The Cindermen were a rock and roll group signed by Moonglow Records in 1965. They released several 45s during their three year existence and became known to 60s garage collectors following their inclusion of ’Don’t Do It Some More’ on Pebbles Volume 8.
Not a great deal has been written about The Cindermen and information in reference guides and fanzines is scant to say the least. Fortunately, Sam Sinopoli who played drums with The Cinderman contacted me and agreed to answer some questions about his experiences with The Cindermen and his next band The New Life.
01. Where did The Cindermen hail from?
We all grew up in Fresno, California. There were originally 6 members in The Cindermen. I wasn’t the original drummer, the original drummer ran into some personal problems with his girlfriend and he had to quit.
5 of us attended Bullard High School and one attended Roosevelt High School. The 5 from Bullard were Bill Bixler, Bill Brant, Fred Perry, Don Whaley and myself Sam Sinopoli. The 6th member from Roosevelt was Jim Kelly. Jim graduated from high school in 1963, the other 4 members from Bullard graduated in 1964 and I graduated in 1965. I had played in bands with all of the members before, so when I joined The Cindermen, it easily meshed musically.
02. How did you all get together? School friends?
Bixler, Brant and I played in the Bullard High Studio band (40s big band music) together. Fred Perry, Don Whaley and I had done parties and casual gigs together. Jim Kelly and I had a surf band prior to him joining the Cindermen called JK and the Extensions. We played Dick Dale and other surf music.
03. How old would band members be at this point? still teenagers?
Yes, we were all still in our teens.
04. Who were your main influences?
Bixler, Brant and I were heavily influenced by jazz players, Mingus, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis etc. Everybody else just liked popular music. Whaley was into country music.
05. Where did The Cindermen play?
Like a lot of bands that started playing in school, we played at our high school dances. Then as we became more popular other schools in town and then schools up and down the San Joaquin Valley from Stockton to Bakersfield. There were also two popular teen dances in Fresno, Mag 7 and Brogue. We played at those two places a lot.
During Spring break 1965 we auditioned at the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa. We were offered the house band job for the summer and 3 days after I graduated from high school, we moved to Newport Beach. We were all planing on returning to Fresno after the summer to go to college, but during the summer we were offered the permanent job of house band at the Rendezvous. Four of us wanted to stay and two didn’t. So, at the end of the summer Bill Bixler and Bill Brant moved back to Fresno and the rest of us stayed. Don Whaley moved from keyboards to bass and we didn’t hire a new horn player to replace Bixler.
06. How did the record deal with Moonglow come about?
The Righteous Brothers who had played at the Rendezvous Ballroom before us had their first hits on Moonglow. There was a connection between Moonglow and the manager of the ballroom, John Clark. He introduced us to Ray Maxwell, the owner of Moonglow and Moonglow offered us a record contract.
07. ’Don’t Do It Some More’ is most definitely The Cindermen’s most famous song. Do you recall recording this one in the studio?
We did a lot of recording with Moonglow and the sessions would typically go all night until morning. I don’t have specific memories of that particular session.
08. Where were The Cindermen songs recorded? studios used?
Moonglow had their own studio, I believe it was just off Vine Street in Hollywood.
09. What are your memories of playing at those famous Sunset Strip Clubs?
The Cindermen never played any of the famous Sunset Strip clubs. The New Life played the Whiskey A Go-Go. The night we played the Whiskey, I had the measles, but no one was going to keep me off that stage. The Cindermen played for Casey Kasem at a show he used to have in Thousand Oaks and other things for LA DJ\’s like Gene Weed, Sam Riddle, Bob Eubanks and others.
The Cindermen were also the opening act for The Rolling Stones, The Animals, The Dave Clark Five, The Kinks, The Turtles, The Knickbockers, The McCoys at concerts and as house band at the Rendezvous we backed Barry McGuire, Janus Ian, Ian Whitcomb and more.
While we were still in Fresno, we backed The Coasters, The Rivingtons, The Olympics, Percy Sledge and more that I can’t remember. The New Life opened for The Buffalo Springfield.
10. Can you remember where the promo picture I’ve got was taken?
The promo picture that you have was taken in the living room of a friend, Lori Barth, actually her parents living room. She is also the girl who screams on ”Don’t Do It Some More\”
Here is more information about Lori: http://www.loribarth.com/ (link no longer active)
11. Why did The Cindermen break up?
The beginning of the end of The Cindermen was when the Rendezvous Ballroom burned down in August 1966. We got another house band gig at Carnaby Street in Huntington Beach, but that burned down also. What is really funny, Moonglow had produced a button in 1965, like a political button that you wean on your shirt. The button said ”Burn With The Cindermen”.
About the time this was all happening, a number of us received draft notification for the military. Fred Perry our most prolific writer and most of the time lead singer was going to be drafted and so he joined the army. We kept the band together for another year or so but it just wasn’t the same. We disbanded and Don Whaley and I moved back to Fresno where we met the other guys in The New Life and within 6 months were back in Newport Beach playing at a place called The New Look Discotheque.
12. Don Whaley and yourself formed The New Life with Steve Wood, Alan Shapazian and Phil Reed. I’ve heard some New Life recordings and they sound much more psychedelic and heavy than The Cindermen. Was this the direction you all agreed to go in?
Actually The New Life was formed with myself, Don Whaley, Alan Shapazian (ex Raik’s Progress), Phil Reed and Duane Scott (ex Raik’s Progress) who was the original keyboard player. Steve Wood (ex Penthouse 5) replaced Duane after about a year into the band. We enjoyed bands like Cream, Vanilla Fudge and such so I guess that we evolved to heavier music.
