The Rabbits
Share

Τhe Rabbits (the 5 Rabbits of Rhodes)

The «Rabbits», are definitely one of the oldest Greek rock bands that managed to break the discography status quo of Athens - Thessaloniki and to record a single during the 60's. If we take into account their mature garage sound and the extra difficulties because they were based in Rhodes, (far away from Athens and Thessaloniki, which was the sole focus of artistic activity of the time) we understand that we are talking about a titanic effort to distinguish the band of the still young High School students, aged 15-18 years.

The founder of the group in 1963, and "godfather" baptizing "The Rabbits" or "The Rhodes Rabbits" was John Charalambides (solo guitar, vocals) together with Maniatakis brothers, John Maniatakis (rhythm guitar, vocals) and Vassilis Maniatakis (bass) alongwith George Christou (drums) self-taught with little musical knowledge, set about, mainly motivated by their love of music and aiming to impress and conquer the weaker sex, like all young men of any era, they decided to play by themselves the songs they loved, mostly «Elvis Presley», «Beatles», «Rolling Stones» and the «Animals». So they began rehearsing and when they felt ready and tied as a band, they began to appear in many different events, gatherings, festivals, dances, parties, concerts and music competitions, always winning the first place and of course the preference, admiration and love of Rhodian youth. So they deservedly took the title of the best musical group of that decade in Dodekanisos. An important factor in the Rabbits appearances was the constant presence of Vangelis Papakalodoukas who informally performing debts of electrician- sound engineer, fixed all the damages that arose in several concerts with great imagination and patents, while monumental is the original construction of a super multiport amplifier where the 3 stringed instruments of the group were connected, copying the mechanism of a juke-box amplifier of the era.
However they won many awards from their random appearances in Athens, competing against the big names of the era. Some of their remarkable activities in the capital, except of course the recording of their "single", was their accidental participation (with ... borrowed instruments) during the annual school trip, in the qualifying "mornings" of Elias Karamaneas in «Rex» cinema. The acquisition of the first position, after vote, transforming them to a 'Super Special' group and their qualification to 'Vradini' Festival. Also their right to participate in the "Mammoth" Recital in theater "Pigalle" with Nikos Mastorakis and their right to participate in the "Golden Night" in "Panathinaiko' stadium ... But they never managed to exploit these valuable qualifications and rights acquired by them and compete with all the other known and unknown bands of the era (as equal to equal) and most likely to be able to escape from the obscurity of the province and be distinguished. Unfortunately, their presence in Athens those specific dates was impossible, for many reasons, such as their age and the permission and consent from their strict parents and the strict school, the eternal dilemma of absences, the huge distance from Athens, as well as the necessary financial comfort, they never had.
Their skills and the first amazing results at a local level appeared already from their first public appearance in the concert given on March 7, 1964 in the building of the Touring Club of Rhodes. A packed hall shaken to its foundations by the explosive «Rabbits», who were not satisfied with a simple and faithful performance of the songs but also improvised. The three guitar players putting their guitars on shoulders dancing to the rhythm of the songs, adding various inspirational solos. The delirium and apotheosis of the young people is certain, all of them excited applauding rhythmically, singing, shouting and dancing raving everywhere, in the corridors, over the seats brought the first expulsion from school for improper behavior. And that was just the beginning and it followed other appearances, and therefore expulsions.
At some point things got very difficult because the absences and the improper behavior do not give you the right to continue your studies but eventually they were saved by sports because the gymnast needed athletes so that Venetoklio Gymnasium could finish in the first place in pandodekanisiakous student games with his momentum achieved intervention and exchanged the expulsions with the return of John Maniatakis and John Charalambidis in athletics. The medals came the school recalled the killing sentences and with a different mood and improved relationships, the school address bowed to the ethos and talent of the group, giving them the exclusive right to perform in the concerts, balls and other events and screenings, of the school.
The streak of amazing live performances continued next year, with all the bad and good consequences, when the extremely unachievable happened: Nikos Mastorakis, the renowned journalist and "musical talent scout" of the time, who happened to attend one of these concerts is impressed and surprisingly visits them at Maniatakis brothers house during rehearsal time and immediately suggests the recording of a «single». The band was excited and planned to record the single, the instrumental "Rawhide" of Link Wray, which was remixed and renamed as "the Rabbit stomp" and was established as an intro in every live performance, as well as the "anthem" of "Peter Rabbit" which would be performed by John Charalambidis.

