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The Association teams up with Long Bay Symphony

The Association will share an alliance with the Long Bay Symphony Pops for a concert at 7 p.m. Saturday at Myrtle Beach High School.

Talking last month by telephone from home in New Jersey, an original member of the Association, Jim Yester of New Jersey, voiced his thanks for feeling “quite blessed ... to get the kind of support we’re getting.”

The group, which formed in the mid-1960s, fielded some of its biggest hits with “Along Comes Mary,” “Cherish,” “Windy” and “Never My Love.”

“Almost everywhere we play,” Yester said, “it’s sold out. That is fantastic. If somebody had told me I’d still be doing it at age 73, I would have said they’d be crazy.”

He said sharing the stage with three “of the main characters” – a co-founder, Russ Giguere on vocals, and fellow guitarist Larry Ramos, formerly of the New Christy Minstrels – “we’re having a great time.”

With the late Brian Cole’s son Jordan Cole, on keyboards, Ramos’ son Del Ramos on bass, and longtime drummer Bruce Pictor, “It’s very definitely family,” Yester said.

Fans still bring album covers and CD liner notes for autographs after shows.

“People bring tons of stuff,” Yester said. “It’s great fun. We meet a lot of old fans, and I’m really humbled by seeing ... a lot of age ranges in people coming to the shows. That just blows me away.

“We came out when everybody else was doing the acid rock thing. We were a bunch of folkies out of folk sounds, very harmony and entertainment oriented.”

‘Not just a jukebox’

Yester said the Association felt comfortable with improv, such as when a guitar string broke, then the circumstances would fit right in with their act.

“We still do a lot of tongue-in-cheek humor on stage,” he said. “We’re not just a jukebox. ... We like to entertain people. We like to laugh when we’re on stage. People ask us after a show, ‘Are you really having that much fun?’

“Now especially, we are. One of things I say is, this is so much more enjoyable as an adult. We were just kids when we started. I was the oldest, at 25, and the youngest were 19 or 20.”

“No Fair at All” remains one of Yester’s favorite Association tunes.

“To hear that with strings,” he said, “it’s hard to concentrate on singing the song, it was so beautiful.”

With Association songs receiving new lives from other artists, Yester said Swedish rock band Blue Swede recorded his favorite cover of “Never My Love,” with an up-tempo flair.

Yester remembered the road “Cherish” took to success and how the writer, Terry Kirkma, and the Association had been told by record label executives that its theme sounded “too old and archaic.”

“The running gag is that we just showed we can have our archaic and eat it, too,” Yester said.

He chuckled about how Climax’s “Precious & Few” sounded like “Cherish” and that when he later toured with Sonny Geraci, former frontman for Climax, along with Andy Kim, in a show called “Forever Gold,” the band would play an overture every night to both songs, “and you couldn’t tell which” would emerge first.

Yester said The Letterman, who also shared the same music publisher as the Association and Climax, blended both into a medley.

‘Cherish’ by others

In the 1980s, Kool & the Gang and Madonna each had their own hits, and different melodies, with the title “Cherish.”

Yester said Madonna and co-writer Patrick Leonard impressed him by using a piece of the Association’s “Cherish” with a “straight line” later in her recording: “Cherish is the word I use ...” The Association finished the phrase with “to describe/All the feeling that I have hiding here for you inside,” Madonna with “to remind me of your love.”

“She used the melody and lyric from that particular part of the song,” Yester said. “That’s cool.”

The word “Perish” also starts lines in both songs, in the chorus for Madonna’s as well.

Yester, who said he’d like to settle in the Southeast, maybe as far south as Savannah, Ga., gained two family connections with a group John Sebastian began in the ‘60s, whose hits included “Do You Believe in Magic” and “Summer in the City.”

“Steve Boone from The Lovin’ Spoonful married one of my nieces,” said Yester, whose brother Jerry Yester also joined that band after producing music for the Association.