Three Washington songwriters recently walked into the winner's circle of the Fourth Annual Music City Song Festival in Nashville. "Never Gonna Fall in Love Again," written by Tom Guernsey, Bruce Harrison and Tom McDuffee, won the professional song section of the Easy Listening/MOR (Middle of the Road) category. Now they're waiting to hear if they're also winners of the $5,000 Grand Prize. Guernsey, who'd actually forgotten he'd entered the song last November, has won several prizes in the better-known American Song Festival.
Guernsey was well known in the mid-'60s as a member of the Hangmen, a Washington rock group that had a major regional hit in 1964 with "What a Girl Can't Do." He recently came across a newly recorded version of the song by a punk group from Boston. "I picked up a copy and it was pretty funny: It was true to the original arrangement but more high energy, real raw. I couldn't tell if the guys were really amateurs or if that's what they were trying to get across."
The Hangmen, who used to travel to gigs in a hearse, released one album, "Bittersweet," which is a collector's item, fetching up to $40 a copy.
The Hangmen broke up in 1968 and its members drifted in various directions--drummer Bob Berberich into another famed local rock band, Grin (he now plays with Joe Triplett and the Rosslyn Mountain Boys). Bassist Paul Bowers ended up as head roadie for the Jefferson Airplane (he'll be in town Tuesday at the Merriweather Post Pavilion with the group, now known as the Starship).
Guernsey himself moved into the recording studio, writing, arranging and producing original music, jingles and demos. That's where he met Harrison and McDuffee, pro players who do a lot of session work. Guernsey points out that the winning song was a "three-way evolution" based on some original riffs by Harrison.