Mississippi Writers and Musicians
MISSISSIPPI MUSICIANS: Del Rendon and the Puerto Rican Rum Drunks


Del Rendon and the Puerto Rican Rum Drunks Singer Del Rendon

The Rum Drunks: Disciples of the '60s masters 
Reprinted from the MSU's Reflector)

In a Starkville tavern, where people come to hear well-played local music, a growing crowd of singing fans saturates the middle wing. Two red-brick arches provide wide entrances to stage front access. An East-Indian tapestry hangs behind five jovial musicians. On each table are small flames wicked inside red candelabras.

Within only two songs, a handful of people are dancing. It's hard to have negative spirits when listening to the Puerto Rican Rum Drunks.

Jason Elliot lightens the hearts of his fans with conga solos. When he's not beating bison skin, he's bartending in the first wing. Bassist Lee Graham plays deeply rich undertones. His girlfriend finds them easy to move with.

"See? Watch how his music becomes more real," she said before dancing in her own circle. The Rum Drunks are playing from a set list with nostalgic renditions of "Riders of the Storm" and "Come Together." Homecoming has brought Dave's Darkhorse Tavern plenty of alumni who haven't heard their originals. But the older sub-crowd can certainly appreciate rock n' roll ditties of the late '60s composed by the boundary-breakers. Chameleon - Del Rendon and the Rum Drunks

Inspired by the masters of the '60s, this band knows how to gather and disperse rock n' roll. Their crowd only kept growing. The audience's heat finally made guitarist Del Rendon discard his sweatshirt. By the time he could belt out the words of "Time" from Dark Side of the Moon, it was almost impossible to see them perform. With 40 moving bodies in front of them, only Rendon's thick curly hair could be seen. Would it be too oppositional to ask what about these guys attracts such solid mobs of listeners? Is it a local trend, skillful hands or just good looks? His brother, Andrew Rendon, points to their mellow attitude.

"They play as if they aren't pressured by the number of people that show up, but people come in droves every time."

Since the band began in 1996, Del Rendon has led it with an acoustic guitar. His atomic voice is distinct, yet can soften to that of John Lennon's and elevate you to higher place echoing Roger Waters. But when displaying his written compositions, the voice is comparable only to itself.

When hearing their latest album, Jelly for the Masses, you'll soon see that Del Rendon sings like Del Rendon. "Me and my Baby" is a heartfelt song, dealing with the strong desire to feel at home. "It's so True" addresses the man who seems externally perfect. "Sheep" is a brilliantly worded and instrumented piece with a jazz organ, electric guitar and fast paced cymbals.

Though practice, recording and performing take much of his time, Del Rendon has other passions. Upon the entrance to his house, the eye-grabbing décor was his art. Above a sofa hung a large scale painting of an old crippled black man resting in a chair. By the man's side were crutches and on his gray-button-shirt was a sheriff badge. The unmistakable irony was hardly art for art's sake. On top of Del Rendon's entertainment center were three ceramic abstractions of vases he sculpted. After graduating from MSU with a degree in art, he taught the subject for several years at Starkville High School.

The musician-artist was also impressive in the kitchen. The chef had waiting for his band members a beef stew with carrots, bay leaves, curry spice and rice that disappeared rather quickly. After the soup feast, he took manly gulps of Yellow Tail Cabernet and talked of his inspirations, musical philosophy, and upcoming shows.

"Every Halloween we dress in costume and play through a legendary album. Last year we went through the White Album." He wouldn't say what they are playing at the Bistro Oct. 29.

His new addition, Spike Harris, sat to his right in a Titan's cap. Spike primarily plays a Fender, among other instruments. Keith Richard's guitar leads heavily influenced a younger Spike to pick up a guitar, much to the Rum Drunk's advantage. He trained himself to possess diverse ability handling slides, acoustic and electric strings.

Mark Goldbeck, the band's cofounder, has been piano-handling since he was only three. Also without professional training, he has composed a CD for children's books, and several classical string quartets. His dynamic sound was inspired by Bruce Hornsby and Stevie Wonder. Programmed synthesizing, the jazz organ and traditional piano, are all performed on his Yamaha S 80. That means it's highly professional, and you can't buy those sounds at Wal-Mart.

