An Interview with Tony Taveira & Benny Benevides of Tangerine Zoo
One of the hottest psychedelic bands on Mp3.com is certainly that of the Tangerine Zoo. A long time favorite of garage band and psych music collectors, TZoo has experienced a recent resurgence of interest due to the availability of certain track selections on mp3. Not only can one download prime cuts from the group's two late '60s albums, but a new "Best of" CD is also available for purchase via the well-known music web site. Member, TonyTaveira is also currently shopping around some of the group's unreleased demos from '69, as well as vintage live tracks recorded by the band in the '60s. We'll continue to keep readers of The Lance Monthly informed as to the release status of these recordings. In the meantime, sample some of the band's clasic recordings at: http://artists.mp3s.com/artists/189/tangerine_zoo.html
Special thanks to Tony Taveira and Benny Benevides for sharing their story with The Lance Monthly.
[Lance Monthly] How did you first get interested in music?
[Tony Taveira] At age 15, when I heard the song by the Beatles "I Want to Hold Your Hand" on AM radio, I went out and bought the first album, "Meet The Beatles." Within weeks I went to Sears and purchased a (SilverTone) guitar. I couldn't play to save my ass, but neither could anyone else! It was painful for everyone concerned in those early days, including everyone's poor parents who had to put up with all the bands practicing in cellars or garages. I personally took it more seriously by practicing every time I could. Sports was out. Now they just got in the way. I soon swithed to the bass guitar; it was too difficult and time consuming for me to stick with the six string guitar, and bass players were more in demand. After going through many musicians--if we can call them that--in those early days, I put together a band named the Rogues (taken from the street gang in "West Side Story").
[LM]How long did the Rogues play together?
[TT] The Rogues lasted about one year. Then I teamed up with some other local guys to form the Batmen. Don Smith had asked me to join a band called the Batmen who had two brothers: one an organ player and the other, Charlie, who really could sing and was [a] good front man. The year was 1965. The Rockin' Teens was Benny & Wayne's first band in 1963. They both left for military service (1964-1966).
[LM]So the Ebb Tides came after the Batmen?
[TT] After playing for about nine months, Don Smith heard that a very talented musician by the name "Benny" Bob Benevides was coming home from the service. He was asked to join the group and agreed. We changed the name to the Ebb Tides to accommodate the new sound. We were at six members for a short time. Ray, the other guitar player, left shortly thereafter due to becoming a father. Now we were at five members, and things were starting to come together musically.
[Lance Monthly] What was the final line-up, then, for the Ebb Tides?
[TT] Charlie Robidoux, lead vocals (age 17); Bobby Robidoux, electric organ (age 16); Donald Smith, drums (age 17); Tony Taveira, bass guitar (age 17); and Bob Benevides, lead guitar (age 20).
[Lance Monthly] Where did the band typically practice?
[TT] My parents cellar. It was a fairly large one.
[Lance Monthly] Where did the band typically play?
[TT] The band played any where that we could! Places like parties, teen dances, drive-in movies, theates in towns, amusements parks, but mostly at local high school gyms. We even played on the deck of the battleship SS. Massachusetts.
[Lance Monthly] How popular locally, then, did the Ebb Tides become?
[TT] The band's appeal became strong due the teenage girls that started to follow the group due [to] the showmanship of the group (Charlie was great at showmanship), and the group's improvement and set list. We also caught a break when our manager at this time, Benny's older brother Bill, became friends with Bud Cowsill, father of the famous group in Newport, Rhode Island [Editors' Note: The Cowsills had a few hits in the '60s, among them "The Rain, the Park and Other Things" and "Indian Lake," and were the eventual basis for the "Partridge Family."] He had connections with all the nite club owners at the time and we soon started to play the club scene in Newport.
[Lance Monthly] How would you describe the band's sound?
[TT] The sound was very typical of the times. We would play cover songs by groups that had hits: everything from ? & The Mysterians ("96 Tears") to Mitch Ryder and the Detriot Wheels. We didn't have any real original songs yet.
[Lance Monthly] Did the band appear on any local TV shows?
[TT] There was a local TV show on WJAR TV channel 10 that copied "American Bandstand" that we appeared on.
[Lance Monthly] What can you tell me about the band's single, "My Baby's Gone" b/w "Summertime"? Where was it recorded?
[Benny Benevides] We recorded the single at ARCO Records in New Bedford, Mass. We recorded "Summertime," the ballad, and needed a song for the "B" side, so I quickly wrote "My Baby's Gone." Ironically, it became the favorite cut. It's even been digitally remastered on "Sixties Rebellion, Volume 4."
[Lance Monthly] Did the Ebb Tides participate in any Battle of the Bands?
[BB] We played many Battle of the Bands in the local area. We faired well due [to] the large following that we had (the term now used for them is "groupies"). I think we won most of them, if not all of them. However, we did enter a talent show and lost to a very young tap dancer.
[Lance Monthly] A tap dancer? I imagine the band was thinking "you've got to be kidding" . . .
