The Hobbits

Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1 (1967-68)

- Jimmy Curtiss (aka James Stulberger, aka Jimmy Evans 

  (RIP 2022) -- vocals

- Heather Hewitt -- vocals

- Tony Luizza -- bass

- Zok Russo (aka Joe Russo, aka Jesse Towers) -- vocals, guitar


  line up 1 (1968-69)

- Jimmy Curtiss (aka James Stulberger, aka Jimmy Evans 

  (RIP 2022) -- vocals

NEW - Gini Eastwood -- vocals

- Heather Hewitt -- vocals

- Tony Luizza -- bass

- Zok Russo (aka Joe Russo, aka Jesse Towers) -- vocals, guitar





- Sam Butera and the Witnesses (Tony Luizza)

- Century Expanded (Jimmy Curtiss)

- Jimmy Curtiss (solo efforts)

- Gini Eastwood (solo efforts)

- The Enjays (Jimmy Curtiss)

- The New Hobbits

- The Regents (Jimmy Curtiss)





Genre: pop-psych

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Down To Middle Earth

Company: Decca

Catalog: DL 74920

Country/State: New York, New York

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: --

Price: $75.00


Maybe not a great album, but as one of the first used LPs I ever bought, this one holds a special place in my collecting heart.


The Hobbits (and the New Hobbits) were the brainchild of the late Jimmy Curtiss (aka James Stulberger).  Born and raised in Queens, New York, Curtis started his musical career as a member of doo-wop group The Enjays.  By the early '60s he'd embarked on a solo career marketed as a teen idol. Initially signed by United Artists he recorded a series of standard sappy teen ballads with little success. In contrast to many of his contemporaries, Curtiss wrote some of his material and when Warner Brothers dropped him from his contract he shifted gears into writing and advertising. He worked with The Regents helping them record a couple of 1965 singles and resumed his own solo career where he demonstrated the sense to adapt to changing public tastes.  As an example, 1965's 'Not for You' found him moving into folk-rock, while 1967's 'Psychedelic Situation' saw him diving headlong into counterculture.


- 1960s 'Without You' b/w 'The Simple Things' (United Artists catalog number UA 215)

- 1961's 'Miss Untrue' b/w 'Love Sweet Love' (United Artists catalog number UA 312)

- 1962's 'Five Smooth Stones' b/w 'You Got What I Like' (Warner Brothers catalog number 5257)

- 1965's 'Not for You' b/w 'You're What's Happening Baby' (Laurie catalog number LR-3312)

- 1967's 'Psychedelic Situation' b/w 'Gone but Not Forgotten' (Laurie catalog number LR-3383)


None of Curtiss' singles generated much attention or sales action, though 1967's 'Psychedelic Situation' proved a hit in West Germany.  He's also enjoyed some success as a songwriter - notably a 1967 top-40 hit when Jimmie Rodgers' covered 'Child of Clay'. It was enough for Decca to offer Curtiss a recording contract.  And that's where The Hobbits kick in.


Working with songwriters Terry Philips and Jerry Vance, Curtiss next decided to put together a studio group.  In an interesting move he recruited model and former Playboy Bunny Heather Hewitt (she provided backing vocals and tambourine), former Sam Butera and the Witnesses bassist Tony Luizza and singer/guitarist Zok Russo for the project.  With mid-'60s audience having rediscovered J.R.R. Tolkien, the group name and the album title were clearly inspired (borrowed) from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.  In spite of the album title, 1967's Philips produced "Down To Middle Earth" really wasn't much of a concept album, rather came off as a likeable collection of folk-rock, sunshine-pop and pop-psych performances.  Truth be told, it wasn't much of a group effort either, serving pretty much as a Curtiss solo effort.  In addition to writing and co-writing much of the album, Curtiss arranged the material and served as lead singer (though Russo was featured on 'Daffodil Days (The Affection Song)').  Curtiss had a likeable voice that was well suited to the album's more commercial numbers.  In fact, on tracks like 'I'm Just A Young Man', 'Break Away' and 'Treats' he reminded me of Jeff Barry and bubblegum acts like The Archies, or harmony pop groups like The Mamas and the Papas and The Turtles.  While the conventional pop tunes were pretty good, the album was even better on the harder rocking and darker numbers like 'Treats' and 'Hands and Knees'   I'll readily admit to being a fan of the album's psychedelic touches including the treated vocals on the title track, occasional sitar fills ('I'm Just a Young Man') and the sly nods to counter-culture recreational activities ('Treats' and 'Clap Hands Til Daddy Comes Home'). Far from groundbreaking, but for an album released in 1967 it was enjoyable; far better than some of the reviews would have you expect.


"Down To Middle Earth" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Down to Middle Earth (Alan Bernstein - Jerry Vance - Terry Philips) - 2:52 rating: **** stars

The title track stands as a wonderful example of pop-psych. Opening up with a treated vocal that stretched out and repeated the phrase 'middle earth' the song then exploded into a breezy, radio friendly pop tune full of peace and love lyrics, before starting to freak-out at the end.  Imagine The Cowsills, or perhaps The Mamas and the Papas just a tad cooler than they were.

