Joe & Bing

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The origins of soft pop duo Joe and Bing date back to the autumn of 1962 -- upon his arrival at Watertown, Connecticut's prestigious Taft School, 16-year-old William "Bing" Bingham was assigned…
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The origins of soft pop duo Joe and Bing date back to the autumn of 1962 -- upon his arrival at Watertown, Connecticut's prestigious Taft School, 16-year-old William "Bing" Bingham was assigned to learn the ropes from older student Joe Knowlton, and a deep friendship was quickly forged from their mutual love of music. According to Keith D'Arcy's liner notes in Rev-Ola's 2004 reissue of the duo's Daybreak, they soon joined with fellow student Tony Howe to form a folk harmony trio, the Coachmen, performing regularly at Taft as well as the nearby Westover School for Girls. In time began writing their own original songs, and while both Knowlton and Bingham went on to attend Williams College, in the spring of 1965 they dropped out to pursue their music full-time, making their earliest recordings at campus radio station WFFM -- however, during the summer months both enlisted in the U.S. Army, effectively forcing their performing career into limbo for four years. After returning from duty, Knowlton crossed paths with another Taft alum, George Klabin, who in the interim partnered with arranger Harry Lookofsky to found the Brill Building recording studio Sound Ideas; Klabin suggested that Knowlton and Bingham record there, and they soon traveled to New York City, cutting an album's worth of original material live. Lookofsky -- the father of the Left Banke's resident genius, Michael Brown -- then had the inspired idea of handing the demos to Brazilian arranger Eumir Deodato, who infused Joe and Bing's lovely harmonies and wispy folk melodies with lush string flourishes and bossa nova-inspired rhythms; dubbing the finished LP Daybreak, the duo privately pressed 1500 copies to sell at live dates, while Klabin courted the interest of the major labels without success. Eventually Brazilian label Quartin agreed to an official release, but without Joe and Bing's knowledge or approval re-christened their partnership Best of Friends. (A 1976 reissue on Italian budget label Record Bazaar even went so far as to credit the album to Eumir Deodato and Best of Friends.) Without an American distributor for the LP, Joe and Bing decamped to Alaska for a series of dates at the Anchorage Westward Hotel, an experience that inspired their song "Alaska Bloodline" -- upon returning to the contiguous U.S., they met producer Don Kirshner, who agreed to record the song for release as a 1974 single on his eponymous label. Kirshner also collaborated with the duo on a clutch of new songs that in 1976 would comprise their self-titled RCA label debut; the single "Barnstormer" squeaked into the Hot 100, and Joe and Bing appeared on Welcome Back, Kotter star Gabe Kaplan's television showcase Presents the Future Stars, but RCA nevertheless chose to focus its energies on developing the career of another duo -- Hall and Oates -- and terminated their contract. Joe and Bing continued writing and touring, spending much of the 1980s enjoying success authoring advertising jingles; Bingham also worked as an actor, and went on to teach film studies at a Connecticut private school while Knowlton headed the information technology department at a school about 100 miles away.