The Rites actually called themselves the Last Rites, and they made this one great double-sided 45 on Decca before changing their name and lineup. There’s more than a touch of psychedelia to both “Hour Girl” and “Things.” Peter Kerezman wrote both songs, and the 45 was produced by Stephen Hammer.Band members at the time of recording were Jimmy Cahn, organ, vocals; Bob Azzarello, drums; Tom Fitzpatrick, bass; Peter Feller, lead guitar, vocals; and Pete Kerezman, vocals, rhythm guitar.
A former band member I heard from writes: “I believe [the Rites] got the record deal as a result of a contest that included playing around the city with some sort of a thing sponsored by some cosmetics company [Clairol]. They were given a ton of Ampeg gear as well and met a ton of models, who used to hang with us.
“The band was re-named Thin Ice and we continued to play Things and The Hour Girl along with several other originals by Pete & Jimmy. Unfortunately the band only lasted about a year and we never quite got off the ground.
“Thin Ice did some demos (I think they’re lost now). We played a big club in Phillie, a bunch of resorts in Stowe VT, Yale, a street festival in Phillie, some other gigs around the city. Used to rehearse in a basement studio owned by the manager of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. The guy wanted to sign us. I think the last gig we ever did was a Hell’s Angel’s benefit at the Electric Circus in NYC. Yet another manager hooked it up for us, but we were just too drugged out to deal.”
A sad ending to the band but it doesn’t diminish the beauty of this music.
Pete Kerezman wrote to me with his story and photos of the band and his music career:
I was a coffeehouse folk musician prior to doing the group thang. I guess my first “band” was with Rites guitarist Pete Feller in a folk duo, “The Candymen,” two guitars and vocals. We had been having a friendly competition in Rockland County coffeehouses and decided to join forces. I insisted that we wear striped shirts, like the Kingston Trio. We played the coffeehouses, and had a regular gig at the Fort Hamilton army base enlisted club. Then Pete went off to Oberlin College in Ohio.
Later that year (Or was it the following year? The memory’s dim), Pete’s younger brother, Phil, who was attending Columbia University, called me and said he was putting a band together, asked me if I wanted to play bass, which came as quite a shock because I’d never played a bass, except for washtub in a bluegrass wannabe outfit, and didn’t even own one. For some odd reason I agreed. That group was a quartet – Phil singing, me on bass, Tommy Fitzpatrick on guitar, and a cat from Westchester name of Wally Westphal on drums. It turned out that Phil wasn’t much of a singer, so we kicked him up to “manager” and Wally enlisted Jimmy Cahn and we became The Last Rites.
We played the Columbia University frat house circuit for a while, and the band outgrew the drummer, so we replaced him with another C.U. student, Rick Davis, who was a superb jazz drummer who could handle rock with ease.
Time passed. Pete Feller quit Oberlin and moved back to the New York area to join the band. We had a fairly serious competition with another C.U. frat band, The Walkers, who had a damn good lead guitarist, Billy something. They were numero uno and we were numero dos. Couldn’t dislodge ’em.
At some point in time we played a gig where Bob Prescott, our eventual manager, was quite taken with us, but Rick’s wife got to humpin’ the whole band so we lost his services when he went off to Africa on a geological dig to try and forget his sorrows.
I honestly can’t remember who put us on to Bob Azzerello, maybe it was Prescott, but Az was up to the task and came on board. I also can’t remember when I moved back to guitar and Tommy took over the bass chores, but it happened. Next thing we knew we had to lawyer up and read and sign contracts.
We passed an audition and became members of a traveling troupe of musicians and fashion models in a show called “The Clairol Caravan.” In addition to our own stuff we backed up a singer, Lamont Washington, who later died in a horrible fire, and played schlock music so the models could strut their stuff. The caravan and the record deal were parallel events, instigated by our manager, Bob Prescott, who was a sound effects expert for ABC radio and television and a founder of Audio Fidelity records.
We played some teen clubs in the New York area, signed with Decca and got that Clairol gig, all in a relatively short space of time. We were pretty much isolated and self-contained (arrogant and conceited). A fascinating sign of the times was that Decca thought that “The Last Rites” name was too controversial, so we morphed into “The Rites.”
