Back in the late fifties and early sixties, there were at least three groups called the Rondels. There was a vocal group that recorded for Carlton, another vocal group on Clifton Records and an instrumental group from Boston, Massachusetts. The latter will be the subject of this piece. Also, the group should not be confused with the Ron-Dels (sometimes spelled Rondells), Delbert McClinton's first group, who had a # 97 hit in 1965 with "If You Really Want Me To, I'll Go". On top of that, there was also an Australian group called the Rhondells. Confusing, to say the least.
Our Rondels were a quartet : James Petze, guitar ; his cousin Leonard Petze, bass ; Raymond Pizzi, sax; and Lenny Collins, drums. All were still in their teens when the group was formed, circa 1959. Their first two records were released by the tiny Nota label (1959-1960) and are now very rare. At least one of these was a vocal single, "'Cause I Love Her"/"Hey Bo Diddley" (Nota 4002).
In 1961, they were signed to Al Massler's Amy label in New York City, the same label that also had another successful instrumental R&R group under contract, the Ramrods, of "Ghost Riders in the Sky" fame. The Rondels' first Amy single was "Back Beat No. 1" (Amy 825), collectively composed by the four group members. It featured an extended drum solo, and, unlike most other rock instrumentals, which usually had a fade-out ending, it came to a real climax at the end. The flip was a rather ordinary version of "Greensleeves", here called "Shades of Green". "Back Beat No.1" was the only hit by the Rondels, peaking at # 66 in August 1961, and also their only single to be issued in Europe*. The group followed this up with "My Prayer"/"Satan's Theme" (Amy 830), which I haven't heard, but then came their third single, which has been in my collection for the past 37 years (and it cost me only 50 Dutch cents): "Caldonia" (the old Louis Jordan number)/ "110 Pounds of Drums" (Amy 839). The B-side, again written by all four members, has a lot in common with "Back Beat No. 1", with another long drum solo, but it is "Caldonia" that really does it for me. Exciting sax and drum work over an incredibly tight rhythm. Fantastic. Two further singles were released in 1962: "Flute Salad"/"Red Peppers" (Amy 844) and "Cover Charge"/"Meet Me At The Peppermint Lounge" (Amy 857), but I'm not familiar with those four tracks either.
Leonard Petze went on to become vice-president of A & R for Epic Records. Lenny Collins also held a high A&R position at Columbia, for the New England area. Both were still active in music as late as 2003, see http://www.dirtywater.com/discus/messages/7/39.html?1051197448 James Petze (born December 30, 1944) died of cancer on September 12, 1993.
As far as I know, only "Back Beat No. 1" has been legally reissued, on various compilations, including "Teen Beat Vol. 3" (Ace 602).
* An advertisement in DISC reveals that the following six singles were released on the UK London label on Friday September 1, 1961: "Hats Off To Larry" by Del Shannon (9402), "Hurt" by Timi Yuro (9403), "Back Beat No. 1" by the Rondels (9404), "Crying" by Roy Orbison (9405), "Drivin' Home" by Duane Eddy (9406) and "Theme From Come September" by Bobby Darin and his Orchestra (9407). Those were the days.
Official website : http://therondels.net
(With thanks to Tapio.)
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