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Nitzinger-Rutledge – the unreleased LP

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At last! Another amazing adventure to open your mind…

For decades, the demise of 1970’s proto-arena hard rockers Bloodrock has been shrouded in mystery. In the course of documenting their story – for the biography American Burn – I have come upon a revelation. Here, then, for the first time ever, the real story behind lead singer Jim Rutledge’s departure from the band.

Bloodrock drummer & lyricist Rick Cobb (July 3 & September 3 2003; February 3 2004) describes the breakup of the band:

“The band was breaking up [at the Mar y Sol festival in April 1972] but we didn’t know how to stop it. Rutledge had probably long ago decided he wanted out and he thought [John] Nitzinger wrote tunes that could take him farther than Bloodrock. Rutledge betrayed Bloodrock for the power and glory of a solo career (with Nitzinger) that never materialized.”

For the uninitiated, John Nitzinger wrote several of Bloodrock’s songs and then went on to a dazzling (but short-lived) career of his own (beginning also on Capitol records).

The news is that, following Rutledge’s exit from Bloodrock, Rutledge and Nitzinger teamed up to produce a record Capitol never released.

Trombonist, arranger and former recording studio owner Chuck Mandernach worked on the Rutledge-Nitzinger session. According to him (in conversation, February 19 2004):

“It was really good material – Nitzinger could write any kind of song. We used strings, and there was brass. Phil Kelly was involved, too. It cost a lot of money – most of it, I believe, was Jim’s money; Capitol just wasn’t into it. But it was a wonderful project. I never saw Jim perform as the ‘DOA’ guy; he was real nice, very quiet.”

John Nitzinger recalls the session, saying (in conversation, February 27 2004):

“That album Jim and I did of my ballads is the most artistic, scary, beautiful, moving, different, things I’ve ever done! Phil Kelly was genius with the string and horn arrangements, it’s for sure an underground, rare piece of art. It’s one of the things I’m most proud of as pure original art.”

Phil Kelly added (in conversation, February 27 2004):

“When the project was submitted to Capitol they el pasoed on it, saying it was ‘too out of the mainstream, wasn’t something that would appeal to the BR / Rutledge fan base’ and other such crap. About six months later, Neil Young released Harvest and we all know where that went. Big mistake was made by the suits on this project IMO.”

The album was completed in 1974. The songs bring to mind the best of Jimmy Webb: they are, at turns, dreamy, haunted, deep with mad poetry and jazz darkness. The lyrics range from money, despair, hope and childhood – life in its rich and painful complexity… as this small sample, from ‘Money Whip,’ attests:

“The mailman comes on Saturday
You can see him in the rain;
On a cold, it-doesn’t-matter-day
I can feel his pain;
There’s a warm meal there at home
And a woman who loves her man;
But the money whip cracking won’t leave him alone
So he’ll be there when he can – ”

Throughout, Rutledge’s vocals are preposterously subtle, agonizingly gorgeous – and seemingly heartfelt. Phil Kelly is obviously a full partner in the project and his string arrangements – recalling Nelson Riddle’s best work with Sinatra – are tender and powerful. The prevailing sound of the endeavor is timelessness. (Standouts include the menacing saloon song ‘A Thorn in your Side,’ with Whitey Thomas on piano, and the surreal, carnival-flavored ‘Sharing Days with You.’) This is one of the most important albums of the 1970s. Easily the peak of Nitzinger’s career as a songwriter, it’s an act of criminal negligence that it remains unreleased.

Jack Calmes (in conversation, January 9 2004) offers his perspective – and, perhaps, the view shared by Capitol:

“Rutledge was clearly the main star and I suppose he wanted more out of it and quit Bloodrock to do his own thing. His own thing consisted of a Jim Rutledge LP of all Nitzinger ballads (sounding more like Tony Martin or Dean Martin than rock and roll) – very surreal – that was a really bad decision and where we parted ways. It was crazy and difficult for me to watch a career thrown away, but I said my piece and that was it. I think Jim was a little burned out by this period and in those days, the pressure to keep putting out albums at a 2 per year pace was too much and the system kind of chewed people up.”

Rutledge stayed on with Capitol to produce Nitzinger’s first two albums. Only in 1976 did Capitol release a Rutledge solo album, Hooray for Good Times, with music and (even) lyrics written primarily by Michael Rabon (of Five Americans fame). The record is a calculated attempt at radio fare, alternating between unassuming country-pop (‘Hooray for Good Times’) and corporate boogie (‘Brown Paper Bag’).

Mike Rabon confirms the session was a contractual obligation venture (in conversation, March 7 2004):

“I was recording an album of my own at Dallasonic studios in Dallas Texas. I was recording all original material that I had just recently written. I knew Jim from several social occasions and knew that he owed Capitol records one more album to fulfill his contract. I had recorded an album for the Uni label that hit snags in the production dept because Mike Post had asked to produce a couple of sides and they came off like TV music so the album never got released. I had the masters and suggested that Jim just put his vocal on the tracks with some of my harmonies and he agreed. That’s about it.”

