Bill Deal & the Rhondels were among the first of a cadre of big band rock outfits that began showing up in the mid- to late '60s. Working in a more accessible vein than the more progressive Blood, Sweat & Tears, Deal and his septet released five nationally charting singles in 1969 and 1970 with a soulful dance-rock sound. Deal put together the Rhondels in 1965 and they made their names and a fair living over the next few years by playing clubs in Virginia and the Carolinas. They became popular regional attractions, and by 1968 they cut their first record, an inspired cover of Maurice Williams' "May I," which had been part of their stage act for so long that they'd tired of playing it; until a chance request led them to spontaneously rework it one night on-stage, and the results were so impressive that they went in and cut it the next day for the Beach label. Suddenly Bill Deal & the Rhondels were in the Top 40, scraping at number 39 with a record that was some of the most vibrant and danceable white soul music of its era. The group was an improbable candidate for this kind of success -- the Rhondels looked and dressed more like a lounge act than a rock & roll band, and their sound could be decidedly MOR ("Nothing Succeeds Like Success") -- but their best sides had a soulful sound and a great beat. They did better with their next single, a cover of Ray Whitley's "I've Been Hurt" that made it to number 35 nationally. "What Kind of Fool (Do You Think I Am)," another Whitley song, got to number 23; it became the peak of their national sales success.
Share this page