Due to the bad weather and the long hours of discomfort of the journey on a ship deck, (in the absence of money) from Rhodes - Piraeus and by bus afterwards to Athens, John Charalambidis 'lost' his voice so following a new agreement with Nikos Mastorakis and the record label, the band is forced to rehearse two other songs during an afternoon session for the single with a new singer now, John Maniatakis, creator of the music of these songs and closer to his taste in music, while the lyrics belong to his American girlfriend, Lora Tripp. But John Maniatakis hardly spoke English, this fact is reflected to his accent on the songs. However, the next day, at Columbia studio with Omiros Athinaios as sound engineer, they recorded, with rented instruments, having at their disposal only 4 hours, between the «Knacks» and a folk music group. Additional problems arose from the spatial configuration of the studio, since each instrument is recorded in a separate cabin, with no good visual and acoustic contact between the musicians and without the guidance of vocals etc. The vocals would be written later on, on the already-recorded instruments (which was unheard at the time) and so the quality of the recording isn't good enough since it was impossible to play and perform like they knew.  Despite the setbacks that they encountered, the single came out pretty good and had unexpected success at a local level, although less success a National level.
After returning to Rhodes, Nikos Kouros (organ, vocals) added to the band with this addition the band reaches the peak of their sound. After the success of the first single, the "Rabbits" prepared for a second one, which would include a cover of the American song "Simon says" from «1910 Fruitgum Co» as "Fige, fige loipon" (Go, go now) by John Charalambidis lyrics and the «Rabbit stomp» that was not written in the first attempt. John Charalambidis visiting Athens for family reasons, left a bobbin (recorded in a small private Studio Rhodes) with their own cover of "Simon says" as "Fige, fige, loipon" to Omiros Athinaios for feedback and approval by the company but the recording reached the ears of Takis Tseronis, the manager of the "Charms", so "Fige, fige, loipon"  become "Trellokoritso" (Crazy girl) with different lyrics and the "Charms" reaped the laurels of success instead of the "Rabbits" ... Afterwards, at a meeting of John Charalambides with the owner of PanVox (Music Box) at the time, Martin Gesar, gave an honest explanation to John Charalambides with his peculiar Armenian accent who could not believe what we has hearing from the owner of PanVox, "The big fish eats the small fish".
This is how, unexpectedly and abruptly ended the frenetic course of the «Rabbits». Entering 1968 and being frustrated by misfortune and how things turned out for their beautiful creation "Fige, fige, loipon» each one of them drew their own way in their careers. But they remained united and beloved by music under the name «Rabbits» and some period in 1977, when nostalgia and beautiful memories of the band, pushed them to literally lock themselves in a small private Studio and slowly record all the songs that the "Rabbits" were playing by reliving with intense emotions old beautiful moments while creating a huge legacy with their "seal". The reunion lasted until the end of 1979, the band was tighter during the summer months were every member of the band was in the island, while it should be noted that in these recordings participated the maestro Ionas Schizas playing trumpet, who was very close to the band from 1964 giving them his knowledge and guidance. A very important catalyst for the preservation of these recordings was the group's friend and performing sound engineer debts, Michael "Fellos" Pantelidis, who with his incredible skills in sound engineering, contributed greatly to the amazing sound effect and swan song of the "Rockabilly rebel" that closed this wonderful circle forever.

