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The Third World Raspberry


   I can truthfully say that the Third World Raspberry were a very memorable band because I remember one of their sets vividly even after 40 years. They are not a name that is bandied about when the Bosstown Sound is mentioned because they never got any recorded material out. I saw them at the Psychedelic Supermarket, which is mentioned on this page - click please. Their idea of doing an entire set with every song segued to make one long undivided suite was novel at this time. I always find myself thinking of the guitar tone which was fuzzed out. They were psych but controlled.
   Recently Don Renfro of the group found this site and has related some stories about those days.

    First we get a list of the members.
  • Don Renfro, drums
  • John Klingberg, bass (He went on to play with VanMorrison. Check his first album and you'll see John.)
  • Herbie, lead guitar (I don't remember his last name)
  • SJ, rhythm guitar (I don't remember his real name either)

   I was wondering where the band members were from and that question revels that this band has Berklee members which has been the case for many bands from Boston.
   Don Says:
   "None of us were from Boston. I lived in Boston because I had gone to Berklee music school and had played in bands around town before the Raspberry. John, the bass, was from Chicago. He went to Berklee too and had played in many bands before around Boston. Herbie, I think his last name was Edwards, was from P-town. SJ was from Springfield, MA."

   The group also had a band house:
    "We all lived in a building on Tremont Street in the South End. In those days the South End was in pretty bad shape. Just poor people. Puerto Ricans, Blacks, poor Whites, and us. We had the whole building, and we practiced there. We start off practicing in the basement, but since everyone was stoned all the time, it took a long time to get down there.
    SJ and I lived on the top floor. I had a big room, and we decided to practice there since half the band was already there. John and Herbie lived on the 3rd floor. The second floor we let people crash there. Then there was the first floor which just had a hallway. Then the basement. Also, after practice we might be more stoned, and it was hard getting back up to our rooms.
   At the very end, John and I had moved to Columbus Ave. We got kicked out of the Tremont street because we never paid the rent (we never made any money, and the money we got we spent as quickly as possible usually on drugs), and eventually the building was condemned, so we were forced to move. Actually, people used to bring us food and drugs."

   Now, where they played:
    I think some Greek dude named Papadopoulos or something like that owned the Psychedelic Supermarket. He wanted us to be the house band and play there every night, but SJ showed up late for our first official house band gig, and we got fired before we even started. (a typical day in the life of the Third World Raspberry).
   (At the Psychedelic Supermarket)... there was a night I got up off the drums and went out front of the band while they kept playing and lit a joint and passed it around and held it for the others while they kept playing. (Sometimes people threw joints up on the stage.) Then I went back to the drums and continued playing.

    We played a place called the "Unicorn" a few times. Another place called "The Catacombs" a lot. We played on the altar in the Old North Church. Wow! What an experience. We are the only band to have ever played there before or after. It was a special concert for people rehabilitating from drugs, and we were completely stoned. They loved us. But I don't know how the church people felt. I think they didn't like us very much. Everyone was very somber and we came in, set up, and started singing songs about drugs and stuff. Plus, we were wearing the typical colorful clothes of that era, so the church people didn't like that either. We also played various concerts and special shows and things like that around and outside Boston.

   Although they never released any vinyl they did record:
    "We recorded in Columbia studios in NYC. The vice president was there and was talking about hit songs and whatnot. We couldn't finish all the songs because SJ and Herbie (they did the singing) couldn't sing because they kept laughing. They had smoked something on a break and couldn't stop laughing during the singing recording. We came back to Boston to return and finish everything at another date.

    I do have two songs recorded at Columbia that were finished with the singing complete. One song is titled "Public Gardens", but I don't know what the other song title is. I guess I'm lucky to have those. "

   The end came fast:
   "One night we were supposed to play at the Catacombs and me and John were sitting around at home smoking waiting for someone to come and get us. Suddenly in walked Herbie with a beautiful blond and announced that he was going to California. He left and we never saw him again. That was what happened to The Third World Raspberry."

    Don says they were stoned most of the time but they were together enough to get the music together and were good enough to be asked to be a house band. Then Don relates that, " I went through something called "life", and now I'm getting a new band together. We do long jams, but they aren't there".

Two songs recorded at Columbia Studios in NYC
    It's exciting to be presenting these two songs that haven't been heard by most for 40 years.
   Both songs are suitably in the psych vein. Public Garden has an unusual half step modulation in the chorus and the untitled track has several dramatic tempo changes: both of these moves show the Berklee influence of the band members.

Public Garden

Untitled


Ted Scourtis - Memories of the Third World Raspberry

Ted has done many things in the music world and at this time was actualy the manager of the Third World Raspberry for a while.
His memories parrallel and highten the points that Don makes.


