In 1966, upon learning that another band already had the name The Travelers, they needed to find another name; J.C. Hooke remarked that their difficulty in doing so was "a cryan' shame," and thus named the band. After signing with Bob Monaco, the promotion manager for Destination Music, their first single was supposed to be George Harrison's song, "If I Needed Someone", but was not released in the US (but included on their debut album) due to publication issues. It was soon followed by "Sugar and Spice," a Tony Hatch song that was a hit in 1963 (everywhere but in the US) for the English group The Searchers. The Shames' version reached number 49 in the USA (while reaching number four on local radio WLS). Another single was released just before the end of 1966 called "I Wanna Meet You" b/w "We Could Be Happy". That record made it to number one in Chicago and number 85 nationally. Both songs on the single were Jim Fairs compositions and further spotlighted the harmony capabilities of the band's singers.
They signed to Columbia in 1966, and while they never were to become a national success, their singles and three albums continued to sell well in the Chicago area. The band focused on their first album release, which was heavily influenced by The Byrds. Their album, Sugar and Spice was recorded in just two days, but strengthened by cover versions of popular songs of the period like "We Gotta Get Out of This Place" and "Hey Joe". Overall, the album, upon its October 1966 release, became a hit in Chicago and charted at number 192 nationally.
More singles followed their debut which were met with lesser success. Before the development of their second album, the band lost the services of Stone. Stone was drafted to fight in the Vietnam War and lineup changes followed. The second release proved to be more successful when it charted at number 156. The Shames were experimenting with a combination of psychedelic rock and studio arrangements. Productions and vocal harmonies showed signs in improvement, reflecting positively on album sales.
In 1968 several key members began to depart from band activities, most notably Jim Fairs. Despite the losses, the group formed a new lineup and released their final album, Synthesis. The album marked attempts at delving into progressive rock and jazz influences. Still, compared to their previous effort, the album charted lower and was considered a disappointment. The group disbanded in December 1969, but reunited again and continues to tour. Jim "J.C. Hooke" Pilster and Tom Doody (Toad) are the only remaining original members in the current lineup. Two members of The Cryan' Shames have since died: bassist Dave Purple in June 2001, and his replacement Isaac Guillory, on December 31, 2000
Tracks 1-9 from the Sugar and Spice LP
tracks 10-14 non lp singles
Tracks 15-19 from the A Scratch In The Sky LP
Tracks 20-24 from the Synthesis LP