13. Where did The New Life play?
The New Life moved to Newport Beach from Fresno with a couple of months of forming. We played a few times in Fresno, but I really don’t remember where. When we moved to Newport, we played at a club called the New Look Discotheque in Newport. We played there for a few months and then we were offer the house band gig at the Cinnnamon Cinder at the traffic circle on the Pacific Coast Highway in Long Beach. We played there 5 nights a week for the next two years, until the band broke up.
14. How did the deal to record music for the movie ’Sidehackers’ come about?
We signed with Ameret records about a year after we started at the Cinnamon Cinder. We recorded a couple of singles and then Ameret hooked us up with Jerry Steiner and Mike Curb (eventual Lt. Governor of California) who were scoring the movie soundtrack.
So we placed a few of songs on the soundtrack of this movie. The premier of ”The Side Hackers” was a lot of fun. The producer, John Hall (of Tarzan fame) rented a 707 and flew the cast and ourselves to Phoenix, AZ for the premier. At the time our record ”Hale Se” was number 1 in Phoenix so we got quite a reception at the movie theater. We also had a few songs on another movie soundtrack. The movie was called ”Black Water Gold” and starred Ricardo Montoban. I think that came about because of the first movie deal.
15. How long did The New Life last as a band?
The New Life broke up either in late 1969 or 1970, I really can’t remember the exact date.
16. I know that Don Whaley and Steve Wood formed Honk after New Life. Did you join any other groups after the demise of The New Life?
In 1971 along with 5 other musicians that I knew (some from another band that used to play on the second state at the Cinnaman Cinder) formed a band called Cottonmouth.
Cottonmouth was probably the most talented band that I had ever played in. Musically we were a mixture of Jethro Tull (who we were big fans of) and the Allman Brothers. We had two lead guitars, a horn player that could play tenor and alto sax as well as flute very well and 3 different lead singers. We wrote a lot of original material also. We never had trouble getting work and we always demanded a high price to play because we were in demand and getting very popular.
Unfortunately, with so much talent we also had a lot of ego problems. It was also the 70s and the beginning of the ”I want it all and I want it now mentality”. I was the only band member that had been involved in a record contract (actually two of them). We started getting a lot of interest from record labels including Arista and United Artist.
We were being handled by three men, Denny Diante (who I believe eventually became the president of RCA), Spencer Proffer who eventually went on to produce Quiet Riot and Jeferry Marmalzat.
United Artists put us in the studio and were hoping that we could become their second hit band next to ELO and we did a lot of recording at Devonshire studio where all the hot bands were recording. Well, after spending a lot of money on us they decided that they better get us on contract. As for most new bands the initial contract they offered wasn’t that great. I pushed for taking the contract and re-negotiating once we had a hit.
The others didn’t see it that way and we hired a very expensive Beverly Hills law firms to represent us (California ex-Governor Pat Brown was a partner).
The negotiations weren’t getting very far, I think that we were demanding too much. United Artists finally withdrew their offer, figuring that if we were that difficult to deal with at that point, if we got a hit record, we would be impossible. I think they were right.
That was the beginning of the end for me. It was early 1975 and I was 28 and rapidly getting tired of the musician mindset and lifestyle that I had been living for the previous 15 years. In the spring of that year I told the other guys that I wanted out and by August they had found the drummer that they wanted to replace me with. I retired from music in August 1975.
I had been playing drums since I was 10 years old and had played professionally since I was 13. It was a major change, I cut my hair which was passed my shoulder, shaved my beard and went into the business world. I have never looked back. I really enjoyed my time as a rock musician but I was ready to move on and I did. Cottonmouth never reach the success they could have, it really was a waste of talent.
The Cindermen discography:
’Think Of Me’/’I’m Happy’ (Moonglow M-5002) 1965
’If I Can’t Love You’/’On Forever’ (Moonglow M-5005) 1965
’Don’t Do It Some More (’Cause It Hurts Me So)’/’True Love’ (Moonglow M-5012) 1966
’Don’t Knock It (’Til You’ve Tried It)’/’I Can’t Believe’ (Moonglow M-5014) 1966
’I Can’t See You’/’Stay Away’ (Moonglow M-5016) 1966
’Miss Connie, You’re A Loser’/ ‘You’ve Lost That Loving Feelin’ (Moonglow M-5021) 1967
New Life discography:
’Ha Lese Cle Di Khana’/’Blackwoods Annie’ (Amaret 103) 1968
’Strollin’ Sunday Mornin’/’Only For Our Minds’ (Amaret 107) 1968
’All Aboard’/’Sidehacker’ (Amaret 115) 1969
Originally posted on ‘Flower Bomb Songs’ – July 2010
Fantastic interview. I wonder how Fuzz Acid & Flowers got Minneapolis as the birthplace of New Life???
Question for Mr. Sinopoli if he’s checking in: how’d you guys get Alvin & The Chipmunks to sing backup on the 4th Cindermen single, ”Don’t Knock It (’Til You’ve Tried It)” (Transoniq)
Great interview and cool pictures. It’s funny to see the influences, not exactly Brit invasion. The Cindermen sure played with a lot of cool bands also… Thanks for posting (Jingle Jangle Mourning)
Lots & lots of garage beat bands disappear cause their musicians went to Viet..well at least we still enjoy their recordings…
Great interview and yes lucky guys opening acts for those great bands! (The Bomber)
Transoniq – that wasn’t the chipmunks on ”Don’t Knock It”, that was a mistake by the sound engineer when we were recording it. We liked the mistake so much that we left it in and didn’t cut it. (Sam Sinopoli)