• Added info on Jimmy Ford, thanks to Volker Houghton. • Extended and corrected the post on Happy Harold Thaxton (long overdue), thanks to everyone who sent in memories and information! • Added information to the Jim Murray post, provided by Mike Doyle, Dennis Rogers, and Marty Scarbrough. • Expanded the information on Charlie Dial found in the Little Shoe post.

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

The Lonesome Rhodes on RCA-Victor

he Lonesome Rhodes (Sandy and Donna) - "Nothin' But Heartaches Here" (RCA-Victor 47-9134), 1967

The Lonesome Rhodes were Sandra (nicknamed Sandy) and Donna Christine Rhodes, daughters of Perry Hilburn "Dusty" Rhodes and "Dot" Rhodes, who, along with Dusty's brothers Ethmer Cletus "Slim" Rhodes and Gilbert R. "Speck" Rhodes, were members of Slim Rhodes' Mountaineers, longtime Memphis country music performers and once Sun recording artists.

Of course born into a musical family, both Sandra and Donna were blessed with the same talent and naturally got their early music education from their family. A career in music was predicted and in 1964, they released their debut "How Much Can a Lonely Heart Stand" b/w "Why, Why, Why" on the local Memphis based Penthouse label (#5001) in 1964 as "The Rhodes Sisters". This record came to the attention of the bigger independent Dot label and the sisters re-recorded it for release on Dot in May that year. A single on the Dial label followed in 1965. At that time, their sound was a mixture of country and pop music.

Sandra and Donna came to the attention of country music singer Skeeter Davis, who had recorded their "How Much Can a Lonely Heart Stand" for RCA-Victor in 1963, scoring a minor hit withh it (#17 C&W, #47 Hot 100). She supported the sisters and signed them to her Crestwood publishing firm and by the mid 1960s, Sandra and Donna were recording and performing as "The Lonesome Rhodes". Their style was far from the sounds of the Rhodes family band but like their father and uncles had experimented with the new rock'n'roll sounds of the 1950s, Sandra and Donna were mixing country, soul, pop, and rock into their own brand of music.

They held their first session for RCA-Victor in August 1966 at RCA's studio in Nashville, Tennessee, produced by either Felton Jarvis or Chet Atkins. Although the exact line-up is unknown, it is probable they were accompanied by some of Nashville's A-Team musicians. From this very first session hails today's selection, the driving "Nothin' But Heartaches Here", a great slice of music with a style not clearly assigned to one genre. It's a little bit of country, a little bit of pop, and a little bit of rock. Paired with "The Least You Could Have Done", it saw release as the Lonesome Rhodes' second single on RCA-Victor #47-9134 in March 1967.

Probably too indefinable for the record company to promote on the one hand and for the public on the other, the single didn't reach the charts. All of their other RCA releases, five in total, shared the same fate and the Rhodes recorded their last session for the label in July 1967 with their final RCA disc appearing a year later in September 1968 ("The Lights of Dallas" b/w "I'm Missing You", #47-9629). A self-titled album of their recordings was released by RCA the same year.

Already in May 1967, Sandra had a solo release out on the Senat label, for which she worked with Wes Farrell. She was married to Memphis songwriter-producer-musician Charles Romain "Charlie" Chalmers and along with sister Donna they formed a trio that produced soul music under different names into the 1980s. They first recorded for Diamond and Hi as "The Joint Venture" in 1969 and 1972 respectively, then as "Rhodes, Chalmers and Rhodes" (later shortened to RCR) for Warner Brothers in 1975 and finally for the Florida based Radio label in 1980.

Besides that, both Sandra and Donna released solo discs during those years. Sandra recorded one single and one album for Fantasy in 1972, which was also released in the Netherlands the following year. Donna had a single on Epic out in 1968 as well as a solo album released on the same label in 1971, then recorded for Hi in 1973, Charlsand in 1974, for Unidisc in 1982 (which saw also release in Canada and the Netherlands on Ramshorn), and for Mahogany.

Chalmers also produced two releases on Sandra and Donna's mother Dot Rhodes for Epic in the early 1970s. RCR was also busy in the 1970s recording with many of Memphis' southern soul stars such as Aretha Franklin, Al Green, OV Wright, Willie Mitchell, and others, therefore playing an important part in the development of soul. 

Sandra Rhodes and Charlie Chalmers eventually divorced but kept on working together closely. They recorded with British soul singer Reuben James in 1994 and also backed Al Green on his 2005 album "I Can't Stop", produced by Willie Mitchell. Around that time, Sandra was residing in Mammoth Springs, Arkansas, playing guitar at local country shows, joined occasionally by her sister Donna.


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