The LP went straight from pressing plant to cut-out bins (as his masterpiece, the Nitzinger ballad album, languished in the vault) – and Rutledge’s 10-year relationship with Capitol was terminated.

John Nitzinger’s career has been erratic. After two impressive LPs for Capitol (Nitzinger [1971] and One Foot in History [1973]) as well as his show-stopping performance at the Mar y Sol Pop Festival [1972 Atco 2-705], substance abuse curbed his ambitions.

His first LP – containing almost-hits ‘LA Texas Boy’ and ‘Louisiana Cock Fight,’ plus the impassioned antiwar tune ‘Hero of the War’ – is considered a classic of its kind: literate, balls-to-the-walls Texas blues rock. Nitzinger later recorded for smaller labels and even worked with Alice Cooper until disappearing from the business for years.

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  • Eric Olsen

    Thanks Barry, very happy to have you join!

  • http://www.bloodrock.net Bloodrock Website

    Alot to say about these guys, no time or space to say it …. but I’ll be back :o)

    The Rutledge album of Nitzinger written ballads. There’s a great piece of work that deserves the light of day. Maybe we can make that happen or maybe get the man to let us put a couple of tracks online. We’ll see …

    Bloodrock was a great band that produced some outstanding hard rock sounds often packaged with some fairly profound lyrics. The band obviously created an awesome following of fans. Evidenced by the posting of info 30+ years after the last released music .

    Definitely a reflection of the times. If you get a chance to have an earful , do it. You’ll be transported back to the era when these arena rockers catered to the reception of rebellious young adults searching for escape from the conservative establishment slide rule of the times.

    While Bloodrock 3 and Bloodrock USA reflect the most promise of a foothold in the industry, Bloodrock Live ( recorded live at Chicago Amphitheatre is ) is by far my favorite.

    There is a good bit of current work being done by different band members, and it’s all great but the music created by Bloodrock as a band stands at the top of the heap amongst others that produced similar music during that era.

    You can find original vinyl from collectors, resellers and traders. And CD’s distruted by One Way Records can be ordered online. Steve Hill has some interesting work lately, Jim Rutledge has had a couple of more recent albums and continues to explore the music industries. Others have more recent unpublished work in the closets.

    Steve Hill has a great piece of work in his recently released Vignette. He has other projects in the works currently and has remained active in the music industry

    Jim Rutledge made available his more recent projects. Rutledge DOA and Texas Muzic Machine. Nitzinger is all over them. And they are great representatives of another more recent era in rock and roll history. Rutledge remains active in music related industries as producing and publishing rock and roll related projects coninue to add to his credits.

    John Nitzinger continues to tour and produce great projects for himself and others. A new Nitzinger project “Kiss Of The Mudman” is in studio and will soon be released. An excellant video “Devils Got The Blues” isn’t yet slated for release, but is a dynamite video project sure to get some attention.

    I know that Nick Taylor, Lee Pickens, Ed Grundy , Rick Cobb , The Hamm Brothers all have tapes hidden away and other projects they would have us hear. If we could only get those sounds released from the closets of the creators.

    Good places to search for related sounds are GEMM.com and eBay.com

    My two cents , which is all I can afford today.
    Clif Daniel, bloodrock.net

  • http://www.utopia2000.org Barry Stoller

    …I know that Nick Taylor, Lee Pickens, Ed Grundy , Rick Cobb , The Hamm Brothers…

    That’s HAM brothers.

  • Peter G.

    Barry, is Bloodrock?(who the f….?)better or worse than Spinal Tap? Bloodrock? They did not exactly set the world on fire,eh? They must be worse than Spinal Tap because The Tap does have a feature film! Your taste is in your ass which goes along way in explaining your hatred of Zeppelin. You would not be able to discern talent if it came up and kicked you in the balls(and I believe I am being generous by implying you have balls, because you have no taste).

  • Nick Jones

    Hey, Barry: Peter Gabriel can be a real asshole when he’s drunk, eh?

  • Peter G.

    I’ll give you that one, Nick at least you are attempting to approach humor. By the way, I know I walked away from the band, but I still resent Phil, probably because I could never play the drums and sing at the same time. I have always admired that, although Henley rules that roost.

  • Clyph Danyul

    Well schit Barry , I had just bin duing sume graficks for a a beer memorabilia collecturz website layout and it includid some Hams Brewery stuff , I don’t thinck thet Bill or Warren Ham wood mind mie pour spelleng habuts.

    Did eye at leest git a pasing grade fer mie compozition ?

    I shorely dindt mean two bern yer hypur-kritikull eyes.

    Eye have maid a few uther miztakes in mie life alsew, I sure due hope thet ewe dindt notis.

    Best Regardz

  • http://www.utopia2000.org Barry Stoller

    ‘Hyper-critical’? Not when the person in question (meaning you, Clif Daniel) poses as the OFFICIAL voice of Bloodrock (i.e. your claim that your Bloodrock site is the ‘band site’). I have no doubt you presently represent or have previously represented the internet interests of both Rutledge and Nitzinger (whose websites are full of your typos), but there seems to be a real pattern of disrespect regarding the post-Rutledge Bloodrock. How could someone claiming to represent the entire band possibly misspell an ALBUM TITLE or a VOCALIST’S NAME? It’s incomprehensible. This is a band deserving MUCH better.

