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The Vagrants

Biography

Forest Hills, Queens, NY, garage quintet the Vagrants never achieved even a Top 100 single. But they are remembered for a few things: (1) Their guitarist, Leslie West (real last name: Weinstein), went on to play super-heavyweight boogie rock in the '70s band Mountain; (2) their 1967 local radio hit rendition of Otis Redding's "Respect" -- released a few weeks before Aretha Franklin's chart-topping version but a few months after Detroit garagers the Rationals hit No. 92 with a cover of the same song -- which was chosen for the seminal 1972 Nuggets compilation of forgotten garage classics; (3) they attended Forest Hills High School at the same time as two of the Ramones (Johnny and Tommy), but before the slightly younger Joey; (4) their organ-based, soul-influenced, sometimes slow-tempo rock is said to have inspired other local outfits, including Vanilla Fudge and Billy Joel's early band the Hassles. Formed in 1964, the Vagrants released a half-dozen or so 45s on Southern Sound, Vanguard and Atco between 1965 and 1968 -- by which time West and Cream producer Felix Pappalardi were bulking up their sound somewhat, in anticipation of Moutaineering to come.
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