#29: Younger Girl by the Critters

City: Hamilton, ON
Radio Station: CKOC
Peak Month: July 1966
Peak Position in Hamilton ~ #1
Peak position in Vancouver ~ #6
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ #42
YouTube: “Younger Girl
Lyrics: “Younger Girl

In 1964 there was a group in Plainfield, New Jersey called the Vibratones. The lineup was comprised of Jimmy Ryan on lead guitar, Ken Gorka on bass guitar, Jack Decker on drums, Chris Darway on keyboards, and Bob Podstawski on saxophone. One night a local singer-songwriter named Don Ciccone came by to hear the group. His dad owned Bill Williams Auto Sales, and the Ciccone family lived in a 56-room mansion in Plainfield. Don Ciccone learned to play both guitar and bass guitar. The Vibratones were impressed with Ciccone being both a musician and a singer-songwriter. They asked him to join their group. Ciccone suggested they change their name to the Critters, a riff off of the British Invasion band the Animals who had a number-one hit with “House Of The Rising Sun”.

In 1964 the Critters released their first single titled “Georgianna”. Their next release, “Children and Flowers”, peaked at #6 in Honolulu in 1965. In 1966 the group released the folk-rock single “Younger Girl”.

Younger Girl by the Critters

“Younger Girl” was a cover of the Lovin’ Spoonful track from their debut album, Do You Believe In Magic, and written by John Sebastian. The song concerns a guy who keeps thinking about this ‘younger girl.’ Once you see her, you forget everything you were about to tell her. She leaves you lost for words. At the she crosses his path, she’s a bit too young for him. He considers what people might say if he tried to date her right away: “In a few more years, they’d call us right for each other.” But, he thinks if he waits for a few more years, “I’ll just die.”

John Sebastian grew up in Greenwich Village and born in 1944 in New York City. Sebastian and Zal Yanovsky were playing in a folk group with Pappa Denny Dougherty called The Mugwumps in Washington D.C. John and Zal hit is off with Skip and Joe and invited them to join their electric jug band, as they needed a bass player and drummer. John Sebastian had grown up in Greenwich Village and was the son of John Sebastian Sr. who was a world renowned classical harmonica player and John Jr. had himself acquired quite the reputation as blues mouth harpist and guitar player. The pair formed the Lovin’ Spoonful, along with Steve Boone and Joe Butler. The Lovin’ Spoonful, with John Sebastian as lead singer, had many pop hits including “Summer In The City”, “Do You Believe In Magic”, “Daydream”, “Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind?”, “You Didn’t Have To Be So Nice”, “Rain On The Roof”, and “Nashville  Cats”. John Sebastian went on to record a number-one hit in the mid-70s titled “Welcome Back”.

He also became a session musician on a variety of tracks including “If You Could Read My Mind” by Gordon Lightfoot, “Deja Vu” by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and “Roadhouse Blues” for The Doors. Sebastian has also contributed to soundtracks for a number of children’s TV shows and films including The Care Bears.

“Younger Girl” peaked at #1 in Hamilton (ON), Orlando, and Grand Rapids (MI), #2 in New York City, #3 in Boston, and Winnipeg (MB), #4 in Saginaw (MI), #5 in Buffalo, Kitchener (ON), and Milwaukee, #6 in Dayton (OH), Vancouver (BC), Lloydminster (AB), San Bernardino and (CA), Cleveland, #7 in Troy (NY), Toronto, Battle Creek (NY), Cincinnati (OH), New Haven (CT), and Lansing (MI), #8 in Hartford (CT), #9 in Syracuse (NY), Regina (SK), and Rochester (NY), and #11 in Honolulu.

Bob Podstawski was drafted into the U.S. military before, “Younger Girl” was released. And “Younger Girl” was on the pop charts in the spring of 1966, Don Ciccone left the group. He had been served with his draft notice to go and fight with the United States military in the Viet Nam War. In 1966, Ciccone decided to join the U.S. Air Force, where he continued to serve until 1970.

With “Younger Girl” climbing the pop charts, Kapp Records released the album Younger Girl. The liner notes exclaimed “Proficiency, in any art, comes with patience and perspiration. Sheer brilliance, on the other hand, can never be taught or acquired. It’s either there to begin with, or it’s not there at all. The Critters, five young men from New Jersey… have caught the fancy of the nations’ single record buyers with their hit recording of “Younger Girl”, offer a distinctive blend of proficiency mixed with a dash of genius. Each one of the Critters is a talented musician and each has that extra spark of brilliance. Put it all together and it spells an exciting musical experience.” The Critters now consisted of Don Ciccone, Jimmy Ryan, Jack Decker, Chris Darway and Kenny Gorka.

