All members of the group shared vocals.
The group traces its roots to a 1964 meeting of Kirkman (who can play 23 different instruments) and Alexander (a sailor who plays rhythm, bass, and lead guitars) in Honolulu. Kirkman had played with Frank Zappa for five years in California coffee houses, but was selling office supplies (business forms) when he and Alexander agreed to meet again after he was discharged from the US Navy.
In early 1965, Kirkman and Alexander formed a 13-man ensemble ("The Men") in LA and made their debut at the Troubadour; but during a rehearsal, disaster struck -- half the group left after a particularly heated argument, and the six remaining members of The Men met at Kirkman's house to ponder their future. The remaining members of The Men -- Kirkman, Alexander, Bluechtel, Cole, Russ Giguere, and Jim Page (no, not THAT Jimmy Page!) -- decided to change the group's name. When Kirkman's wife checked the meaning of their first choice, "The Aristocrats", she found another word that she thought would be more appropriate for the act -- "association."
Jim Page left The Association shortly after the name change; he was replaced on guitars by Jim Yester.
The Association developed a large following in southern California by performing in LA-area night clubs and folk clubs, but their first single, "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" (Jubilee Records) sank without a trace. The group was subsequently turned down by every major label.
Valiant Records, formed by Barry DeVorzon, Billy Sherman, and Budd Dolinger in 1960, took the chance and signed the group. The first Association single was a cover of a Bob Dylan song, "One Too Many Mornings." It sold well in the Los Angeles area, but nowhere else, as it failed to chart.
After they had some hits with Valiant Records, the financially shaky label was purchased by Warner Brothers for the primary purpose of adding The Association to their roster of artists. Around this time, Alexander left the group to meditate in India (he was replaced by Larry Ramos, formerly of the New Christy Minstrels), and the group changed producers as Bones Howe sat in the producer's chair for their third LP. Alexander returned to the fold in 1969, in time to record "Goodbye Columbus."
Cole died of a heroin overdose in 1972 and the group went into hiatus, returning in 1975 to make a last-gasp single, "One Sunday Morning," before fading away.
The group reunited for an HBO special in 1980. They released singles for Elektra, and have been touring off-and-on since (the current lineup features founding member Russ Giguere, longtime member Larry Ramos and his brother Del, and Brian Cole's son Jordan). (thanks, Brad Wind - Miami, FL, for all above)