Growing up as a teenager on the Sunset Strip back in the middle/late 60s had a lot of perks in that being a Go Go dancer at the Teen Fairs in Hollywood for their “Battle Of The Bands,” the LA Music Scene had many opportunities to meet up with and hang out with a lot of musicians.
Of all of those musicians that have crossed our path, one stood out from the rest…Emitt Rhodes. My first Sunset Strip crush.
He played the drums with “The Palace Guard” at The Hullabaloo which was across from the Hollywood Palladium where the Teen Fairs took place. We used to say “hey drummer boy” as he passed by and would always beg Rhodes for a drumstick if we were lucky enough to get onto the dance floor. We say lucky because you had to be 18 years old to dance back then at that end of The Strip and there was no way 18 years old played into our scenario. More like 14 years old.
Back then “The Yellow Payges” would also play at The Hullabaloo and Daniel Horter, frontman to the “Yellow Pages,” was a good friend at the time. In those early friendships that you form in your youth can become a double edged sword because of the crazy crap we would all pull off, but are also the most welcome because in a sense we all came up together. Those that came up with Rhodes have so many wonderful things to say about him.
Even now it is hard to say Rhodes passed away in his sleep July 19, 2020 in Illinois at the age of 71. He had been suffering from ill health for quite sometime. Diabetes will do that to you. Our brother had the same problem and had a heart attack which he succumbed to.
Of Rhodes’ passing Horter said “An old friend from the 60s departed for that “Rock N’ Roll Train” in the sky. RIP Emitt. You were the most prolific talent I have ever known. My favorite of all your work is “Live.”
Another friend of Rhodes is photographer Harold Sherrick whose photo of Rhodes in this column is Sherrick’s from his 2019 book “Stolen Moments.” Rhodes is standing in front of a guitar and is resting on it while inside of a broken down old building. Sherrick was hoping to capture the feel from his first solo album cover from 1970. The photo was taken December 2011 in Moorpark, CA while working on some music with a small circle of musician friends.
Sherrick was really taken by Rhodes and when Rhodes played “Dog On A Chain” for Sherrick it knocked him out and thought it was a very well assembled tune. “Dog On A Chain” is a Countryish- Rock tune that was released in 2016.
Reflecting on Rhodes’ career Sherrick shared “I remember first hearing The “Merry-Go-Round” (Rhodes’ group after leaving the “Palace Guard”) and then buying his first solo album in 1970. His endless talent and songwriting which I thought would go on for years but with the ups and downs of the music business he became very bitter. When I met up with him in 2009 it was nice to say hello and chat after so many years.”
Sherrick felt that Rhodes had his demons, but underneath all of that, he still had crafted so many beautiful songs. In addition Sherrick adds that when he did the photo session with Rhodes in 2011 Rhodes had arrived “he was very pleasant” and the two of them began working on a photo Session. Rhodes picked up a guitar and started playing “Dog On A Chain” “Which just floored me,” Sherrick remembered.
Sherrick reflected on Rhodes further by adding, “The talent was always there, but there was just no direction for his music. Very sad because he was a gifted singer and songwriter, but was a very tortured soul.” More on the tortured soul aspect of Rhodes later in this column.
Sherrick does have a new book that he is working on titled “A Pig’s Tale” due out next spring. The book is said to be about the first bootleg label in LA and is set to be published by Galleon Books. Another hard core fan is the proprietor of “Record Safari” who had posted “I have allll of his (Rhodes) records and cannot imagine myself without any of them.”
Another fan named Craig Hammons posted “I played this album (self titled solo) till the grooves wore out.” Fan Michael Sandbach posted a photo of Rhodes playing a gig five years ago (and in this column) and lamented that “It’s very sad. Extremely underrated musician, singer and songwriter. Saw him a few years ago in El Segundo, CA.”
Well-known musician John Beland put it most eloquently, “I’m shocked and saddened at the news of Emitt Rhodes’ passing. I was such a big fan of his. A totally unappreciated artist whose eccentricities and reclusiveness prevented his commercial recognition. Damn…so sad.” When Beland was playing with Linda Ronstandt they recorded the “fussily” arranged piece of Rhodes’ baroque-pop version of “You’re A Very Lovely Woman” in 1971, which Beland highly praised and was happy to record. Ronstandt’s version sounds a bit folkish.
