(CelebrityAccess) — Emitt Lynn Rhodes, a singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalists, who released five albums in the 1970s before taking a long hiatus from the music industry, has died. He was 70.
His death was first reported by his roommate on social media, who said Rhodes died in his sleep and then confirmed by Tony Blass, who produced “The One Man Beatles” a 2009 documentary about Rhodes, as well as his most recent label, Omnivore Records.
A native of Illinois who relocated to Los Angeles, Rhodes started his career in music while still a teenager when he signed on as the drummer with the Los Angeles-based garage band Palace Guard.
The band scored an early hit with the Beatlesesque “Falling Sugar” but despite their initial success, Rhodes, who was still sixteen at the time, exited the group to form his own band Merry Go Round with Joel Larson (Grass Roots) on drums, Gary Kato on lead guitar, and Bill Rinehart (formerly of The Leaves) on bass.
Inspired by acts such as The Byrds, The Beatles, Merry-Go-Round scored a quick hit in 1967 with “Live” which started as a regional hit that went on to chart on the Billboard Hot 100.
However, the group would only release one full length album and when it failed to gain traction with fans, the group split.
While the group split, they still had a recording contract with A&M and Rhodes recorded material to fulfill the contract although A&M chose not to release the music until he had made a name for himself with a different label.
Rhodes next set up a home recording studio and began laying down his own solo album. His effort attracted the attention of Dunhill Records, who signed him and released his next three albums.
His debut solo album, “Emitt Rhodes” featured Rhodes playing all instruments, as well as doing the songwriting and singing. The album proved to be a hit, peaking at 29 on the Billboard charts and earning acclaim from critics, including Billboard, who lauded Rhodes as “one of the finest artists on the music scene today.”
Rhodes followed it up with the rock heavy “Mirror” in 1971 and “Farewell to Paradise” in 1973, but failed to achieve similar success as he had with his self-tilted debut. He also began to run into headwinds with his label when he was unable to meet Dunhilll’s contract that called for a new album every six months.
Dunhill eventually took Rhodes to court, suing him for $250,000 and withholding royalties from his earlier releases.
After “Farewell to Paradise,” Rhodes stopped performing entirely and released no more material, except for select recordings on compilations and took work as a recording engineer with Elektra.
Finally, after four decades, Rhodes formed a new group that included his former Merry-Go-Round bandmate Joel Larson, former Counting Crows bassist Matt Malley, and guitarists Jim Rolfe and Dan Mayer and began working on new material which they released in 2016 as “Rainbow Ends.
The album featured guest appearances from musicians who were influenced by Rhodes him including Aimee Mann, Richard Thompson, Jon Brion, as well as members of Brian Wilson’s band.