297771

$20.00

Rhinoceros - Satin Chickens

Format: LP
Label: Elektra EKS 74056
Year: 1969
Origin: Toronto, Ontario (Peter Hodgson - bass, John Finley - lead singer); Stevensville, Ontario (Michael Fonfara - keyboards)
Genre: rock, blues
Keyword: 
Value of Original Title: $20.00
Make Inquiry/purchase: email ryder@robertwilliston.com
Release Type: Albums
Websites:  No
Playlist: 1960's, Ontario, Canadian Rock

Tracks

Side 1

Track Name
Satin Doll
Monkee Man
Find My Hand
Top of the Ladder
Sugar Foot Rag
Don't Come Crying

Side 2

Track Name
Chicken
It's the Same Thing
In a Little Room
Funk Butt
Back Door

Photos

297771

Satin Chickens

Videos

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Information/Write-up

Once again Gerber was frustrated by the fact that some of his best material was failing to be chosen, and indeed, the resulting album, 'Satin Chickens', reflects a more democratic approach to the song writing.

Fonfara now admits that there were difficulties producing the sound the band wanted and as a result the album lacks the cohesion and focus of the first. The absence of Paul Rothchild arguably may have played a part in the proceedings.

In fact, as Finley points out, the resulting album is far removed from the original concept as devised by Rothchild. "It was going to be an album of singles," says Finley. While the actual track listing was never finalised, Finley says that it would most likely have included original material like Gerber's 'It's The Same Thing', but in a radically different form. "'It's The Same Thing…would have been recorded at a faster tempo, so it would have been more like soul music," says Finley. "Paul was going for singles. He was also going to get outside originals, real R&B, soul songs and then, two or three covers in addition to the internally generated material. Do original arrangements on covers. But the band fired him before he could tell us."

In the immediate future, the disappointment over 'Satin Chickens' didn't pose a serious problem. As the sessions were drawing to a close, the band enjoyed what would be its biggest hit when Weis and Fonfara's instrumental 'Apricot Brandy' peaked at #46 on the national Billboard charts. The song was subsequently adopted as a signature tune by British radio programmes 'What's New' and 'Scene and Heard', but somehow failed to chart in the UK, despite some air play. As the single began its descent, the band's management was taken over by Billy Fields and Sid Bernstein, who proceeded to secure more high profile live appearances in an attempt to plug the single.

In May, Rhinoceros embarked on a flurry of activity, the highlight of which was the group's performance at a WNEW-FM radio concert in Central Park on June 13 with BB King and others, where they attracted some 40, 000 people.

But in the long run, the group's live success did little to dispel the growing differences within the band. The failure to produce a strong second album and dwindling finances "fed antagonism" and according to Hastings, the result was best "documented in a Harper's article" which was published in July. (It's interesting to note that by the spring of that year, the band's debut album had only sold around 100,000 copies, not even half of the sales needed to write of the group's debt to Elektra.)

As Hodgson recalls, a management meeting was held in late June and to everyone's surprise, Hastings announced that he was leaving. He subsequently drove back to LA and hooked up with ex-Gentle Giant singer Pam Polland. According to Hastings the "first gig was in early fall at the Troubadour, but it was unimpressive, and after a couple of months we drifted apart".

Hastings' departure precipitated a general split in the group. Shortly after a memorable date at Flushing Meadows in New York in early August, both Alan Gerber and Billy Mundi also left to pursue new projects.

The departure of three of the group's original members appears to have been due to a combination of factors. To start with, the Canadian members of the band had voiced their interest in bringing The Checkmates' former guitarist Larry Leishman (b. Apr. 4, 1947, Dunfermline, Scotland) and ex-manager, Eddie 'Duke' Edwards (b. New Orleans, Louisiana, US) into the fold.