John Charalambidis after finishing high school went to Italy to study chemistry in Rome, but he was forced to discontinue his studies in the 3rd year and return to Rhodes in order to take over his family cosmetics business, due to a sudden serious illness of his father. But he never completely abandoned music, guitar and singing. He continued to play guitar and sing in various orchestras along with the drummer of the «Rabbits» George Christou, accompanying several well known artists, appearing occasionally in various nightclubs of Rhodes, such as the dear departed maestro Vassilis Koumbis, Themos Mexis, Haris Alexiou, Arleta, Alexandra, Anthippi, Takis Vouis, Afroditi Vouis, Theodoros Vekkiaris, Linos Kokotos, Yorgos Missikos, Ken Kepting (ex Tremeloes) etc. At the same time, (besides recordings all the «Rabbits» tracks in 1977), he worked in his spare time with many other recordings in his own private place. First of all with Maniatakis siblings and then with Michael Papadogiannis (friend, remarkable musician, excellent guitarist and singer from Apollones band), recording or covering many international hits of the 60's, his top creation is a tribute of 40 "non-stop mega hits" to his favorite singer, Elvis Presley.
George Christou, the oldest of the Rabbits, after finishing high school studied Agronomy in Thessaloniki and then he worked in the Ministry of Agriculture until his retirement. George never recorded (except his participation in the recordings of all the «Rabbits» songs in 1977), but continued for quite a while playing drums in various orchestras, sometimes along with the «Rabbits» bassist Vassilis Maniatakis and sometimes with the bands solist John Charalambidis, accompanying many famous artists.
Nikos Kouros, the "Benjamin" of the "Rabbits of Rhodes" after finishing high school moved in Athens where he continued to work as a professional musician as a pianist, organist and orchestrator and he became one of the best nationwide musicians and he continues his career until today, collaborating occasionally with top names of the Greek music scene, as George Marinos, Dimos Moutsis, Marinella, Dionysis Savvopoulos, Haris Alexiou, Giannis Parios, Antonis Remos, Dimitris Kokotas, Nikos Ikonomopoulos, the Pitsa Papadopoulou, Lena Alkaiou, Zoi Papadopoulou etc. At the same time (besides recording all the «Rabbits» tracks in 1977) dealt with several other recordings and continues until today, in collaboration with other artists, musicians.
Vassilis Maniatakis after finishing high school, continued his activity in music playing bass and guitar accompanied by several famous artists, along with the groups drummer George Christou. Vassilis (besides his participation in the recordings of all the «Rabbits» songs in 1977), worked in his spare time with various recordings in its own place, along with his brother John and with John Charalambidis. After his collaboration with the groups drummer George Christou, continued to play bass professionally until the late '90s in several other bands, with very impressive performances, thus taking the title of the best guitarist - bassist in Dodecanese. His performances made him a sought after musician and accompanied almost every well known artist who came for appearances in Rhodes such as Haris Alexiou, Dakis, Arleta, Terrys Chrisos, Eleftheria Arvanitaki, Paschalis, etc. However he was very unlucky, after being diagnosed with cancer gave a fierce seven year battle and unfortunately passed away in 2004, at the age of 54.
And finally John Maniatakis after finishing high school went to Italy to study architecture. Returning to Greece, he worked in the beginning by himself and afterwards in a technical construction company, where he worked until the end of 2010. But like all other "Rabbits", he never completely abandoned music. In his spare time (apart from recording all the tracks of the «Rabbits» in 1977), he dealt with several recordings in its own place, along with his brother Vassilis and with John Charalambidis. But John Maniatakis, like his younger brother Vassilis, was unfortunate; he was diagnosed with cancer and after a fierce two year battle, passed away in 2011, at the age of 63.

Discography of the "Rabbits of Rhodes' in Greece:
1)Single "Run Around of a Girl / I'm Lookin in Universe" Pan-Vox / PAN 6062,1965
2) Participation in the vinyl compilation LP "Greek Garage Bands of The 60's "with the two songs of the single", Music Box MBI 10489, 1990.
3) Participation in the CD compilation "Various - Greek Garage Bands of the 60's "with the two songs the single", Music Box MBI 10682, 1997.
4) Participation in the CD compilation "Oldies But Goodies 9 "with the two songs of the single, Music Box MBI International S.A. CD 16683, 2004.
5) Participation in the double CD compilation "The Giegiedika 1 and Giegiedika 2" with the two songs of the single, Compilation by Kostas A. Giannikos for Music Box MBI International S.A.2CD 18019 - 18020, 2007.
6) Participation in the double CD compilation "Sixties Garage Bands (Early Greek Bands) "with the two songs of the single, Compilation by Kostas A. Giannikos for Music Box MBI International S.A. 2CD 18019 - 18020, 2007.
7) Participation in the CD compilation "Modern Rhythms 60: Teresa (CD 4) "with the song" I'm looking in the universe ", 2008
8) Participation in the CD compilation "Modern Rhythms 60: It was
a Vision (CD 15) "with the song" I'm looking in the universe ", 2008

Discography of the "Rabbits of Rhodes' abroad:
1) Participation in the vinyl compilation LP 1995 Exploiting Plastic Inevitable (Lesson I: World Wildlife Soundation) with the song "I'm looking in the universe", (YR009), Yahoo! Records
2) Participation in the double CD compilation Worldbeaters Volume 2 with the song "I'm looking in the universe", (KW002) Krazy World records, 2003

 
GreekEnglish (United Kingdom)