This site is dedicated to the memory of Arthur Rhames, a true musical genius of our time. A place of sights, sounds, stories, providing information which might otherwise not be available.
Arthur Rhames was a multi-instrumentalist who played guitar, saxophone, and piano. A person of great musical ability and deep consciousness, he inspired a generation of musicians in his short but phenomenal 32-year life. It's my hope that this site will share that piece of history and Arthur’s vision with future generations. The spirit of Arthur Rhames lives on!
Arthur, if u can hear me now, there is an army of young
How I met Arthur Rhames
It was the summer of my sophmore year in high school, around 1971. I had just studied alto sax for six months at South Shore High School Brooklyn and was allowed to take my instrument home for summer vacation. I’d heard about a saxophone spot in a band called Greg and the Mystic Souls. This was during a time when James Brown was burning up the charts. Somehow I ended up getting the 2nd sax position – This was my first experience playing in a band outside of school bands.
Ed, the tenor sax player in the band was a generous soul, not insecure or selfish with his knowledge. He helped me learn the music quickly. Greg lived in the Stone Ave projects, Brownsville Brooklyn. It wasn't a great area, but that’s where I had to go for rehearsals. I would hide my saxophone in a Purple & Gold South Shore pull-string gym bag wrapped in a towel to avoid attracting attention of any hoodwinks in the neighborhood. What a joke...I thought I was being low key with a purple and gold gym bag!
By this point I was also interested in bass guitar. I arrived regularly at rehearsal 45 minutes to an hour early. Greg allowed me to play his bass while he had a bite or did some chores before rehearsal. A guitarist named Cliff, who I’d later meet lived in another building in the same Stone Avenue projects. Also a bassist named Leon, who Cliff would later introduce me to. It’s probably because of Leon’s generosity that I gained the strength to remain inspired musically, Leon was very cool, a great bass player. I'll always remember Leon.
Eventually Greg got tired of me being a Mystic Soul with bass aspirations and fired me - but not before we did a performance at Lincoln Terrace Park in Brooklyn. That was a life-changing day for me. Somehow I had left my mouthpiece and neck at home that day, however, I had enough time to ride a bike home to get it. When I returned the band was playing. I found my way through the crowd to the bandstand, saxophone strapped to my neck. I was given a solo and got a great response from the crowd. Looking back I think there was just something honest about what I played. In retrospect, it was as though my whole stint with Greg and the Mystic Souls culminated in this moment.
I appreciated Greg giving me my first shot at playing in a band. Leaving this band was also probably one of the easiest transitions for me looking back, I knew it was time to do my own thing. Additionally, summer vacation was over and it was time to turn in my horn when school started in September. Emit was the guitarist in Greg’s band, he and I remained friends till we eventually lost contact. I remember putting in a request to my mom for a bass guitar for my 16th birthday. That would happen the following year in August; I got a bass and a small amp. My friend Jock Davis let me use his Fender Mustang bass till I got my Univox bass.
I had a vision of finding some of the best musicians around for my own band. I made it my business to ask everyone if they knew any good guitarist. Richie Havens had a few brothers who lived near Lincoln Terrace Park on Rockaway Parkway, I remember playing with them for a while - they were some good hearted guys.
It was Emit former guitarist of Greg and the Mystic Souls who told me about a guitarist named Clifford Pusey. I searched Cliff out like a bounty hunter, eventually finding out he attended Canarsie High in Brooklyn. I left a message for Cliff at the school administrative office. He eventually gave me a call fulfilling my early quest to find a guitarist for the band. We practiced with various drummers for a period of time, doing hip cover tunes of the day, like Cisco Kid, but no drummer fit the spot perfectly.
In my neighborhood, I would frequently hear drums emanating from deep in the basement of a home down the block from my house. I was always drawn to the sound, but I assumed that the person playing was between 40-50 years old – way too old for my band.
In the basement there was a drum kit and a turntable sitting on top of an amplifier, also a speaker on a flat piece of wood mounted on an upper wall in a corner. Adrian put on a Jazz record, sat behind the Drum kit and began to play. I was shocked because this was the guy I’d been hearing for years as I walked past his house to go to my part time job.. Adrian played for all of 45 (ok he says it was 90 seconds) before I then stopped him. I knew at that point Adrian was my new drummer. I then said, I'm starting a band, the drum spot’s yours if you want it.
