Amazingly, while the band was on tour during to support their album, they were able to connect with Bob Marley, who agreed to produce their next album if they would cover a couple of his songs. It was the break they were waiting for as it would have helped them get the reggae sound they longed for as well as much needed credibility in reggae circles.
Rhoades sold the label the rights to his original songs on the album so the band could finish the tour. The band continued to tour after being dropped, with a variety of old and new members. The band released an E. P and received a lot of airplay on college radio stations throughout the country. The record landed in the hands of a Cuban DJ in Havana, and became a hit with Cuban kids and the Fabulous Titans were invited to be the first American band to tour the island.
It was a massive success, with the band playing sold out concerts night after night for 3 weeks. I recently connected with Ron Rhoades who now lives in Hawaii and continues to perform reggae and surf music. He took time to share a very detailed history with me about the origins of the band, his introduction to reggae and the very early days of the band. I was raised in a small dairy community in Humbolt County in Northern California. The little town is called Ferndale and is much the same today as it was back in the 50's.
I lived there with my parents and four brothers. I used to love to listen to the radio back then and started to fancy myself as a singer and drummer. I used to drag our rubbish cans up to the top of a small hill behind our house and bang on them with sticks i found under trees and sing as best i could the songs i would hear on the radio. Fats Domino, The Fiestas, Elvis and all that early rock and roll stuff.
The neighbors could also hear me and would tell mom that maybe i had some talent. Mom taught me how to sing properly while i dried the dishes she washed and taught me how to sing harmony and stay on my note while hearing someone her sing a different note on the same melody.
I fell in love with music I wanted to be a singer. Mom was very encouraging and bought a cheap guitar from the Sears catalogue which we boys banged around until it was destroyed!! Remember we were just kids. She bought me a little "toy" drum set with a picture of Spike Jones and His City Slickers on the bass drum head which was destroyed in about a month or so and she bought this little wheezing keyboard thing that plugged into the wall that had keyboard notes as well as push buttons to make chords.
You could push the buttons to make chords with your left hand while playing along on single notes with your right hand. I don't think we destroyed that one because it was mom's and not ours to destroy. The memory of these instruments and the time i spent trying to figure them out stayed with me my entire life. Even though we destroyed most of them, i realized that i wanted to be a musician and singer.
My father died when i was 11 years old and we moved away from Ferndale and wound up in Felton a small town in the Santa Cruz mountains. That's where mom bought me my first real set of drums. I played music with a few local guys and my first paying gig was for a grand opening of a furniture store in Grover City. Mom passed away when i was teen and some high school friends that were going to college in Oakland came down to Shell Beach to ask me to come up to Oakland and play guitar in their band the Motley Crew no, it was a different Motley Crew!
Of course I decided LP go with them and become a professional musician. I was in teen bands that couldn't play in clubs cause we weren't old enough so we performed in rod and gun clubs, teen centers and high schools all over Northern California for screaming girls seeking our autographs.
I got an audition with a group called The Crabs who were a bunch of older guys looking for a drummer and i got the gig!! Those guys taught me how to act, what to say, what not to say, they snuck me into clubs to play before i was 21!!
When i would enquire as to where my money was, I would get That LP your dues" thing still haunts me to this day!! But i learned so much about the music business from them and I'm still very grateful for the lessons even though I went hungry most days and nights. It was my share of our fathers account. I was so happy. It was a complete surprise to me. I went down to Leo's music store on 17th and Clay in Oakland and bought my first set of drums.
It was a brand new set of Rogers. I also payed off a small tab the Crabs had there for strings and cables and stuff. I still have, and still use those drums to this day. It's really the only thing i have from my father. The drums still sound really good and I'll have them until i retire. They've been on many, many recordings and i used to rent them to Santa Davis from The Soul Syndicate when they were in town I remember a little 45 record in called "Hold Me Tight" by an artist named Johnny Nash that had such a differnt and unusual drum beat.
I didn't know it was Jamaican. I thought it was a 50's rock and roll sound that I'd never heard. I didn't think much about it except that i liked the drum beat because it was so different. The very next year,there was a tune by an artist named Desmond Dekkar and The Aces I came across an Album) in the Rolling Stone magazine about Jamaican "rude boys" and a new sound that was being created called reggae.
The article mentioned Desmond Dekker and Toots and The Maytals and Jimmy Cliff and a whole bunch of Jamaican artists that were at the forefront of this new sound coming from a tiny Island in the West Indies.
I was discovering black music and singers and players and realizing that this is where all music comes from. I didn't want to hear Pat Boone's version of these great tunes and so i went on a mission to find as much black music as i could which led me to the Johnny Nash and Desmond Dekker stuff.
Knee Deep tried to do a few of these reggae tunes but we just didn't have the feel or the soul of it yet. What is the genesis of The Shakers? How did you find other musicians who wanted to play reggae?
When Knee Deep broke up I tried to find musicians that wanted to play reggae. Actually, it was called Rock Steady, a more uptempo version of what it would become. While trying to find players i was also looking for any information i could about Jamaican music. I was in Tower Records in Berkeley one day when i came across a "West Indian" import section which had some Trojan releases from Jamaica in there. We found out later that Trojan Records was an English label that kinda "sweetened" the original Jamaican recordings to make them more appealing to the white British kids.
I would buy these compilations on Trojan that had white kids on the cover and would think to myself It made me think that it was OK for white guys to play reggae.
Of course it didn't turn out that way, but it seemed alright at the time. From the very beginning But I didn't know any better and set out to educate myself in Jamaican music. The records that i bought at Tower i read every thing that was printed on them! I wanted to know who the artists were, who the producers were and especially who the musicians were.
The few names that you could get from a record then led me to guys like King Tubby, Delroy Wilson, Ken Boothe, The Pioneers, The Ethiopians and just tons of new artists making wonderful records on shoe string budgets and cheap recording equipment and instruments.
I just fell in love with it all. I don't know why really It was and Knee Deep was breaking up so i wanted to try and find musicians to play reggae with. Of course there weren't any!!! I put ads in the local papers, bulletin boards and spread the word as best i could. I got calls from a few guys who were just looking to play music with someone but didn't know anything about reggae music and when they heard the few records that i had, they didn't like it anyway. Heck, i couldn't blame them.
The records were "ruff enough" as they say! The instruments were out of tune, the records were all scratchy sounding, you could barely understand the singers not to mention guys like U.
It was a crazy sound for Americans to pick up on. My black friends called it "jungle music" and didn't want anything to do with it. They were embarrased by reggae music. It didn't discourage me though and i kept looking for players. I finally got a few of the guys from Knee Deep to try the new sound. I had been buying as many Trojan imports as I could find and afford and was practicing reggae drumming in my bedroom with blankets on the drum heads so as not to bother LP neighbors too much.
It took a long time to just drop the kik on the two and the four. I mean it took a really long time to teach myself how to do that and keep the meter going and have dynamics and all that stuff for 3 or 4 minutes at a time. It was very difficult. I could drop the kick on the 2 and 4 but i couldn't capture the loose feeling of the Jamaican style.
My drumming sounded very mechanical compared to the Jamaican drummers I worked for hours every day untill i felt comfortable enough to play it with other musicians. To jump ahead a bit Customer Review. Amazon Global Store, The Shakers (19) - Yankee Reggae (Vinyl. International Shipping. There's a problem loading this menu right now. Learn more about Amazon Prime.
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