing together but the first two songs didn’t do much, until they recorded the Nims penned “Precious and Few” which exploded onto the charts and all at once they were touring again. Climax disbanded in 1975 essentially because they did not receive the promotional attention of the label. In those days the music industry rapidly moved from art to corporate and many artists and bands became the victims of corporate greed and mismanagement. The lawyers had taken over artist development and label A&R.
He was disillusioned because a song with a great potential, that was written especially for him, was manipulated to become a top hit for a reformed Righteous Brothers band. This song was “Rock and Roll Heaven” with the unforgettable hook: “If you believe in forever, life is just a one night stand. If there’s a rock and roll heaven, they’ve got a hell of a band.”
Geraci left the music business in the early 1980s, but tried a comeback, backed by Donnie Iris’ Cruisers, under the pseudonym Peter Emmett, in 1983, releasing an unsuccessful album on MCA.
Around 1980 he stopped performing.
“I moved back to the Ohio area and got involved in the home improvement family business. There really was no call or demand for us. Around 1985, I started getting phone calls, in the beginning of the year, about doing some shows, which I didn’t understand. I didn’t know what was going on at that point and I went and did a couple of shows. The first one I did was in Toledo, Ohio, with Alex Chilton and The Box Tops and Gary Lewis. But, it was amazing, because it was an outdoor show packed with people and we all doing our songs again, and it was almost like we were brand new groups again. We couldn’t believe what was going on. All of a sudden, they asked if we wanted to do a tour together and they added Dennis Yost and The Classics IV and a couple of other acts. We toured that whole summer with tons and tons of dates. That was in ’85.
Later, he played the oldies circuit with about fifty one-nighters a year, mostly in the summertime. He also performed for a while with the Grass Roots in 2002 and toured from 2007-2012 as Sonny Geraci and the Outsiders. In April 2012, Geraci suffered a brain aneurysm requiring intensive care.
On November 15–16, 2013, a benefit concert for Geraci was held at the Z-Plex at Stringz ‘N Wingz in Streetsboro, Ohio. The benefit concert featured several musicians and groups including The Rip Chords, Dennis Tufano, Gary Lewis, Frank Stallone, Gary DeCarlo, Joey Molland, Terry Sylvester, Billy Joe Royal, Ron Dante, Pat Upton, Jim Gold, The Shadows of Knight, The Michael Weber Show, Johnny Farina, The Vogues and the 1910 Fruitgum Company. Sonny Geraci passed away on February 5, 2017. He was 69.