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.

BAND OF THE MONTH – Medicine Men/Medicine Show/Skydragster et. al.

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.

Where did that couch come from???

BAND OF THE MONTH – The Action

It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of power pop. Allegedly, the term was coined by the Who’s Pete Townshend to describe the music that the band was playing in the pre-Tommy years. He said: “Power pop is what we play—what the Small Faces used to play, and the kind of pop the Beach Boys played in the days of ‘Fun, Fun, Fun’ which I preferred.”  The genre was carried forward by bands such as Cleveland’s own Raspberries, Apple Records recording artists Badfinger and Big Star from Memphis to name a few. Power pop waxed and waned during the early to mid 1970’s but by the end of the decade and into the early 80’s, there were many active bands who fit that bill. Fortunately for us, one of the best was a trio out of the Akron suburb of Stow, Ohio called the Action.

The Action was charged by the songwriting of guitarist/vocalist Michael Purkhiser who along with bassist/vocalist Brett Warren and drummer Brian Shearer (replaced later by Cliff Bryant) cut their teeth playing 60’s style, Beatles influenced rock with a new wave edge in clubs around NE Ohio.  The band released three singles between 1978 and 1982 on their own Radiogram Records.  All three singles are incredibly rare but fondly remembered today not only in the Cleveland, Akron and Kent metro area but by connoisseurs of power pop throughout the world.  Like a number of bands from NE Ohio at that time, the Action ventured to New York City for gigs at Harrah’s and CBGB but even though approached by the suits, nothing developed for them.  While the Action retained a strong fan base at home, by the mid 1980’s the band had run its course.

Michael Purkhiser moved on to play in rockabilly legends, the Walking Clampetts from 1985 to 1990.  In late 1997, he teamed up with our favorite Rock ‘N Roll Mercenary, Marky Ray and formed 3D, another vehicle for Purkhiser’s tight and introspective songwriting.  3D released one EP, Universal Conquest in 1998 and left enough material for at least one additional album when that band broke up, some of which I will feature on a podcast with Marky Ray in the not so distant future.  Michael Purkhiser currently lives on the West Coast.

Go here to listen to all three singles from the Action.

Go here to see a video from 1981 of the Action performing the Flamin’ Groovies’ “Shake Some Action” at the Rathskeller in Kent.

Ladies and Gentlemen…… The Adults

NOTE: Album titles below link to my YouTube page where you can listen to the music discussed in this article. Great music deserves to be heard.

It started with a challenge to Cleveland rock legend, Raven Slaughter. Aspiring guitarist, Paul Michael recounted to Deanna Adams:

“I saw Raven Slaughter at this annual outdoor summer music festival in Lodi. I remember thinking as I watched them, ‘Man, they need another guitar player’ because there was just three of them at the time. I went up to Raven after the show and told him as much. He asked me if I had anyone in mind and I said, ‘I play guitar.’ He asked, ‘Well, how good are you?’ I said, ‘I’m better than you’ which of course was crazy. But I ended up in the band.” (1)

Michael stayed with Raven Slaughter for about a year and then left in late 1979 to form his own band, eventually settling on his former Raven Slaughter band mate, Robb Harpy on drums, Michael’s girlfriend, Crystal Gray on bass and Marianne Schiebli on saxophone and they christened themselves The Adults. The band’s originals were a mix of tight knit, funky rock, jazz and pop sounds, not quite punk, not quite new wave but totally unique and accessible.

The Adults played with several classic 1980’s classic Northeast Ohio bands including the Generators, the Pony Boys, Lucky Pierre, Wild Giraffes, the Action and Hammer Damage to name a few as well as played gigs outside of their home area. Trips to Columbus, Cincinnati, Detroit, Erie and Buffalo were necessary for an all-original band to financially survive. By 1983 the band was ready to record and through the generosity of a fan who financed it, the Adults recorded Ladies and Gentlemen…the Adults. Released in 1984, one track “Junk Funk” featured the guitar work of Adrian Belew, guitarist with the Bears and King Crimson after Belew and his friend, record producer Gary Platt, caught an Adults show at the Jockey Club in Covington, Kentucky while the band ws recording the album across the Ohio River at the Fifth Floor in Cincinnati.

