The Rondels

Amy Records a remote studio was hired and they came in and recorded us for two nights. Meet Us At The Peppermint Lounge was specifically written for that project. I just happened to have the right voice for the song, but if you heard the other tracks that we recorded Nicky and Bobby are featured much more than me. Actually the top side of that single was the instrumental Cover Charge, and although it did receive a lot of airplay it never charted."

By now it was 1963 and there were to be no further releases on Amy. The Rondels continued to be very popular in the New England area, especially around Boston's South and North Shore where they played regularly. However, their recording career was not quite over as they cut a one-off single for the Pike label. Lennie explained: "This label was owned by Jim Pike, a local film producer whose main business was making commercials for television. This was actually a band-for-hire situation where Pike had produced a short film about the demolition derby and he needed music specifically for that film. He loved our band and after many meetings we put a deal together for two songs, an instrumental called Kathy and the film's vocal title track Demo Derby. At that time Nicky was back playing bass and so he also handled the lead vocal."


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Demo Derby is a neat little number with a rolling rhythm courtesy of Lenny Collins who uses brushes throughout while Ray adds plenty of colour with his excellent sax work. Kathy is a beautiful flute-led piece with a full vocal chorus in support and Ray doubling on sax, and the track certainly illustrates that The Rondels had ambitions beyond their conventional rock band status. The 30 minute film opened in Boston in June 1963 alongside Frank Sinatra's Robin And The Seven Hoods. It later co-featured across the States with The Beatles' A Hard Day's Night.

In 1964 The Rondels signed a deal with local Boston label Nota Records and released two further 45s under that name. "The five of us signed: Lenny Collins, Nicky Latteo, Jimmy Petze, Ray Pizzi and myself" recalled Lennie. "We recorded about twelve songs and the first one to be released was a cover version of the Richie Valens' hit C'mon Let's Go backed with Sweetheart. At that time The Beatles were saturating the radio and instrumentals were not happening so both sides were vocals. In those Nota sessions we did record a number of probably our best instrumentals, but we thought we had better try the vocal approach because of what was going on at that time."

The band's second single on Nota included the Beatles-style Cause / Love Her but did feature a final instrumental, Hey Bo Diddley, on the flip side. Their friends the vocal group The G-Clefs, well remembered for their hugely evocative hit I Understand, contributed to the chorus and background chants, but the main thrust of the track was carried by flute, sax and exciting Diddley-style guitar set against a thumping beat.

Nota did not really have the clout to push the records and so unfortunately neither were widely heard. Towards the end of 1964 Ray decided to leave The Rondels to attend a formal full-time musical education at the Boston Conservatory to pursue his dream of eventually establishing himself as a top class studio musician.

"The remaining four of us carried on until 1968" said Lennie, "but by then things were not going so well for the band. We all had children, money was tight, and we were getting tired of playing the likes of Mustang Sally and Woolly Bully in all the clubs of New England. At one point we did record a 45 under the name of The Northern Lites (no connection with the other Massachusetts band of that name) and it was released on Philips Records. Both sides were vocals with me and Nicky singing and the songs were It's A Very Funny Feeling and Enjoy, but sadly neither took off.

"I became friendly with the A&R man that signed us and he told me if I should ever want a job to call him. As luck would have it the local promotion rep for Philips in Boston, Walter Lee a friend of mine from high school was leaving for a new position and he called me

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Article written by Dave Burke of Pipeline Magazine www.pipelinemag.co.uk