At the same time, the group's internal dynamics had been weakened both by "differences in opinion among band members" and the various run-ins between Finley and Weis. Perhaps most importantly, the fact that Paul Rothchild (the one person who'd been responsible for bringing the musicians together) was now out of the picture, meant that the there was no one to keep the group together. For these reasons bringing in the familiar faces of Edwards and Leishman made perfect sense.

Amid all this activity, Elektra released the group's long awaited second album, 'Satin Chickens', which contained some of the group's best work but was, overall, something of a disappointment.

Billboard magazine nevertheless remained loyal to the group's cause and was quick to support it: "Few rock groups are as equally adept at instrumental and vocal performances as Rhinoceros, and their skills continue in their latest album… John Finley's soulful vocals on 'Top of the Ladder' makes it the best cut."

The album's other highlights are Finley's brooding 'Don't Come Crying', which builds in intensity with each verse, and Gerber's swansong, the melancholic 'Find My Hand'. Weis also chips in with the sprightly 'Monkee Man', co-written with Finley, while Hastings' comical '(Get Out The) Back Door' was deemed commercial enough to be released as a single. However, it failed to capture the public's imagination and died a quick death. Ironically, 'Satin Chickens' proved to be the group's highest placed album, peaking at #105.

As 1970 dawned and with Rhinoceros starting afresh, the ex-members of the group began to surface in new projects. Following his brief stint with Pam Polland, Doug Hastings became a member of Dr John's support band and participated in a short autumn tour (alongside his ex-Daily Flash cohort, the late Don MacAllister). Besides the tour (which included an appearance at the Fillmore East in October 1969), Hastings contributed guitar to a few tracks on Dr John's album 'Remedies'. However, after returning to LA in November, he received a phone call from Frazier Mohawk, who brought him into the studios to work with his wife Essra. Interestingly, the sessions for Essra Mohawk's solo album 'Primordial Lovers', also reunited Hastings with Jerry Penrod.

Essra Mohawk, incidentally, had been one of the musicians that Paul Rothchild and Frazier Mohawk had singled out in advance when they first toyed with the 'Supergroup' concept. However, as Essra recalls, other commitments prevented her from ultimately joining the group. "I remember that they called me an asked me to be in the band when they were first putting it together. They'd already heard me so I was never asked to audition, just to join. I really wanted to join, especially since Billy Mundi had played in The Mothers with me and I loved the way he played back then. He quit The Mothers right after I did, but I was still signed to Frank [Zappa] and Herbie [Cohen] and they wouldn't let me join Rhinoceros. I've always regretted that."

The reunion between Hastings and Penrod was short-lived, however. Following sessions for ex-Cowsills singer/guitarist Bill Cowsill and David Ackles, Hastings subsequently hooked up with singer/songwriter Danny O'Keefe, an old acquaintance from Seattle. His understated guitar work can be heard on O'Keefe's excellent eponymous album, recorded during the early months of 1970, but not issued until the following year. By then Hastings had all but jacked in a career in rock music (he did briefly work with Seattle band Firefox during 1971-1972 playing cover material in local clubs). In the early '70's however, he returned to college and started a course, which has led to a career in petroleum geology.

Alan Gerber, who nearly remained with the group as a songwriter, subsequently won a solo deal with Leon Russell's Shelter label and travelled to Memphis, Tennessee to record 'Album' with producer Denny Cordell. The record (featuring stellar support from Fonfara and Weis) was released in 1971, but was not a great success (a fact which hasn't deterred the Japanese from issuing it on CD). After supporting Leon Russell on tour, Gerber moved to Montréal in the mid-'70's, and released a lone single, 'Tied On', backed by a cover of Edith Piaf's 'Milord' for the local Good Noise label. Shortly afterwards, Gerber briefly became involved with Bob Dylan's 'Rolling Thunder Revue' and two of his songs were subsequently used in his film 'Renaldo and Clara'.

