Larry Reinhardt’s world nearly collapsed in 1991, when a car accident mangled his left hand. The former guitarist for Captain Beyond and Iron Butterfly hadn’t known anything else since the 1960s, when he’d barnstormed his native Florida with the Thunderbeats, backing “…everybody who didn’t have a band,” he recalls.
Suddenly, however, the man recently endorsed by Washburn couldn’t form a C chord anymore.
“The doctors said, ‘You’ll probably never play guitar again. There’s probably something else you can do.'” He shudders. “It crushed me. I didn’t know what to do.”
Reinhardt weathered a year of depression during which he smashed guitars and “…went crazy” before enduring another four years of grueling physical therapy to regain his talent.
When he felt unable to turn another corner, a friend’s five-year-old daughter said, “‘Uncle Rhino, you can do it. You can keep playing,'” he said. “And it touched me so much, it gave me the will to keep trying.”
Such experiences haven’t tempered Reinhardt’s fiercely outspoken nature, whether the interview topics turn to busted tax shelters (“It’s sort of like reading the Bible; it’s open to interpretation”), or how he wants to be perceived amid a marketplace of other regrouped bands.
“There’s nothing worse than blowing somebody’s mindset, ’cause the memory always sounds better than seeing it [a particular band] again. I don’t wanna be anybody’s joke,” he declares. “If I can’t play, I’m gonna go home.”
Now, with his worst experiences behind him, Reinhardt and drummer Bobby Caldwell have re-formed Captain Beyond, whose fiercely progressive ethic is again gaining attention.
According to Reinhardt, the idea gained momentum when the band’s former label, Capricorn, went bankrupt, and sold its catalog to Polygram, which reissued the first two albums overseas.
One Way Records followed with Dawn Explosion. “Then all the internet stuff started, and the fan base started happening,” Reinhardt said.
The regrouped band has since cut four tracks – “Gotta Move,” “Be As You Were,” “Don’t Cry Over Me,” and “Night Train Calling (Crystal Clear).”
“Some people loved it,” Reinhardt says. “Others said, ‘That’s not Captain Beyond!’ So here we go again. It’s just like the first album – they either loved us or hated us at the time.”
“The Whole Studio Was Out Of Phase”
Reinhardt knew what he wanted to do at the age of 15, when the Kingsmen (“Louie Louie”) came to town.
“We were opening, and their guitar player was goin’ to Viet Nam,” Reinhardt said. So for the entire summer, I was on tour with the Kingsmen. That’s when I locked into ‘This is what I’m gonna do.'”
The tour had its rickety times, such as when singer Tommy Roe “…ended up so drunk he couldn’t even sing, so the bass player sang his songs,” Reinhardt laughed. “He was playing out of tune. We did 30 shows, and he never sang a note.”
Other hazards included the musician’s union lackey, who never quit reminding Reinhardt that a certain jazz guitarist shared his surname, saying, “Hey, Django! Got your card?”
“He hated rock and roll, even though his son played rock and roll. And he’d run around busting local bands who didn’t have their union cards,” Reinhardt laughed. “You’d play a gig, and he’d come to collect their $1.40.”
Reinhardt made his first big national mark in 1969, when he joined the progressive heavy rocking Iron Butterfly shortly after its anthem, “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” made them one of the decade’s top draws.
The band shifted toward a Latin-oriented style on the Metamorphosis album in 1970, which paired Reinhardt with Mike Pinera on classics like the smoldering “Butterfly Bleu.”
Reinhardt’s guitars included a ’57 Gibson Les Paul goldtop, a ’57 Fender Stratocaster, and a ’50s Gibson TV model, with a “very square-style pickup,” he recalls. “They’re in lockdown. I don’t take ’em anywhere.”
For amps, he used a 200-watt Marshall Major full stack modified to produce 300 watts. “They sounded great, but I’d get about five shows out of it before it’d blow, and I’d have to break out a regular 100-watt, then send the Major back to L.A. for a quick repair.”
A temporary fix came when Iron Butterfly joined the Rolling Stones in endorsing Ampeg. “I had four SVT heads; my amp put out 128 decibels,” Reinhardt said. “It was very loud, but I didn’t like the sound.”
