The Rites

The Rites, l-r: Pete Kerezman, Tom Fitzpatrick, Pete Feller, Bob Azzarello and Jimmy Cahn
The Rites, l-r: Pete Kerezman, Tom Fitzpatrick, Pete Feller, Bob Azzarello and Jimmy Cahn

The Rites Decca 45 Hour GirlThe 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.

The Rites – Things
The Rites – Hour Girl

The Rites with Patsy Sabline, Clairol Caravan, Time magazine, June 30, 1967
“Time magazine, June 30, 1967, taken during a dress rehearsal in Central Park. You can barely see me, all the way on the left there, and up front is Jimmy dancing with model Patsy Sabline.” – Pete

Click to see the inside of the program
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.”

The Rites with Jerry Blavet
The Rites with Jerry Blavet, l-r: Pete Feller, Bob Azzarello, Jerry Blavet, Tom Fitzpatrick, Jimmy Cahn, Pete Kerezman

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.

 Thin Ice, l-r: Bernard Grobman, Jimmy Cahn and Pete Kerezman
Thin Ice, l-r: Bernard Grobman, Jimmy Cahn and Pete Kerezman

Thin Ice

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
Kingsville, Texas

21 thoughts on “The Rites”

  1. Hi Matey
    Gotta say what a gem you found in “Hour Girl” by The Rites,wow what a soulfilled vocal….perfection!!!
    Brill site btw….it’s got EVERYTHING.

  2. Hey Pete! I saw your bio and it brought back some laughter – and I know that “Hour Girl” got its first play on Bob Fass’ WBAI midnight show. I always told my three daughters to hook up with anyone EXCEPT musicians; but of course they all went straight to the poison. Really glad to learn that you haven’t been in a psych ward or on the run from the law all these years! Still love you after 35 years. JanetEBH@yahoo.com

  3. Verse 2: Can anyone make out the lyric: “_____, the colors of her, ring in my eyes like a velvet _____” ???

    If I had to explain to a neophyte what “the sound of ’67” was like, and I could only use one recorded song to illustrate, I’d pick “Hour Girl”. It strikes a near-perfect balance between the mod/folk sounds of ’66 and the druggier/more laid-back/baroque-psychedelic sounds of ’67-8, all in a taut, 2 and a half minute package. Becasue it has elements of so many styles, it’s a difficult track to categorize: the lyrics are definitely trippy enough, but it’s too laid back and well-constructed to qualify as “acid punk” or “garage psych”; the folk roots are there, but it ain’t “folk rock” or “folk psych” either. Maybe it’s “pop psych verging on acid punk.” 🙂 The Crystal Chandelier’s “The Setting of Despair” has a similar blending of elements.

    Another thing I really like is the hyper-enunciated vocal, seemingly calculated to emulate the conversation of a guy who’s spent the past 12 hours in a lava-lit basement staring at his palm! This only shows up in a couple of other songs (notably The Whatt Four’s “Dandelion Wine”). I wonder if any of the bandmembers can recall if this was intentional, or just came naturally.

    And finally… I always thought the drums on this 45 (both sides) must be a studio ace: very professional, and well-recorded. But from the interviews, it sounds like “Az” played drums on the record. Very cool!

  4. I was pleasantly surprised to see my name in Pete’s bio. I still have very fond memories of “Visions”, my last band b/4 I left NYC. I have a CD of our studio demo so if Pete sees this, I’d be happy to send him a copy. (jimcarling@verizon.net)
    Around 1980, I was playing a Holiday Inn in New Orleans & met a lady who said she’d met Pete in Texas (playing in “??’s six-pack”–don’t remember the whole band name). Didn’t know til now whether it was true. Anyway, thanks for the memories.

  5. Geez, the Mark Brown studio sessions. Forgot all about ’em, but I do remember the cool Oliver bass amp that “rose up” out of the cab when you switched it on. Those happened in ’69, during the N.Y. Mets World Series victory. As a pretty serious Mets fan, who started with ’em at the Polo Grounds in ’62, I was a little distracted at that time.

    All’s I can remember about Armadillo is y’all’s version of “The Letter” and “Try A Little Tenderness,” as performed in a Brooklyn rehearsal studio where I was just observing.

  6. Pete, you forgot Armadillo. That’s how we got together with Jim Carling. And Thin Ice did do a demo recording at Mark Brown’s Studio in the city. Who knows where that recording is. We did a tune I wrote and the Brain Surgeon I believe.

  7. 2nd verse lyric: “Her. The colors of her ring in my eyes like a velvet flame.”

    Bob Azzarello was indeed the drummer on the record. He’s pretty darn good, eh. Google the name “Milt Gabler” and you’ll see why we were indeed well-recorded.