We worked this group for a while, practicing Soul, R&B, rock and other music styles. It was really a good band, Adrian was the most solid, seasoned drummer I’d ever played with. We connected like old friends from many past lifetimes. Cliff was also a real good guitarist. We jammed on a regular basis.
While on my way back home from driving my mom to work I saw a trumpet player standing at a bus stop On Vanderbilt & Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. I somehow got his attention and offered him a ride, his name was Winslow. While driving I told Winslow I was looking for a good guitarist. He said come with me to my rehearsal, there’s someone you should meet there, his name is Arthur Rhames. This was the first time I’d ever heard the name Arthur Rhames.
We drove to Snyder and Bedford Ave in East Flatbush where they rehearsed, when we walked in there was a 16-year old Arthur, sitting on the floor in a lotus position with a Telestar guitar in his lap playing. Winslow introduced us, their rehearsal shortly started. The band was a good funk R&B band. Arthur lived right around the corner from the rehearsal spot. After rehearsal Arthur and I made arrangements to get together. My first impression of Arthur was that he was a very intelligent and talented guy. There were so many facets to Arthur, he was an extremely interesting and complex individual. I thought he might be gay but that was no big deal to me because I was not a homophobe.
I would later find out that Arthur also played piano, but for now it was just about Arthur playing guitar with Adrian, Cliff and myself. We had a good connection with little to no conflict of personalities. Arthur was all about the music. We rehearsed regularly, almost every day if we could. It eventually became the battle of guitars. Arthur seemed to be getting stronger at an amazing rate. I think this was due to the fact that Adrian had an abundance of jazz skills on drums and could go toe-to-toe musically with Arthur. Cliff eventually left the band. It wasn't a bad parting, from what I recall, rather, more an evolution. It was at this point that Arthur and I started working on original music and select songs from our favorite group...The Mahavishnu Orchestra.
Now it was Adrian on drums, Arthur on guitar and myself on bass. We jammed long and hard, between 4 to 8 hours a day. We used this time to refine our group skills. We did this for about a year or so. By this time Arthur and I had been exposed to the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Weather Report, John Coltrane and other great music. This was a great time for us because it took our music and our aspirations to a higher level. I was also lucky because my sister worked at a place called the East in Brooklyn at 10 Claver Place. It was a cultural hub/private school where great jazz musicians played regularly. Pharaoh Saunders, Sun Ra, McCoy Tyner - everyone played there. I would consequently listen to lots of great music, particularly jazz, I also heard stories from my sister about shows. I even went to a few shows.
Adrian’s father, George Grannum, was a professional jazz pianist, Adrian had lots of experience from playing gigs with his dad from the young age of 9. Adrian was a perfect candidate for what I was looking to do musically, he was a seasoned jazz player. Adrian was never late to rehearsal and adapted to whatever was thrown at him. Adrian’s father gave us little room to mess up however. We’d be rehearsing in the basement at Adrian’s house in a deep sweat when his father would appear, there would be complete silence from the moment we knew he was there, Mr Grannum would say “rehearsal is over guys”.
It was around this time Adrian’s grades in school weren't to good, he was consequently barred from the band. His father thought barring him would be a good way to get better results out of him in school. We would have to sneak and rehearse when Adrian’s father did weekend gigs at the Montauk Yacht Club in Long Island, we knew he’d be gone for the weekend. Arthur and I would hide a few houses away before Mr. Grannum's departure. As soon as we saw his car turn down Linden Boulevard toward Kennedy Airport, Arthur and I appeared like soldiers in Saving Private Ryan to extract Adrian and his drum kit down the block to my house where we’d rehearse all weekend. We jammed our asses off! Adrian would go home with blisters on his hands.
We were in pursuit of the magic in the music; we always tried to reach that special place. Arthur and I spent lots of time talking about various concepts, and listening to as much music as we could. There was even a time when I slept with John Coltrane music in the background. It amazes and troubles me to hear people say they only understand and or like My Favorite things and John Coltrane Johnny Hartman, but are not willing or able to wrap their arms around Transition or Interstellar Space.
