Rhino Sings the `Toons

by Sharon Schatz

Ever hear the kazoo version of Led Zeppelin's `Whole Lotta Love?' Ever listen to "The World's Worst Records" album and actually had to use the barf bag that comes with it? Well, me neither, but it's no surprise that the same record label who released these offbeat tunes is the same company to embrace the wacky cartoon theme songs with which we all grew up. Conceived with a sense of humor and a love for music and pop culture, Rhino Records was founded in 1978 by Richard Foos and Harold Bronson. Sharing the same quirky sensibility, the two created what has become the best recorded archive of popular music and culture. Their unique company, whose mission statement includes the phrase "have some fun," is about more than just silly songs from the past.

"The World's Worst Records," a typical Rhino Records release. All images courtesy of Rhino Records.

The History
It all began in the early `70s. Foos, a recent college graduate, bought $3 worth of used records and sold them out of the trunk of his car. His profits proved he wasn't the only one who appreciated old records and he soon opened Rhino Records, a retail store specializing in vintage vinyl, in Westwood, a section of Los Angeles. Foos hired Bronson, a store regular who shared his love of music and fun. Together, with no real business plan they created a hip and quirky record store that developed a cult following.

The Rhino label was born when Foos and Bronson recorded local street eccentric Wild Man Fischer's screechy promotional song, `Go to Rhino Records,' on a Panasonic recorder in the back of the store. Soon after, they released their first album, Fischer's "Wildmania." After producing several more novelty records, the two built their business by re-releasing and repackaging music from other companies. They created compilations, reissues, and "best of" albums including music of every genre from the `20s to the present. As their image changed to include high quality in addition to their quirkiness, Rhino reverted back to its "wacky" roots by adding animation music and theme songs to its repertoire.

Richard Foos.
Photo by Andy Strauss.
Harold Bronson. Photo by Andy Strauss.

Kid Rhino
In 1991, Rhino Entertainment founded Kid Rhino to create and market audio entertainment for kids and their families. Carol Lee, Vice President of Kid Rhino comments, "I think there was always an interest from the Rhino side of the business in developing a children's label. As the business grew, Rhino realized that if they were really going to compete within the kids' marketplace, the music needed to be associated with some very strong licenses in the kids' world."

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