Once upon a time in the early 1970s, a musical genre emerged called bubblegum pop. Wikipedia defines bubblegum pop thusly:
"Some of the defining characteristics of bubblegum pop include catchy melodies, simple three-chord structures, and repetitive riffs or "hooks'. It is also characterized by its lightweight lyrics, often surrounding themes of romance and courtship."
The first big bubblegum pop song was "Sugar, Sugar" by the Archies in 1969. The floodgates were open as other animated acts like Josie & The Pussycats, The Groovy Ghoulies, The Banana Splits, and Charlie Chan & The Chan Clan all began recording music.
Live acts soon picked up the bubblegum torch and ran with it. The Partridge Family (featuring teen heartthrob David Cassidy), The Brady Bunch, The Osmonds, The Jackson Five, and LIttle Tony DeFranco & The DeFranco Family were cranking out music and even hitting the Billboard charts.
Riding on the long bubblegum coattails were The Rhodes Kids. Beginning their musical career in 1970, the original lineup featured Paul, Patty, Gary, and Ron Rhodes playing mostly cover tunes and touring carnivals and lounges at Holiday Inns. They continued to tour and added family members Mark, Brett, and Marsha to the mix - seven Rhodes a-leaping!
In mid-1972, they caught the eye of Michael Thevis, owner of the General Recording Corporation in Atlanta, Georgia. Thevis didn't really care much for music - GRC was his legitimate front. In actuality, he was America's biggest pornographer - estimates state he owned 50% of the porn market in the USA. He ran a peep-show business that ran from Times Square to Pasadena and had friendly connections with the Gambino crime family.
According to the liner notes of this album, Thevis had just spent eight days in Los Angeles "looking at rough cuts of a movie" he produced (insert your own joke here) and caught the Rhodes Kids' act in a Houston hotel lounge. After he saw 10 year old Mark's imitation of Tom Jones, Thevis found his Donny Osmond and he knew he wanted to sign them to a recording contract.
What happened between then and 1974 when they released their first single entitled "Voo-doo Magic / I Need Your Lovin" (GRC 2033) is unknown. Spectulation leads us to believe that several of the Rhodes Kids had to finish grade school first before venturing on. This gave Thevis more time to deal smut and to come up with his grand idea of not one... not two... but FOUR holiday albums by the Rhodes Kids.
For their first album, they were taken under the wing of the legendary bubblegum pop songwriter / producer Bobby Hart (he of "Boyce & Hart" fame). Splitting their time between Atlanta and Hollywood, they recorded 10 Christmas songs (with Ron and Gary Rhodes arranging the vocals) and "Rock N Rhodes Christmas" was in the can.
If you're looking for a 70s flavored Christmas album, you can't go wrong with this one. You can hear flashes of The Cowsills, The Jackson Five, The Osmonds, and The Partridge Family in every song. Close your eyes and you're transported to 1974 - you can see the wood paneling and the wall to wall shag carpet at your aunt's house!
The standout track is an original song entitled "Santa Loves Rock N Roll Music". It's a textbook definition of bubblegum pop - catchy tune, simple structure, lightweight lyrics (sure, Santa loved rock n roll music... until he heard this!). This song was released as a double A-side single (GRC 2042) at Christmas 1974 along with this album (GRC 10011). It would be the only album the Rhodes Kids would ever release.
Throughout the first half of 1975, the Rhodes Kids released two more singles - a cover of Del Shannon's "Runaway" (GRC 2052) and "Take Good Care Of Her / Truckin' Into Houston" (GRC 2059). No other singles or albums could be found at GEMM or Musicstack after this date (Japanese and New Zealand versions of these singles can be found here though). It's unclear whether they left General Recording Corporation or were asked to leave - either way, the Rhodes Kids' musical recording career ended here.
By this time, the long arm of the law was catching up with Mike Thevis and his illegal porn activities. In 1976, Thevis was convicted for distribution of obscene material and ordering a competitor's business to be burnt down based on evidence from Thevis' right hand man Roger Dean Underhill.
Being the enterpreneurial type of guy Thevis was, he promptly asked his former mob buddies to issue a contract on Underhill for $5 million dollars. Not content with this, Thevis broke out of prison, travelled to Atlanta, found Underhill and coldly gunned him down (and an innocent bystander). He was immediately arrested and sent back to jail where he bragged about this and several other murders. Using this new info, Thevis was sentenced to life in a Minnesota prison where he still sits today.
As for the Rhodes Kids... not much else is known. According to an album review by Chris Deminsky of "Nutjob Music Reviews" (a defunct web site), the group eventually disbanded and estranged from one another. Mark Rhodes, the Richard Carpenter type musical genius of the group, spent the 1980s high on cocaine. As for Marsha, she converted to Catholicism in 1992 and was ostracized from the family.
Much of the info you're reading now was gathered from FaLaLaLaLa.com where this album was a "album of the week" selection. You can still DOWNLOAD this album from that site as well as finding the full album review from Chris Deminsky that was rescued by the King Of Jingaling.
UPDATE - One of the Rhodes Kids e-mailed the King at FLLLL and filled in many of the blanks left open by the Deminsky article, including an update on the entire Rhodes family. Click on the download link above to check that out!
For the info on Mike Thevis, I simply did a Google search and it was all there. I didn't expect a "Boogie Nights" type of scenario... I'll never listen to this album the same way again.
On to the next new Christmas CD in my collection...