Tuxedo Junction was the brainchild of A J. Cervantes, Michael Lewis and Laurin Rinder. Much like Phil Spector, a decade earlier, these producers would create outlets for their musical genius. These outlets or studio groups would often feature the same musicians and singers. Interchangeable pieces in the master plan. The faces might change but the name and sound were constant.
Laurin Rinder was born in Los Angeles, California on April 3, 1943 he knew by the age of six that he wanted to be a musician. At seven, he was playing the trumpet. His father, who was an understudy for Bing Crosby during the 1930's and 40's, encouraged Laurin to play and later built him a drum set out of trashcans and corrugated boxes. Soon the trumpet gave way to the saxophone and then finally the drums in his junior high school band.
He played on his first album as a session drummer in 1953 while only ten years old. During his sophomore year, he decided to drop out of high school to pursue music on a full time basis by playing with local bands around Los Angeles. The first band he played with was Dick D’Augustine And The Swingers who had a local hit with a tune called "Nancy Lynn."
At 19, Laurin enrolled in a correspondence course at The Berkeley School of Jazz and devoted his life to music. The great jazz artists of the day such as Davis, Monk and Mingus were his influences. Laurin was among the first in a small group of young musicians that played rock and roll in Hollywood during the mid-to late 1950's. There was a shortage of drummers, since little if any of the older musicians wanted to play this new style of music. Rock and roll in its infancy was essentially an amalgam of blues, R&B and country & western. During the period between 1956 to around 1963 Laurin claims to have played on roughly about half of the music that was released during that time.
In the early 1960's Laurin made the move to Detroit and was part of the early Motown history along with friend Bernard Purdy. While now based in Detroit he continued to travel and record in Philly, Miami, and the famed Muscle Schoals studios in Alabama where he played on Arthur Prysock, Anita O’Day and Billy Eckstein sessions among others. He traveled extensively with James Brown, Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed and John Hooker by bus throughout the South during the 1960's where he was usually the only white player in a black group. Las Vegas also figured into his travels where he even did comedy as part of "Rinder, Ryder And The Swinging Brass" around 1966-67. When asked why so many different things under his belt his only reply is, "I’m an opportunist. I look for the door and go through it." "Things got a little thin in the early 1970s when we were doing hard rock and at this time is when Michael (Lewis) comes in."
Around 1968 Laurin was living in Laguna Beach, California when he called his friend Dick Dodd, the leader singer of the group The Standells, to arrange for an audition. The Standells had scored a number 11 hit in 1966 with "Dirty Water." Michael, who hailed from Alabama, was their keyboard player and had just come from another group, We Five, which had the 1966 hit "You Were On My Mind." Michael had also performed on fellow Alabamian Percy Sledge’s "When A Man Loves A Woman." The two met and later went on to form a rock group called Joshua. The six-piece group was comprised of former members of The Righteous Brothers and Bonnie And Delaney. After several unsuccessful years the group disbanded. The bands manger, Seymour Heller who was the president of "The Conference of the Personal Managers of the World" and guided the careers of such stars as Liberace and Debbie Reynolds had other plans for Rinder and Lewis. Heller was the owner of "Producer’s Workshop" and partners with Ray Harris in the "American Variety International" (AVI) record label.
Around 1973 that they were asked by Harris if they knew anything about "this new music called Disco." They were then asked if they would like to go into the studio and try something out. Laurin recalls, "We went in and did all this stuff and we were the first ones to do this thing. And I was putting in these sh, sh, sh hi-hat things on r & b songs that turned into Disco songs. Then I said why don’t we start using bells and whistles and I do some strange sounds like ew-ee, ew-ee…we’ll put breaks into it and play some bass drum…boom-boom and who cares…" to which everyone agreed.
A very popular gay disco called Studio One was near Laurin’s home, so one night Laurin and Michael decided to stop by and see what this new Disco music was all about. The two found themselves dumbfounded.They could not help noticing that the crowd was eating it up and thought we can do this with no problem at all.
Around 1978 as El Coco and Le Pamplemousse were becoming ever popular, their promotions man, A. J. Cervantes, whose dad was the mayor of St. Louis, asked if they would become producers for his new label Butterfly Records. The first project was Tuxedo Junction, which was to be a retro group. Laurin went to Bill Warlow, head of Billboard Magazine and asked for the microfilm for all the songs that charted number one from 1930 to about 1943. He soon had a playlist from which to choose. They went down the list and selected all the songs they felt would be adaptable to dance music. Since Laurin had many friends from the big band days, he went about to try and get as many of the original players of the day to perform on the album. They got the oldest players that the AFM had and the oldest female singers that AFTRA had. The big band sound of the Tuxedo Junction album was well received upon its release.
The Tuxedo Junction branch of the Rinder/Lewis musical tree only had 2-12" single releases: "Take The A-Train" (1978) and "Moonlight Serenade" (1978). And only 2 album releases the Gold vinyl debut "Tuxedo Junction" (1977) and the White vinyl "Take The A-Train" (1978). The vocalists were: Sue Allen, Marti McCall, Jamie Edlin and Marilyn Jackson.
This facet of Michael and Laurin's genius ended in 1978 for obvious reasons. Changing musical tastes and the "big band" concept wasn't geared for more than a few albums. For related releases see Le Pamplemousse, In Search Of Orchestra, St. Tropez, El Coco, and of course Rinder & Lewis.
Michael has since continued in the music business and Laurin, who left it in the mid 1980's, is now a gallery owner and renowed artist. Read more...