Friday, July 31, 2020

MORE Emitt!

Emitt Rhodes fans are still coming forward with their memories … as well as making new discoveries of their own along the way.  (The “One Man Beatles” documentary in particular seems to have sparked quite a bit of interest.)  

Here are a few more comments that we have received since the weekend …  

Hi Kent,
It’s so nice to see so much coverage of Emitt Rhodes on FH. 
As has been said, it’s a shame more people didn’t know about him.  At least one of the Sirius XM Volume station talk shows spent time on him last week.  Of course, why does everyone pay attention once they’re dead?!  Same with Peter Green.  In fact, one of the hosts today said they’d never be talking about Green if he hadn’t died.  What a sad admission.  They will spend hours on Bieber or Minaj and other barely talented people that make “music” but amazingly talented artists get ignored until they’re gone.
I seem to be attracted to “lost causes” for some reason. I’m a huge Tim Hardin fan and a similarly sad demise accompanied him, although he died much younger and didn’t lose too many years to make music like Rhodes.  More sad stories about Paul Kossoff and Laura Nyro also come to mind.  Where’s the Hardin documentary?
I was so happy to watch the “One Man Beatles” doc.  I know it is sad but I had never seen the man, or knew what he was up to in recent years.  And how great that a couple of fans went to search him out.  (Reminds me “Searching For Sugarman”, another great story of someone who made some great music way back and then went forgotten.  However, the silver lining for him is that his music was revered years later in South Africa and he got to play there.  This is a highly recommended documentary).
It seems odd that Rhodes seems bemused by the people visiting him.  It’s like he had no idea that people love his music but he had to know, based on others that had tried to reach him.  He seems slightly sad and yet has a sense of humor about it all.  The question I never heard asked (or answered) is what was he doing for the last 40 years?  What caused him to disappear and yet he seemed to be writing music all along?  I know the record company screwed him over and he had to be crushed and bitter about that, for sure.  But still, what did he do over the last 40 years?  His 2016 album is good and it was a thrill to hear that he was back ... but weren’t we all hoping for more?!  The album cover is hard to look at, as it looks like he's crying.  Sheesh!  Whose idea was that?
Also, what happened to his family?  He mentions two wives rather derogatorily but what went on there and with his kids?  I know it’s none of our business, ultimately, but there are pictures in the documentary of him with wives and children and they are happy images.  What happened?  Are the wives around to talk to?   
The “One Man Beatles” documentary is enlightening in many ways but also raises all of these questions.   He clearly seems like a melancholy, fragile person but he didn’t seem that way fronting the Merry Go Round or on his solo albums.  Oh well, maybe more info will come out.  The question of “are there more songs in his house somewhere?” is compelling, to say the lease. 
The “One Man Beatles” thing is an unfortunate label, I think.  It diminishes his talents to a soundalike, which he was clearly not.  He had a McCartney-esque style on the first album and catchy melodies, but I think labelling him that way isn’t doing him justice.  Maybe that bothered him, too?
I first heard him on my AM radio in NH as I was tuning in WKBW from Buffalo, whose late night signal reached us.  They were playing this guy and I believe it was “Fresh As A Daisy” and I’m guessing I heard it from Chicago, too, as that signal got to us sometimes.  I bought the first album and loved it all, like everyone else. 
Has there ever been someone so talented who disappeared for 40 years and then came back with new music?  What a story.  It is so very sad that he has died.  It seems like some spark was needed for years that he just couldn’t find or didn’t come to him.  RIP Emitt!!
The impression I got from the documentary was that his first wife left him and took both his boys with her … and they had no further contact with him.  You’ve really got to wonder what fueled that break-up.  He had a daughter with his second wife, but it sounds like they’re estranged as well.  One can only hope ALL of his extended family came to say goodbye last week … I never heard anymore regarding any kind of funeral arrangements.  (Of course it wouldn’t surprise me at all to find out that one of Emitt’s last wishes was to be buried right there in the garage!!!  After all, that’s where he spent virtually ALL of his time the past forty years!)
If you check out the Flipside interview we ran on Sunday, I think he was always sorta quirky … but that’s a whole lot cuter when you’re 22 years old than when you’re 70 … and you’ve spent (wasted) most of your life in a deep depression.  Still, I know I’ll watch the documentary again, if only to see if I can extract anything new out of it that will make me feel better about Emitt’s career.
I totally agree that “One Man Beatles” is about the WORST title you could give this thing … it says absolutely NOTHING about the man and his own creativity and musical output.  (Yes, there were comparisons to McCartney after that first Dunhill album was released … but how could there not be?  BOTH artists played all the instruments on their albums that year … and there were vocal similarities, too.  But that really was the extent of it. The rest of Emitt’s work stands on its own.  Honestly, now that he’s gone, I wish they would re-edit the film to include more of the final details … and certainly more music … there’s barely any in the film … another 30 minutes could EASILY be added to showcase more of Emitt’s talent.  (And then change the name of the damn thing to something much more appropriate and acknowledging.)  kk