Mundi meanwhile, found himself in demand as a session player and between late 1969-mid 1970, he contributed to a host of projects, including John & Beverly Martyn's 'Stormbringer', Bob Dylan's 'New Morning' and a one-off reunion with The Mothers of Invention at UCLA. In the early '70s, he kept himself busy playing sessions for the likes of Todd Rundgren, The Band and his old friend, Skip Battin from The Byrds. He also joined Brewer & Shipley's road band for a while and recorded with little known groups Razzmatazz and Borderline among others.

As mentioned earlier, the demise of the original band was due in part to the decision to replace some of the members with old friends Larry Leishman and Duke Edwards. Since December 1968, Rhinoceros had been living in Graymanse, a former summer estate of a marine welding executive in Lake Mahopac, New York, and Edwards and Leishman both remember a degree of friction when they moved in (Alan Gerber was still residing in the house and Billy Mundi was a close neighbour. The decision to bring in their old friends however, was understandable given that the group had lost a lot of its early momentum.

Edwards, whose role would be as drummer and to help with the songwriting now that Alan Gerber had moved on, appears to have played a major role in revitalising the band. Leishman's playing meanwhile was familiar to the other former Checkmates and brought much needed stability. Both had been active since The Checkmates had gone their separate ways.

After David Clayton-Thomas & The Phoenix broke up, Leishman had returned to Toronto, where he briefly gigged with several local groups, including Bobby Kris & The Imperials and Freedom Fair (subsequently known as The Power Project). The latter incidentally also included ex-Mandala and future Crowbar keyboard player Josef Chirowski, and one of the band's most memorable dates was opening for James Brown in Toronto in mid-1968. Towards the end of the year however, Leishman hooked up with Duke Edwards in his new band The Cycle.

Edwards is a real character with a history to match. Following a stint in the US army, Edwards spent three years studying at the Boston Conservatory of Music. When he graduated in 1961, he joined the Chitlin circuit, which took him to Montréal, and while there met jazz musician Sun Ra, with whom he played for two years.

A short while later, Edwards met booking agent, the late Ron Scribner and together they formed the music agency, 'Music Canada', with Scribner responsible for the bookings and Edwards running the road shows. Scribner introduced Edwards to Jon and Lee and The Checkmates, and together they spent the next four years honing the group's act and organising TV work and concert dates in Ontario and the northeastern states of the US. Edwards also produced some recordings in a studio on Queen Street in Toronto, which led to some TV appearances in Buffalo and New York. Later, he was credited for the b-side of The Checkmates' lone single, the instrumental, 'Pork Chops' which, incidentally, was provisionally titled 'Fuck Up'.

In mid-1967, Edwards left The Checkmates and returned to Montréal to work as the musical director for the World Fair. (Scribner, who reportedly had encouraged Paul Rothchild to come to Toronto to check out The Checkmates back in November 1965, continued to promote local talent, but through his efforts should be given some credit for the birth of Rhinoceros.)

When the World Fair finished, Edwards formed The Young Ones, an all black avant garde jazz band who wore flamboyant Egyptian robes on stage and espoused radical political ideas. Apparently their 'Touch of Black' revue, performed at Montréal's Le Club for 14 weeks, caused quite a stir and led to an album deal with Prestige Records.

As Edwards recalls, the label recorded around three albums' worth of material but in the event only a lone album, entitled, 'Introducing Duke Edwards & The Young Ones - Is It Too Late?' appeared. The fact that Edwards had only signed a one-year contract with Prestige, which incidentally didn't include the band, meant that The Young Ones project was never likely to last for long. Furthermore, when the album was released, the band found that its music had attracted the interest of radical elements in Detroit's black community, and Edwards decided to kill the project and move on.

After separating from The Young Ones in late 1968, Edwards formed the less controversial Duke Edwards Cycle, a trio, which besides Edwards and Leishman, also featured future John Hammond bass player Herman Pittman. The group quickly attracted the attention of Polydor Records, who offered the band a contract worth $10,000. However, at this point Rhinoceros' manager Sid Bernstein arrived on the scene with an invitation to join the band. Though the offer to join Rhinoceros was subsequently taken up, Edwards still feels a degree of guilt that Herman Pittman was left out of the arrangement, particularly as he'd given up everything (including his marriage) to join The Cycle.

