Le Pamplemousse was the brainchild of Michael Lewis and Laurin Rinder. Much like Phil Spector, a decade earlier, these producers would create outlets for their musical genius. These outlets or studio groups, would often feature the same musicians and singers. Interchangeable pieces in the master plan. The faces might change but the name and sound were constant.
Laurin Rinder was born in Los Angeles, California on April 3, 1943. He knew by the age of six that he wanted to be a musician. At seven, he was playing the trumpet. His father, who was an understudy for Bing Crosby during the 1930's and 1940's, encouraged Laurin to play and later built him a drum set out of trashcans and corrugated boxes. Soon the trumpet gave way to the saxophone and then finally the drums in his junior high school band.
He played on his first album as a session drummer in 1953 while only ten years old. During his sophomore year, he decided to drop out of high school to pursue music on a full time basis by playing with local bands around Los Angeles. The first band he played with was Dick D’Augustine And The Swingers who had a local hit with a tune called "Nancy Lynn."
At 19, Laurin enrolled in a correspondence course at The Berkeley School of Jazz and devoted his life to music. The great jazz artists of the day such as Davis, Monk and Mingus were his influences. Laurin was among the first in a small group of young musicians that played rock and roll in Hollywood during the mid-to late 1950's. There was a shortage of drummers, since little if any of the older musicians wanted to play this new style of music. Rock and roll in its infancy was essentially an amalgam of blues, R&B and country & western. During the period between 1956 to around 1963 Laurin claims to have played on roughly about half of the music that was released during that time.
In the early 1960's Laurin made the move to Detroit and was part of the early Motown history along with friend Bernard Purdy. While now based in Detroit he continued to travel and record in Philly, Miami, and the famed Muscle Schoals studios in Alabama where he played on Arthur Prysock, Anita O’Day and Billy Eckstein sessions among others. He traveled extensively with James Brown, Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed and John Hooker by bus throughout the South during the 1960's where he was usually the only white player in a black group. Las Vegas also figured into his travels where he even did comedy as part of "Rinder, Ryder And The Swinging Brass" around 1966-67. When asked why so many different things under his belt his only reply is, "I’m an opportunist. I look for the door and go through it." "Things got a little thin in the early 1970s when we were doing hard rock and at this time is when Michael (Lewis) comes in."
Around 1968 Laurin was living in Laguna Beach, California when he called his friend Dick Dodd, the leader singer of the group The Standells, to arrange for an audition. The Standells had scored a number 11 hit in 1966 with "Dirty Water." Michael, who hailed from Alabama, was their keyboard player and had just come from another group, We Five, which had the 1966 hit "You Were On My Mind." Michael had also performed on fellow Alabamian Percy Sledge’s "When A Man Loves A Woman." The two met and later went on to form a rock group called Joshua. The six-piece group was comprised of former members of The Righteous Brothers and Bonnie And Delaney. After several unsuccessful years the group disbanded. The bands manger, Seymour Heller who was the president of "The Conference of the Personal Managers of the World" and guided the careers of such stars as Liberace and Debbie Reynolds, had other plans for Rinder and Lewis. Heller was the owner of "Producer’s Workshop" and partners with Ray Harris in the "American Variety International" (AVI) record label.
Around 1973 that they were asked by Harris if they knew anything about "this new music called Disco." They were then asked if they would like to go into the studio and try something out. Laurin recalls, "We went in and did all this stuff and we were the first ones to do this thing. And I was putting in these sh, sh, sh hi-hat things on R&B songs that turned into Disco songs. Then I said why don’t we start using bells and whistles and I do some strange sounds like ew-ee, ew-ee…we’ll put breaks into it and play some bass drum…boom-boom and who cares…" to which everyone agreed. A very popular gay disco called Studio One was near Laurin’s home, so one night Laurin and Michael decided to stop by and see what this new Disco music was all about. The two found themselves dumbfounded.They could not help noticing that the crowd was eating it up and thought we can do this with no problem at all.
Ray Harris, who had been in contact with D.J.-producer and remixer Rick Gianatos via Chicago's Dogs Of War Record Pool, gave Rinder and Lewis their next hit. Gianatos was working at the pool and spinning at Dingbats (a local straight black club). Rick told Ray about a dance that he saw nightly at the club, the dancers did this thing called "The Spank" to Peter Brown's "Do Ya Wanna Get Funky With Me" and Barry White's "It’s Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next To Me." Rick picks up the story: "Ray Harris thought doing a record about The Spank was a fantastic idea and he and Michael Lewis flew in to Chicago the following week to hang out a little and observe the dancers carrying on to these songs. I made sure to play music appropriate for the dance when they were at the club, including both of the favorites, Peter Brown and Barry White. Ray wasn't impressed with Peter Brown, but that beat of Barry White got him excited. (Peter Brown was a more outrageous and less predictable track, for sure.) He told Michael they would go back to LA and Michael and Lauren should write something new with that Barry White groove. A few days later Ray called me and told me he had christened the concept "Le Spank," to continue in his "European Import" flavor of AVI releases." And the rest is history as they say. Laurin took the track and changed the lyrics to make it become "Le Spank" which became the first hit for the branch of Rinder/Lewis under the name Le Pamplemousse. The duo had previously released 2-12" singles as Le Pamplemousse to moderate success, 1976's "Gimme What You Got" and 1977's "Get Your Boom Boom (Around The Room Room)" before "Le Spank" hit number one in 1977. The 12" singles: "Monkey See, Monkey Do" and "Sweet Magic" followed in 1978 and the final 12" single, "Do You Have Any, Do You Know Where I Can Get Some" in 1979. The "group" had three albums between 1977 and 1979: "Le Pamplemousse" (1977), "Sweet Magic" (1978), and "Planet Of Love" (1979). The musicians listed on the credits of the Le Pamplemousse albums are fictitious. Laurin says, "None of them existed, Mike and I played all the instruments…on every album. Every single album."
Some of the many singers that comprised Le Pamplemousse were: Brenda, Valerie and Shirley Jones (The Jones Girls), Alexandra Brown, Patricia Hall, Mortonette Jenkins, and Laurin himself. This facet of Michael and Laurin's genius ended in 1979 as they moved into recording under their own monikers. For related releases see: El Coco, In Search Of Orchestra, St. Tropez, Tuxedo Junction, and of course Rinder & Lewis.
Michael has since continued in the music business and Laurin, who left it in the mid 1980's, is now a gallery owner and renowed artist.
AVI Part 3
Taken from the album "Le Spank" [AVL 6032] (1977),
Le Pamplemousse - Le Spank