    All of y’all’s remarks dang near gave me a case of the dreaded “Big Head.” Many thanks!

  8. Pete,

    Well,

    I guess I could call you again, and I will in the next few days, but our web culture has made this our first point of contact. I finally got to hear your old recordings which, had I heard them as a stupid road-racing teenager in the eighties, I would have confirmed your awesomeness, etc . . . I am just happy that a label has taken the time to acknowledge some work you did back in the day, in the same way that I acknowledge some work you did with a young and very confused man back in the day, on his way to becoming an adult. We will be in touch, and this musical connection was part of it, as it always was, my brother, uncle, and way more than just a surrogate father.

    Much Love,

    James Thompson

  9. Don’t recall any lava lights. But Greg Sanders the singer for the group was just told to sound “loaded” by our producer Gary Paxton. So he did……..TOM (whatt four drummer).

  10. I knew it! And I’m not just sucking up when I give The Whatt Four mega props for coming up with the quintessential sitar-drenched psychedelic ’60s stoner-drone anthem in “Dandelion Wine.” Amazing track, and those nice ‘n lazy drum fills have a lot to do with that, Mr. Ference! Ever since I first heard that song, whenever I picture myself on a boat on a river, the soundtrack to that daydream ain’t “Lucy in the Sky”!

  11. Hey Pedro,

    It was really cool meeting you today. I just check’d out your site and it really inspired me to keep on playing my guitar and reaching for the stars! I hope you enjoy the Los Gallos CD – we’ll need to get together and jam out!

    Keep on Rock’n!

    Mr. Hashpipe =)

  12. Remember me, Texas Pete? It’s great to see your old pictures — I’ve got a bunch of ’em of you too. From the days rehearsing in your Mom’s place (?) on the Upper West Side to all those gigs downtown…it’s great to see a lot of names of people I knew. I searched you out today because I saw that Alaina Reed just died. Do you remember that you and Diane and I worked with her at the Upstairs at the Downstairs Club in Manhattan? Jay Leno was a standup comic on that same bill. Man, lots of water under a lot of bridges since then. ‘Brain Surgeon,’ ‘Hour Girl’ — I never knew about your older bands, I probably never bothered to ask. It’s amazing we all are still here. — Doug

  13. Dear Pete,

    Jeffrey Kerezman here. You may have spoken to my late brother Bruce in the past. I am reaching out to gain some family info and was hoping to contact you. I assume you can get my email from this post, if not send me a note via this post and I’ll try to find you another way. Looking forward to hearing from you!

    Jeffrey
    the VaCCines

  14. Sorry, but that is definitely NOT Jerry Blavat in the photo in front of the VW bus!
    Could you please remove his name?
    Wish I could tell you who it was. Doesn’t look like anyone associated with Jerry’s TV show at the time.
    However, it does look a tiny bit like the late Clay Cole….

  15. Sorry, but that most assuredly IS Jerry Blavet. It’s the same guy whose TV show, the Jerry Blavet show, we appeared on. It’s the same guy who interviewed me on the radio the next evening at a personal appearance, and who said on the air that his name was Jerry Blavet. BTW, the guy in the picture in no way resembles Clay Cole. Have you got a picture of Jerry you could post by way of documenting your denial? Thank you.

    Pete Kerezman, The Rites

  16. Hi Pete! My son googled “azzarello drummer” and found your blogosphere about our pubescent ambulations thru the music industry. Awesome chronology; amazing you could remember that far back with all the “enhancements” we all experimented with together in our youth. I just spoke to Tom last month. I am buying a second home in Houston next month. Let’s connect! FYI: I went on to join a rock power trio (hair band) that opened for Peter Frampton, Foghat, Kansas, Gary Wright, The Tubes, and a bunch of other bands we hated because they were more popular but less talented. When I came to LA in 1978, I got involved with the Marvin Gaye’s guys, Diana Reeves, Sweet Inspirations (Elvis’ back ups) and other soul and RnB bands. I was a white drummer in an all black band called Bartney Square in 1979. A bit too LA ghetto for me tho, so I left and got a Real Estate license so I could afford more recording studio time for originals; I now own rental properties. I recently worked in a country rock band doing songs like Radio by Reba and Undo It by Carrie U. I am now organizing a 60s Soul tribute band which does covers of Tower of Power (What is Hip), Aretha, Marvin, Gladys, Etta, Jackie, Sam n Dave and of course, James Brown. Gimme a call 818-825-7333. Too bad The Feel tapes with Sad Eyes etc., got lost. Let’s RAP! Bob Azzarello

  17. Used to know peter feller and Pete Kerezman from rockland foundation days and li
    Appel hoots I was young and just beginning to play /still playing

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