[TT] All I remember is that we did not want to WIN that one. We would have been BOOED or worse!
[Lance Monthly] According to the FUZZ, ACID, & FLOWERS, web site, an early version of the Tangerine Zoo song "Nature's Children" was released as by the Kidds. What can you tell me about the Kidds? Was it an early version of Tangerine Zoo, a later version of the Ebb Tides, or an entirely different line-up from either?
[BB] The Kidds were a group of younger guys (two being my first cousins, Louie & Stevie Benevides), who formed their own band with five other guys. They had seven members: three horn players, guitar, bass, drums and an organ player. They recorded the song "Nature's Children" from the Tangerine Zoo song written by Don Smith and Ron Medeiros of the Tangerine Zoo. They recorded on a local label.
[Lance Monthly] After the Ebb Tides, the band became known as the Flower Pot. How long were the Flower Pot together?
[TT] The band needed to change due to discord not uncommon with brothers (the Robidoux). The three of us, Benny, Smithy and I, felt change was in order, so once Benny heard that Wayne Gagnon was home from his service commitment--Benny had played with him in the Rockin' Teens--he was voted in. Then we had heard of a smokin' organ player in Bristol, Rhode Island playing with his own group, the Knight Riders, that was not too happy with the group. He was asked and soon joined to form the new group, The Flower Pot.
[Lance Monthly] How long was the band known as the Flower Pot?
[TT] About ten months. As soon as we signed with Mainstream, we changed the name (to Tangerine Zoo). We signed with Mainstream in late November, 1967.
[Lance Monthly] You recorded two albums for Mainstream. What were the circumstances leading to the band's singing with Mainstream?
[TT] The band auditioned for Mercury, RCA Victor and Mainstream in the fall of 1967 in New York City. Both RCA and Mercury wanted to sign the group to a single release first, and then release an LP if the first single sold. Mainstream, however, offered both at the same time. How could we pass that up after working so hard to get there? So we signed. Mainstream had us in the studio within a month and released the first LP in February 1968.
[Lance Monthly] Is it true that the Tangerine Zoo recorded the first version of "One Is the Loneliest Number," later to become a huge hit for Three Dog Night, but that it was left off the first album? If so, who's decision was it to leave it off the album?
[BB] It was left off the Second Album by Bob Shad, President and producer (of Mainstream Records). He felt it wasn't going to fit in well with the other material on the second LP.
[Lance Monthly] Do you recall your feelings while "One Is the Loneliest Number" was climbing it's way up the charts? Did you have any resentment toward Bob Shad for his decision?
[TT] It didn't phase the band until much much later. At the time, the band thought that there was plenty of material left. But after the fat lady sang, it became a different issue. We really feel today our biggest mistake was not going with RCA. We feel we were a very powerful band that did not get fully produced on record. If you ever had a chance to see us perform, you would know what I am talking about.
[Lance Monthly] Prior to recording the second album, Tony left the band. Why?
[TT] I left the band to return to finish high school after having made a decision to drop out of school due [to] the band's demanding touring. The local high school board met and agreed to let me return to my old high school even though I was 20 years old. This was before GEDs, so I jumped at it.
[Lance Monthly] What caused Tangerine Zoo to break-up in 1970?
[BB] The best way I can answer is with the much popular term used today to describe it: THE ROCK & ROLL SYNDROME. It applied to most groups of that time, and it applied to the Tangerine Zoo as well.
[Lance Monthly] What exactly is meant by THE ROCK & ROLL SYNDROME?
[TT] It' s just a term that most bands use to answer this question when they are asked. Each band has different reasons but my clinical guess is that egos clashed and the Zoo people wanted to go in different directions. A case in point would be Wayne, who went with Wadsworth Mansion (and had a national hit with "Sweet Mary") in 1970 or 1971 (I'm not sure of the date.). By the way, I still kid Wayne about being on the ABC show the "Dating Game" with Bob Lange and not being chosen. TWICE!
[Lance Monthly] I'm sure Wayne will appreciate you bringing that up! Do any of the 'Zoo still play? If so, how often, and where, do you perform?
[TT] Benny still plays in at the local club circuit. Ron plays organ for many visiting bands who need a keyboard player when visiting the Boston area. Smitty plays and sings in a Christian band. Wayne still write songs. I am finishing my career as a substance abuse counselor after 28 years. We did get together for fund raisers for local causes in 1988, 1991 and 1993. These reunions were fun due to the interest that was still shown in the band and the music of the sixties.
[Lance Monthly] What are your plans musically for 2001 and beyond?
[TT] We are planning to release four songs recorded for Atlantic Records that never were released, and we have some songs from the reunions that we might be able to include. Stay tuned.
[Lance Monthly] Thanks for sharing your recollections with The Lance Monthly.
[TT] Benny and I want to thank you for KEEPING THE MUSIC ALIVE! For more on the Tangerine Zoo, visit the band's web site at http://www.tangerinezoo.com