King Harvest was a 1970s French-American rock band that formed in Paris, known for their 1973 hit single, “Dancing in the Moonlight”.
Formed by a group of four American expatriates in Paris in 1970, King Harvest was best known for its one US hit single, “Dancing in the Moonlight”, which was released in 1972. Although the band had a constantly fluctuating membership, it always included its four core co-founders: Dave “Doc” Robinson (lead vocals/bass/keyboards), Ron Altbach (keyboards), Ed Tuleja (guitar), and Rod Novak (saxophone), all of whom had previously attended Cornell University. At one time, the band consisted of three keyboardists, with Sherman Kelly (who wrote “Dancing in the Moonlight”) joining Altbach and Robinson. Sherman Kelly’s brother, drummer Wells Kelly, who would later go on to form the band Orleans, also served a brief stint in the group both in Paris and in the US. It was Wells who introduced the group to “Dancing in the Moonlight”, but he left Paris before the song was recorded. Steve Cutler, a jazz drummer and fellow expatriate from New York, joined King Harvest for their last six months in Paris, recording “Dancing in the Moonlight” and playing clubs and concerts in Paris and London.
French musician Didier Alexandre also joined the band in the early 1970s. A 45 rpm record of “Dancing in the Moonlight” was released in Paris, with “Lady, Come Home To Me” on the B-side. The single languished and the group disbanded, only to be re-formed in the USA for the re-release of “Dancing in the Moonlight” by Perception.
Australian drummer David Montgomery, formerly of the band Python Lee Jackson, joined after the band’s debut album and toured with them during the spring of 1973. Other members of the band at various times included another Python Lee Jackson alumnus Tony Cahill (bass guitar) and Beach Boy Bobby Figueroa (drums). All members had been involved previously with other bands and done session work.
In 1972, the four original members signed with the Perception label. Their first single, leased by Perception from the French company Musidisc, was one-time band member Sherman Kelly’s “Dancing”, a pop song that he and Robinson had performed with their earlier band, Boffalongo. It reached #13 in the US in early 1973 and #5 in Canada but King Harvest’s future singles were unable to match its success. The original line-up recorded one album titled after the hit single, which failed to break into the Top 100. They made other singles, but by the mid-1970s had disbanded. A new King Harvest, which included the four original members, was formed in 1974 with LA drummer Richie Pidanik. With support from Beach Boys members Carl Wilson and Mike Love, they were signed to A&M Records and made another album, but, failing to achieve any hits, they subsequently broke up. Novak, Altbach, Tuleja, and Figueroa toured with the Beach Boys. Tuleja and Novak played on Dennis Wilson’s 1977 solo Pacific Ocean Blue, while Altbach and Robinson performed with Mike Love in his band, Celebration.
Novak and Tuleja went on to play country western in Scandinavia and released the album King Harvest – The Prairie Dogs’ Classic Country produced by George Doering. Their recording of “Looking For Love” from the album later appeared in the 2014 movie OK Buckeroos – The Life, Music and Good Times of Jerry Jeff Walker.
King Harvest released their The Lost Tapes album in September 2007, and performed on TJ Lubinsky’s My Music DVD entitled The 70s Experience Live produced for PBS.
On July 14, 2012, the four co-founders reunited in Olcott Beach, New York as part of a 40th anniversary reunion of the band. Doc Robinson died December 11, 2012, leaving his wife, daughter and grandchildren. He was buried in Cleveland, Ohio, his birthplace. The other three members reunited again on July 19, 2013 in Olcott Beach with a song titled “Doc” in memory of him.
The King Harvest album Old Friends was scheduled for release on April 6, 2015.
“Dancing in the Moonlight” has appeared in a number of popular films and television series programs with some of the most recent being Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa in November 2013, Bates Motel (2014), The Blacklist (2015), Scorpion (2015), Better Call Saul (2016) and The Middle (2016).