Instead, he modified a Fender Deluxe head, “…which had an output for the preamp because SVTs had a preamp input in back and an ‘amp out’ jack so you could bypass its preamp and go right to the power amp,” Reinhardt recalls.
He finished by slaving the amps together, while keeping the Deluxe as a preamp. The end result “…sounded like a dozen Marshalls, but it worked every day, and I just put that behind the Ampeg amps!” Reinhardt said.
For reinforcements, Reinhardt used pyramid-shaped Rickenbacker bottoms, or “six 12″ speakers in each bottom… and I had two per head, so you do the math,” he laughed. “It was a devastatingly heavy one!”
Iron Butterfly dissolved in ’71, when keyboardist Doug Ingle quit after a European tour. Reinhardt and bassist Lee Dorman reacted by forging their own alliance with Caldwell, and “Hush”-era Deep Purple shouter Rod Evans: Captain Beyond.
Events moved rapidly after the Allman Brothers’ guitar genius, Duane, endorsed the finished product, only weeks before his October ’71 death in a motorcycle accident. Captain Beyond dedicated its self-titled debut album (on Capricorn) to him.
Issued on the Allmans’ Capricorn label in July ’72, Captain Beyond is widely regarded as the band’s finest hour. The free-floating cosmic cover figure perfectly suited cinematic epics like “Thousand Days Of Yesterdays,” and “Dancing Madly Backwards (On A Sea Of Air).” Evans’ moody vocals, Caldwell’s restless timekeeping, and Reinhardt’s brooding, intricate riffs had created an undeniably unique package.
The band tried recording live, but pushing Reinhardt’s ’57 Strat into three 100-watt Marshall amps created too much bleeding, so he overdubbed leads over acoustic guitar, bass and drums, yielding a more midrangey sound than he’d envisioned.
Such gremlins had their humorous side when an up-and-coming Eddie Van Halen asked how Captain Beyond created the first album’s distinctive sound.
“‘I’ll tell you, Eddie, the whole studio was out of phase,'” recalls Reinhardt, who gleefully recalls the guitar hero’s astonishment. “‘Really? No effects?’ ‘Nope, out of phase!'”
Exit The Mesmerizing Eclipse
Captain Beyond’s promise soon faded, despite a well-received April ’72 live debut at the Montreux Jazz & Pop Festival.
Where Capricorn labelmates the Allman Brothers ricocheted to fame, Captain Beyond’s debut album earned little airplay; resolute touring did little to alter the situation. Caldwell quit by year’s end, followed by Evans, who’d already walked out four times during the first album.
Sessions for the second, Sufficiently Breathless, got off to a rickety start when its producer insisted on a new drummer – over the band’s fiercest objections.
So Reinhardt, keyboardist Reese Wynans, and a “Cuban conga player that didn’t speak English,” he laughingly recalls, did what they could. Again, his trusty ’57 Strat led the charge, now fitted with a Stratoblaster that “…gave you a nine-decibel jackup of the original pickups,” he said. “You didn’t really drive your preamps that much, so you could get the bite out of it.”
Reinhardt also deployed a hybrid Fender that turned into a ’72 Strat. “Robin Trower used one, too,” he said. “The guy that did Trower’s stuff, he’d started this pickup, and that’s where I got the idea.
“I found a neck on one guitar I really liked, but the pickups weren’t good, and I didn’t like the body, so I had [the guitar techs] switch it all around.”
The techs worked for the Grateful Dead, “…before they started their own company, so they wound some special pickups for me, and put that in there,” he added.
For amps, Reinhardt used a prototype Mesa Boogie single 1×12″ cabinet. A Dynacord compressor also joined Reinhardt’s gear after he saw Joe Walsh using one. “It was a pretty good little amp. You could get that big, fat sound, put it behind the baffles, and play live, and it didn’t bleed all over the place.”
Sufficiently Breathless found a band still engaged in relentless musical exploration, whether on the moody, acoustic title cut, or the sleek Latin-funk of “Bright Blue Eyes,” and “Everything’s A Circle.” The band’s hard-rocking profile remained satisfactorily high, too, on efforts like “Distant Sun,” which, like its brethren, benefited from a sleeker, more concise approach (none of the tracks run beyond five-and-a-half minutes).