I ran this Emitt Rhodes story on the Illinois Rock & Roll Music Archives page: on July 21, as he is originally from Decatur.
Ken Voss
I don’t know why, but for some reason I believed Emitt Rhodes was living in Cleveland in the ‘80’s … so much so that at one point, a friend and I were going to drive down there to see if we could find him!  (We were both enormous fans of his music … and even by the early ‘80’s were already wondering where he … and his music had gone.)  Turns out he never left Hawthorne, California, the whole time.  (Or even the same house, for that matter!!!)
If Illinois can lay some small claim on Emitt, then I say so be it.  (His family moved to Hawthorne when he was just five!)
This is just another GREAT entry into Ken’s Illinois Rock And Roll Music Archives site.  He was kind enough to allow us to reprint it here …

Emitt Rhodes
Emitt Rhodes has been credited as one of the pioneers in evolving the garage rock culture of the ‘60s into the power pop genre that became vogue in the early ‘70s.  Sadly, he’s another musician that has passed, apparently having died in his sleep as he was found Sunday morning (7/19/20) at his home in Hawthorne, California.
Rhodes was originally from Decatur, Illinois, although there is little musical history that ties him to the state. By the time he was 14, he was living in Los Angeles where he put together a band called the Emeral (sometimes incorrectly noted as the Emeralds.)  With disputes among the teenagers, the band didn’t last long. Evolving from that came the Palace Guard. Costumed in military-themed red coats as if they were members of the Queen’s Guard, by mid-’65 they enjoyed an extended residency at the Hullabaloo Club on Sunset Strip. Building a reputation, they released a half dozen singles in 1965-66, scoring a regional hit with “Falling Sugar.” Here they are performing the song on the TV show “Where the Action Is”

Already tired of the themed wardrobe and wanting to progress into a more serious vein, Rhodes split from the Palace Guard, forming the Merry-Go-Round. With his high school friend Gary Kato, they started rehearsing in the Rhodes family garage. By mid-’66, the lineup was complete, including bassist Bill Rinehart from the Leaves and drummer Joel Larson who had worked with the Grass Roots and Gene Clark.
Signing with A&M, their debut single “Live” went on to hit the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #67. A follow up also cracked the Top 100. The success caused the label to rush out an album, although with hindsight, Rhodes said was an unfinished project.

Rhodes disbanded Merry-Go-Round in 1969 and began working on solo material. A&M gave Rhodes another shot. The label released an album featuring Rhodes’ early solo masters called The American Dream in 1970. Again, Rhodes felt the project unfinished. Certainly, A&M must have felt the same, dropping him after that release.

His first proper solo album, which he recorded and mixed entirely on his own, was 1970’s Emitt Rhodes. “When I recorded Emitt Rhodes, I was basically investing in myself,” Rhodes told Paul Myers in 2015 for Mojo magazine. “That was kinda how I saw it. I spent any money that I made from making the records with the record company to buy the equipment that I used to make my own records.” The album climbed to #29 on the Billboard Hot 100.
But he would live to regret the contract he signed with ABC/Dunhill.  While the label released 1971’s Mirror and 1973’s Farewell to Paradise, they then turned around and sued Rhodes for not fulfilling his contractual obligation to record two albums each year. “It was a Herculean task and it was impossible for me to do,” he said in the Mojo interview. As a result, he walked away from his career as a recording artist. “There were lawsuits and lawyers and I wasn’t having any fun anymore. That’s it. Simple as that. I worked really hard and there was no reward.”
Rhodes stopped performing. And while he was out of the public eye, he was still very much involved in the music industry as a recording engineer and producer for Elektra Records.
Still recording music, he continued to have bad luck with record labels. He was working on a solo album for Elektra when his A&R representative was fired and the project was shelved. In 2000, he completed an album for the Rocktopia label, but the label shut down before it was released. Much of the time in the 80’s and 90’s was spent working in his own studio, developing other acts and becoming known for his unique self-recording techniques that several groups have credited as influential in their music.
In 2009, Italian director Cosimo Messeri shot a documentary movie about Rhodes’ trials and tribulations titled The One Man Beatles. It was selected for inclusion in the International Rome Film Festival and nominated for the David de Donatello Award as Best Documentary of 2010.
Rhodes did finally resurface with the album Rainbow Ends in 2016, although generally remained elusive and reclusive.
His legacy is remembered by various compilation albums of early psychedelic garage rock, with his solo material going down in music annals as influential in the evolution of power pop.
For the “whole story” on Emitt Rhodes, check out

1965 Summertime Game b/w Little People (Orange-Empire OE 9165-7/8)
1965 All Night Long b/w Playgirl (Orange-Empire OE-331)
1965 A Girl You Can Depend On b/w If You Need Me (Orange-Empire OE-332)
1966 Saturday’s Child b/w Party Lights (Parkway P-111)
1966 Calliope b/w Greed (Parkway P-124)
1966 Falling Sugar b/w Oh Blue (The Way I Feel Tonight) (Orange-Empire OE-400/401)
1967 The Merry-Go-Round (A&M 4132)
1970 The American Dream (A&M 4254)
1970 Emitt Rhodes (ABC/Dunhill  50089)
1971 Mirror (ABC/Dunhill 50111)
1973 Farewell to Paradise (ABC/Dunhill 50122)
2016 Rainbow Ends  (Omnivore OV-183)


1970:  July 31st – NBC News Anchor Chet Huntley retires from full-time broadcasting.  (Good Night, Chet.)