Sunday, December 16, 2007

Episode Six: Songs of Blind Willie McTell

Here's Episode Six of the podcast, featurng a few songs by Blind Willie McTell, who was one of Chuck's favorite songwriters. Truth be told, I wish I had more material for this one. There's a few songs we did, such as "Little Delia" and "River of Jordan" that I never got recordings of, but they would have certainly been included on the Blind Willie McTell album that we talked about making at some point. Sadly, no record company we dealt with gave the idea a moment's consideration. A couple years after I left the band, Bob Dylan released his excellent 'World Gone Wrong' album, which featured a number of McTell's songs and did pretty well. Apparently, Dylan had more clout in the music business than we did. Here's the list:

Statesboro Blues (Live WITR broadcast, 1991)
Your Time to Worry (Live at Jazzberry's, 1990)
Blues Around Midnight (Live WITR broadcast, 1991)
Your Time to Worry (Live WITR broadcast, 1991)
Sendin' Up My Timber (Live at Jazzberry's, 1990)

"Statesboro Blues" is one we did frequently, and is represented here in a sizzling performance, if I say so myself. In Phil's second guitar solo, he drops his pick—see if you can figure out where. I only wish Joe "the Bone" had been able to make the gig. The horn parts were much fuller with the two of us. I'm used to this clarinet-only version now, but it was a lot better when Joe was present.

You get to hear two versions of "Your Time To Worry" on this podcast. On the first, I play alto sax, and honestly, I had completely forgotten that I did. I think Joe and I sound pretty good here. I often referred to us as "the finest two-man horn section in upstate New York." Heaven knows what other folks called us... On the second version, Joe is absent and I play clarinet.

Chuck's vocal on "Blues Around Midnight" is one of his best ever, in my opinion. It haunts me to this day.

For anyone who's interested in hearing more of McTell's music, I urge you to check out his 'Atlanta Twelve String' album on Atlantic. There are other collections on the Yazoo label as well.

Download the podcast here:

Next up: CbJE does Dylan. Their way.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Episode Five: Girls! Girls! Girls!

After a long wait, here's the link to the Abolutely More! Podcast—Episode Five. My sincerest apologies for the delay; it's been a busy semester. I have two or three more episodes planned and hopefully those will get done fairly soon. The podcast:

Girls! Girls! Girls!

She'll Break Yours Too
Circus Girl
Acorn Girl
Hey! Bernadette
Blind Girl
Polka Girl
O Sylvia
Two-Headed Girl

Here's the link:

A few comments:

"She'll Break Yours Too" is one we never played live very much. I really like the squonk at the opening and the sax/trombone melody in the middle. The recording and mix could have been better, though.

"Circus Girl" is one we did fairly often and even recorded at the BBC, though this is from a different live broadcast. Ken Frank thought it extremely erotic. I get what he means, but I'm not sure most other listeners did.

"Acorn Girl" was one of my favorites from Strange Sounds From the Basement. My daughter Rachel wanted to make a music video of it when she was in high school. She had to get the lyrics approved by her technology teacher, whose response was, "Is this a real song?" She had to show him the album before he believed her.

"Hey! Bernadette" is about the great singer and actress Bernadette Peters, who Chuck admired greatly.

"Blind Girl" is a very early CbJ song. We didn't play it out much, but I liked it.

"Polka Girl" was a really popular song. It took me a while to work out my tiny little solo, and it wasn't that easy to play. I played it better on this BBC recording than on the album version. It's the only CbJE thing that my clarinet teacher ever complimented me on.

"O Sylvia" is, in my opinion, just frickin' gorgeous.

And only Chuck would write a song about dating a two-headed girl. "We'd swing on the porch swing on the porch" is a brilliant line, though the song has many others.

Next up: the lost Blind Willie McTell album.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Some final thoughts

I realize I haven't posted anything of any substance in quite a long while. It's been a pleasure to have Dave take up my slack. Dave's podcasts have been a real treat as well.

The reality is I believe I've said most everything I need to say regarding the Colorblind James Experience. I wish I could go into more detail regarding the UK/Europe touring but, quite frankly, it's all a blur. Maybe down the road at some point it will come back to me in a flood. But for now, the experience is basically bookended with arriving elated and departing exhausted. We played for a lot of adoring fans who went more beserk during a show than any of our American audiences. We drank a lot of beer and I remember Timothy Taylor's Landlord as being a particular favorite.

