The Leaves Biography

Formed in Northridge, California, USA, in 1964, this folk rock group began its career as the Rockwells, a college-based ‘frat’ band. Founder members Robert Lee Reiner (guitar) and Jim Pons (bass) were joined by Bill Rinehart (guitar) and Jimmy Kern (drums) in an attraction offering a diet of surf tunes and R&B-styled oldies. By the end of the year vocalist John Beck had been added to the line-up, while Kern was replaced by Tom Ray early in 1965. Having branched into the Los Angeles club circuit, the Rockwells were among the finalists auditioning to replace the Byrds at the fabled Ciro’s on Sunset Strip. They duly won the residency whereupon the group took a more contemporary name, the Leaves. Having secured a recording contract with Mira Records via a production deal with singer Pat Boone’s Penhouse production company, the Leaves made their recording debut with ‘Too Many People’ in September 1965. For a follow-up the quintet opted to record ‘Hey Joe’, a song popularized by the aforementioned Byrds, Love and Music Machine and a subsequent hit for Jimi Hendrix.

Their initial recording was not a success, prompting the departure of Rinehart in February 1966. He later surfaced in the Gene Clark Group and, later, Merry-Go-Round. Bobby Arlin, veteran of the Catalinas with Leon Russell and Bruce Johnson, took his place. A second version of ‘Hey Joe’ was released, then withdrawn, before the group proclaimed themselves happy with a third interpretation, which featured fuzz guitar and a vibrant instrumental break. It reached the US Top 40 in May that year, much to the chagrin of those initially playing the song. However, ensuing releases were not well received, placing a strain on the group. Reiner left the line-up, but although the remaining quartet were signed to Capitol Records, further ructions ensued. Pons joined the Turtles during sessions for All The Good That’s Happening, Ray was fired by the producer, and Beck quit in disgust leaving Arlin to tidy the proceedings. The last-named pair did reunite in 1967 to record a handful of songs, but plans to work as the New Leaves, with the aid of Buddy Sklar (bass) and Craig Boyd (drums), were abandoned when Beck quit. The remaining trio took a new name, Hook. Of the remaining ex-members only Pons retained a high profile as a member of Flo And Eddie and the Mothers Of Invention. (NB: Not to be confused with the Icelandic indie rock band of the same name.)

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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