With Edwards and Leishman added to the line-up, the group missed out on arguably the greatest opportunity of its career, the chance to appear at the decade's seminal rock music event - the Woodstock festival.

Apparently, Rhinoceros were friends with the organisers and had been offered a provisional slot at the festival in advance. As fate would have it though, Sid Bernstein took the fateful decision to go on holiday at this crucial moment, leaving his junior partner, Billy Fields, with the strictest orders not to accept a booking at the festival below a given fee (an unfortunate decision given that the festival organisers were not paying very much).

In the ensuing drama, Fields declined the festival's offer and booked the band at an upstate New York high school prom instead. To add insult to injury, he booked Rhinoceros' support band Sha Na Na in their place and as Fonfara points out, the following week Rhinoceros were Sha Na Na's support group! The band was naturally devastated but spent the best part of late 1969 honing its act and incorporating Edwards and Leishman's material from The Cycle.

Unfortunately, the new recruits arrival was not particularly well-timed as sessions for a third album had already been hastily arranged at A&R Recording studios in New York in the early months of 1970 and, as Fonfara admits, the group's new songs were not ready in time.

To compound matters, the group's new producer, Guy Draper, seemed more interested in using the group as a vehicle for his own song writing and the overall performance suffered as a result. Another criticism is Edwards' dominance in the song writing stakes and lead vocals, which led to the diminished role of Finley and his trademark voice.

While 'Better Times Are Coming', like its predecessor, failed to build on the success of the band's debut, it still has much to commend it. The album's title track, written by Edwards with Fonfara and Finley, is undoubtedly the album's highlight, and is Finley's single contribution, apart from a rather poor, if prophetic, collaboration with Weis entitled 'Somewhere', a left over from the debut album.

Of the others, the Edwards-Leishman collaboration 'Old Age', featuring a blistering instrumental passage, reflects the group's strength as a live act, while the elongated 'Rainchild', with its political overtures, is reminiscent of Edwards' work with The Young Ones. Equally fascinating is the Edwards-Leishman collaboration, 'Lady of Fortune' with its captivating funky rhythm patterns.

Draper's contributions meanwhile range from the instrumental 'Insanity', which roughly treads the same ground as 'Apricot Brandy' to the poppy 'It's A Groovy World' and the catchy sing along 'Let's Party', which was released as a single but failed to chart. The public was not impressed and the album stalled at a desultory #178 when it was released in July.

However, things weren't all that bad. If the group struggled to deliver the goods in the studio, they could still pull the crowds live, and during this period even made a cameo appearance in the rock film 'The Day The Music Died'.

In April 1970, Rhinoceros joined Ten Wheel Drive for a well-received date at New York's Carnegie Hall and on June 12-13, performed one of their last major concerts, with a return to the Fillmore East alongside Procol Harum and Seals & Croft. The group was given positive reviews in the press but the rot had clearly set in and shortly after the single 'Better Times' peaked at #109 in late August, Edwards dropped out of the band.

As Edwards recalls: "I was getting kinda fed up with the whole trip, rock 'n' roll and the concerts and the shows. It was beginning to repeat itself." Coming from a jazz background, Edwards claims that he needed more substance in his life, and it was during the group's visit to Hollywood and New Mexico to shoot for the soundtrack of Warner Brothers' movie 'Medicine Ball Caravan', that he first entertained thoughts of leaving the band. During the shoot, Edwards ran into Wavy Gravy and the Woodstock road crew who were living in a mobile commune. Attracted by their political ideas, he immediately approached Bernstein about leaving Rhinoceros. The others meanwhile were left to return to upper state New York to recruit a suitable replacement.

Initially the band attempted to re-recruit Billy Mundi, who was doing session work at Bearsville studios. As Mundi recalls: [They] "came to visit Bearsville and talk to me about rejoining the band for some dates in Canada. I said maybe, if it made sense. We talked about it but it didn't work."

