The Matadors (Czech band)

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The Matadors
Origin Prague, CSSR
Genres Rhythm and blues, beat, rock and roll
Years active 1965 - 1968
Labels Supraphon
Associated acts Blue Effect, Emergency, Flamengo, Komety

The Matadors were a beat band from Czechoslovakia. The members were Otto Bezloja (bass guitar, leader), Radim Hladík (lead guitar), Jan "Farmer" Obermayer (organ), Miroslav "Tony Black" Schwarz (drums) as well as Karel Kahovec (vocals, rhythm guitar) and Vladimír Mišík (vocals, bluesharp). The latter two were replaced in late 1966 by ex-Flamengo Viktor Sodoma jr. (vocals).

The Matadors formed in early 1965 from Fontana (The Fontanas), with members from Pra-Be and Komety (The Comets). Fontana's manager (and until early 1965 also their drummer) Wilfried Jelinek secured a promotional deal with an East German manufacturer of sound equipment and music instruments. Since the group began to use an electronic organ named Matador, they changed their name accordingly to promote it. The Matadors performed exclusively in East Germany until April 1966, their live repertoire consisted mostly of cover versions from popular beat groups like The Who, The Kinks or The Small Faces.

The original Czech edition cover of 1968's album The Matadors

Between 1966 and 1968 Supraphon released two Matadors singles and two EPs, another two tracks appeared on an album compilation. The earlier original compositions were sung by Kahovec ("Sing A Song Of Sixpence", "Snad jednou ti dám") or Mišík ("Malej zvon co mám", "Don't Bother Me", "Old Mother Hubbard"). With lead singer Sodoma they recorded their only album in May and June 1968. The Matadors has been released as Supraphon 0130493 (mono)/1130493 (stereo), an export edition with a different sleeve has been released as Supraphon/Artia SUA ST 53992 (stereo) and SUA 13992 (mono). The material on the album includes instrumentals as well as vocal tracks sung in English. They recorded their own songs and covered R&B standards like "I Think It’s Gonna Work Out Fine" or Junior Walker's "Shotgun". The Matadors also covered Smokey Robinson’s "My Girl" and Bob Dylan’s "It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue" in Them's soulful arrangement. Original material includes "Hate Everything Except Of Hatter" [sic], "Indolence" and "Get Down From The Tree", which is featured on Rhino Records' Nuggets II compilation. Hladík, the most inventive Czechoslovak rock guitarist of that time, was hailed as the "Czech Eric Clapton".[citation needed]

The most successful Matadors line-up broke up in summer 1968. Radim Hladík then established Blue Effect (later also known as Modrý Efekt or M Efekt) with the original Matadors lead singer Vladimír Mišík. Jan Obermayer joined Petr Novák's George & Beatovens. Viktor Sodoma jr. pursued a solo career as a pop singer, backed by various groups and orchestras. Best remembered was his 1971-1973 collaboration with Shut Up, later known as the František Ringo Čech Group, with whom he recorded numerous "bubble-gum" singles and one side of his only solo album.

Otto Bezloja and Tony Black briefly reformed the Matadors, joined by ex-Komety lead singer Miloš "Reddy" Vokurka, Jiří Matoušek on organ and Petr Netopil on guitar. In fall 1968 they left to Munich, West Germany where they worked as the house band of a German edition of the Hair musical. In the early 1970s the nucleus of that band evolved to the Germany-based progressive rock group Emergency.

The Matadors reunited in 1991 and made rare public appearances until 2008. Otto Bezloja died in 2001.

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