It’s no secret that I am a disciple of that grand religion called power pop. Much like the diversity in Christianity, power pop’s specific dogma is different for different people and many a fist fight has occurred over it’s definition. For me, I need only to point to the sonic offerings of Messrs Tom Dannery and Kurt Maracz when explaining exactly what power pop is to me. For over the 30 years, these two boys from Hinckley, Ohio along with several other musicians have made plentiful offerings to the gods of power pop, first in the late 80’s/early 90’s as Tommy Gun & The Crimes then as the Medicine Men/Medicine Show in the 90’s and today as Skydragster. Tom and Kurt recently surprised the world with a free super deluxe re-release of their 1994 Medicine Show album, Welcome To The Show which enhances what was already a fine example of NE Ohio power pop.
Medicine Show began in the early 1990’s, first with former Gypsy Moths, drummer Leo Walsh and guitarist/vocalist Bill Stone joining Dannery and Maracz. The short-lived band, dubbed the Airdales, released one song, “Caught In A Dream” on the 1991 Jim Clevo Presentations compilation Clearing the Air. Walsh left to form the Cowslingers and Walk-Ins drummer Rich Masarik signed on. Renamed the Medicine Men, this lineup recorded a six song cassette only EP titled Grandma’s Medicine at the Reel Thing in 1992. Tracks from the EP also appeared on the first two Cleveland Music Group compilations released in Fall 1991 and Spring 1992 respectively. The band played live shows with Masarik before he bowed out to concentrate on his live sound production company, Vertical Sound which he founded in 1990 and is still operating today. He was replaced by former Max Crucial & The Krushers drummer/vocalist, Bill “Juice” Adkins. Soon after, Bill Stone moved on to form another legendary Cleveland power pop band, Paranoid Lovesick and the three remaining members hunkered down to record a full-length album.
Engineered by Tom Dannery and self-produced by the band (once again at the Reel Thing) the resulting album, 1994’s Welcome To The Show (released after a third band name change, this time to Medicine Show) fits nicely with other power pop releases of that era from artists and bands such as Matthew Sweet, Teenage Fanclub, Velvet Crush, Red Cross and the Posies but louder. Much louder. In the realms of 1970’s the Who loud. The albums guitars are loud and layered. The rhythm section is loud and tight. The vocal harmonies are loud and heavenly (all three members share the vocal load). Twenty-six years after it’s release, the album stands the test of time and is still an amazing listen.
In order to achieve the layered sound of the album, the band added guitarist/vocalist Todd “Noize” Voss to the lineup and the Medicine Show hit stages across NE Ohio to support Welcome To The Show. Surprisingly, you can find a number of live videos of both the Medicine Men version and the Medicine Show version on You Tube. The band’s final recorded appearance was “Lookin'” a track from Welcome To The Show that was included on the 1996 compilation It Was Made In Northeast Ohio sponsored by Best Buy and Scene magazine.
By the end of the 90’s, the Medicine Show’s time had passed. Kurt Maracz joined Bill Stone in Paranoid Lovesick until that band ground a halt in 2003 with the sudden death of their lead guitarist, Rick McBrien. However, you can’t keep these boys from making music and sometime in the 2000’s, loud yet pleasant power pop was heard emanating from an undisclosed location in County Medina and suspicious looking characters matching the descriptions of Dannery, Maracz and Stone joined by a what appeared to be an escaped convict who resembled former Snyders of Berlin drummer, Pat Kircher were seen at a photo shoot on a backcountry road carrying guitars and a large sofa. Although everything old was new again, once again a new name was in order and this new/old version of the band christened themselves as Skydragster. Fifteen years of wood shedding in the basement of the Skydragster Ranch plus occasional live appearances playing Medicine Men/Show classics, power pop covers and new tunes led to the inevitable- a new album, Skydragster and the Hit Songwriting Machine released in 2019. That album is their classic power pop but with the mellowness of the 100 proof Wild Turkey the boys favor.
Now, go download the free, two disc Super Deluxe version of Welcome To The Show, expanded from 14 to 25 songs for your listening pleasure. While you’re grabbing your freebie, spend the cash and grab a copy of Skydragster and the Hit Songwriting Machine, put in on in the car, and drive around with your windows down playing it loud. And tune into Listen Project Radio to catch music from every version of the band.