Ann Arbor Sessions

Rastus was formed in 1968 in Cleveland, Ohio. The first lead singer was Bocky (Robert J. DiPasquale) of Cleveland's Bocky and The Visions.

These demos were produced in Ann Arbor, Michigan by John Rhys utilizing the old farm house studios of the band SRC during July of 1968. They were recorded on a four-track Crown recorder utilizing a minimal amount of microphones and EQ. Mike Geraci, John Taylor and Vic Walkuski were in one room; Tony Corrao was by himself in another room; Don Nagy was also separated and Smokey was in the specifically designed drum room. Bocky sang live on most of these cuts and a minimal amount of over-dubbing was used.
On these cuts, you can hear how the band began formulating the "Rastus" sound.

The Band:

Mike (The Frist) Geraci: Baritone and tenor saxophones
Vic Walkuski: Alto and Tenor saxophones
Arthur Edward Appleton, Jr. (John Taylor): Trombone
Tony Corrao: Guitar
Don Nagy: Bass
Dave (Smokey) Smelko: Drums
Bocky: Lead Vocals

Rastus....The First LP!

The First Rastus LP!

Fall of 1969

Rastus had been playing The Scene in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for several months and had developed quite a following there. The folks from Milwaukee were mighty nice to us all and we felt we had found a home in that fine city.

Benedetta Balistrieri ran The Scene with an iron hand but she was very gracious to us and helped the band a great deal.

When it was decided we would record Rastus' first record at a small R&D studio in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin; the boys in the band each had to figure some place to stay during the process. Some of them stayed with various friends and the others brought sleeping bags and stayed in the studio itself.

Sonad Studios was housed in the basement of a small, L shaped mini-mall located directly in the center of Wauwatosa. Four streets ran into one junction in the tiny town and each had a stop sign to control traffic at the intersection. Directly across from the mall was an old fountain which spit water twenty-four hours a day.

The mall itself consisted of a Baskin-Robbins ice cream shop at the end closest to the fountain. Then there was an electrical repair shop adjoined by an empty Household Finance slot. On the corner of the mall was a Chinese restaurant where we all would eat breakfast when we could afford it. There was a small dress shop which was dying and on the end, another vacant slot. All in all, it seemed as if the mall was in it's death throes.

Sonad Studios was designed by an old man named Curt Knoppel. Knoppel had hooked up with a great man named Bernard Barker who had developed an electrical circuit he called Sonad. Mr. Barker had, at one time, been a radar operator on a bomber during World War Two. He culled the ideas for the Sonad circuit from his knowledge of radar.

Here's how Sonad worked in a nutshell....One would take an audio signal (mono at that time) and enter it into the Sonad circuit. The Sonad circuit then split the signal into two equal parts (a piggyback). While one audio signal remained clean, the other could be manipulated in real time. One could adjust the Sonad signal in an infinite variety of ways. At the end of the process, you mixed the clean signal with the Sonadized signal. The end result was amazing! The sounds seemed to jump out at you through the speakers. As an engineer, I could see the true worth of the product and I got on board myself to help raise the money for Research and Development.

Our investors were local corporate men and women as well as elderly folks looking for a good investment. The money came in and the studio was completed and ready to make records.

The studio consisted of four rooms and a control room. The control room was designed like a large living room with several lounge chairs and a couch against the wall. The studio rooms themselves were small. There was a guitar room which was about 8X10 feet; a piano room with an old upright grand, which was about 6X8; a horn room which also doubled as a vocal room and a bass room so we could all stay out of Don Nagy's way.

We started by recording the band tracks for the individual songs. We used an 8 Track, 3 M machine. That recorder was state-of-the-art at the time and I considered myself lucky to have it. The band tracks took about a week to record and the following week I had in mind overdubbing vocals, horn solos and other miscellaneous sounds. However, something was wrong. I couldn't get the machine to sync correctly with the Fairchild console we were using. Then we found that the guy who wired the Fairchild board had done the job incorrectly and the board had to be re-wired which took almost a week. That meant the band had little to do during that time. Rastus and boredom were not a great combination to say the least.

