The Cascades: Did they (or didn’t they) die in a plane crash?
- Iñigo Reyes () - March 20, 2005 - 12:00am
The Cascades? In Manila? But didn’t they all die in a plane crash?

This is the common reaction deejay and concert producer Steve O’Neal gets whenever he tells people he is bringing The Cascades to perform–live–in Manila.

"Even I myself thought it was true. I grew up with this rumor and always believed it. But just like the rumor that Ramon Jacinto got kicked out of Ateneo because he played Lupang Hinirang a la Jimi Hendrix’s Star Sprangled Banner, the rumor turned out to be false," recounts Steve on his journey of discovering that The Cascades are alive and well.

Best know for the song Rhythm of the Rain, the Cascades had endeared themselves to Filipinos through other songs like Shy Girl, The Last Leaf, Angel on My Shoulder, Let Me Be, Dreamin’, Lucky Guy, My First Day Alone, Punch and Judy, There’s A Reason, I Wanna Be Your Lover and Was I Dreamin’.

The music of The Cascades is one of the most recognizable even among young people today, not only in the Philippines but all over the world. Rhythm of the Rain has been played over six million times, making it the No. 9 song of BMI’s Top 100 most performed songs of the century. BMI is a worldwide entity that charges a fee every time music is played on radio and TV. Its local counterpart, FILSCAP, pays annual royalties to BMI.

The band got together in 1960 and was first called the Silver Strands. Later, they changed their name to Thundernotes and finally The Cascades. Their first single, There’s A Reason, was only a regional hit in the West Coast but paved the way for greater things to come.

The group was signed to Valiant Records and released Rhythm of the Rain in November 1962. The song hit the Billboard charts at No. 80 and shot all the way up to the Top 10. It exploded all over the world and was No. 1 in many countries, including Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and the Philippines.

By accident, Steve found out that The Cascades are not really dead. No, there was no plane crash where all five members perished. Everything turned out to be a hoax.

"I was lamenting the early demise of The Cascades to the musical director of The Friends of Distinction whom we brought to Manila last year. He laughed at me and told me that The Cascades are far from dead! They may no longer perform together but they are alive all right," O’Neal says.

Quickly, Steve asked for the e-mail address of John Claude Gummoe, The Cascades’ lead singer and songwriter who penned their biggest hit, Rhythm of the Rain.

"The response from John was swift. He informed me that the members individually still do recordings but don’t do live performances. Each member has his own career but they are still friendly and keep in touch with one another," O’Neal shares.

Gummoe said they are aware of the plane crash story, adding that it exploded only in Asia — particularly in Japan and in the Philippines — and that they have no idea of its origin.

Perhaps, it was the bandwagon. Around that time in the ’70s, rock ’n roll greats Buddy Holly and Richie Valens perished in plane crashes. The Cascades were rumored to be in a similar situation.

Another theory was that when Valiant Records, their record company at that time, folded up, it decided to "kill" the artists under its label, among them The Cascades.

The rumor became a myth, the myth became a legend.

"And just like poets and painters whose works’ market value rise after their death, sales of The Cascades’ record soared after their supposed death," O’Neal adds.

A fan through and through, O’Neal told John, still via e-mail that it’s a crime they don’t perform live anymore, adding that thousands of Filipinos would be delighted if they would regroup and come over for a series of concerts.

"I still remember that back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, every house I’ve been to that had a Hi Fi or Stereo set always had a Cascades album. In fact, I had a Cascades album even if we didn’t own a record player!" O’Neal recalls.

John was flattered, much more at the thought of a show thousands of miles from where he is in Palm Springs, California. After all, it’s been decades since his group performed together. After they disbanded, the members of The Cascades have pursued solo musical careers.

But O’Neal was persistent. A dynamic concert impresario who has brought to Manila retro greats such as Chad and Jeremy, Pat Upton and the Spiral Starecase, The Searchers, The Friends of Distinction, Chris Montez, John Ford Coley and Gordon Waller, O’Neal would not take no for an answer. Not when he re-discovered that his idols are all still up and about and rocking and rolling still, in their own capacities.

"I decided to fly to Los Angels and convince him. He agreed, and we set the concert dates. I was jubilant and started spreading the news locally," O’Neal triumphantly shares.

But there was apprehension since it’s been decades since The Cascades performed live.

"To quell the anxiety, I sent Long Tall Howard to meet John in L.A. and video an impromptu Cascades karaoke session. The video Howard brought home gave me goose pimples — not only did it sound like a record, but John even sang it in the original key."

John also sent O’Neal three other Cascades CDs. One contained songs they recorded with RCA after they left Warner Brothers. One was even recorded recently and contained a techno version of Rhythm of the Rain.

As of this writing, original members John Claude (lead vocals, percussion and keyboard) Gabe (vocals and keyboard) and Tony (vocals and bass) are deep in rehearsals with musical director and guitarist Chuckie in John’s weekend mansion in Palm Springs.

So it’s a go for the Cascades in Manila.

"John jokingly suggested calling their concert Back from The Dead World Tour 2005. We all agreed Cascades Alive! World Tour 2005," O’Neal says.

The original group promises its Filipino audience all the songs they have become famous for, plus songs from their RCA years and some from their latest release.

(The Cascades will perform on April 14, 9 p.m. at the Hard Rock Café, and April 15, 8 p.m. at the Araneta Coliseum. Tickets are available at TicketNet).

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