Pat Upton, a founding member of Spiral Starecase and composer of the hit single “More Today Than Yesterday,” passed away after a long bout with illness on Wednesday. He was 75 years old.
Geraldine’s official Facebook page confirmed Upton’s passing in a post around 3 p.m. Wednesday, saying “The Town of Geraldine extends our sympathy to the Upton family for the loss of Pat Upton, a national icon and great entertainer from Geraldine.”
A Geraldine native, Upton was a musician for most of his life, getting his professional start in high school with the Geraldine High School Future Farmers of America Quartet.
Upton joined the Fydallions in 1964, becoming their guitarist and lead vocalist. The band was discovered by Columbia Records and subsequently signed, releasing their first singles in 1968.
The band achieved international success with Upton’s composition “More Today Than Yesterday” in 1969, reaching as high as No. 12 in the Billboard Top 100, and No. 6 in the RPM Top 100 in Canada.
Chuck Ables, mayor of Geraldine, remembers Upton as a model citizen.
“Pat always volunteered to sing at our town picnic every summer for no charge,” Ables said. “He was a great individual and made a big impact in the music world and we’re proud to call him a native of Geraldine. Even when he lived out in California, he was not ashamed to say he was from Geraldine, Alabama. We’ve always appreciated that.”
Jimmy Davis, a stalwart in the music industry that is currently a stage manager for Hank Williams Jr., had nothing but admiration for Upton, and recalled the time that he was given the opportunity to work with Upton.
“I was working for another band out of Gadsden and we were playing in Mississippi, and Damon Johnson [a member of Upton’s band] paged me, saying ‘We’re making a change and we want you to do sound for us.’” Davis said. “I turned in my notice and worked with them for a couple weeks.”
I can never say enough about Pat,” Davis said. “He was a great person, and his heart was huge. I’ve worked with a lot of singers over the years, but there was never anybody that could touch Pat Upton.”
Davis grew up a fan of Upton and knows the impact he had on the music community, both locally and nationally.
“I had known about Pat since I was a child because I grew up on Sand Mountain. My older siblings had the record, and I just knew who he was,” Davis said. “I always thought that if you didn’t know the name, you would know the voice and you would know the song.
“Once you heard it, you knew who he was because that song was so unmistakable.”
Upton was a major fixture in Marshall County even after the glory days passed by, opening a club in Guntersville called PJ’s Alley in the mid-1980’s.
PJ’s is perhaps most famous as the final venue that the great musician and TV star Ricky Nelson performed in. Nelson was killed in a crash following the concert en route from Guntersville to Dallas, TX.
Upton stayed involved in the community, often playing benefit concerts and community events.
Davis remembered one of his last shows with Upton in the Sand Mountain area fondly, an art benefit for fellow musician Mike Bruce, saying “he was the same old Pat, always happy to be there, happy to help out, for whatever the reason, whatever the cause.”
A memorial service in celebration of his life will be held at Geraldine First Baptist Church, Highway 227, Geraldine, at 3 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 4.