During this period I had the opportunity to study with Reggie Workman, who at the time was Director of the Muse in Brooklyn. Reggie had also played with John Coltrane. Reggie realized I was a rebel but fortunately for me Reggie saw my potential and was willing to work with me. He contributed immensely to my growth as a musician, and more importantly to me the person. Reggie was like a second father, he gave me opportunities to play with my bands in summer block festivals sponsored by the Muse. He saw what we were doing and wanted to give us the opportunity to put it out there.
Reggie was very cool; I remember insights coming from him like osmosis at a point. I think he knew the most important thing was to pass on lessons of life because they would eventually translate into deeper music as long as I stayed on the path. I also learned that there are no wrong notes in music from Reggie -- that is, of course, if you know how to own what you play.
I used to also beat the streets of The Village in New York, listening to various groups. It was around this time I met Sirone, bassist with the Revolutionary Ensemble, with Leroy Jenkins and Jerome Cooper. Sirone embraced me like a young brother and I would often go to see them play. I spent lots of time talking about music with Sirone. We stayed in touch for years. Sirone gave me lots of encouragement,friendship and inspiration to forge ahead.
Saxophonist Henry Threadgill also allowed me to hang during these days. I always kind of knew what I wanted to do. By this point I also had a marquee realization that the music industry was not concerned with quality or depth when it comes to music. I owe Sirone, Henry Threadgill and all associated great thanks for allowing me to be a part of their world while I was figuring out what mine was all about.
Arthur in the band completed my search; I knew I would be able to accelerate my personal progress musically with guys like he and Adrian in the band. These were two of the most gifted musicians I’d ever met. As I look back, I realize that God/the Universe gave me the desire of my heart placing Arthur and Adrian in my life. We took advantage of this union to the fullest. The music was powerful and magical, very technically demanding but we were young and had the stamina and technical ability to dive in deep. This defined us as a band.
Unfortunately, at this point Adrian was barred by his father from playing and we had to find a replacement. Arthur recommended a drummer named Collin Young. I wasn't very happy because I knew Adrian was one of a kind, however we had to move on. Arthur and I went over to Collin’s house on Midwood Street near Rogers Avenue.
While waiting outside Collin's house talking with Arthur I was looking around, I looked down Midwood Street toward Flatbush Avenue and saw a guy who appeared to be bopping down the block like he owned the neighborhood. I mentioned it to Arthur who blew it off. As the same guy got closer to us Arthur said, “Oh, here comes Collin!” I quietly took note this was the same guy I pointed out to Arthur earlier. After a brief introduction we went to Collin’s basement where we jammed for a while. Arthur was very enthusiastic about Collin but I was reserved because of what I’d already experienced with Adrian as a drummer, however I knew we had to keep moving forward, so we committed to working with Collin. After Art and I left Collin's house and got in my car, I looked at arthur and said "That was an OK Jam, but we have to find a real drummer!" I wasn't impressed with Collin Young at all. I could have easily said hell no to bringing him on board, but didn't. In hind site I realize that Collin's inability to operate on Adrian's level musically forced me to find and cultivate something in myself which wasn't present in his role as a drummer. For that I thank him, though it was very difficult and painful for me.
Many people knew I wasn't in love with Collin, Collin knew it too. However I was able to differentiate between an ego built on sand and extending a hand of compassion to Collin despite his over inflated rating of himself. Interestingly enough many people thought he was great. I guess it all comes down to different opinions! Arthur's ego was one thing, However Arthur was a gifted, genius who also had a balance of spiritual consciousness which kept him from turning into a runaway train. Yes, Arthur knew he was good, but Arthur could also be brought back to earth with a few choice words. I was close enough to Arthur to remind him of that as well. We had many great debates through the years.
All in all Collin wasn't Adrian but he enabled us to keep going. We had a place to rehearse and a drummer who built a wall of sound which I often described as reminiscent to a set wall on the Benny Hill Show. It was one of those things you had to be on the inside to understand. However many people thought Collin was a great drummer, he just unfortunately lost me early on because of his big ego. Looking back I realize moving on was most important. By this point we had a big reputation in Brooklyn, we would put on park concerts yearly. Sharing the music meant a lot to us. We weren't in it for the money.
