Archive for April, 2016

My Musical Career

April 28, 2016
Here I am playing musical saw with the Spaceband at last 4th Street Fair, 2007.

Here I am playing musical saw with the Spaceband at the last 4th Street Fair, 2007.

I’ve always been a music lover.  Jazz, blues and experimental music are special favorites.  Yet there’s so much more that I love as well: pop, rock, soul, R & B. Then there’s world music.  Nearly every country has something to offer, often something great, wild or amazing. I even like some classical music, show tunes and country.  Then there’s the work recorded between 1890 and 1920, the early days of recorded music.  That’s great too.   I cut a wide swath.

For years, I walked around singing.  Sometimes I’d sing old songs.  Some of them, I knew the lyrics.  If I forgot some of them, I made things up to fill in the gaps.

I also made up my own tunes.  I’d walk around singing and tried not to let people hear me.   To the jump:

I soon found myself going down the rabbit hole.  I’m still there today.

In the 1970’s and 1980’s, I’d do little performances at the Catacombs Coffee House.  I once did poetry and vocals with the jazz group Kuumba.  See the link at the end of this for further details on that.

It started for real in 1988, when I did my first puppet show.  From then on I’d do puppet performances incorporating my made up tunes and lyrics.  The comical-humorous content always meant more to me than the musical content.  I’d get an audience laughing and laughing good.  Yet music was a part of it.  I brought in small instruments, noise toys and drums.  I’d shout, talk in funny voices and I’d sing.

I ended up doing the puppets at art openings or as part of poetry readings.  Once in a while I’d be the opening act for bands.  Sometimes this worked sometimes not.

In 1992, I joined the Don’t Look Now Jug Band.  This legendary Detroit band had been around since 1981.  It was started by Bill Carney, Mike Arbanas and the late Gerald Smith.  I used to see them a lot.  They even served as backup band for the legendary Howard Armstrong aka Louie Bluie.

I need to write a complete history of this band!  Some other names which must be mentioned: Tim Knoll, Olivier Lavergne,  Kelly Craig, Mary Richards, Ralph Koziarski, Larry Gabriel, Matt Greenia, Nancy Greenia, Maryann Angelini, Billy Zook, Mark Jamroz, Joe Simpson, Sally Kaplan, Karina Friedemann, Jere Stormer, Art Mellos, Miriam Marcus, Eden Winter, Sally Barclay and many others.  I must have played at least seventy gigs with this band, yet it may have been as much as a hundred.

It lasted until around 2010, thus close to thirty years.  Often there were ten to twelve people in the band.  I played kazoo.  Eventually I started to sing more, both lead and background vocals.  I also get some sounds out of the saw.

Since then, it’s morphed into a smaller group The Fireflies.  Maybe someday we’ll have a public Don’t Look Now Jug Band reunion. There have been a few reunion jam sessions at private parties. The Fireflies have slowed down since we lost our main two performing venues.  One of these was Detroit’s Steak Hut.  On certain Sunday mornings, we’d literally sing for our breakfast.

Also in the early 1990’s, I was part of the Afraid  of Music band. This only lasted for a year or two.  We played improvisational/ experimental music.  One story was that tried busking on Detroit’s People Mover train.  We’d make music when the train moved and quiet down when it stopped.  We also performed at art openings and bars.

One of my Afraid of Music band-mates was Jim Puntigam.   In 1998, we decided to try it again.  We decided to call the new group the Space Band.  It started off as a five piece band.  Most of us play multiple instruments and we perform in masks and costumes.  Some members wish to be anonymous, thus for now, I’ll not name them here.

Eventually, we added more members and changed the name from the Space Band to Spaceband.  We now usually have eight to eleven people performing.

I’m the front man.  I do lead vocals.  These included chants, sounds, poetry, animal imitations and actual singing.  I also usually play kazoo, electronic kazoo, saxophone, whistles, bells, squeaky toys, drums, percussion, ray gun and more.

I also need to write a more complete history of Spaceband as well.  I continue to do puppet shows and play with the Fireflies. Yet the Spaceband is my primary performance platform.

The Don't Look Now Jug Band at the Rochester Heritage Festival in May 2008.

The Don’t Look Now Jug Band at the Rochester Heritage Festival in May 2008.

From one the the later Don’t Look Now Jug Band Shows:

On my performance with Kuumba.  I think this was in the late 1970’s: