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The Rhyth-O-Matics


ROM Shadow logo.jpg

     Before the internet, there were ads in the newspaper for musicians wanted. Andrew Scott had put an ad in for players interested in African music. I was the first to respond, followed by Ernest, then Rudy and then Jan, our first sax player.

      The RHYTH-O-MATICS’ first gig was in 1984 to play benefits for the US Presidential campaign of Jesse Jackson, who, at that time was about the only American politician who was interested in South Africa and committed to bringing apartheid there to the attention of the American public here.  The response to the RHYTH-O-MATICS, (at the time a predominantly white group called BIG BUX) from the predominantly black ELLA HILL-HUTCH CENTER crowd was overwhelming and we knew that the time was right for African-influenced "World Beat" music in San Francisco and the Bay Area. ANDREW SCOTT, the original drummer for the band had been in an African influenced band called The IVORY COASTERS in England, RUDY ORTIZ had played with BATUCAJÉ, a Latin Band and I had been in Reggae Jackson playing a blend of reggae and South American rhythms as well as some Ska. ERNEST BOYKIN had played with TORCH, a singer from the dance music scene, MARTIN PELL, who I had been playing with for solo gigs was on keys, and JAN____had played in local bands. Shortly after our first gig, Jan left and we brought in DAVID SOMERS, who had played in a local calypso band called COOL BREEZE. Marty left the band shortly after recording our first demo. We were soon joined by WAYNE WALLACE on trombone and ROSS WILSON on trumpet.

We were all interested in Ska, the Two-Tone Ska sound from England as well as instrumental music from South Africa and West Africa.  We recorded our first album "Walking In The Shadow'' for Catero records (out-of-print now in vinyl) which was an even mix of those styles and included three of my originals and covers from some of our favorite artists: ORCHESTRA MAKASSEY, the SKATALITES, DUDU PUKWANA, and ORCHESTRA LIPAU LIPAU.  The LP was produced by the legendary BOB JOHNSTON, world renown for his albums for BOB DYLAN, JOHNNY CASH, LEONARD COHEN, LOUIS ARMSTRONG, CHERYL LYNN and JIMMY CLIFF to name just a few. FRED CATERO, well known for his work with JANIS JOPLIN, BARBARA STRIESAND, HERBIE HANCOCK, THE POINTER SISTERS and countless other artists engineered, with ROGER WEIRSEMA assisting. My wife and partner SUSIE FOOT, who had worked with Catero as second engineer for many years, is listed as “album coordinator”. She’s the one that brought the two legends together and booked the studio (MUSIC ANNEX) as well as interfacing with Bob and Fred in the control room. Susie had engineered the demo that got us the record deal.

"Walking In the Shadow" was released on CATERO RECORDS in 1985 and received rave reviews from SPIN magazine, BILLBOARD (Pop Pick of the Week), The BEAT as well as numerous local magazines and newspapers.  Despite critical acclaim, the record company was going under while the band was touring. We'd travel many miles to play gigs to support a record that nobody could find in their stores.  The record was sent to hundreds of DJs though, and has received a good deal of airplay over the years.  An unknown quantity of cheap imitations of the "Walking In the Shadow" LP were pirated and distributed by the scam company Alpine Records to who knows where. The original pressings (pressed by Teledyne of West Germany) only sold a few thousand copies for the band as it was held up and off the market right at the time we were trying to promote it. It was a frustrating time, as Catero Records went through distributors and was losing more money with each one. In the end, we arranged to leave Catero Records not long before it folded. The band was going through a transitional phase, and underwent some changes. Dave Somers left the band and Andrew Scott left the band and was replaced by JIM SAGBIEL aka JIMMY SAGE. CLARK GAYTON played with the band for a good while, sitting in for Wayne Wallace on trombone. Ross Wilson left and we had a number of trumpet players; PETER MONTALBANO (who also played on the Walking In The Shadow album) and DAN BUGELHEISEN were our main guys, but we had many trumpet, sax and trombone players playing dates with us because we used top players and they all had scheduling issues.

The RHYTH-O-MATICS released a 12" , red vinyl single in 1988 on BONGO BOY RECORDS of "Skatalation", a modern Ska "smoker" and "Trickster", an Afro-Brasilian, Fela-ish song about the tricksters found in the folklore of Africa and South America. I brought in MIC GILLETTE (Tower of Power) and sax player BILL SLAIS (who co-wrote “Fooled Around And Fell In Love” for the Elvin Bishop Band). “Skatalation” received regular airplay on LIVE 105, one of the Bay Area’s hottest stations. It was also a commercial success for the band. "Skatalation" also appears on the "SKAVILLE USA" with the TOASTERS of New York, BIMSKALABIM of Boston, NO DOUBT, The MIGHTY BOSSTONES, LET’S GO BOWLING, The SCOFFLAWS and other bands, but that version of “Ska-Tal-Ation” had some kind of technical problem in the mastering and doesn't sound anywhere near as good as the single.) 

         The RHYTH-O-MATICS had only played a couple of minor gigs, when we heard that there was to be a tribute to FELA KUTI at The FARM in San Francisco, and we got squeezed on the bill, opening for a concert entitled “World Beat” (first time I remember seeing the term used except for The MIDNIGHT DREAD. The Farm held about 800 people, and nearly 3,000 people showed up! The San Francisco Bay Area music magazine, BAM, featured the concert on the front page of the next issue, stating the “World Beat” was the next big thing.

The RHYTH-O-MATICS played a number of great shows in the S.F. Bay Area, including shows with MADNESS at the FILLMORE on their last tour, and shows with FISHBONE, JIMMY CLIFF, MICKEY HART & OLATUNJI, TITO PUENTE, ZULU SPEAR and other local "World Beat" bands like ZULU SPEAR, MAPENZI, The LOOTERS, UNRULY WORLD, The CARIBBEAN ALL-STARS, SPECIAL FUN, BIG CITY, The UPTONES, KATOJA, THE FREAKY EXECUTIVES, VIVA BRASIL, The ZAZU PITTS MEMORIAL ORCHESTRA and others. We did a Southern California tour, playing dates with BORRACHO Y LOCO, The REBEL ROCKERS, and WIRE TRAIN. We also opened for ETTA JAMES at The INN of the BEGINNING, DAVID LINDLEY

at The FILLMORE, and substituted for the SKATALITES at WOLFGANG’s when their plane was delayed. We also played at ESELEN INSTITUTE, the first music group since Bob Dylan and Joan Baez in 1972 to play there! We also traveled to Eureka to play at The OLD TOWN BAR and GRILLE and played at The CASPAR INN on the lost


HARRY DUNCAN, former Blues harp player with The JAMES COTTON band, was responsible for getting nearly all of the high-end RHYTH-O-MATICS shows and is still a friend to this day. World Beat DJ DOUG WENDT aka The MIDNIGHT DREAD was also instrumental in our success, promoting the band on the air and hooking us up with RICK STYART and STEVE MASTERS at KITS Live 105. BEVERLY SOMMERFELD was our only real manager and saw us through the most successful period when we were playing high paying corporate parties and for world beat weddings. The RHYTH-O-MATICS were nominated for a BAMMY AWARD in 1987.

We finally had the interest of The MONTEREY PENNINSULA ARTISTS MANAGEMENT, the biggest agency for our style of music when Rudy left the band because of family problems. The RHYTH-O-MATICS disbanded officially in 1990 after the tragic death of bassist Ernest Boykin.

The RHYTH-O-MATICS had just laid down tracks for four songs for a new album.

I went on from there to play with HEDZOLEH SOUNDZ from Ghana, blues guitarist Harvey Mandel, Brasilian group Escola Nova de Samba, OSHA with JONI HAASTRUP, and other bands in the late 1990’s. I also produced, with wife/partner Susie Foot engineering, an album for San Diego world beat surfers BORRACHO Y LOCO and an album with Humboldt County legends ROD DEAL & The I-DEALS. My solo album, recorded in 1992 and entitled "RHYTHM ADDICT" includes three of the unreleased RHYTH-O-MATICS tracks written by me, “Unite Ce Soir”, “Afroskalypso” & “Seize The Time” written by Rudi Ortiz and myself with horn arrangements by Wayne Wallace.

In 1995, a friend of mine, ED PIBURN, called me from ULTRASOUND, where he worked. He had been playing The RHYTH-O-MATICS album for HARRY SHEARER (bass player with SPINAL TAP), and his friend Rick. We arranged to meet at our house, where I explained why the band had split up. After our meeting, they had convinced me to put another ROM album together. With ROBIN SYLVESTER on bass (Robin played on “Rhythm Addict” and other Foot productions as well as bringing me in for the SHA NA NA sessions), MELECIO MAGDALUYU on sax and LOUIS FASSMAN on trumpet, The RHYTH-O-MATICS recorded a new album in 1995 entitled “Ghost Skankers”. RUDY ORTIZ and JONI HAASTRUP played percussion and BOBBY SCOTT played bass on 3 songs.  We were in negotiations for a record deal when our contact with all the connections in LA died unexpectedly. Most of those “Ghost Skanker” recordings then became songs on my album “Jimmy Foot; The Instrumentals”. Left off was “Phoenix City”, a ROLAND ALFONSO song that I’m posting here on the side that features my cool adopted nephew LUC LaROCHELLE on vocals.    

      I released “Walking In The Shadow” on a CD that includes the singles plus the bonus track “Kinzenge”. The Rhyth-O-Matics’ “Ghost Skankers” also appears on the compilation cds “Ska Face”, “Third Wave Ska Vol.3”, and “Ska, The Instrumentals” as well as on my “Jimmy Foot The Instrumentals” album. RHYTH-O members also appear on a number of other tracks from my solo albums on BONGO BOY RECORDS and SKY RANGERS.

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