Touring with Yeah, Jazz in '88 was fun and I'm happy to report their material has been reissued. They have a MySpace page. Kev, the lead singer, is also spearheading a lovely folk-sounding group called Radio Mary also to be found on MySpace.

In '89 we did a stint with Boy On A Dolphin who were among the nicest fellows we could have hoped to meet. They were a very funky quartet who ended up getting signed to Atlantic. I remember the disappointment hearing that cd and not recognizing anything. The powers that be obviously wanted them to be something else.

One of us got led out of a London music hall by security for smoking a joint. I remember thinking it was all over of us. Fortunately, they led him to the street and told him not to come back. It went no further than that.

John Entwhistle was at the pub in our hotel with his arm around a girl who could've been my daughter. Maybe it was his daughter. What do I know?

I started off the tour hating the Waterboys which Kevin blasted from the van stereo. Now when I hear it, I tear up because it takes me back there.

At one of the oddest gigs we played in Norway, we were playing for an over 40 singles crowd in a hotel bar. There was a lady standing to my left who kept yelling "You are not good! You are very bad!" and insisting that we stop playing.

Playing in Kevin Hunter's home town of Hull was a highpoint. It was a small bar packed to the rafters. I was drenched in sweat before I reached the stage. I remember Chuck coaxing the crowd with "It must be 300 degrees in here! Let's TURN UP THE HEAT!" The crowd went crazy. Kevin sat in on drums and showed us just how precise and powerful he really was.

I loved the Colorblind James Experience. I loved Chuck, Jimmy Mac, Ken, Dave, John Ebert and Joe "the Bone". I loved Carl Gaedt, our 300lb sound man and roadie.

I remember waking up one morning in our hotel in London. No one was around so I threw on my clothes, scraped some change together and went out to get coffee. When I stepped outside the hotel doors, there was Ken in his long black overcoat. He was smoking a butt and was holding 3 styrofoam cups of hot coffee stacked on each other. They were all for him. In that moment I remember smiling and thinking "This is what I've always wanted to do. This is where I'm meant to be. This is who I really am." I've tried to live each day with that feeling ever since.

I may check in from time to time, but I hope the other members of the blog begin or continue to contribute their own memories and thoughts.

Peace always,

-PHil aka Uncle Phil aka Rex Havoc

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Charles James "Brother" Jaffe

I played keyboards in Colorblind's band for 8 years. Recorded 2 cd's with him. His name was James Charles; mine Charles James. His wife was Jan; the mother of my child was a different gal named Jan. The first time I went to Chuck's house I saw an old van and Michael Hurley stepped out of it. This was 1993. I had met Hurley in a commune in Vermont in 1968; never new Chuck new him.

I left home young and hitched out to Haight St. Cal in '67 and lived there for 2 years and lived in communes and travelled with bands and met many colorful folks. Coming to Rochester in 1990 and hooking up with Colorblind and the Rochester community has been the most meaningful days of my life. I really owe it to Chuck and all the people he brought to me. I often speak to Chuck's spirit like he was still here. He is a blessing to me.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Guest contributors

I've invited a number of musicians from the band's colorful history to contribute their respective Colorblind James stories. As any reader of this blog is well aware, a linear narrative has never been attempted. Soon, hopefully, the reader will hopscotch once again from the early White Cap days, over to London, skip back to San Francisco, rest a moment in Rochester, and then fly off again.

My hope is through the narratives of the folks who played the music with Chuck, you'll be able to draw your own picture of this wonderful and unique voice in American music.


Uncle Phil

Friday, July 13, 2007

Europe 1989: Coming Home

One of Martin Scorsese's earlier films, 'After Hours,' depicts the adventures of a character played by Griffin Dunne as he tries to connect with a girl one night in NYC. He suffers a series of dreadful events, each becoming more and more preposterous, with his character ultimately ending up back at his starting point. Our '89 tour was like that movie in many respects, with our trip home being the crowning series of frustrations.

