Born in Natick, Massachusetts, singer, songwriter and guitarist Jonathan Richman began playing music and writing his own songs in the mid 60s. While in Boston, Richman formed the Modern Lovers, a proto-punk garage rock band. Other notable members of the group were keyboard player Jerry Harrison and drummer David Robinson, who later joined Talking Heads and the Cars, respectively. In 1975, Richman moved to California to record as a solo singer/songwriter. In January 1976, Richman put together a new version of the Modern Lovers, which included original Modern Lovers drummer, David Robinson, along with former Rubinoos bassist Greg 'Curly' Keranen and Leroy Radcliffe on guitar. The albums produced by the new group found Richman turning away from electric rock music towards gentler acoustic textures, with a strong rooting in 50s rock and roll.
The album Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers was released in May 1976, three months before the earlier The Modern Lovers sessions were finally released known as their eponymous self-titled debut studio album.