|Promotional photo from an early incarnation of the band, 1963. Courtesy of Dennis Richards.|
We spoke on the phone with Mondos drummer Dennis Richards in February 2012, who graciously took time out of his busy schedule to share his recollections of the Mondos history for this debut entry.
In Rhode Island during the early 1960s, a good portion of young people fell into two camps: Collegiate (pronounced "coh-leege" for short), the prim and proper university-bound studious types, and Mondos, donned in skintight black peg pants, black boots and collarless jackets. As for a certain group of Woonsocket High School students, well, it was obvious they didn't exactly have SAT test scores in mind when blasting out one of Rhode Island's finest rock and roll moments: this website's namesake, "Rip It Up," back in 1964.
These Mondos can claim to be the earliest waxed "garage" rock and roll band from R.I., with their debut disc self-released on their own FM label in 1963. Two more 45s followed on the Realm label out of New York City, both with a more common white-label promo version and a scarcer gold stock label counterpart. (In the stock version of "Rip It Up," the song title was changed to "Rip It, Rip It Up.") A final frat hoorah on the Columbus label out of Boston rounded out the band's catalog in late 1965.
Interestingly, band leader/singer Florian Monday was already a Providence College graduate and 21 years old when the Mondos formed in 1963. Via solid word-of-mouth referrals, Florian called 17-year-old drummer Dennis Richards out of the blue and asked if he wanted to start a band. The Richards family was going through some financial hardships at the time and Dennis was without a complete drum set … so Florian, who was established in the work force, bought Dennis a complete set of drums. Needless to say, Dennis was very happy!
Dennis recruited two good friends in his neighborhood who played guitar, Normand Bolduc and Eddie LeBrun, while Florian got wind of a talented organ player, Bobby Lauzon, and another guitarist, Eddie Careau. The six of them rehearsed in Dennis' bedroom. Florian would come up with the lyrics, sung in basic blues progressions, and the rest of the band would fill in the chord changes to the music. After a couple of months, Normand started having reservations about the band because he was used to playing in club bands with guys much older and getting paid for his efforts. Eventually, Normand thought the band wasn't going to be successful, so he left. Careau recommended Henry Guillet for bass duties, as up until that point the band only had guitars of the six-string variety. This new lineup continued to rehearse and soon Florian decided to cut a record. The Mondos recorded at RLM Studios in North Attleboro, Mass., with "Mondo Moe" as the a-side and "Mondo" as the b-side. (Sense a theme here?) Florian had 500 copies pressed on their own "FM" label, under the moniker Junior And The Mondos. The vinyl was sold through local record stores and gained quite a bit of airplay in the northern RI area via Woonsocket's WNRI and WOON radio stations. However, some DJs at the state's larger radio stations required monetary payment in exchange for spinning the vinyl. The Mondos did not agree with this "pay for play" standard (this was during the "payola scandal" in the early sixties), so airplay of Mondos records was almost non-existent at these stations.
|"Wear tight pegs at night / A collarless jacket, that's right / And my mondo boots are shining bright!"|
Photo courtesy of Dennis Richards
As it turns out, these larger radio stations were not needed after all … Woonsocket's own Music Box record store alone sold hundreds of copies of the single. During this time period, Music Box owner Matt Price received a visitor from New York City: Keith Stripps, a producer for the Realm label in NYC, who was checking in on record sales of a jazz pianist on the label. Matt played him both sides of the Junior And The Mondos record, and based on their record sales, it wasn't long before the band landed an all-expense-paid trip to New York City to record for Realm. The Mondos stayed at Keith's apartment on 55 East 74th Street — between Madison and Park Ave — for an entire weekend and re-recorded "Mondo Moe" and "Mondo," in which the more energetic "Mondo" was billed as the a-side. Back in Rhode Island, Providence's WPRO started playing the Realm 45 version sparingly in the afternoon. But more importantly, Keith owned three radio stations in the Detroit area, and the Mondos new 45 received significant airplay and was rising in the popularity charts.
|Courtesy of Dennis Richards|
The following week, Florian and company played at Palisades Park in New Jersey with the Manhattans and Randy & the Rainbows (who had a hit with "Oh Denise") to an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 people. The Woonsocket boys played three or four songs and the kids in the audience went nuts, with girls screaming, running up to the stage and pulling on their jackets while they performed. The excitement continued even after they stopped playing, with Randy & the Rainbows drowned out by chants of "We want the Mondos!"