But disaster wasted no time striking again. After being coaxed back into finishing the album, Evans shocked his colleagues by quitting for good in December 1973.
Almost on cue, Reinhardt lost a collection of vintage instruments and amps to thieves: “I had a house on the Hollywood Hills. I had a Champ amp with serial number 004, a ’48, I think, and an old Fender Bassman. I had a variety of amps and guitars.”
Reinhardt remembers going to the Hollywood Bowl, after which he’d planned on jamming with Johnny Winter and Gregg Allman.
“We came back, and my place was gutted,” he sighed. “I had live masters from all the gigs in Europe, including Montreux, and a lot of this stuff is starting to appear now.”
Finally, the band lost all its investments after the federal government seized apartment buildings in Arizona, California, and Texas
“For the next 10 years, I worked to pay the IRS back,” Reinhardt said.
“A Wheel Went Off In My Head”
The band lay dormant for three years while its members worked to pay bills. Caldwell joined late ex-Yardbirds vocalist Keith Relf in another unheralded band, Armageddon, while Dorman toured with Spencer Davis, and Reinhardt lent his guitar to disco sessions.
The survivors hoisted the Captain Beyond flag once more in ’77, for Dawn Explosion, which sought to meld the musical tricks within a commercial framework; new vocalist Willie Daffern’s deep-throated roar often threatened to push the results into Southern rock territory.
Although rockers like “Do And Die” contain touches of the first two albums’ bloody-minded charms, no new converts emerged, and the diehards altogether ignored Dawn Explosion.
Reinhardt used a variety of guitars this time, including a Gibson SG. “I think the same Strat I used on the first album is on there, too. And a Yamaha acoustic. It’s just in there for wideners [in sound],” he said.
The Mesa Boogie ended up being Reinhardt’s workhorse amp, which he hooked into a Marshall, when the mood took him; “sometimes, it was a preamp, and I went directly into the head on some of the stuff,” he said.
Adrift without a record deal, Captain Beyond disbanded – although Caldwell and Dorman apparently lent their capabilities to a brief Captain Beyond/Iron Butterfly tour of 1979.
Reinhardt soon returned full-time to the Butterfly fold, and had even recorded an album with the regrouped lineup shortly before his accident. But enthusiasm waned after management felt the finished product didn’t sound like Iron Butterfly, he recalls. “The whole deal collapsed, plus the manager turned out to be less than honest.”
In ’93, Reinhardt left Los Angeles for Florida to help a friend run a publishing company. The guitarist, who’d just lost his father, also needed to care for his mother, whose health was declining. Caldwell would later return for the same reasons.
The company collapsed in ’95. By then, Reinhardt’s hand had started regaining dexterity, and he was playing local charity events. “But it was very painful,” he said.
The accident forced him to change his style, starting with fingerings. “My bones didn’t heal right,” he said. The injuries also keep him from playing slide. But Reinhardt jokes that he “…looks like Spock when he makes that sign; I can’t put my fingers together, because the accident crushed my hand.”
Another alteration is that he can no longer use the .010-gauge high E string he favored; he now uses a D’Addario set; .009, .011, .016 (or .024), .032, and .042.
“I still don’t like .009s,” he said. “But I just don’t have the strength in my hand to play ’em anymore.”
On the other hand, Reinhardt still uses the heaviest picks he can find. The ’57 Strat and ’57 Les Paul still remain key to Reinhardt’s arsenal; he lost neither in the Hollywood Hills caper because he was using them for a session that night. He’s also using a “jacked-up” 450 Ibanez, with a maple Floyd Rose neck, “…and Seymour Duncan humbucking Strat pickups in the middle,” he adds. His other primary guitar is a 50th anniversary Strat reissue.
“It’s a ’94 with a maple neck and 22 frets,” Reinhardt said. “The low E string on the old Strats used to have a harmonic overtone – you could never get the harmonic line on the low string. We used to call it ‘Stratitis’.” And while “…you don’t even use [the added fret], now the guitar is in tune all the way down the neck, and the low sixth string is pure,” he adds.
He also uses a Ramirez Strat copy of dark maple, with Duncan stacked humbuckers. “It’s got switches that put everything in and out of phase – it sounds like Les Paul, a Strat, or a Tele.”
