Terry Kirkman, from Salina, Kansas went to California to study music and turned professional in the wake of a chance meeting with guitarist Jules Alexander. They put together a 13-member group that quickly fell apart in a disagreement over direction, and managed to keep the remaining six-man lineup together as the Association. A prodigious songwriter as well as a multi-instrumentalist, Kirkman was responsible for several of the group's best known songs, as the writer of the hit songs "Cherish", "Everything That Touches You", and "Six Man Band". His “Requiem For The Masses”, a song originally written about a tragic death in Vietnam, featured six-voice harmony which had the power of a much larger group. The music fell between that of the Beach Boys and the Beatles in both style and popularity. Kirkman co-wrote some material with fellow group member and friend Jules Alexander. In 1964, while he was dating a girl named Barbara Bivens, he introduced her sister Beverly to what became, with her as their lead singer, the folk rock group We Five.
An addictions counselor for the past 22 years his focus has been on helping artists in recovery. Now semi-retired, he is writing ever more poems, songs and books.
Kirkman was working as a producer at HBO when the notion of an Association reunion for a cable feature came up, and he got the ball rolling on what proved to be the group's second incarnation, which carried them into the mid-'80s, and the group has continued working into the new century. In 2003, Kirkman and the other members were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.
Terry states that he "played with Frank Zappa long before the Mothers of Invention was formed. “We were partners. Frank and I created things together... ethnic folk, Afro-Cuban, blues, sparse (duo) jazz, adaptations of Bach and other classics, etc.". Their music shared a complexity rare in rock, something quite difficult to perform, sometimes performing at The Meeting Place folk club in Claremont where Kirkman was a host. Terry is capable of playing at least 13 different instruments, and remains humble enough to admit that despite being able to play so many instruments, he claims he can only read sheet music for one, the Tuba.
The mood of the times makes the Association a curious case. By 1968, members of the LA-based six-man band were ready to shed their squeaky clean image, and while their hair was getting shaggier (hip), they were still wearing suits on stage (not so hip). From their beginning, the Association was cooler than other harmony-heavy groups, like the New Christy Minstrels. This had been the case ever since rumors spread that their first top-ten (and perhaps hardest rocking) single, 1966’s “Along Comes Mary,” was about pot. While their stunning set to open the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 could have cemented their hip status, footage of the Association was left out of the festival’s film version that made legends of album-oriented acts like Jimi Hendrix and The Who.
In the first year they worked the Los Angeles area, they spent 6 months of that time at one or the other Ice Houses, Pasadena and the newer Glendale Ice House. The Glendale club was the larger of the two and they held 2 attendance records there, the highest and the lowest. They also worked Los Angeles folk clubs, high schools, jr. highs, colleges, jr. colleges, rock clubs, proms and parties like no one ever had. By the time they released their first single on Valiant Records, a Bob Dylan song “One too Many Mornings” (the vocal arrangement was by Clark Burroughs, the HI in the “Hi-Los”), their fan club had over 10,000 members, so they had a local hit and people began to take notice.
In 1966 the band’s first big hit “Along Comes Mary” was actually the B side of “Your Own Love”, a Jim Yester composition. Once the D.J.s started playing “Mary”, it just took off. They followed with “Cherish” by Terry Kirkman which went to #1.
In two years The Association had released 2 charting albums, “Along Comes The Association” and “Renaissance”, had 2 major hits, “Along Comes Mary” and “Cherish”, 2 minor chart singles “Pandora’s Golden Heebie Jeebies”, and “No Fair at All”. (In 1983 they played the Philippines for the first time and discovered “No Fair at All” had been a #1 hit there.) They guested on Ed Sullivan, The Andy Williams Show, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, The Hollywood Palace, The Dean Martin Show and all the rock & roll TV shows, Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, Hullabaloo, Shindig, and many more. The first The Association hit, “Along Comes Mary”, possessed jazz type changes blended with harmony and L.A. folk rock rhythm section complete with a Fender Tele and the engineer who had previously recorded “The Monster Mash”, Gary Paxton. This song was not written by Kirkman but by Tandyn Almer and Association producer Curt Boettcher (who did not receive a writing credit). Other hits sung by The Association included “Never My Love” and “Windy”, both being commercial successes.
A very active touring group, The Association would do 250 one-nighters in a year. It was reported that a line of cars two miles long formed near Chicago’s Ravinia venue when they played a concert about 1970.