Looking back on the pop music scene of the 1960s, we now realize that it was one of the most diverse eras in history. Most of those variations still influence today’s music, but a group known as the Left Banke was something a little different. The band’s two big hits — “Walk Away Renee” and “Pretty Ballerina” — were good examples of their specialty, a mix of pop and faux classical that they called ‘baroque & roll’.
Headed up by keyboard wizard Michael Brown and lead singer Steve Martin (Caro), the Left Banke came together in the New York area around 1965. Filling out the group initially were George Cameron, Tom Finn, and Warren David-Schierhorst, but it was a volatile bunch and personnel changes became a regular thing.
Success was a little elusive at first. In fact, the band broke up more than once, but eventually hit pay dirt when Brown’s “Walk Away Renee” zoomed into the Top Ten. The group scored another hit almost immediately with “Pretty Ballerina,” although it didn’t do quite as well and that might have been a sign of things to come.
For the next couple of years the band’s success rate plummeted, at least in part due to constant turmoil. And even though records attributed to the group continued to hit the market, it wasn’t always clear just who was in the studio at the time of recording because of the frequent absence of key members. It wasn’t much of a recipe for success and by the end of the decade things were pretty much over for the original Left Banke, although various reiterations would show up from time to time in later years.