In 1970, the same year that the album "McCartney" was released, another homemade eponymous album appeared by a new artist named Emitt Rhodes. Emitt wrote all the songs, played all the instruments and even nearly cracked the top 40 with the catchy single, "Fresh As A Daisy." Critics and fans alike wondered where this terrific singer/songwriter came from (Hawthorne, California actually) despite the fact that he had kicked around in some recording bands over the previous few years and had even appeared on American Television's "The Hollywood Palace" as the front man for the Merry-Go-Round.
You can download the entire Merry-Go-Round clip complete with an introduction by Don Knotts at Bedazzled.com. The Merry-Go-Round also appeared as performers and contestants on The Dating Game!
After the initial "Paul Is Dead" hysteria calmed down in 1970, Emitt's self-titled solo album enjoyed a brief time in the Beatles mystery spotlight. An east coast disc jockey named Barry Richards stated that Emitt Rhodes "could be the Beatles." He played the entire Emitt Rhodes album on his show and commented, "He sounds so much like the Beatles, it's unreal." Then to add to fuel to the fire, Richards said, "Now I heard about the stolen Beatle tapes, which supposedly happened about a year ago." The next thing you know, the phone lines lit up and Richards had enough of a response to convince ABC/Dunhill Records to make Emitt available for not only an on-air interview, but also a local television appearance.
In the phone interview, Emitt showed admiration for the Beatles by proclaiming, "They were the biggest influence on my music, I would imagine." Rhodes told Richards that he had done two albums, one with the Merry-Go-Round and one solo, which had not yet been released. Prophetically, Richards responded, "I'm sure [the solo album] will come out now." A&M wasted no time releasing "Emitt Rhodes - The American Dream," creating all kinds of confusion in the record buying public and putting an end to the success of the ABC/Dunhill album. Emitt was put in the awful position of having two albums competing with each other. Showing the Beatles influence, one of the tracks on "The American Dream" called "Let's All Sing" features Emitt singing "All we are saying is give peace a chance" during the fadeout.
In one interesting exchange, Richards suggested that the song "Live Till You Die" had "some reference to McCartney," which Rhodes quickly denied. He also said he read in "Melody Maker" that Rhodes gave guitar lessons to Paul McCartney. Rhodes responded with a laugh. In a particularly macabre attempt to infuse Rhodes into a Beatles mystery, Richards asked if there was a picture of a body on the back of the album. Rhodes said it was actually a piano. Richards also tried to draw a link between a tree on the Emitt Rhodes album cover and a tree on the Abbey Road cover. Later that week, Rhodes filmed two solo performances for Barry Richards' television show. He also did a new in-studio interview. By that time, Emitt was sick of discussing the Beatles associations. When Richards stumbled over his words while trying to formulate a question about a link between the Beatles and the Merry-Go-Round, Rhodes simply said, "Then let's skip it."
Emitt's followup album "Mirror" (featuring the song "Birthday Lady") failed to produce the interest of his self-titled album. To make matters worse for the fledgling artist, Rhodes signed a contract with ABC/Dunhill that was impossible to fulfill, and by 1973, he saw his career go down the tubes. His last album, "Farewell to Paradise" showed his frustration with the music business. Although he has continued to be involved in the production side of music, we have heard very little from Emitt Rhodes, the artist since 1973.
An unreleased song from 1980 appeared on the Varese Sarabande Records compilation "Listen, Listen The Best of Emitt Rhodes."
He has worked with several artists including Ray Paul, who got him to take the stage again and enlisted his help in recording the McCartney song "Oh Woman, Oh Why" for "Coming Up: Independent Artists Pay Tribute to the Music of Paul McCartney."
In the late 1990s, it looked like Emitt Rhodes was going to take a second crack at the music business with a planned solo album on Rocktopia Records, home of former Righteous Brother Bill Medley. Personal issues delayed the album and the record company went broke before it was ever released. The picture below came from the Rocktopia Records website.
He worked with Jim Boggia, who was the subject of a recent post here. In fact after completing that post, I went back and listened to my complete Emitt Rhodes collection back to front. Emitt Rhodes could possibly be my favorite recording artist after the Beatles, but he is NOT The Beatles. His voice is distinctive and easily distinguishable from McCartney's voice. But like the Beatles, Emitt had a way of crafting melodies that stayed with you.
Emitt is still around, still making music, just not releasing it. He is interested in the mathematics of music and reads physics books. When a young fan called him on the phone a few years ago, Emitt queried him on the Pythagorean Theorem before agreeing to discuss anything about music.
There are a couple websites around chronicling the music and life of Emitt Rhodes, but there have been very few updates recently. The Emitt Rhodes Music Site was maintained by Kevin Ryan, who went on to write the book, "Recording The Beatles." There is also a fan myspace site that has not been updated in several months.
Still, every few months a new "Emitt Rhodes is recording a new album" rumor surfaces. The latest one has him being backed by a slightly country-tinged band. There doesn't seem to be any definitive information about it, but it was good to see a picture of Emitt in a recording studio from 2008 on Joel Larson's webpage. Joel was most notably the drummer of the Grassroots and Lee Michaels, but he also backed Emitt in the Merry-Go-Round. That's Emitt on the far right.
It is a crime that his outstanding voice and songwriting skills have been silent all of these years. We miss you, Emitt.