Next the band turned to Richard Crooks, who'd played alongside Doug Hastings on Dr John's autumn 1969 tour (and had also recently played on Danny O'Keefe's debut album!). Crooks played with Rhinoceros for the rest of the year but later moved on to play a host of sessions and a stint as Loudon Wainwright III's drummer. Around the same time, the group lost one of its key members when Danny Weis abruptly left Rhinoceros. Weis subsequently did sessions for an album by Ohio Knox, before replacing Buzzy Feiten in The Rascals.

Returning to Toronto, Crooks was replaced briefly by transplanted Englishman, Malcolm Tomlinson (b. June 16, 1946, Isleworth, Middlesex), who'd previously played with Jeff Curtis & The Flames, the house-band at the Ealing Jazz Club. Later, he worked with future Jethro Tull guitarist Martin Barre in the bands Motivation, The Penny Peeps and Gethsemane, and played on a one-off radio session for Elton John in October 1968.

Moving to Canada in early 1969, Tomlinson worked initially with the highly rated Toronto band Milkwood (with his old friend from The Flames, Louis McKelvey), before rehearsing with Rhinoceros in early 1971. Tomlinson however, broke his arm soon afterwards and was replaced by drummer Eric 'Mouse' Johnson (b. Virginia, US), a former member of local Toronto band, Dianne Brooks, Eric Mercury and The Soul Searchers. Johnson, who'd also been an original member of Dr Music, took over the drum stool for the band's final months.

The final version of the group based itself in Toronto and played exclusively in Ontario (Fonfara knew he could book consistent work for the band there) but it did not last long; in October 1971 the group members decided to call it a day and went their separate ways.

Most of the band dropped out of sight, at least temporarily, although Leishman did take part in Mainline's tour of Australia with Frijid Pink and Hodgson found work with Polish-born singer Genya Ravan (formerly lead singer in Ten Wheel Drive) in her backing group, Baby. After an eponymous album for CBS, released in the summer of 1972, Hodgson returned to Toronto to rejoin his former cohorts in a new band called Blackstone Rangers.

Blackstone Rangers (featuring Finley, Fonfara, Hodgson and Leishman from the final Rhinoceros line-up) came together in July 1972, with the help of Frazier Mohawk (now based in Canada) and his business partner, Gary Howsam. The group was completed with a new drummer, the late Richard Steinberg and the late singer and harp player Frank 'Zeke' Sheppard, who'd played with Leishman in Mainline (and reportedly opened for Otis Redding in Toronto back in October 1967 with his band The Good Sheppards). More importantly the new band saw the welcomed return of Danny Weis.

During this period, the group was forced to drop the Rangers tag after a Southside Chicago motorcycle gang and escort to the Black Panther's demanded that they shorten the name. Apparently the group had unwittingly adopted the bikers' name.

With a suitable collection of songs to record, Finley invited his old friend Paul Rothchild up to Toronto to produce the band, a wise move bearing in mind that the original Rhinoceros members had enjoyed their greatest success with Rothchild at the helm. A deal with GRT was arranged and an album entitled 'On The Line' was duly cut on two-track at Toronto's RCA Recording Studios in a bid to recoup some of the group's and Rothchild's financial losses with this latest project.

'On The Line' is no lost classic, but certainly contains some excellent songs, notably a cover of Dr John's 'Qualified', and the Weis-Steinberg collaboration 'Mountain'.

Canada's RPM magazine wrote an encouraging review of the album when it appeared that December. "Put 'On The Line' on the turn table and travel back in time. That staple of the old high school bands, the organ, makes a strong contribution to this set, fronted by forceful and varied vocal work. The group possesses obvious musical ability and could well break through."

