In mid 1978, Jonny
Hibbert, Henry Hibbert, and Robert Schmidt left the band, to be replaced
by Guy Goodman, Marvin Jackson (another HaHavishnu refugee), and Steve
Pace, formerly of Capricorn recording artist “Hydra” and later of “Krokus.”
This ensemble lasted for a while.
Steve Pace quit and
was replaced by Tony Garstin, Charles Wolfe (drummer for The ("Money Changes
Everything") Brains), Darryl Rhoades himself, and Mark Bishop. Jackson
left the band and was replaced by Edward’s HaHavishnu replacement Michael
Colford. By January 1980 the band consisted of what many fans believe
to be the "real" Cruis-O-Matic: Jason “Opie” Keene on bass, Bob “Leo
Sagittarius” Cunningham on guitar, Blair “Jesse Presley” Tanner on Farfisa
and Vox organ and guitar, Mark Bishop on drums, and Edward "Mr. Vegas"
Tanner on guitar.
This incarnation played
on the average of 200 shows per year from January 1980 until December 31,
1984. This was the “funny” Cruis-O-Matic: Blair, an excellent
break dancer and wry humorist, wore leisure suits and Barney Fife outfits;
Opie, normally the butt of on-stage band jokes, sported a carrot-red flat
top; Mark played drum solos in the audience. During this period,
the band adopted The Ancestors’ approach of toying with the audience, but,
because of the times, or because the Tanners had gotten better at it, this
time the result was not contempt, but widespread popularity.
an oldies band, Cruis-O-Matic rarely played songs by The Beatles or Rolling Stones,
never any beach music, almost no soul music, and virtually no songs by
any bands who had more than one or two hits. The band’s stock in
trade was doing songs by The Standells, Music Machine, Music Explosion,
Syndicate of Sound, Balloon Farm, Blues Magoos, Tremeloes, Searchers, and
a whole lot of instrumentals, ranging from a psychedelic version of “Wildwood
Flower” to faux polka instrumentals, which they performed under the moniker
“The Sons of Hitler -- those bad boys from Bavaria.” The band spread
rumors about itself: they were from Las Vegas; Blair was Elvis’s
twin brother who had long been believed dead at birth; Opie had done time
in prison; members of the band were all fraternity alums from various universities;
various band members suffered from heroin addiction.
Kids loved the band because the band members were basically clean but irreverent, and oldsters loved the repertoire, which consisted of 99% sixties tunes. The band was represented by Hit Attractions which, up until that time, traded only in bands like The Tams and The Swingin’ Medallions. Consistent with their skewed sense of entertainment, the band refused to submit standard promo photos to their agents and nightclubs. Instead they created silly pictures of dogs’ heads on human bodies, superimposed on a butcher’s meat cutting chart, Elvis heads on obese female and Superman torsos, Mexican frog musicians, gangs of Shriners on mini motorcycles, and other blatant attempts at getting attention.