Other notable gigs include playing at the New York World's Fair in both the New Jersey and New York pavilions; Hershey Park in Pennsylvania with the Thymes, the Pixies Three and the Kingsmen; the famous Hy Lit Record Hop in Philadelphia in front of thousands of people; the Steel Pier auditorium in Atlantic City, which also was aired on live television; and the Taft Hotel in New York City on Vincent Lopez' "Shake The Maracas" radio program.
|In true square '60s news media fashion, the Woonsocket Call misidentified most of the band. The correct order is: Front row (L-R): Henry Guillet, bass; Bobby Lauzon, organ; Florian Monday, vocals; Eddie Careau, guitar; Mike Robillard, guitar. Back row (L-R): Dennis Richards, drums; Eddie LeBrun, guitar. Photo courtesy of Dennis Richards.|
|"We specialize in screeches." |
Courtesy of Dennis Richards.
(Click for full-size view.)
The Mondos recording legacy included one last 45rpm in August 1965 as Monday's Mondos, this time on Boston's Columbus Records — the larger label behind its more prolific Minuteman Records division — to which Florian was recommended by a family member in college in the area. Label producer Barry Richards (no relation to Mondo Dennis) sang on the a-side, "Minnie Ha-Ha," and supplied the lyrics to Dennis' music. Florian sang on the flipside, "(I'm) Crying," a Kingsmen-style frat rocker which has appeared on volumes of the New England Teen Scene and Teenage Shutdown compilation series. According to Dennis, the music of "(I'm) Crying" sounded very similar to the Rolling Stones' "Get Off Of My Cloud" — or is that vice-versa? A representative of Columbus Records claimed he had an "in" with the Rolling Stones and was going to meet them backstage when they played Boston, right around the time the Mondos recording was finished. When "Get Off Of My Cloud" came out shortly thereafter, Dennis recalls, "My jaw dropped. The chord changes, and more importantly, the phrasings, were uncannily similar." The world will never know if Mick and Keith were "inspired" by Monday's Mondos' recently completed track, or if it was just a rock and roll coincidence, but one thing is certain: the record is by far the most elusive Mondos disc.
|The Mondos performing at a graduation party at the Blackstone Hotel in Massachusetts, 1965. |
Courtesy of Dennis Richards.
Sadly, Bobby Lauzon died in the Vietnam War just a week before he was scheduled to come home. Florian Monday is keeping a low and honest profile after some colorful activity in the decade following the Mondos. Mike Robillard still enjoys a successful musical career as Duke Robillard. Henry Guillet and Eddie Lebrun continued playing music in local bands, while Eddie Careau owned his own supermarket and is a guru in the stock market. Dennis continued to play in many successful area bands until age 60.
From Dennis: "The Mondos would like to recognize Roland Baillargeon, who had a very short stint with the band. He played guitar and was a very good singer. We lost touch with Roland but hope all is well!"
JUNIOR AND THE MONDOS
Mondo Moe / Mondo
FM (R-1214-3-FM) 1963
FLORIAN MONDAY AND HIS MONDOS
Mondo / Mondo Moe
Realm (BK-006) 1964
|This alternate label shrinks down the Mondos band name and corrects the "Mondo" song length to 2:04.|
FLORIAN MONDAY AND HIS MONDOS
Rip It, Rip It Up / Lovin'
Realm (BK-007) 1964
Minnie Ha-Ha / (I'm) Crying
Columbus (1041) 1965