One night about 3 in the morning we were hanging out in the control room when someone yelled down the stair well, "Check out the fountain in front! It's foaming at the mouth!" We all ran upstairs with John Taylor conspicuously missing. To my horror, I saw the fountain gurgling up bubbles as fast as it spit water. The soap was already down to the intersection and had caused several late-night drivers to slide through the stop signs and into each other. There was one car lying on it's side next to a pancake restaurant. This, of course, brought the police. All six of them.

The cops were already aware there were a group of hippies holed up in the strip mall and several nights after the fountain debacle, walked in through the back door of the studio. No one noticed them as we were in the middle of Mike Geraci's horn intro for "I-75 Riff". When Mike had finished we were all very excited as Mike had blown the perfect intro. I stopped the machine, turned around and then saw the police standing in the back of the darkened control room. The control room reeked of pot and everyone froze for a minute or so. Then, there was more tap-dancing than you would have seen in a Fred Astaire movie. I finally turned on the lights and welcomed the police to Sonad Studios. They asked what we were recording and I played them the rough version of "I-75 Riff" sans the vocals. They loved it! After that evening, the police laid off us a bit and never came in again....thank God.

It took us a total of one month to record the studio sides of the first Rastus LP and they are listed below in the order they appeared on the record.

Just to let you know....none of us have ever received as much as a statement from GRT Records, much less a check for royalties after the initial payment was made to the band to lease the master. There are publishers to which I have written who say they hold the copyrights to the original songs (many of which are mine)that have never returned to me in any respect. We will keep trying. It would be nice to get this all sorted out.

Within the next couple of weeks, I'll put up the next part....The First Rastus LP....The Live Sides, with all the respective songs in order of appearance. Also, I will tell you the horror story that happened with the Sonad patent and the Sonad Studio....and me.

Love you all....

John Rhys

Rastus....One Of The Greatest Live Bands In American Music History!

The members of Rastus were not from Shaker Heights. They came from middle-class families from all over Cleveland proper. In essence....they came from the street.

On the street you have to be savy or else you wind up in trouble. All the guys from Rastus knew how to take care of themselves. Of course, Don Nagy knew how to take care of himself better than most. In fact, it was Don who took care of most everyone in the band. He saved my butt on more than one occasion.

When it came to playing "live" there was not a better band that I had seen on the East Coast. It was almost like they were going into a major brawl when they hit the stage. It was in the live atmosphere where Rastus shone. It is a shame that there is not more available in the live format. We have what we have.

When we had finished the studio recordings we decided to go into The Scene in Milwaukee one evening and record the band in a professional light. We utilized the 3M eight track which was owned by Sonad Studios and recorded the show as it was, only breaking to change tape when necessary. It was a packed house.

At that time Richard D'Amato (Muggsy) was the lead singer. It was undoubtedly hard as a singer to keep up the energy of Rastus and quite often Muggsy complained of his throat giving him trouble. It was for that reason that Danny Magalen was brought in to help take off some of the weight. Danny also played a mean baritone sax and fit right in on the harmony level. They sounded excellent together.

It wasn't two days after we finished the rough mixes at Sonad that Muggsy notified the band that he could no longer stay with the unit. Angelo Crimi and I had already started the negotiations with GRT and now we had the problems of dealing with a band without one of it's lead singers. This is how Marc Roman came into the picture.

Ron Kramer (then of GRT) told us he knew a guy from the San Francisco area who sang his ass off. Words we loved to hear. After listening to Marc's demo we all agreed that Marc could do the job. On top of that, Marc fit right into the band's image and philosophy which was....if they get in the way....kick their ass. Yessir....Marc fit right in. It also didn't hurt that Marc was a decorated Black Beret from the Vietnam War. All I had to do was remove Muggsy's lead vocals and replace him with Marc Roman. 