We went into Decca’s studio A on 57th street. Recording legend Milt Gabler manned the board, with Steve Hammer hovering around being mostly useless. We were thrilled just to have a record out and we thought it turned out pretty good. Unfortunately the label didn’t do much for us in terms of promotion and the record went nowhere.
I think the one royalty check I saw was for about twelve bucks, and I had written both sides! Prescott did manage to get us on a Philly TV clone of American Bandstand, the Jerry Blavet show, where we lip-synched “Hour Girl,” but it didn’t help any. I’ve got a shot of Jerry and us standing outside our van in the snow.
After some time spent occasionally gigging, drugging and generally just spinning our wheels, Pete Feller and Tom Fitzpatrick realized what was happening, had the good sense to move on, and that was the end of The Rites.
Jimmy, Bob and I held auditions, and even though Bernard was quite a bit younger than us at the time he was already a monster guitar player and was obviously up to the gig. I don’t remember what name we performed under, maybe The Rites, maybe not, just don’t remember. When Bob had enough (we were a pretty rowdy bunch) we continued on as Thin Ice with a couple of other drummers passing through at various times.
Jimmy and Bob were still jamming, but I wasn’t really in their plans until I sat in with ’em one time, opened their ears, and we became “Feel.” We hooked up with a bottom-feeder agent and got a few gigs but eventually realized that Jimmy, who had switched from Farfisa to guitar, needed some help. That’s when we held guitarist auditions and hooked up with Bernard Grobman, eventually becoming “Thin Ice,” playing ski resorts in Vermont, and a few Westchester clubs.
We lost Bob’s services when he returned to college, and took up with another drummer, Andy Stone. That’s when we made the Philadelphia scene, playing The Second Fret and some street concerts. We then lost Andy and hooked up with yet another drummer, Gaspar Mirabele.
At that point Jimmy moved to Sausalito and Bernard and I formed up with a couple of crazy go-go dancers/vocalist wannabes in a group called “Your Mother.” Played some Westchester bars. Bob Azzerello was with us for a while but the girls didn’t care for him, fired him, and, partly because he was a friend and partly because he was a very good drummer, I quit the band.
Somehow, no recollection how, I got drafted by piano man Doug Konecky, and violinist Diana Halprin, who played for the American Philharmonic under Leopold Stokowski and the Metropolitan opera. Those two were monster musicians and very serious, so that’s when I *really* learned to play the bass. We were called J.S. Blue, played wine and cheese joints in Greenwich Village, and made some demos with a guy name of Jimmy Ienner, who handled Eric Carmen and Rasberries. When Doug and Diana realized just how obnoxious I really was they showed me the door.
That’s when I hooked up with piano man Jim Carling, who later did some time with Chubby Checker’s band, drummer Chris Jackson and guitarist Donny Siegel in a band called “Visions.” We were good, cut some demos at a twelve-track studio somewhere downtown but alas, nothing came of it. Jimmy and Chris moved to Newark, Delaware, Donny went back to college, and in 1976 I moved to Texas, where I gave up “the dream.” Came to visit, never left, which apparently makes me a “damn yankee,” (because I stayed).
I have reel-to-reel copies of the “J.S. Blue” and “Visions” demos, but no way of transferring them to more modern media. Sorry I don’t have the Feel demo which we made up in Decca Studio A again, and Thin Ice never did any recording. Decca 32218 was the only record The Rites ever made. I have no copy of the record so it’s a real treat to hear it again after all these years.
I must say, I’ve had more fun playing country music down here than I ever did pounding my head against the show-biz wall in The Apple. Had about a fifteen year run in outfits such as “Low Country,” “The Stardust Cowboys,” “Rough Cut,” and variety band “Flash Flood.” No pressure, just good music and mostly good times. Had guns pulled on me a couple or three times, almost got stabbed by a meth-crazed tattoo artist, but man, I *love* the honky tonks. You can have your country clubs, I’ll take the joints where the hoi polloi go to drink.
Texas Pete Kerezman