The image shown above is a reminder of this, one of the most difficult and frustrating episodes in my time with CbJE. It also will show that we could be airheads of the first order. I think I've mentioned in earlier postings how the second tour in 1989 left the band deep in debt, in spite of our playing frenetically with practically no time off for eight weeks. We finished up in December, just a few days before Christmas. After a difficult meeting with our management, record company and booking agency, we found ourselves deep in debt and learning what should be the first lesson for any musician: at the end of the day, the artist is the one who is financially responsible. After the meeting we headed out into the streets of London with this burden.

We were also very hungry, and at that point we had practically no money. Near our hotel was an "all-you-can-eat" pasta joint, and this seemed to be the best bet for our dinner. The waiter was astonished and annoyed that we ALL ordered water. ("What, d'you mean just water from the tap??" We did.) He was also a bit cheesed by how hungry we were. Seven large Americans can eat A LOT of pasta, and I think he saw the day's profits ebbing away with every additional plate we ordered. At least that's what I interpreted from his dirty looks.

The next day we headed to Heathrow. It was here that we realized that over half the band had lost their air tickets. Actually, we had thrown them away at the beginning of the tour, not realizing what they were. This was in the days before electronic ticketing. So, the image above is a receipt for the repurchased tickets. We were eventually reimbursed by the airline, but it took months for that to happen. The flight across the Atlantic was fine, except that there was another band on the plane who'd had a fantastic European tour and exulted in all the wonderful things that they'd experienced, including playing in Berlin on the night that the Wall came down. We were supposed to have done the same thing, but our gig was cancelled. If that weren't enough misery, Phil and Chuck also had to endure the indignity of watching a film starring Dudley Moore.

Also, our flight had been delayed for around four or five hours. An annoyance, but not a big deal, or so we thought at the time. Except that it meant that by the time we got to NYC, we had missed our connecting flight to Rochester. So we had to spend the night in a hotel. The next day we took a shuttle to the airport and boarded our plane. And waited. And waited some more. After a while, someone came on to the plane and announced that there was a problem and we had to change to a different plane. I remember Phil muttering "Oh for God's sake, we're never going to get home." Eventually though, we did.

New York City: The Big Kahuna

It was in June or July of 1988 that we got our first gig in New York City. It was at a club called The Big Kahuna, which boasted an aggressive surfer decor, to the point of having a VW van in the bar done up in psychedelic style, surfboards protruding everywhere. I don't remember much about the show, except that we were interviewed by Ian Cranna for Sounds magazine, we played "Viola Lee Blues" somewhere in the set, and finding parking was a nightmare. Ian spoke with Chuck after the show in a cramped basement dressing room. It was incredibly hot, so I headed out to the alley behind the club to get some relatively cool air.

I was sitting on the back step of the club when I was approached by a young black fellow who wanted to know if I had any spare change. He had a very eloquent speaking style and a heartrending tale of woe, some of which may have even been true. When we left Rochester, I'd brought along all of my spare change to help pay for tolls, and this lump of coins was still in my pocket. I said, "Yeah, I can help you. I hope things get better for you soon." and gave him all of that change, probably in the neighborhood of eight or ten dollars. His eyes widened in astonishment and the ensuing response was worth every penny. "Now, I'm not gay or nothin', but I gotta say, I LOVE white men! I mean, I just LOVE white men!" All of which was shouted repeatedly while jumping up and down. Around this time, other band members came out to witness the spectacle and added to the donation. Chuck said, "I had to give him something, he was such a fine orator."

I searched for an image of this club, which is apparently no longer there, but didn't find one. I'm also having trouble remembering if this was our first gig in NYC, or the one we did at the Rodeo Bar. Phil? Ken?

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Episode Four

is now up and running.
Get it here:

This one's a bit bigger than the others. Apologies for the file size, but I think it'll be worth it. Here's the song list:

Ride Board
Strange Sounds From the Basement
Considering a Move to Memphis (live 1990)
Romeo Witherspoon (live radio, WITR 1989)
Hi-Fi Alphabet
I Am Joe Montana (live radio, WITR 1989)
Strange Case (live radio, WITR 1991)

A few notes on the program:

A "ride board" is a bulletin board at a college or meeting place for young people where one can post signs of "ride needed to 'X.'" If you happened to be driving that way, here was a person able to share expenses. I didn't have a car for much of my early college years, and the ride board was an important resource for me. Nowadays, everyone's got a car and you don't see them much anymore. The cafe referred to in the song was the Lowlife Cafe of Oswego NY. It was gone by the time I joined the band, but Chuck spoke of it often. I think both Phil and Ken probably remember it from their Oswego days as well. The names and cities in the song are significant.