The 1200 copies of Ladies and Gentlemen sold out. The Adults placed cuts on two Play Records compilations: 1985’s Exhibit A with “Stupid in Love” and 1988’s Exhibit C with “Yes I Do” (a new song that did not appear on their album) and the band continued to play their regular clubs and write new songs. But something was happening to the club scene at the end of the 1980’s. As Paul Michael related to Deanna Adams:

“There came a whole new generation with the mosh pits where they all get in a circle and basically hurt each other. And I had no interest in playing before an audience that expected me to spit water at them and such. That’s not why I write music. I want to see people dance and have fun so I decided to continue but on my own terms.” (2)

Marianne Schiebli left the band in 1985 and you can currently find her playing sax in the Rainy Day Saints. Robb Harpy drifted in and out until 1988 and Crystal Gray called in quits in 1995. Michael remained true to his vision, adding former Serious Nature drummer Tim Caskey, sax player/keyboardist David Guthrie and bassist Brian Dossa. This version of the Adults headed to Nashville in 1996 to record the band’s second album. Playing A Kids Game. Even with the push of a new album, albeit 12 years after their debut and a short return to the road, the Adults called it quits in 1997.

In 2002, Michael, Gray and Schiebli reunited with a fill-in drummer and second horn player for a short set during Edgarfest, the tribute to the late Wild Giraffes guitarist Edgar Reynolds. This marked, I believe, the final appearance of the Adults. The Adults were one of the bands I missed out on so I was fortunate that Jim Benson has a copy of Ladies and Gentlemen in his archives. I loved the songs so much, I went out and found a copy for myself and the first song I played on the very first Listen Project podcast was “Let’s Go,” the track that kicks off Ladies and Gentlemen (very appropriate I thought). The real legacy of the Adults is in their live performances and anyone I’ve ever talked to who saw the band live says the Adults gave it all and held nothing back. Fortunately, a 1981 live show at Kent State University capturing the band in its infancy is posted at YouTube and is well worth checking out.

I recently learned that there are tapes of several Adults live shows out there and I passed the information on to second line-up member Tim Caskey who has become the keeper of all things Adults. Hopefully, the material will see the light of day soon. Paul Michael has been suffering some health issues recently. Tim has told Paul about the Listen Project so in the chance that Paul sees this post, please leave him a message in the comments.

(1)(2) Adams, D. R. (2002). Rock n roll and the Cleveland connection. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press.

Barncore & Butterchurns

Everyone’s favorite barncore butterchurners are back.  The Hostile Omish will be appearing at Sassy’s Bar & Grille in Twinsburg, OH on Friday, November 29th from 8:00-11:00 PM.  Formed in the late 1980’s in Bedford, OH, the Schwind brothers and friends created the whole new genre of barncore by adding two butterchurners on stage to compliment the tradition drums, bass, guitar and voice configuration favored by most bands.  Their shows are both infrequent and legendary so do not miss this chance to see them on stage in their natural habitat playing their hits like “Lizard Up My Buthole,” “It’s No Fun (Omish Excommunicated Blues).” and “Who Put Sea Monkey’s In My Mom’s Douche.”.  Plus, the band’s newest album, “XXX” will be available for sale as well as (totally unconfirmed) the butter churned on stage that night.  Want a quick fix of Hostil Omish barncore?  Go here to listen to their second cassette release, 1991’s “Caution: This Buggy Makes Wide Right Churns.”  The, grab your Amish hat, hitch up your horse and buggy, and head on out to Twinsburg on November 29th for what will be, one way or another, a memorable show.

A LISTEN PROJECT EXCLUSIVE: The Bounty Say Everyone Loves A Second Act

I am truly humbled and excited to be writing this post.  I received a Facebook message earlier this week from vocalist Jim Kozelek who fronted the Columbus band, The Bounty in the late 1980’s/early 1990’s.  A little history here – The Bounty, while from Columbus, had a very strong following in NE Ohio and played a number of gigs here on the Northcoast.  The band released an LP, Walk With the Giants in 1991.  Two tracks from the album appeared on two different Jim Clevo Presentations compilations.  “Buffaloes” appeared on the 1990 The Killer Blow disc while the album’s title track (one of my favorites) appeared on 1991’s Clearing the Air double CD compilation.  The Bounty disbanded circa 1992 and seemingly disappeared into the ether.  As I was compiling music for the project, I picked up a vinyl copy of their album and it’s become one of my favorites of the era.  While I didn’t get to see the Bounty perform, I could tell they must have been a great live band.  After a little detective work, I discovered the band’s Facebook page and learned that, lo and behold, they were back at, reuniting for an acoustic show in September 2017 and working on new music.

Well, the work is done and ready to go.  Based on a good word from my guru, Satan himself Jim Benson, Jim Kozelek reached out to me and asked if I would like to be the first in NE Ohio to release some new Bounty music.  My response – “Of course, I do!”  Almost 30 years after the release of Walk With The Giants, The Bounty is ready to release their sophomore effort, Everybody Loves A Second Act.