Many consider Rhodes an “overlooked consummate musician, cult hero, far from obscure, but underappreciated.”
Prior to the “Palace Guard” Rhodes had been in a high school band called The Emeralds, which later morphed into the Palace Guard. Still In his teens he drummed with them until realized that he could come up front of the stage and be the lead singer and then there was the “Merry-Go Round” where he came out swinging with “Live.”
Rhodes’ insisted on doing everything himself when recording material which would take him up to nine months to do which is what caused the friction with his then record company. Rhodes just wasn’t able to put out the amount of product the label’s contract called for.
In addition to Ronstadt recording a song by Rhodes, Fairport Convention’s first single “Time Will Show The Wiser” and “The Bangles” recorded “Live” on their “All Over The Place” album from the 1980s.
In 2009 Rhodes filmed a documentary titled “One- Man Beatles” with Director Cosimo Messeri and is described as “A portrait of unfulfilled ambitions and loneliness that smacks of Chekov.” It was unveiled at the International Rome Film Festival to a standing ovation. Rhodes’ first band The Emeralds played a lot of Beatles tunes.
In January 2010 Rhodes did an interview with WFMUs Michael Shelly where he lets it all hang out. Shelly asked great questions of Rhodes and he reciprocated with some amazing answers. In the interview Rhodes tells his fans that about drug use at recording sessions, how he inherited his talent from his mother, he’s been married twice and that his three children hate him.
He also added that divorce sucks and that he was living on borrowed time due to his diabetes which affects many aspects of a person’s life. Rhodes allowed that he “doesn’t do well on the road and is disappointed in the world and in me.”
Rhodes confessed that he liked to take apart radios and other electrical things as a kid. He likes order, music and living things. In addition, Rhodes spoke about all the lawsuits that came raining down upon him in 1973 due to his penchant for doing it all for himself. Rhodes called himself naive when he was young and said that he had trusted people at his record label to stand behind him which they did not.
When discussing his time with the Palace Guard he brought up the band’s signing to Orange Empire Records and how the record company took advantage of the youngest member of the Palace Guard in a very unsavory way.
From the way that Rhodes spoke about it, it sounded like this unsavory treatment of the youngest member of the band haunted him to the present because as he explained he was just a kid himself and did not know what to do about it. Could this be what added to the tortured soul that Sherrick had alluded to?
Hearing this from Rhodes took us back to the Sunset Stip and our early days at “The Hullabaloo” and explained an incident that we had experienced with the “youngest” member of the Palace Guard which at the time seemed rather peculiar.
Keep in mind that we were all very young at the time and naive as Rhodes had put. We all counted on the adults around us to have our back and keep us safe from the sharks that sought to rip off our innocence to enrich their perverse appetites.
The Palace Guard singer and tambourine player Dave Beaudoin published a book in 1997 titled “The Hullabaloo: A Little Bit Of Heaven …A Whole Lot Of Hell.” Priced at $495.00 plus $3.99 for shipping on Amazon puts it out of our price range. But, we do wonder if the contents further divulge what Rhodes had alluded to in this interview back in 2010.
Rest In Power Emitt Rhodes. You will be missed.
On July 28, 2020 well known “groupie” from Pamela De Barres’ book “I’m With The Band” Mercy “GTO” Peters slipped away to the mythical land of “nod” at the age of 71. Mercy was quite a fixture on the music scene in LA for decades and upon her passing Miss Pamela said that Mercy was “A carnival in progress and she never let me down.”
The pair were soul sisters for sure and shared a lot. Mercy had entered our orbit when LOVE co-founder and frontman Johnny Echols was asked to play out with Mercy’s son Lucky Otis at the valley nightclub Paladino’s/Theory which hosted many Monday night gigs by them as well as friends who came to jam with the two legendary musicians.
Anyway, Mercy was introduced to us and by all appearances wasn’t all that impressed. That didn’t didn’t seem to change over time, but that’s ok because Mercy was a class act unto herself with a flair for dressing to the occasion and as Miss Pamela put it “She never let me down.”
Rest in power Miss Mercy and I’m sure you’ll be in good company with people that could use your flair for fashion. And of course our old friend Frank Zappa could use your presence in his avant garde renderings.