"Strange Sounds From the Basement" demonstrates one our most impressive (and least appreciated) skills—the ability to play in very slow tempos. And marvel at the timing of Chuck's delivery of the words—Jack Benny coudn't have done it better.

This is a pretty good version of "Memphis," and gives the general ambience at one of our live shows. This is from a gig at the Country Warehouse, which was a pretty big Rochester venue. I saw The Band there once. They had absolutely no interest in booking us until after we'd played in Europe. And apologies to podcast listeners and my former band mates for my floundering solo here. Took me years to solo on this song properly. I'm not sure why.

"Romeo Witherspoon" and "I Am Joe Montana" were taken from a live WITR broadcast in 1989, when we did an acoustic show there as "CbJ annd the Death Valley Boys." We were working on our acoustic album at the time. Chuck was a big fan of the San Francisco 49ers, and admired Montana greatly. There were a few fans who really loved that song and we often got requests for it.

I've always loved "Hi-Fi Alphabet." Other than its skewering of artistic pretension ("bohemian die-hard twerp"), I have no idea what it's about. In the instrumental section leading to the end, you can hear a number of guest artists join in, including members of The Wilderness Family and Personal Effects, two great Rochester bands.

"Strange Case" was one of my favorite songs, but we didn't play it out much, if at all. When we started to learn it, we had a huge disagreement about how to count off the song. It got to the point where we just set it aside and worked on other things. Just before the broadcast in December of '91, we revisited the song and solved the problem by emphasizing the song's rhythmic ambiguity, rather than clarifying it. That worked. My solo on this is probably my favorite of any that I did with the band.

Next episode: Girls! Girls! Girls!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Episode Three

Here's the second part of the CbJE Gospel Album. The playlist is as follows:

Daniel In the Lion's Den (live)
The Wives Of the Saints (live)
Three Of Them and One Of Us (live radio)
Jesus At the Still
Four Horsemen
Death Fears No Man

I'd actually meant to put this live version of "Daniel In the Lion's Den" on the last podcast but it slipped my mind in the rush of events of the day. So here it is now. Phil's solo is spectacular; I couldn't leave it off. And if you've never heard "Four Horsemen" before, it's one of Chuck's most hilarious and peculiar lyrics ever, with a bizarre and loopy groove from the band to match. I think it probably comes fairly close to capturing the spirit of the "Book of Oswald" that he wrote back in high school. "Three Of Them and One Of Us" is similar, but Chuck's a bit angrier in this one.

Here's where to get it:

Podcast activity will slow down for a bit, while I attend to other matters; probably nothing more will happen until mid-June. Then, in upcoming episodes we'll explore the quirky side of CbJE, take a look at the Blind Willie McTell legacy of the band, and I'll also post some selections from some of our Bob Dylan shows as well. The ones from '91 and 92 have some terrific material. And the sound isn't too bad, either.

And quirky opinions of all sorts may be vented with:

davidmcintire "at" (replace the "at" with @)

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Episode Two

Here's the first installment of a hypothetical CbJE Gospel Album. I should have the second part up and running in fairly short order. The playlist for Part One is as follows:

Gospel Mood
Wedding at Cana
Daniel in the Lion's Den
Jonah and the Whale
If Nobody Loves You In Heaven

Dowload this fabulous internet resource here:

As always, comments, criticism, and scathing invective may be lobbed at:

davidmcintire "at"

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

It's Here!

Happy Buster Cornelius Day! Today is the launch of the Colorblind James: Absolutely More! podcast, and Episode One is already up and running. You may download it at:

The playlist for Episode One is:

Buster Cornelius (live)
Leopardskin Pillbox Hat (live)
Forgotten Man (live radio)
Fourth Floor Rock
I'm Never Gonna Hurt the Girl I Love
St. James Infirmary

As promised, there's a bit of background and commentary at the beginning and end. I hope just the right amount. The audio quality is variable, though I personally think it's fairly listenable. Audiophiles should probably avoid it. I'll work on getting the podcast available through iTunes shortly, so you can just subscribe to it and have it automatically downloaded if you wish. Feedback will be greatly appreciated. Collect 'em all! Trade 'em with your friends!