From the band’s media release:

The Columbus, Ohio band The Bounty will release, in electronic format only, the 10-song album Everybody Loves a Second Act.

Everybody Loves a Second Act belatedly follows the nine track 1991 release Walk with the Giants.

Recorded at Sonic Lounge in Grove City, Ohio and engineered by Joe Viers, Everybody Loves a Second Act is packed with full bodied, melodic, guitar driven songs crossing between power pop and roots rock/Americana.

“Unlike Walk with the Giants, which was recorded one song per session at the Recording Workshop, this was really the first time we were in a studio where we could do what we wanted. So there are a lot of different guitars and vocals, a lot of different textures and melody lines to the songs” said Jim Kozelek.

Lennie Blodgett – Drums

Jamey Ball – Bass Guitar; Guitar; Lap Steel

John Estep – Guitar; Mandolin; Backing Vocals

Jim Kozelek – Vocals

Joe Viers – Bass Guitar on “Stop,””Watershed,””Turn,””Sleep,””Go to Pieces”; Horn sounds on “Sleep”

Maria Kozelek – Backing Vocals on “These Things Take Time”

So here’s two songs from The Bounty’s soon to be released new digital album.  If you like them, comment below and then go the the band’s Facebook and give them a “like.”  When you’re done there, check out the full release of Walk With The Giants at my YouTube page.

The Bounty ELASA Cover

“Bridge To Nowhere”

“Big Love”

The Bounty 002

BAND OF THE MONTH – The Wild Giraffes: Sticking Their Necks Out For Rock

As I’ve spent the better part of a year digging deep into the NE Ohio music scene from 1985 to 2000, I realized that using a hard start date hindered more than helped.  There were a number of late 70s/early 80s that influenced bands from the mid 80s and onward.  Some of those bands existed into the years beyond 1985 including Terrible Parade, The Adults, and The Mice to name a few.  Others flamed out or disappeared before the golden age took off.  One of those bands, I discovered, was Wild Giraffes.

Wild Giraffes 01

The band was formed in the mid 70s by Mentor High School graduates Chris King and Edgar Reynolds.  King was the Daltry (the voice) to Reynold’s Townshend (the songwriter).  Initially, the duo was joined by Chris Burgess on bass, Alan McGinty on drums and Jeff Ianini on guitars.  Their music was not typical of what was happening in Cleveland at the time.  Where most bands were deep into punk and post punk, Wild Giraffes seemed to be influenced by classic 1960s garage rock mixed with power pop harmonies, new wave pizzazz and a dash of punk sensibility.  The band was a ferocious live act and was known as one of the best dance acts of that era, packing clubs all over northeast Ohio. In Deanna Adams’ great tome Rock -N- Roll & The Cleveland Connection, drummer Al McGinty told Adams:

“We did all our songs loud, long and fast.  When we’d finish our set, we all looked like we just walked out of a swimming pool.  We had this great synergy together.”

In 1977, Wild Giraffes released their first 7″ single, “New Era” b/w “Dreams Don’t Last.”  By this time, Guitarist Ianini had been replaced by Mike Terrell and before the release of their second single in 1978, Ensemble & Majorettes featuring “Love Me” b/w “When I Find Out,” Chris Burgess was replaced on bass by Dave Ivan, thus setting up what is considered the classic lineup. A third single, the original “I Don’t Know About of You” b/w a cover of Willie Dixon’s “Crazy Mixed-Up World” was released in 1979 followed by a cover of “Burnin’ Love” b/w the original “Knock Knock.”  All four singles were released on the band’s own Neck Records, but “Burnin’ Love” was also featured on a compilation album, “The Pride of Cleveland” released in 1980 by local radio powerhouse WMMS, 100.7 FM along with songs from other popular acts of that time such as Love Affair (featuring Rich Spina), I-Tal, rocker Don Kriss and the Generators.

The zenith of the band’s career came in 1981 with the release of their full length album, Right Now again on Neck Records.  The LP release brought another personnel change as guitarist Mike Terrell departed after playing on two tracks.  He was replaced by Bill Elliot for the rest of the album.  While the album received favorable reviews (Trouser Press compared them to the early Who and praised their ingenuity), drummer McGinty left the band within two years of its release and the departure of Bill Elliot who was replaced on guitar by future French Lenard Tom Jares.  Singer Chris King told Deanna Adams:

“for some reason, the chemistry of the band was that Edgar was the writer and had the strongest ideas.  And he took more influence from the guitarists.  So every couple of years, he would either get fed up with them or they with him and we’d end up getting a new guitar player.  But every incarnation of the band brought its own uniqueness.