    I first saw the Raspberry in 1968 at a indoor 'Be In' held in a Church Hall . I was covering the event for New England Scene Magazine , A weekly news print magazine that I co-edited with a fellow named John Oliphant .
    The two recordings you have on your website aside ( which I find embarassing) , they stood out to me with their unusual blend of Jazz and Rock , and their superior musicianship . They were definitely a work in progress , but , with their nonstop sets of segueing tunes , ala the Mothers , they were totally unique to this time period in Boston .
    What they really lacked was good equipment , and I could help provide that through my job at E.U. Wurlitzer . WE shook hands and I was their manager , an unholy alliance as it turned out .

    John Klingberg and Donny were THE professional musicians of the group , with great resumes and chops . Donny was , at the time , one of the few white drummers that had mastered "Fat Back" drumming , and I believe had played with some of the top R&B cats of the day . John's story was similar , and of course , he went on to played with Van Morrison on "Moondance and "Street Choir" .
    Herbie was the musical and composing force of the band . He was a great guitar player with a tinny , irritating , guitar sound that he stubbornly refused to change . he played a Gibson hollow body archtop jazz guitar that just didn't fit with with the heavy low end power sound of the top English bands . He was one of the most impulsive , charming , and disarming rogues , that I have ever known .
    SJ was from Worcester , and played a capable rhythm guitar.
    Donny and John were the only band members that had last names . If I once knew them , they are lost to my memory .

    The band all lived in a three story brownstone on Tremont St. in the South End . It had a full apartment on each floor , and the guys rented and occupied the entire building . I remember Bassist John Klingberg and his girlfriend Robin on the first floor , but am fuzzy on which floors the other Raspberries inhabited . Donny is so correct about being doped up all the time . I know that John , Robin and SJ were junkies at the time , and Herbie smoked a lot of weed , but had a high tolerance AND energy level .
    As a result of their habits , they lived like animals in squalor and rarely seemed to practice . Each apartment had it's own bathroom and kitchen with an old fashioned deep soapstone sink . When John and Robin's kitchen sink stopped up they continued to fill it with dishes and food until fuzzy mold was growing like a planter on top . At this point the guys nailed the door shut and moved to the next kitchen !!!! This method of elimination was also used on one of the three bathrooms in the house , but I forget which one . Does it really Matter?

    Herbie had done a lot of the booking before my tenure as manager , and for some odd reason many of the gigs were in Church Halls . The Raspberry were a performance band , and although there were some danceable tunes , the constant segueing of the songs often created a very confused dance floor . It was kind of like the scene in "Spinal Tap" when the band played the military base , and the audience milled about , trying to latch onto of a beat to which they could relate .
    At itís best , the music was an inventive and a cutting edge blend of Rock , Jazz , and R&B . Later this blending of forms would be given the name "Fusion" , but in those days , it was , shall we say , it was an acquired taste . The musicianship was certainly top notch , especially that great rhythm section . No one could say these cats couldnít play , but their gigs could be excursions into chaos induced by chemical overload ., and sometimes it was downright Surreal .

    When I first took over , they played all indoor gigs and sang their vocals through their guitar amps . I was able to purchase a PA system and a couple of Fender amps using my discount at Wurlitzer , the deal being that Iíd recoup the expense with the groupís future earnings (please donít laugh , I was only 23) . With the upgraded equipment , I was able to book them into the Notorious George Papadapoulisí Psychedelic Supermarket , Where , as a result of an intense advertising and full court media campaign , they played to an underflow crowd of @ 26 people .
    Bolstered by this triumph , we started to play the for free , Sunday "Be In" circuit . At this time , weather permitting , there were free concerts almost every summer sunday on either the Boston or Cambridge Commons , folowed by a free vegetarian meal at the Hare Krishna temple in Brighton . Many Boston bands and even a few Nationally recognized acts performed for nada (a surly Van Morrison comes to mind) . Actually , it was at these appearances that the Raspberry got some understandably favorable attention from the mostly stoned out , heat stroked crowds .

    Anyway , our professional relationship with each other ended after someone in the band (I really donít know who) pawned the equipment that I still owed Wurlitzerís $800.00 for , John and Robin slipped into drug induced lethargy ,(they were so stoned out , that they alloted a corner of their rug for their cat to use as a depository) , the band was facing eviction , and Herbie up and announced that he was in love with a girl he had known for a minute or two , and was off to California .
    Based on the resounding success of this foray into the management end of the business , I decided to rest on my laurels , and retire back to my previous life as a musician , writer and purveyor to the trade , a decision that I have never regretted . R.I P. : The Third World Raspberry .

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