Comments? Questions? Advice?

email: davidmcintire "at"

Friday, April 20, 2007

Coming Soon! Really Soon!

Mark your calendars. Buster Cornelius Day is nearly upon us (that's the Third of May, folks), and there could be no better day to launch a Colorblind James Experience podcast. So that's when I'll launch one. This will be a highly personal view of the band's work (mine), and will largely (though not exclusively) focus on the period from about 1987 to 1992, the years of the band's most intense and concentrated activity. Expect some of the group's lesser-known material, a lot of previously "unheard-by-nearly-anyone" recordings from live performances, radio broadcasts and studio outtakes. Stuff you never knew we did, but will be glad to find out about. Among upcoming planned episodes, you'll get to hear a hypothetical reconstruction of the much-discussed but never-recorded "Blind Willie McTell Album," our long-lost "Gospel Album," and "Girls! Girls! Girls!." Plus so much more—a Beach Boys cover, our magnificent version of "Saint James Infirmary" and the legendary "I Am Joe Montana."

I intend to do at least four or five podcasts of about 45 minutes in length. In addition to the songs, I'll provide a bit of background and brief commentary. And this will be available to anyone for the extremely reasonable price of nothing at all. Comments from listeners will be greatly appreciated. More details will be posted here on the launch day. Woot!

(As I was typing this up, I realized that this podcast will coincide with the 20th anniversary of my joining CbJE. Whoof...)

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Q Magazine reviews CbJE

Here's a review of our second album, 'Why Should I Stand Up?' that appeared in Britain's Q magazine, a hip glossy that offers lots of reviews, interviews and feature articles, and a had/has somewhat higher journalistic standards than some other publications. They had some very good writers; Charles Shaar Murray was especially excellent. I think this reviewer got the album pretty well, better than many. And yes, we livened up many a wedding. (Though I don't think anything could have induced any of us to don straw-boaters for any reason. He's wrong there.)

One of the things I enjoyed about our brief spell near the limelight was seeing us grouped with other artists alphabetically, in print or in record stores. In record shops our bin would often appear next to Elvis Costello or Edwin Collins, at least once we'd graduated from the "Miscellaneous C Artists.". In this Q Magazine review, we were placed on the same page as Can, a long-time favorite of mine, and Company, a free-jazz outfit that I also admired a lot. It was a juxtaposition that I privately enjoyed very much, and probably the closest I'll ever get to either group. I always imagined some fan of Can glancing across the page after reading their review and thinking, "Hmmm. Maybe I should check these lads out..."

And speaking of record bins, they offered their own sort of endorsement. The fact that your group had its own space and your name was placed next to some artist like Elvis Costello lent a bit of credibility. ("Jeeze, these guys must be pretty good; they've got their own bin, AND it's right in front of Elvis Costello's!") One of my sister's friends was completely unimpressed that her big brother was in a band until the friend saw that we had a generously-filled bin at the Washington DC Tower Records (RIP). That proved we were somebody to reckon with, at least for her.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Mariposa, 1991

Above is the cover of the program book for the Mariposa Festival, an annual festival that took place just outside of Toronto. We played there in September of 1991, our only appearances in "our neighbor to the north." It was a big deal, with several stages offering shows simultaneously, and a large amphitheatre for the bigger acts (we weren't one them). Those included Los Lobos, Jane Siberry, the Fairfield Four, Ramblin' Jack Elliott and an appearance by the soon-to-be-a-big-deal Barenaked Ladies. At that point, they were just a local sensation, and had only released a cassette on their own label. A few months later, their recordings were everywhere.

The weather was gorgeous, and I had a good time hearing other groups. Most memorable for me was listening to Pops Staples singing gospel songs to a handful of people on Sunday morning. It was better than being in church. I got to shake his hand afterwards, and felt fortunate to have been there for that reason alone.

