One of the pure joys I have as the chief archivist of the Listen Project is discovering music from NE Ohio’s past, especially from the mid-1990’s forward which was during the time I was unplugged from the local music scene. Frequently, after hearing something old that is new to me, I ask myself this simple question: “Why isn’t this band well-known?” NE Ohio has and continues to remain fertile ground for great music and yet, a number of artists and bands who, IMHO, had the songs to make it to the national stage, never even received an invitation to “the Show” (a baseball euphemism for getting called up to a Major League club and in our example, a deal with a major record label).
I’ve written about Michael Purkhiser previously. Back in the late 1970’s/early 1980’s, he was part of the power pop trio, The Action. Powered mostly by his smart and crisp songwriting, The Action developed a huge following in Akron and Kent and were known for their incredible live shows and you can find a few videos of the band playing live at the Akron Sound Museum YouTube channel. The Action released three singles in a five year period with the intention of releasing a four song EP, but, as is common in rock and roll, the band dissolved leaving a lot of potential on the floor.
Flash forward a decade or so later. Michael Purkhiser is the sound engineer for the Beatles tribute band 1964 and playing in The Walking Clampetts, the successor band to Kent 1980’s rockabilly tour-de-force, Johnny Clampett and the Walkers. He’s still writing – prolifically – and the songs blend the rockabilly covers played by the Walking Clampetts with his power pop roots from the Action. Enlisting former one time member of Johnny Clampett and the Walkers, former Terrible Parade guitarist and NE Ohio’s favorite Rock and Roll Mercenary, Marky Ray (just off the road as tour manager for The Toadies), drummer John Koury (The Infidels) and bassist/keyboardist Dave “Tate” Stephenson (Kal & The Bad Dudes) in 1997, 3D is formed and the band headed into 216 Studios in Cuyahoga Falls. With Stephenson, a talented engineer, behind the mixing board, 3D spent the next three years putting Purkhiser’s songs to tape.
Over the next three years, 3D recorded approximately 30 songs in the studio and made several live appearances. Although the intention was to release several albums since they had plenty of great material, the only official release is the 1998 five song EP titled Universal Conquest and it serves smartly as the band’s”what if” as all five songs are tight and well-produced, perfectly ready for “the Show.” About the band, Marky Ray, in an April 2015 on-line interview with Tim Quine for the Rubber City Review, said this:
“The stuff we did with 3D was awesome, but like most bands from this area, we were probably ahead of our time. Perhaps a little too this or that, I don’t know. Some people might call it Americana, but we were probably 15 years ahead of this souped-up country music – which is really just rock and roll, whatever.” (1)
By the turn of the 21st century, even with the addition of new members, first Quin Wychanko and then Kip Amore on bass and Tom Pace on drums, the lack of label interested and, of course, life took its toll and another great NE Ohio band faded away.
Flash forward to earlier this year. Based on a post I made on the Listen Project Facebook page about the Action, Michael Purkhiser reached out to me and I was able to share with him my love for not only the Action but 3D as well. I had found Universal Conquest on-line (from an Australian seller, no less) and instantly fell in love with the songs, particularly a catchy tune called “There Goes My Heart Again” which, of course, has made its way into the regular rotation on Listen Project Radio as have some of the tracks Marky picked for his interview with me in April. This week, Michael reached out to me again and, long story short, I now have pretty much all of 3D’s studio output in the Listen Project archives. Many of these tracks along with the tracks from Universal Conquest, according to Michael, were going to be released as a full-length album, initially titled Radio Akron but then changed to Stere-O-View.
Now I know that you want to hear these great songs and there are a couple of ways to do so. First, of course, you can regularly tune into Listen Project Radio and hear 3D along with a lot of other cool Northeast Ohio bands. If you want to just cut to the chase, you need to go to Marky Ray’s YouTube channel on which he is continually posting some incredible videos of material from his long career and a lot of other cool stuff. You’ll find a lot of 3D songs set to some really, really creative art. Enjoy the songs of Michael Purkhiser, truly one of NE Ohio’s most talented songwriters.