  • Shark

    Bonus Quiz: Which ex-member of Bloodrock isn’t currently in a *drug-induced, brain-damaged, mind fucked fog?

    But they had GREAT hair!

    *being a born-again Christoid qualifies as a drug

  • Clif

    Geez Barry , you always seems so angry.

    You seem to have a nasty habit of hurling unprovoked hostility in my direction.

    Am I in time out now ?

  • http://www.ranchocalypso.com/travellog/ John Wilson

    I was the engineer on Bloodrock USA – and I recorded the Nitzinger album produced by Jim Rutledge. Capitol dropped the ball on one of the best rock n’ roll singers of that time (Rutledge). John Nitzinger and Jim Rutledge should have been superstars. As I remember it I was nominated for a Grammy for the recording of the USA album and yet Capitol didn’t push it at all – maybe the cover artwork or John Palidino being very old – he actually sat in on a few sessions with cotton in his ears sitting next to me in the control room – go figure. Rutledge is an unsung hero of rock as far as I am concerned.

  • Lynn DeMuynck

    Tonight I saw John Nitzinger in Waco, Tx at the Boque River Stage. He was great. Sept 16,2006

  • http://www.nitzinger.com Mark Robbins

    Did you know a NEW BLOODROCK ALBUM is now in the works (October 2006)? Rutledge and Nitzinger are working in the studio at this very moment, and John Nitzinger is working on a biography project as well. We do not know why the Bloodrock web site has been useless and collecting dust, but the Nitzinger web site should offer some current news and release dates for the new material. As an insider to these projects, I can tell anyone who is a Bloodrock fan from the original days, that you are in for a treat indeed!

    Producer Mark http://www.studiocerebral.com

  • http://NITZINGER.COM NITZINGER

    IT ALL IS A SAGA….AND THE BEAST RISES ONCE AGAIN……..STOP ALL YOUR BLA BLA BLAS ABOUT ” BLOODROCK “…NO ONE KNOWES BUT US !…JIM RUTLEDGE AND JOHN NITZINGER IS THE NEW ” BLOODROCK ” …THE NEW ALBUM IS WRITTEN AND PRODUCED BY NITZINGER (WHO WAS THE BACKBONE OF BLOODROCK IN THE WINGS)”IN THE COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION” IS JIM RUTLEDGE IN HIS MOST POWERFUL PERFORMANCE EVER !WE AREN’T KIDS ANYMORE!!!GET READY TO DROP YOUR JAW !!….THIS ALBUM IS SOMETHING THAT WILL GO DOWN IN ROCK HISTORY!..JOHN NITZINGER

  • Dan Da Bass Man

    Can anyone tell me how I can get copies of the unreleased Rutledge albums, or the Nitzinger albums? Also, how about any of the new stuff mentioned in the blogs? I am an unabashed Bloodrock lover from the time of the first release, and always thought Rutledge was one of the great rock singers that never got the due he deserved, and the band never got the recognition or they hype they deserved from their label. I saw the band live in Atlanta (with Spirit and a one hit wonder band named Crabby Appleton as the openers) and live they were absolutely incredible.

    If anyone can give me any info on how to get copies of any Rutledge, Nitzinger, or unreleased Bloodrock material, I would really appreciate it!

  • http://www.myspace.com/iconoclastomy Quietus

    Dan da Bass Man,

    You don’t call, you don’t write. I’m starting to think you don’t care anymore.

    Oh, yeah… Bloodrock kicks ass!

  • Roger Johnson

    Here’s my take on Nitzinger: Great AOR Texas blues-rock band, great album cover art, caused my hearing problem that I deal with to this day due to the King Arthur’s Court gig, New Years Eve (I think!)1973 or 1974 in San Antonio. I saw, in their heyday, many of Texas’ great bands like Johnny Winter, Too Smooth, Navasota, Top, Heyoka,and Man Mountain but Nitzinger was the only one that made me want to go out and buy or steal a Les Paul, lock myself in a room, live on tamales and beer until I could sound like John Nitzinger!! John, if you read this and ever see Wild Bill Easley (if he’s still around)give him my best. And thanks for a ton of good ’70s Texas music memories.

  • Taconite

    This has been bothering me for years – in the early 70’s, I was looking at albums in Musicland (downtown Duluth, MN). I swear that I saw a Jim Rutledge LP (not Hooray for Good Times). The album cover was completely black, but “Jim Rutledge” was printed in the middle, just like the first two Nitzinger albums. Is there any way this album may have been released and immediately shelved? Please note I am now 54 years old, still a great fan of John and Bloodrock and haunted by the image of this album. To this day, I still believe that I saw it… Please – no comments about losing my mind or trying to raise the ire of other fans. Thanks.