‘Do You Believe In Magic?’ Wild Honey Salutes The Lovin’ Spoonful In Autism Think Tank Fundraiser

Lovin Spoonful
Scott Dudelson / Getty Images
– Lovin Spoonful
LOVIN’ SPOONFUL founding members Joe Butler, John Sebastian and Steve Boone perform together for the first time in 20 years during the Wild Honey Foundation’s benefit for the Autism Think Tank at the Alex Theatre in Glendale, Calif., Feb. 29.

For Wild Honey Foundation founder Paul Rock, bringing the three living members of The Lovin’ Spoonful – John Sebastian, Steve Boone and Joe Butler – together for a sold-out tribute concert at the venerable 1,413-capacity Alex Theater in Glendale, Calif., was only part of the story.  

What began as a tribute to Brian Wilson in his living room with local bands such as the Wondermints and Baby Lemonade before 100 friends in 1993 has grown into a veritable institution that has supported the Autism Think Tank to the tune of more than $175,000. 
A 2013 performance of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s and Rubber Soul at North Hollywood’s El Portal and a 2014 Big Star tribute at Los Angeles’ Wilshire Ebell Theatre were followed by six shows at the Alex, including full-scale orchestral homages to The White Album , the Beach Boys’ Friends and Sunflower , the Kinks’ Village Green Preservation Society , Buffalo Springfield, The Band and the Spoonful, the latter of which was held Feb. 29. 
The all-star tribute featured a remarkable melding of generations and musicians paying homage to the group, formed in Greenwich Village in 1965 by Sebastian, Boone and the late Zal Yanovsky, which produced an indelible string of hits, including “Summer in the City,” “Do You Believe In Magic?” and “Daydream,” in its brief run in the ‘60s. Although previous Wild Honey incarnations featured appearances by Big Star’s Jody Stephens, the Beach Boys’ Al Jardine, The Band’s Garth Hudson and Buffalo Springfield’s Richie Furay, this was the first time all living members of the honorees fully participated in the show, which included the eclectic likes of Dave Alvin (“Night Owl Blues”), 
Marshall Crenshaw (“Rain on the Roof”), Susan Cowsill (“You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice”), Claudia Lennear (“You Baby”), Micky Dolenz (“Daydream”), Peter Case and Carla Olson (“4 Eyes”) and The Cars guitarist Elliot Easton. Wild Honey was no ordinary cover band playing the hits, but rather a deep dive into the deceptively deep Spoonful catalog that showed they were quite a bit more than their AM hits, but a prototype for the emerging Americana genre, with a blend of jug band, country, folk, blues, soul and even soundtrack music. 
(Sebastian’s harp solo on “Amy’s Theme” from Francis Ford Coppola’s second feature film, “You’re a Big Boy Now,” was a highlight.) “We spare no expense on these shows,” says Rock, who moved to Los Angeles from Chicago in 1986, working 15 years at L.A.’s indie Aron’s Records before eventually managing it. “This is a labor of love. I wanted to change the level of appreciation of the band and how it’s been perceived.” 
L.A.-based singer-songwriter Rob Laufer, who released two acclaimed solo albums in the mid-‘90s, has appeared on albums by Frank Black and Fiona Apple and portrayed George Harrison in a 1999 production of “Beatlemania,” has served as musical director for the Wild Honey series and performed “Darling Be Home Soon” during the show. 
“It was incredible to see how joyous John, Steve and Joe were,” Laufer says. “It’s sort of the last thing a performer expects at this age.  After all of life’s indignities, it must be great to know a full orchestra wants to play these obscure songs with you.” “When I got an idea of what they were trying to do, that changed everything for me,” says Sebastian, who hadn’t played with Boone and Butler since they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. 
“You have to remember The Lovin’ Spoonful never received this kind of accolade. It absolutely creams the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as an honor.” While the music is key, the series’ charitable focus has personal resonance for many of its participants, including Rock, whose 16-yearold son Jake has dealt with severe autism for most of his life, tending toward self-injury and communication struggles. Those involved have watched Jake mature into the bubbly, shaggy-haired, giddy teenager who was present at the rehearsals leading up to February’s show.
 “Jake’s never been more giddy or childlike than he is now,” says Rock, adding that Jake has begun to show an interest in playing an instrument and is starting on piano and guitar as part of his therapy. The reunion even spurred hopes that Sebastian and Boone could make new music together. Wild Honey’s Rock has his eyes on the future, hoping to expand into music education with a weekly webcast from the garage of his Eagle Rock, Calif., home, where he often holds backyard concerts during the year to raise funds. He also has plans to build a community center for Wild Honey.  
“The autism research gives these concerts a greater dimension and purpose,” says Laufer. “These shows have provided more resources for kids like Jake, and it’s great to know we’ve contributed to that. We all feel like a part of Jake’s life now.”