Jim Brady, Mike Piano, and Richard Shoff became friends while singing together in a boys choir. They and their friend Nick Cahuernga formed a vocal group. They used the name The Four Seasons until another group began successfully using that name. Nick left the group, and the trio began performing as The Grads.
The Grads recorded non-charting singles for three different labels before signing with A&M Records. When their first single for that label also failed to chart, the group changed their name by selecting a word from a dictionary: Sandpipers. They also began looking for songs to record.
Guantanamera is one of the most famous and popular Cuban songs. Joseíto Fernández popularized the song with his performances beginning in 1929.
The Weavers were one of the most successful (and controversial) folk singers in the early fifties. The group disbanded a few times in the fifties and performed at Carnegie Hall in a reunion concert in May 1963. One song they performed at that concert was Guantanamera. Their version included the group singing in Spanish and then explaining the words with an English translation.
The Sandpiper’s producer suggested they record Guantanamera. They based their arrangement on the Weavers’ live version with their producer doing the narration in the middle of the song. The single was the group’s biggest hit, reaching #9 on the Hot 100 and #3 on the Adult Contemporary chart in 1966. The performance earned the group two Grammy award nominations.
Liza Minnelli starred in the film Sterile Cuckoo in 1969. The theme song for the film was Come Saturday Morning. While Liza recorded the song for an album she released that year, the film used a version recorded by the Sandpipers. They also recorded a second song for the soundtrack. The Sandpipers’ version of Come Saturday Morning was released as a single in late 1969 and peaked at #83 on the Hot 100. The record did better on the Adult Contemporary chart, where it reached #9.
The song received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song in early 1970. The record label reissued the Sandpipers’ single with a different B-side. The publicity from the nomination helped bring attention to the single, and the new single re-entered the charts. It peaked at #17 on the Hot 100 and reached #5 on the Adult Contemporary chart in 1970. The group had one more single reach #94 on the Hot 100 but never reached that chart again after 1970.
Mike left the group in the mid-seventies and the group replaced him with a series of substitute singers. Only Jim and Richard sang on the group’s final single in 1979.