The Critters next single release was a track from the album called “Mr. Dieingly Sad”. Written by Don Ciccone, the single charted to #17 on the Billboard Hot 100. Jimmy Ryan recalls, “It came out while we were on Dick Clark’s “Where the Action Is” tour, which lasted a month and went all over the eastern and southern U.S., with The Young Rascals, Paul Revere and the Raiders, The Knickerbockers, Shades of Blue, Steve Alaimo, Keith Allison, B.J. Thomas, The Kinks, and The Dave Clark Five.

Younger Girl by the Critters

In Canada “Mr. Dieingly Sad” made the Top Ten in London (ON), Hamilton (ON), Winnipeg (MB), Saint John (NB), Peace River (AB), and Edmonton (AB).

On August 18, 1966, the Critters appeared on Where the Action Is to sing (lip-synch) “Younger Girl” and “Mr. Dieingly Sad”. In 1967, the Critters appeared on The Clay Cole Show on six occasions.

Late in 1966, the Critters released “Bad Misunderstanding” which stalled at #55 on the Billboard Hot 100. It peaked at #7 in Vancouver, #10 in Hamilton (ON), And “Marryin’ Kind of Love” didn’t crack the Hot 100, getting stuck at #117 in early 1967. Their next single release got them back into the Top 40. It was titled “Don’t Let the Rain Fall Down on Me”.

After recording several singles and the album, Younger Girl, the Critters split up. Jack Decker was the third group member to be drafted into the U.S military. Chris Darway, possibly hoping to avoid the draft, entered an art college. Jimmy Ryan and Ken Gorka tried to restart the group. They added vocalist and drummer Jeff Pelosi, and keyboard player Bob Spinella to the group. In 1968 they released the album Touch ‘n Go With The Critters followed by Critters. And in 1968 the Critters performed on The Peter Martin Show. But neither album resulted in any commercially successful single releases. Between late 1967 and 1969, “No One But You”, “Younger Generation” and “Walk Like A Man Again” were each flops. A fourth release by the reformed Critters, “Little Girl”, written by Chris Darway and not the same as “Little Girl” by the Syndicate of Sound, stalled at #113 below the Hot 100. Later in 1969, the Critters disbanded.

After the Critters split up, Jimmy Ryan toured with Carly Simon, and then became a session musician. He was in the studio  for Carly Simon’s “Anticipation”, “Legend In Your Own Time”, “That’s The Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be”, “The Right Thing To Do”, “You’re So Vain”, “Haven’t Got Time For The Pain” and “Mockingbird”. Ryan also played on recordings for Cat Stevens (“Oh Very Young”), Jim Croce, Andy Williams, Rod Stewart, Kiki Dee and others. Ryan later toured as a bass guitarist with Tommy James and the Shondells.

In the late 70s, Chris Darway moved to Philadelphia and formed Johnny’s Dance Band. This was followed by the Chet Bolins Band. In 1970, Jack Decker went on to play drums for The Four More.

Don Ciccone was a member of the Four Seasons between 1973 and 1977 when the group had the hit singles “Oh What A Night (December 1963)”, and “Who Loves You”.

In 2012 Don Ciccone and Jimmy Ryan formed a group named the Hit Men with two former members of the Four Seasons, Lee Shapiro (1973-1977) and Gerry Polci (1973-77, 1979-82, 1988-90).

Ken Gorka became a booking agent and co-owner of The Bitter End nightclub in Greenwich Village. He died in 2015 at the age of 68. Don Ciccone died at the age of 70 of a heart attack in 2016.

July 6, 2024
Ray McGinnis

Warren Kurtz, “Fabulous Flip Sides – the Critters’ Jimmy Ryan,” Goldmine Magazine, April 22, 2018.
Silas Valentino, “The Bitter End Pays Tribute to Owner Kenny Gorka’s Legacy,” Village Voice, March 26, 2015.
Don Ciccone, Songwriter and Lead Singer of the Critters, dies at 70,” New York Times, October 14, 2016.
The Critters, “Younger Girl“, The Clay Cole Show, 1967.
John Sebastian bio, John Sebastian.com

Younger Girl by the Critters

CKOC 1150-AM Hamilton (ON) Top Ten | July 8, 1966

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