Graham chatted as long as he could before he ran back to Beebop Records where he works. He spoke of music today, as compared to yesterday. "You can still break boundaries and use what inspires you from the past. That's how it's always been done," he said.

He added that there are a lot of skillful bands out there, but they aren't necessarily doing something new. "It comes in seasons; for a while we had punk-resurgence-helpful in getting boy-bands off the radio."

Elliot sat back on the couch next to Del Rendon and spoke of never having a moments rest. Elliot is an undergraduate majoring in civil engineering, conga player for one of Starkville's most popular bands and drink server at Dave's. Inspired by Wilco and The Meters, Elliot also adds distinctive style. From mellow reggae percussion to upscale Cuban-African style solos, he is also an essential flavor. Robert Staggers, the drummer, couldn't sit with his bandmates and talk. He is a recording engineer at his own studio.

With the scale of five musical backgrounds so profoundly different, the live sound is rich like a warm cake with caramel, chocolate chips, sliced almonds, strawberries and vanilla. But as opposed many local bands in every town trying to "make it," these guys say they've already made it. When asked who they would be the most honored to play with, Spike Harris, Elliot and Graham said The Rum Drunks.

As their show came to an end, they played "Someday," a hopeful song about a better life someday, from Jelly for the Masses. But when the song was over, the Puerto Rican Rum Drunks fans wouldn't let them leave.

So the band granted them a Beatle's medley that closed with a 10-minute, "Walrus." After the show another brother of Del Rendon called "Eddie Spaghetti" by his public school students, shared a secret about life, being overweight and the band.

"The sun will rise tomorrow. If I get any fatter, I'll run for sheriff, 'cause I sure can't run for cover, and the Rum Drunks will always play at the Tavern.

Oct. 29, the Rum Drunks will be at the Bistro on Main Street filling Starkville's ears once again with the rich sound of the Rum Drunks, inspired by many, but comparable to no one.

Obituary for Delfin Rendon
September 4, 2005

The untimely passing of Del Rendon is a dark day for many people. Del was a beloved husband, son, brother, uncle, in-law and friend. The fact that he approached each of these relationships with intense love and unparalleled passion makes our loss of him unbearable.

Del's tireless support of his fellow man and his commitment to make the lives of those around him better always set him apart. Del had amazing abilities in so many areas. He was a gifted musician, writer and artist yet humble to a fault.

His passion was performing for others, be it in the living room with friends and family or entertaining thousands of music lovers across the Southeast.

Del's songs awed his fans while fueling the creative juices in many developing musicians. Del has been a force in Starkville's music scene for the last twenty years and he will be sorely missed.

Del was working at Mississippi State University as the head of Hazard Waste Compliance at the time of his death. He approached this with the same zeal he approached teaching art at Starkville High.

Del always left a positive feeling with those he came in contact with, from family and friends to students and co-workers. The ability to do this is a rare commodity yet was an innate part of Del's character.

Del is survived by his wife, Christy Healy Rendon, the love of his life and the person he would be worried about the most. He is also survived by his mother, Sheila, his father, Ozzie, his brothers, Eddie, Andrew and Martin, all of his nieces and nephews whom he loved so dearly and Stymie, his best friend. Leaving us at the age of 39 is much too early for such an exceptional man.

Del Rendon's legacy is a challenge for those who knew him to love one another as he did, help others to the limit of your ability and leave the world a better place than you found it.

There will be an open casket visitation at Welch's Funeral Home Tuesday, Sept. 6, from 5 to 8 p.m.

There will be a special ceremony in Sturgis on Thursday, Sept. 8. If you would like to participate in the procession to this ceremony, please join us at Welch's Funeral Home at 4 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial donations be given to the American Red Cross Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund.

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Related Websites

The Puerto-Rican Rum Drunks   Young Ave. Deli - Saturday, May 13, 2000.  Review by Mike Spence

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Last updated in 2005
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