That was no problem with the studio sessions as everything was isolated on the master tapes. However; when it came to the live recordings there were all kinds of problems with which to deal. The main problem was lead vocal bleed through onto the other tracks from the live monitors. We had a hell of a time replacing Muggsy with Marc on the live tracks and you can still hear some of Muggsy's bleed through on the final mixes. That's how things went in the music business at that time.

The final overdubs of Marc Roman were done at Sound City Recorders with the wonderful help of Dale Bachelor who was our engineer there. Sound City went out of their way to help us. And....as a matter of fact....Rastus first LP) was the first time that the Sonad Processor was used. In fact, Curt Knoppel was there to help us set it up. It was a few weeks after we first utilized the processor that Curt stole our patent and made his way to Marvin Caesar who eventually started Aphex utilizing the Sonad patent.

Here....for the first time available, are the live sides from Rastus' first LP. Some of them came from tape and some have come from the most pristine records we could find. The records were of course cleaned and reprocessed.

Many thanks to all the Rastus fans who are coming from the woodwork. Smokey and Vic are smiling from that great band in the sky and the rest of the guys are smiling as well. We're not making any money but what the hell!....What's new?

Best regards to all....

John Rhys

Steamin'....The Second LP!

Rastus had been playing during live performances most of the songs on the Steamin' album long before they recorded the LP at Paragon Studios in Chicago in 1971. While the album was being recorded in Chicago, I was doing another Capitol project in Detroit. Why was I not in Chicago with Rastus? The band had decided they no longer needed my influence and guidance. They wanted to produce themselves. Such is generally the way. No band realizes that it takes a producer (an outside influence) plus the band to make quality product. The band is just too close to the music to see where improvements can be made or new ideas implemented. The producer alone should not be in charge of the overall product as the producer can also be blind to the inherent musicality that only the band can see. It takes two to tango.

To make a long story short....I was cut out of the band a couple of months prior to their recording their second LP. Of course, I was heart-broken. This was a band to which I had given birth, cash and support for two years. Traveled with and shared the ups and downs of the road. Good gigs....bad gigs and many where the money was short. It seemed with Rastus, the money was always short. There were so many players and support staff to feed. Angelo Crimi did an amazing job at taking care of all of us during that time. "Here's your deuce!", a term I'll never forget.

When I was cut out, naturally I was very upset but one must continue with life on life's terms so I immediately went back into the studios and commenced working.

I had been back in Detroit for a couple of months when I received a call from Angelo asking would I please come to Chicago to re-mix the songs they had just recorded. I thought about that for a couple of days and decided to go to Chicago to listen to the product. I would not let anger get the best of me. I still think I made the right decision. Paragon was small but well equipped so I commenced mixing and editing. The basic tracks were recorded well by the engineer from Paragon (Greg Dixon) and I had fun setting up the tunes I had heard so many times on the road. Plus, several of the songs I had written myself or with the help of Bobby Jameson and various members of the band so I knew those cold. I looked at it as protecting myself and the band. By the way....I received no mention in the credits when the album was released but by then, I was ready for anything.

It wasn't until recently that I found that, once again, Rastus music was bought only as a loss; a write-off. How could this be? Why would anyone in their right mind buy this incredible group of talented musicians only to shelve them and deliberately lose money? That's the way business works thanks to the IRS. You've got to lose money in order to keep some of what you made.

The cuts on this LP were paid for in heartache and tears; anger and frustration. Once again, the music says it all. From the astounding "Lucy Bluebird" to the thought-provoking song, "What Will It Take," Rastus took the worst of situations and constructed incredible music. Music that continues to live on in the minds and hearts of the people who saw them live.

If you would like to purchase any of the original mixes from the Steamin' LP, please go to the Rastus sales (Downloads) page. The cuts are being put up as we speak so it may be a couple of days until the page is complete. Thanks for your patience.

Rastus Lives!
John Rhys