We traveled the east coast as far as north as Canada doing performances to an overwhelming positive response. Interestingly we were often asked why we were opening for Larry Coryell’s band. We knew it all tied together somehow. Arthur and I had a tight bond musically, we cultivated music on many levels including spiritual, we thought it was just as, if not more important than the actual science of music itself.
Both Arthur and Collin knew I had a low tolerance for oversized egos. I felt it took away from the individual and collaborative effort to access the magical realm in the music. It would have been easy to let what we were doing get to our heads because the band was good. But Arthur and I knew that was the path to failure - denial of access to the Divine realm. This concept kept us grounded - it wasn't’t about gangs, or any other bullshit; when we played music we were like scientists searching for a cure to the ills of the planet.
I remember producing a Prospect Park concert one year. It was cloudy that day and about to rain. I prayed for it to clear up and miraculously, at noon, the sun broke through the clouds. We played a great gig. I'll always remember that day, it was a miracle for me!
The ability to apply the theory of pressure and release to the music was an important part of what we were interested in. Fluffy music wasn’t important to us. I remember Reggie Workman’s description of Arthur, saying, “Every now and then a soul comes through with a gift like this.”
We felt a responsibility to share the music, knowing from experience that generations of great music and musicians generally get lost in a marinara of commercialism. We had work to do. We found it absurd that those in charge of the music industry weren't interested in taking music to it’s highest and best levels. We knew the power music had to change things and inspire people. A $50.00 gig meant nothing to us!
It was around this time we had an appointment with the president of an independent label in Manhattan. I remember sitting with Arthur in the office of this person when the phone rang. It was one of the label’s artists. I heard the company president say, give me a call next week and we'll see what we can do. When he hung up the phone he turned to us and said that was XXXX he wants to sell some music to probably pay his bills or mortgage. This left a lasting impression on both Arthur and myself, to say the least. I'm never amazed at what I hear in the news or anywhere else for that matter when I reflect on that moment. That consciousness is quite real among those who care little about the arts beyond commercialism. This would make one have to wonder, how many great artists have lived and died unknown to the world? As Arthur Collin and I continued playing we started integrating a Jazz set into the music. It was around this point that Arthur started branching out on his other instruments. He would switch off between piano and tenor sax. He also played melodica from time to time.
Arthur was not always easy to deal with but to me he was like a brother, we got along well and the music reflected it. I also remember Arthur's grandmother, Margaret Ashley, who treated me like a son. Arthur and I use to visit her regularly, she was a wonderful person who feed us great vegetarian meals. I'll always remember her.
Considering the level of Arthur’s talent, I think he was fairly humble. Particularly when I think about some of the clowns out there who took knowledge, inspiration, and even got lessons from Arthur, never reaching back during their 5 minutes of fame to give him a hand. That would have been easy for at least a couple of individuals who most of us know. I want all the more to remember Arthur and thank him for what he gave of so freely during his short life. Perhaps that's why musicians of Arthur's caliber don't show themselves very often!
When I started this band it was about finding the best musicians, playing great music and embracing positive consciousness. That's the reason Eternity came into existence. It's a piece of history I'm proud and grateful to have been a part of.
As for the remaining members of Eternity, Collin still lives in New York, sad to say currently withholding some of the rehearsal tapes containing music he begged Art and I to let him hold, after rehearsals we taped back then. Collin promised Art and I he would make them available whenever might need them. In Arthur's absence after 30 years I felt it was time to do just that, It was actually before I launched ArthurRhames.net. It has now been a 3 plus year attempt on my part with no follow through on Collin's part to fulfill his promise. I think it's tragic that Collin is unable to see past himself to the reality that it's not about him or me, It's about Arthur here! Adrian Myself and particularly Collin were simply blessed with the opportunity to be a part of this special piece of history with Arthur Rhames.
Thankfully Adrian and I still play from time to time. It's a pleasure and a privilege to walk out on stage with Adrian knowing that it was he and Arthur who enabled me to reach far into a realm of music which would have been otherwise inaccessible.. I've spent many years documenting the arts, and have also hosted a jazz radio program in Los Angeles among other things. In addition I head up a company called Stick Gripps which markets a drum stick grip improvement accessory for Drummers. stickgripps.com
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