Gary U.S. Bonds (born Gary Levone Anderson, June 6, 1939, in Jacksonville, Florida) is an American rhythm and blues and rock and roll singer, known for his classic hits “New Orleans” and “Quarter to Three”. His career spans several decades and he is also a prolific songwriter.
Born in Jacksonville, Florida, Bonds lived in Norfolk, Virginia, in the 1950s when he began singing publicly in church and with a group called the Turks. He joined record producer Frank Guida’s small Legrand Records label where Guida chose Anderson’s stage name, U.S. Bonds, in hopes that it would be confused with a public service announcement advertising the sale of government bonds and thereby garner more radio airplay. His first three singles and first album, Dance ‘Til Quarter to Three, were released under the U.S. Bonds name, but people assumed it was the name of a group. To avoid confusion, subsequent releases, including his second album Twist Up Calypso, were made under the name Gary (U.S.) Bonds. The parentheses were discarded in the 1970s.
Bonds’ first hit was the song “New Orleans” (US No.6), which was followed by “Not Me”, a flop for Bonds but later a hit for the Orlons, and then by his only number one hit, “Quarter to Three” in June 1961. “Quarter To Three” sold one million records, earning a gold disc. Subsequent hits, under his modified name, included “School Is Out” (#5), “Dear Lady Twist” (#9), “School Is In” (#28) and “Twist, Twist, Señora” (#10) in the early 1960s. In a 1963 tour of Europe, he headlined above the Beatles. His hits featured solos by the saxophonist Gene Barge.
“Quarter to Three” appears on The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll list.
In the early 1980s, Bonds had a career resurgence with two albums Dedication and On the Line, collaborations with Bruce Springsteen, Steven Van Zandt, and the E Street Band, and had hits including “This Little Girl” (his comeback hit in 1981, which reached #11 on the pop chart in Billboard and #5 on the mainstream rock chart), “Jolé Blon” and “Out of Work”. Bonds continues to release albums sporadically, and today is a mainstay of the nostalgia concert circuit.
While Bonds is mostly known for achievements within rhythm and blues and rock and roll, he often transcends these genres, e.g., his song “She’s All I Got”, co-written by Jerry Williams, Jr. (better known as Swamp Dogg), was nominated for the Country Music Association’s “Song of the Year” in 1972 when it was a big hit for Johnny Paycheck (Freddie North also charted his only pop hit with a soul cover of the same song). He is also a 1997 honoree of the Rhythm & Blues Foundation. Bonds is an accomplished golfer and often plays celebrity PGA Tour events. Bonds guested in Blues Brothers 2000 in 1998 as part of a rival blues supergroup the Louisiana Gator Boys.
Bonds released an album in 2004 called Back in 20, the title referencing his repeated sporadic pop-ups of popularity (his first hits were in the 1960s, then again in the 1980s, and now another significant album in the early 2000s, each 20-odd years apart). The album features guest appearances by Springsteen and Southside Johnny. Bonds was also inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame on October 15, 2006.
In 2009 he released a new album Let Them Talk and toured the UK as a special guest of Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings. Most recently, in 2010, Bonds contributed duet vocals on the song “Umbrella in My Drink” on Southside Johnny’s album Pills and Ammo. He also made a guest appearance in the 3rd series of Lillyhammer which stars and is produced by Steven van Zandt.