Tired of the Butterfly era’s hit-or-miss configurations, Reinhardt has received a San Antonio company’s endorsement for his own custom amp – the Rhino (whose exterior, as its name implies, will be outfitted with a gray design resembling rhino skin).
According to a notice posted on the band’s website, the deal is still active pending Reinhardt’s approval of the amps.
The design consists of four cabinets, each with four 12″ speakers. “I’m using 80 and 50-watt heads, plus 100-watt heads with effects loops – they’ve got separate preamp ins and outs,” Reinhardt says.
The amp is built so each note will “…sound fat and clean, with sustain that’s right in your face, but not muddy,” he stressed. “I don’t want it to be so brutal it’s gonna take your head off.”
Prior to entering the custom-designed world, Reinhardt had also been using an 8240 Marshall, which he modified. “It’s half-preamps, tweaked, and the other part is transistor. But it’s got a stereo chorus, and I love it,” he said.
He has used a smattering of effects since the 1960s – such as a Vox wah pedal given to him by Jimi Hendrix.
“I’d met him in Tampa before I’d joined the Butterfly. He said, ‘Here, you might enjoy these.’ He had a whole trunk full of ’em!” He uses the Vox “…as a Tone Bender, basically,” and a modified CryBaby which “…does the low/high pass stuff,” he said.
“Another guy in California just sent me this thing – I love it to death – an EXP 2001 Expandora. But I use it differently – I use it to pump the volume up a little,” he said.
He also uses pitch transducers, octave dividers, and other things to “…alter the pitch and harmonics.”
Be As You Were: Captain Beyond Regroups
When Caldwell and Reinhardt decided to regroup Captain Beyond, it only seemed natural to invite Dorman and Evans, since both had been in the definitive lineup.
However, Dorman couldn’t commit because he’s busy with a reformed Iron Butterfly – and health problems that will require him to get a new heart, according to Reinhardt. And Evans proved unreachable. “We couldn’t even find him. We were paying royalties to a post office box,” Reinhardt said.
He and Caldwell auditioned a succession of bassists before Jeff “Count” Artabasy’s five-string prowess landed him the slot.
Finding a suitable keyboard player proved tougher, since “…they didn’t know what to make of 5/4 and 7/4 rock,” Reinhardt said. “They were either straight blues players or jazz players, and we just could never get anybody to click on the same wavelength.”
Danny Fry stuck around long enough for the demos, until Reinhardt settled on another Floridian, Dave Muse, formerly of the Marshall Tucker Band and Firefall.
“We not only have a real keyboard player with a B-3 and all the other electronic components, but he also plays sax and flute,” Reinhardt said. “We have opened every song out of our old catalog.”
The vocal slot has also undergone changes. Jimi Interval fronted the band’s return before 17,500 people in July ’99 at the Sweden Rock Festival. The baton has since passed to Kyle Rhode, who made his debut with the band at its last gig at Club More, in Florida.
“Singers have been our downfall,” Reinhardt laughs ruefully. “Rod quit four times before we even got our first demo completed! We didn’t realize ’til later that he had the same problem in Deep Purple.”
The band plans to keep honing its sound, and playing for whomever wants to hear it, amid a continuing emphasis on new material. Yet, while Reinhardt remains proud of his accomplishments, he has no intention of coasting on them, particularly after fighting so hard to regain his ability.
“It’s effortless to play, now that I’ve gotten through this accident,” he said. “I’m like a 16-year-old again! That’s the best high, when you’ve got a bunch of people lovin’ what you’re doing. You can’t bottle that.”
Live! Atlantic 1970
Metamorphosis Atlantic 1970
Captain Beyond (Capricorn CP-0105: 1972)
Sufficiently Breathless (Capricorn CP-0115: 1973). Note: this album was dedicated to Allman Brothers bassist Berry Oakley after his death in a motorcycle accident in ’72; also, it was produced by ex-Yardbirds manager Giorgio Gomelsky.
Dawn Explosion (One Way OW 33639: 1977).
Larry “Rhino” Reinhardt, in Captain Beyond with his ’57 Stratocaster.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Dec. ’01 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.