BAND OF THE MONTH – Max Crucial & the Krushers

Like many NE Ohio bands, it started with an ad in the Scene. William Russell Jones AKA Billy Russell was a songwriter/guitarist/vocalist in need of a band. Having suffered through the breakup of his marriage, Russell focused his energy into demoing his songs utilizing the home recording technology of the day – a four track Tascam cassette recorder, a Korg drum machine, a Casio keyboard along with his Peavy guitar and bass.

In the 1980’s, well-before the advent of the Internet, there were only two ways to find musicians – word of mouth or an ad in the back of Scene magazine, the weekly “go to” publication that was the source for entertainment news in NE Ohio. Russell placed his ad and shortly thereafter received a phone call from drummer/vocalist Bill “Juice” Adkins AKA “Juicer.” According to Russell, Juice’s band had just lost both of their guitar players and more importantly, needed a warm place to practice. Over the telephone, Russell played his demo version of a song titled “Without You” for Juice. Within minutes, Juice (who, unbeknownst to Russell, lived close by) and his bassist, Brad Becker were on Russell’s doorstep at the intersection of Ford Road and Lucas Court in Elyria to listen to more of Russell’s demo. Adkins and Becker moved their equipment to Russell’s house and the trio began bringing Russell’s demos to life. They quickly realized the band needed a lead guitarist and brought Eddie “Fast Eddie” Stambaugh on board who Russell says, “is the best lead guitarist I’ve ever met in my entire life.” About joining the band, Eddie Stambaugh says:

“I came about from an ad in Scene Magazine that was hanging in Doman’s Music in Elyria. I told Drew Doman that I was going to call and by the time I got home the phone rang. It was Juice on the phone with an invite to band practice at Russell’s house. They were an alternative/ punk looking bunch and I showed up in Loverboy-looking red jeans a torn tank top & headband just in time to see Russell popping an Alka Seltzer with a beer chaser for a foaming effect – a for sure eye opener…”

Once Stambaugh was on board, the new band decided to keep the name of Adkins and Becker’s band as their own and thus the new Max Crucial & the Krushers was born. The band was on a strict timeline after Stambaugh joined. They had about a month to work up their set list as the band had signed up to play a battle of the bands at the Phantasy Nite Club in Lakewood. According to Russell:

“The band practiced every night in my living room and after practice was over, Eddie and I would stay after and work on leads and guitar parts every night. Interesting fact, in the early days the band use to stop rehearsing to take a break and watch GLOW: Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, That was back in 1986. Even with our inexperience, we ended up taking second place in that battle of the bands. I think we lost to In Fear of Roses.”

Brad Becker did not stay long in the new version of Max Crucial & the Krushers and he was replaced by bassist Scott “Scoots” Ritter (fresh off a stint with The French Lenards) who Russell says was incredibly professional and brought the band up another level. The band developed a solid power pop sound with modern guitar leads from Stambaugh. All band members contributed lead and backing vocals and MC & TK were a powerful live band. I have a board recording from a 1988 show at the Phantasy Nite Club and the band’s energy which fed off of the appreciative crowd is more than apparent. While the band gigged all over NE Ohio, Russell says their “home” venue was the Train Station in Elyria:

I think the rest of the members of the band would agree, our favorite place to gig, the place we called home, was the Train Station in Elyria Ohio. When we played there we were in front of our friends and girlfriends. The place would pack every time we played there. It was as if the name of the band was ‘Free Beer.’

Unfortunately, Max Crucial & the Krushers did not release much recorded material. The band self-released one vinyl single, “She Don’t Need Me”/”Without You” in 1988. “Without You” also appeared on the second Jim Clevo compilation CD, 1988’s Join Rivers: Can We Listen? as well as placing “Color of Your Eyes” on From the Eerie Shores, the CD compilation jointly released by Jim Clevo and Synthetic Records, also is 1988. They made one final appearance, posting “Turnin’ Brown” on Jim Clevo’s 1990 CD compilation The Killer Blow. All of these songs were recorded at On Sound Studio in Lakewood, Ohio.

As happens frequently in rock and roll, internal tensions led to Russell’s departure as the 1990’s dawned. The band soldiered on as a three piece and attempted to complete their first album using additional songs mostly written by Billy Russell and also recorded at On Sound Studios but these recordings never made it to wax. Max Crucial & The Krushers scattered to the winds. Eddie Stambaugh still lives in Lorain County and still plays guitar mostly with his church’s praise band. He’s the proud father of singer/songwriter Austin Stambaugh who lives near Nashville and just released his new album Where She Will Go which is available from Bandcamp. Juicer Adkins replaced drummer Rich Masarik in the Medicine Men when that band changed its name to Medicine Show. He played on the band’s one and only release, Welcome to the Show, which you can download for free, also from Bandcamp. Scott “Scooter” Ritter disappeared from the music scene for a number of years but, according to Eddie Stambaugh, “has been in a handful of projects over the past six or seven years.”

Although the demise of Max Crucial & the Krushers was tough for Billy Russell, he’s taken it in stride over the past three decades since he left the band:

When I (first) heard Juice play the drums and Brad play the bass. I thought about that song by Bachman Turner Overdrive,  “Taking Care of Business,” and the line  chances are you’ll go far. If you get in with the right bunch of fellows. To me, the end of the Krushers was worse than any relationship I had ever ended before then and since then. I continued to write music for a while, but never tried to form another band. I just never thought anything else would ever compare. I, or we, gave it our best shot and it just wasn’t enough.

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