Unfortunately, not all of the critical response was as complimentary. Larry LeBlanc writing in the Canadian magazine, Today's Generation in February 1973 wrote: "[Blackstone have wasted] their considerable talents on reworking fading musical forms. As usual the band's strength lies in its galvanizing, mesmerizing chorus; its weakness lies in trying to mime several minutes out of each melody."

LeBlanc continues: "There are two obvious idioms - rock-soul and country-blues. The old blues stand pretty much on their own (with the exception of Sam Cooke's haunting 'A Change Is Gonna Come' which has been built into a self-parody of do-wop), even for listeners who enjoy a note-for-note familiarity with the originals." Furthermore, "when the production style accentuates the hysterical, monomaniacal, and desperate side of their playing, as it does on 'Back Door Man', it becomes too much."

The album proved to be the group's swansong, as shortly after its release Blackstone effectively split into various factions. Fonfara and Weis did briefly keep the name going for a few months by recruiting ex-Bush members Prakash John and Penti 'Whitey' Glan and Californian singer Mike Stull (later in Bobby Krieger's Butts Band) but it didn't work out. The band relocated to LA and duly split into several camps. (Stull incidentally, later wrote the theme tune to Cagney and Lacey.)

In the aftermath, Fonfara and Weis kept busy as freelance musicians, while Prakash and Glan joined Lou Reed's road band. The following year, the quartet crossed paths and Fonfara and Weis were invited to appear on Lou Reed's album 'Sally Can't Dance'. Reed kept the group on for a European tour but soon afterwards, Prakash and Glan dropped out and Peter Hodgson and Eric 'Mouse' Johnson joined up for a year-long tour of Australia, New Zealand and the US. For Michael Fonfara, joining Lou Reed proved to be a fortuitous move as he spent the best part of the '70's leading Reed's support band.

Danny Weis meanwhile spent a brief period playing with Alice Cooper and Rick James' Stone City Band, before supporting ex-Guess Who singer Burton Cummings and acting as musical director to Bette Midler's 'Rose' band. During the early '90's he fronted the California group Funk Attack and currently leads his own outfit, The Danny Weis Project (he also keeps busy doing session and TV work). More importantly, he is planning his first CD, an R&B/funk album mixing covers and original material and provisionally entitled 'Danny Weis'. The rest of Blackstone maintained a much lower profile.

John Finley, who'd recorded a gospel album with Bill King's Homestead for Nimbus 9 Records in early 1972, and sung on Suzie Quatro's brother, Michael's album 'Paintings', subsequently moved to LA and dropped out of performing. During 1973, he enjoyed success when Three Dog Night took his rewritten Rhinoceros tune, "Let Me Serenade You" (orig. 'I Will Serenade You',) into the US top 20, and over the next few years, Finley started to concentrate more on studio work and song writing. During the late '70's, however, he worked with the Rev. James Cleveland and Alexander Hamilton & the Voices of Inspiration on the local soul/gospel choir scene. The latter incidentally, provided back up vocals on albums by Chicago and The Beach Boys.

In the early '90s, Finley enjoyed success again as a songwriter when Ivan Neville (Aaron Neville's son), covered a song he'd co-written called 'Why Can't I Fall In Love?' for the movie soundtrack 'Pump Up The Volume'. He is currently leading his own jazz/soul outfit, SOULBOP! who are in the process of recording a CD. This year, Finley also contributed vocals and piano to the NorthernBlues Gospel Allstars CD 'Saved' in Canada, which featured Michael Fonfara and was produced by Frazier Mohawk. The CD was issued in October to local acclaim.

Larry Leishman dropped out of the music industry to work for Motorola Canada Ltd., and currently runs his own business outside Toronto. He still does the occasional studio session plays live on the Toronto scene, and is shortly joining Finley, Fonfara and Hodgson for some local dates.

Peter Hodgson also remained active but kept a relatively low profile following the Lou Reed tour. During the mid-'70s he briefly played and recorded with Rick James. Following sessions for Toronto rock 'n' roll band Shooter, he briefly played and recorded with new wave group Rough Trade (alongside Michael Fonfara) and gigged with the Malcolm Tomlinson Band before retiring from the music business in 1980. He now works in the real estate industry in Toronto but like Leishman, Hodgson still plays on the Toronto scene.