2.) I'm Just a Young Man (Jimmy Curtiss) - 2:53  rating: **** stars

'I'm Just a Young Man' was built on a nifty folk-rock melody with an urgent electric sitar riff.  The background orchestration and some interesting studio effects added to give it a lysergic tinge.  

3.) Daffodil Days (The Affection Song) (Alan Bernstein - Jerry Vance - Terry Philips) - 3:17 rating: *** stars

With Zok Russo stepping into the spotlight (yeah, I though it was Heather Hewitt), 'Daffodil Days (The Affection Song)' found the band moving into cutesy territory.  With Russo singing in a very uncomfortable higher register, I always thought this one sounded like a Kate Bush solo effort. It's that bizarre.  I remember reading a comment that this sounded a bit like an over-caffinated Tiny Tim and I can kind of hear it.  LOL   Recorded at New York's The Bitter End YouTube has a 1967 clip of the group (without Eastwood) performing the song: The Hobbits - Daffodil Days - Live 1967 - YouTube  By the way those were not daffodils and yeah, the audience seemed a little apprehensive when it came time to applaud.  Not sure why, but Decca released this one as a single:





- 1967's 'Daffodil Days (The Affection Song)' b/w 'Sunny Day Girl' (Decca catalog number 32226)





4.) Break Away (Jimmy Curtiss - L. Zerato) - 2:53  rating: **** stars 

One of the album's more commercial pop tunes, 'Break Away' would not have sounded out of place on an Archies bubblegum album.  

5.) Treats (Jerry Vance - Terry Philips) - 2:42  rating: **** stars 

The Archies comparison was even stronger on the upbeat 'Treats'.  With full band backing, slightly ragged backing vocals and a delicious refrain, its hard to imagine why Decca didn't released this one as a single. Perhaps it had something to do with the lyrics talking about treats that "groove your head" ?   Performed as a folk song, here's a Bitter End performance of the song: The Hobbits - Treats (Live) - YouTube


(side 2)
Hands And Knees (Jimmy Curtiss - T. Faranda) - 2:48 rating: **** stars

Mark Lindsey & the Raiders?  Dark, but still very poppy, but the Vox organ and guitar fills added a nice touch.

2. Let Me Run My Fingers Through Your Mind (Buy Me Flowers) (Alan Bernstein - Jerry Vance - Terry Philips) - 2:48 rating: ** stars

In spite of the hip title, 'Let Me Run My Fingers Through Your Mind (Buy Me Flowers)' was the album's most forgettable tune. Bland and forgettable harmony pop.  

3.) Out Of My Mind (Jimmy Curtiss) - 2:39 rating: *** stars

'Out Of My Mind' was a return to conventional top-40 pop.  Stripped of any psych touches, the only thing that distinguished this one was some Beach Boys-styled harmonies that were tacked on to the end of the song.  Otherwise this could have been The Association, Spanky and Our Gang, or any one of dozens of other mid-'60s groups.

4.) Clap Hands Til Daddy Comes Home (Jimmy Curtiss - Terry Philips) - 2:28  rating: *** stars

'Clap Hands Til Daddy Comes Home' was another sunshine-pop tune wrapped around a lyric that was not nearly as innocent as you might have initially thought.

5.) Sunny Day Girl (Jimmy Curtiss) - 2:32  rating: ** stars

Mamas and the Papas / Spanky and Our Gang styled harmony pop, albeit played straight without any of the sky nods to illicit activities.  Docked a star for the scatting segment and flute.



  • 81 years old, Curtiss died in February 2022.  There's a nice website devoted to his career at: This is Jimmy Curtiss





Eastwood's post-Hobbits career saw her tour as Mary Magdalene in a concert tour of the musical "Jesus Christ Superstar".  She tried acting, including appearing in Tom Martel's 1972 Broadway play/rock opera "Hard Job Being God" (it lasted ten days) and a starring role in Bernard Hirschenson's 1975 exploitation film "Pick Up".  She then returned to sessions and advertising work.







  • Hewitt continued her modeling career, got married and raised a family and dabbled in film appearing in a number of films including 1968's "Mission Mars", 1971's "Zombies" (aka "I Eat Your Skin"), 1993's "Dave" and 1996's "That Thing You Do".


  • No idea what happened to Luizza.


  • In the late-'70s Russo and his wife started Kick Records which seemingly managed to release one forgettable disco 45 before folding.  


  • 1979's 'Give Me Your Body While We're Dancin'' b/w 'Give Me Your Body While We're Dancin'' (radio version) (Kick Records catalog number KRD-79)


  • Having been signed to CBS, Russo sued the label for $100K, claiming their lack of support had effectively killed his career.  Good luck with that one.