By 1984, the Wild Giraffes had run their course.  Vocalist Chris King paralyzed a nerve in his vocal cords and he was unable to sing.  The members went their separate ways.  Edgar Reynolds, the writer of all those great songs, passed away at age 42 in August 2001.  In December of that year, surviving members of Wild Giraffes including Dave Ivan, Chris King and Al McGinty reunited to perform a blistering set for “Edgarfest” a tribute to Edgar Reynolds which was hosted by Peanuts and the Ghoul and included sets from The Pagans, The Adults, Satan’s Satellites, Balls of Fire, Hi-Fi’s w/Marti Jones & Don Dixon, Qwasi Qwa w/ Wally Bryson, Cats on Holiday, The Dukes of Windsor, Lucky Pierre and the Holy Cows.  50% of the proceeds went the Disney-Reynolds Children Trust (Edgar had been a Disney employee in California where he was living at the time of his death) and 50% went to The Fender-Guitar Lessons for underprivileged Children Foundation.  You can find videos of Edgarfest here.

 

Another Long Overdue Update

Yes, it’s been two months since my last post much to my chagrin.  I’ve also fallen behind on posting for “Compilation Tuesdays” and “Throwback Thursdays” over at the Facebook page.  As Kevin Bacon said to the crowd just before being trampled flat in Animal House, “Remain calm!  All is well!”

I completed the digital transfer of the cassettes in Jim Benson’s local music collection which he loaned me and I am now tackling his vinyl collection.  Once again, Jim has been gracious with his time walking me through what he feels are the “must listens” from 1985 to 2000 including about two dozen LPs/EPs and about 50 singles (remember those).  And let me tell you, there are a number of records that I’m really excited about digitizing and sharing including some really rare ones that are an important part of our shared musical history.  These releases cover a number of different genres, too, highlighting just how diverse the NE Ohio music scene was in those days.  In order to understand those fifteen years, I’ve also had a chance to reach back to the late 70s/early 80s which has led me to some of the artists and bands that set the stage for our renaissance years including The Generators, The Wild Giraffes, The Easter Monkeys and Lucky Pierre to name a few.  While some of those bands were no more by ’85, most of the musicians were still performing well into the 90s and beyond.  Look for more classic music postings closer to the Thanksgiving holiday.  Until then, check out what’s already posted to my YouTube channel.

On Saturday, September 29th, I made the trip to Lakewood for the Phantasy Phlea,  a sale of memorabilia and other items from the Phantasy complex.  I hadn’t been inside the Nite Club or Theatre in 25 years.  Owner Michelle DeFrasia generously allowed my daughter and I to wander the Nite Club, take photos and stand on the stage.  I also finally got to meet the legendary Marky Ray and talk about the Listen project with him.  He is an encyclopedia of Cleveland music history and I can’t wait to sit down with him again.

 

On Saturday, October 13th, I attended WRUW’s annual “Studio-A-Rama” show to finally see Paranoid Lovesick live for the first time.  PL did not disappoint.  Founding members Bill Stone (guitar/vocals) and John Potwora (drums) were joined by guitarist/vocalist Chip Ficyk of The Lowlies, bassist/vocalist Todd Thuman from Stupid Beautiful Heaven and guitarist/vocalist Bill Bohnert for this gig.  The band played a 40 minute set in front of a crowd that was, from the first song, hooked on PL’s blend of power pop and comedy improv show.  The band ended their much too brief set with “Velvet” dedicated to their late original lead guitar player, Rick McBrien who passed away suddenly in February 2003.  I know Rick is proud of these guys keeping the PL Universe Boat afloat.   Look for more shows soon.

 

Over nine months into this project and I am finally starting to formulate an action plan.  I’ve spoken to a number of people who want to lend a hand and believe me, if you offer to contribute, I won’t say “No.”  There have been several cool ideas for utilizing the material I’ve been collection.  Remember, this project is not just about preservation.  It’s about accessibility, too.  Drop me a line at chris@listenclevelandmusic.com with anything you might like to contribute.