In the late '70s, Steinberg moved to New York, where he formed Tycoon with Fonfara. Inspired by Toto, Tycoon proceeded to record two albums in 1979/1980, which met with a modicum of success but floundered on the indecision of the band's label. While recording with Tycoon in London, Fonfara landed a job with Foreigner and appeared on their album '4'. He then returned to Toronto and rejoined Weis in The Lincolns for a few years during the early-mid-'80s.

More recently, Fonfara has become an integral member of Toronto's premier Blues outfit, The Downchild Blues Band who have recorded a 30th anniversary album with help from old friend Dan Ackroyd and blues legend James Cotton. Besides winning numerous awards for work with The Downchild Blues Band, he also keeps himself busy gigging incessantly in the Toronto area, and has been involved in a wealth of production work for both local and international artists.

In 1999, Fonfara, Hodgson and Leishman reformed The Checkmates, and have been joined on various occasions by Finley whenever he is in town. The band is currently recording some tracks for a long overdue CD.

Checkmates associate Duke Edwards meanwhile heads the Louis Armstrong Foundation in New Orleans and works for the city government co-ordinating, among other things, cultural events with its sister city in Japan. He has been involved with the restoration of the Evergreen Plantation, the largest surviving plantation in the American south and has been responsible for writing the historical notes for visitors. Edwards, who recently turned 70, still maintains an interest in music and currently leads his own New Orleans jazz band.

Of the other original Rhinoceros members: Doug Hastings took part in a brief Daily Flash reunion with John Keliehor and Steve Lalor in 1994 and continues to work in petroleum geology in Alaska. He claims to jam on the guitar in his garage on a regular basis.

Alan Gerber meanwhile regularly performs at blues festivals in North America and has also lived and performed in France. Following a one off tour with Lou Reed in 1979, he has established a highly respected solo career and produced several solo CDs over the last few years. He is currently touring to support his new live album on the Mugwamp label.

After years of playing copious sessions Billy Mundi dropped out of performing and currently lives in Northern California. However, during late 2001, he joined former Mother of Invention members Don Preston, Roy Estrada and Bunk Gardner for a brief East Coast tour as The Grandmothers. He has also returned to the studios and in the last few months, joined Essra Mohawk to record a CD of women artists singing Doors songs in Nashville.

With all the group members' collective post-Rhinoceros accomplishments, the interest in a reunion, involving a possible album deal, may seem a forgone conclusion. Frazier Mohawk did in fact pitch such an idea a few years back, but although most of group was 'up for it', he was unable to find a financial backer. Were such a deal struck, there is also the small problem of getting everyone together; Doug Hastings, Billy Mundi and Jerry Penrod are leading different lives now, while the others have musical commitments to fulfil and different musical agendas to pursue.

While the recent release on CD of Rhinoceros' debut album by the Collectors Choice Music label is long overdue and extremely welcomed, it was slightly disappointing that no previously unreleased material was included, especially as around 15 tracks were originally cut for the record. The prospect of seeing any further releases will undoubtedly rest on the CD's sales. And yet, besides the group's remaining albums, there is a plethora of previously unreleased material to choose from, what with Hastings' rough acetate of 'Rhinoceros', outtakes from the various albums, and demos recorded with Todd Rundgren (Finley's 'Open Heart' and 'Sail On').

It remains to be seen then, whether any label will take the plunge and put together the much-anticipated box set that the group deserves. That wouldn't be asking too much for one of the '60's lesser-known but greatly cherished bands.
-Nick Warburton

John Fiinley: vocals
Alan Gerber: vocals, piano
Danny Weis: guitar, piano
Doug Hastings: guitar
Michael Fonfara: organ, piano
Peter Hodgson: bass
Billy Mundi: drums, percussion

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