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A Lovin' Spoonful of Zal Yanovsky

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The Lovin' Spoonful, 1965, clockwise from top: Steve Boone, John Sebastian, Zal Yanovsky, Joe Butler (Wikimedia Commons | Kama Sutra Records)

When you think of rock stars, Zal Yanovsky probably isn't the first name that comes to mind.

But as lead guitarist for the Lovin' Spoonful, Yanovsky – who died 10 years ago today – helped shape the groovy sound of a generation.

Yanovsky got his start playing in coffee houses in his native Toronto, eventually teaming with future Mama Cass Elliot and Papa Denny Doherty (a fellow Canadian) to form folk group the Mugwumps. Then in 1964 Yanovsky founded the band that would make him a rock star.

Referring to their sound as "good-time music," the Lovin' Spoonful captured the zeitgeist of the mid-1960s with groovy tunes made for singing along. A talented and versatile guitarist ("He could play like Elmore James, he could play like Floyd Cramer, he could play like Chuck Berry," said Spoonful co-founder John Sebastian), Yanovsky helped build that signature sound – and as we remember his life today, we're listening to a few favorite tunes.


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Written by Linnea Crowther

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