 

281 1/4 Feet

That’s the average length of tape in a C-30 cassette. For those younger than 30, the compact cassette tape was THE most portable audio medium between the early 1970s and the early 1990s. If you wanted college radio play, you pressed a 7” 45 single with your two best songs. Maybe you scraped enough cash together to press a full vinyl 12” LP like your rock hero’s. However, if you wanted to make a quick buck or two at your show AND make sure someone heard your music (on their Walkman or in their car), you went with the cassette. It was the cheapest and most convenient way for a band or musician to distribute their music to not only fans but to prospective record labels as well.  They were relatively cheap to duplicate at home and you could Xerox your DIY artwork for the insert yourself. If you wanted to step up your game, in Northeast Ohio in the late 80s/early 90s, you had your project duplicated by Duane Abarca at A to Z Audio complete with labels screened onto the custom cassette (no paper labels if you wanted it to look professional). As the cost of mass duplication of compact discs came down, bands started to release their material on that medium as the CD could be both played on the radio and sold at gigs or be sent to prospective record labels.  The use of the cassette went by the wayside although it seems to have made a niche comeback in the past few years (think “Awesome Mix Tape Vol. 1″ from the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie).

Since May, I’ve been privileged to organize and curate over a hundred cassettes in Jim Benson’s local music collection.  I’ve truly enjoyed listening to a lot of great local music from the 80s and 90s while converting the tapes to the much more preservable and shareable digital audio format. Particularly, I loved listening to the cassette EPs.  For my purposes, a cassette EP runs no longer than 30 minutes when the time for both sides is combined and contains no more than six to eight songs. Why?  Because it’s my blog, that’s why!  LOL. In no particular ranking, here are 20 of my favorite cassette EPs so far:

I Said – Adults
S/T – Sleazy Jesus & the Splatter Pigs
The Fifth Season – The Walk-Ins
S/T – The Dandelion People
Spinning In Infinity – Jericho Turnpike
Relation Shifts – In Fear Of Roses
S/T – Gypsy Moths
Zero Percent – Jehova Waitresses
East Coast Slo – The Waynes
Grandma’s Medicine – Medicine Men
The Coffee Sessions – Rotary Ten
S/T – Blue Taxi
S/T – Odd Girl Out
S/T – Ronald Koal Band
Sex Party – Indian Rope Burn
Don’t Ask – Rasch
Relations – The French Lenards
S/T – The Earl Rays
S/T – Back Pages
November – North By Northwest

Yes, I included my former band’s cassette EP (again, writer’s prerogative).  Click on any of the above titles.  The link will take you to my You Tube page and you can listen to that particular cassette EP.  I still have quite a few more to upload to You Tube, but I am interested in hearing about some of your favorite cassette EPs from the era.  Post here or email me at chris@listenclevelandmusic.com. If you have digital copies and are willing to share, please do, otherwise I will do my best to find a copy.

BAND OF THE MONTH – The French Lenards: These Guys Ain’t From Paris!

Up front, I have to confess that I didn’t get The French Lenards back in the late 80’s.  When I really started taking an interest in rock music at age 13, I started with arena rock (Journey), moved onto what we now call classic rock (Zeppelin, Boston, Bad Co., et. al.) in high school, and discovered the Beatles and power pop along with college radio in the late 80’s.  My writing was influenced by all of that music but nothing I listened to was in the same realm as The French Lenards.

A big part of this project is researching and listening to the music released by NE Ohio bands from 1985 to 2000.  Deep in the Jim Benson Archives, I found three French Lenards cassettes:  what appears to be an early promo release, a full length album titled “After Saturday Night,” from 1987 and an EP, “Relations” from 1989.  Maybe it’s the thirty year gap since I last heard the band, but after listening multiple times, the French Lenards are certainly one of the best NE Ohio bands in the late 80’s and rate up there with The Adults, The Mice, In Fear of Roses and Terrible Parade in respect to the quality of songs.  What I realized after a number of listens is that the roots of the French Lenards actually lie in a lot of the music I grew up with.

The band was the musical vehicle primarily for Tom Jares who played guitar in the final version of the legendary Wild Giraffes.  The influences are widespread – new wave, soul music, old time rock and roll and a little jazz, too.  And, as with the above named other bands, Tom’s voice is unique giving the songs their own character.  Oh, and the band rocked their live shows making them an incredibly popular draw.  The core of the band consisted of Jares, sax player, Michael Scherma and drummer, Jerry Gaviak.  Guitarist Jeffrey “Hal” Cope who appeared on “Relations” would later surface with Jares in the avant garde/acid jazz group Coltrane Wreck in the mid 1990s.  The French Lenard’s song, “Like A Wrecking Ball” appeared on the Jim Clevo Presents compilation, “Clearing The Air” in 1991 which I believe was the band’s swan song, however, Jares, Scherma and Gaviak reunited in 2017 with Jares’ stepson, Skylar Keffer on bass and performed an almost two hour French Lenards show at The Symposium.  Click here to view the video of a band who successfully brought the crowd back to 1987.