In the folk music scene is a tradition of doing "workshops" at festivals, where a musician or group explains some aspect of their craft, or even just tells a few stories. This allows fans to interact with the musicians and musicians to share their experience. I had played some folk festivals with the band, but had never done one of these. When we arrived in Toronto, after considerable red tape at the border, I learned that I had been scheduled to lead one of these workshops, unbeknownst to me. They'd even coined a clever title for it without consulting me. And it was to begin in just a few minutes. I was shocked and more than a little intimidated. Occasionally, in stressful situations, I will simply freeze up, unable to do or say anything, paralyzed. This was one of those occasions. When I got to the location for the workshop, I had no idea what I might talk about, and no time to plan something out. I watched other musicians effortlessly regale the audience with musical insight and lore and funny stories and realized that I was in no way prepared to do this. I fled before anyone noticed that I was there. Later, I realized that it would have been no big deal for me to talk about various traditions and approaches to the clarinet, and how I used these in my own playing, but at that moment, I couldn't think clearly. Chuck and Phil were also scheduled to do a workshop on banjo-playing, of all things. I'm not even sure we took a banjo with us on that trip; I'll let Phil refresh my memory on that one...

I don't remember much else from the weekend, except that Chuck didn't like the Barenaked Ladies at all ("too clever") although I myself was pretty sure they were headed for a successful career. Los Lobos was a pretty great band, but struck me as a bit cold. Their bari sax player Steve Berlin was the only memorable aspect of their show for me. We shared a bill with a solo blues fellow who went by the name Dr. Blue, and backed him up on a couple numbers, quite impressively, I thought at the time. He seemed surprised that we could follow him. That weekend we played twice on showcases with John and Mary, who went on to a fairly active career of touring and recording, and with John Gorka, a guy who had covered a couple of Chuck's songs, including "A Different Bob" I think. I heard one of his sets, which included a song about New Jersey ("We're from New Jersey, we don't expect much"). At the time, we thought that the Mariposa appearance might lead to more gigs in Canada, but it didn't.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Best of 1989

Here's a portion of the "50 Albums of 1989" list that was published in New Musical Express at the end of that year. Click on it for a larger, readable image. And there we are, in the lower right corner, smack in the middle of the pack at #25, surpassed only by the likes of Elvis Costello's 'Spike' (not pictured) and Bob Dylan's 'Oh Mercy' (pictured, and the best album he'd made in quite some time). Ken, I recall took particular delight in the phrase "lovable[y] batty." From this, one might surmise that a career in the music business might have been in store for us, that major-label status and full-time musicmaking was just around the corner. We certainly surmised that.

The album in question, 'Why Should I Stand Up?' conjures mixed emotions for me, and, I suspect, for other members of the group as well. It was the first full-length recording that I played on with CbJE, and it documents that the transition to the horn-infused sound of the new group took some time. There are some great songs on there: the title track, the wondrous "Buster Cornelius," the inscrutable "Hi-Fi Alphabet," "That's Entertainment," and others. And, I think it began to approach the sound and vision for the group that Chuck had had all along. But the album (for me) is hampered by a two-dimensional sound quality, flat and undefined, as well as excessive horn overdubs on "Why Should I Stand Up," and "He Must Have Been Quite Guy." (Those are my fault.) I am quite proud of my solo on "Polka Girl" (the only CbJE thing my clarinet teacher ever complimented me on) and the clarinet/guitar interplay of Phil and I on "I'm a Sailor." And the amazing string of solos/duos on "Buster Cornelius" is a magical piece of musical storytelling.

WSISU, unfortunately, was the only album the band made that was widely distributed in the USA and overseas. It's still the easiest bit of CbJE to find on eBay. The album that followed, 'Strange Sounds from the Basement,' shows that we all had learned from our mistakes. Recorded at the same studio, it has more clarity, and despite being an acoustic album, more power. If WSISU had been recorded with the sparkle and oomph of that later album, it'd be a classic.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

In between San Francisco and the Fullham Greyhound

The White Caps put out the horrific America, America/Blind Girl 45. The San Francisco line-up was documented with the now hard-to-find Talk To Me single. The other sessions that yielded that platter may someday come to light.

The best document for the post S.F./pre-touring line-up has to be the first self-titled Colorblind James Experience L.P. which features the "hits" Considering a Move to Memphis, Dance Critters, A Different Bob and Fledgling Circus.

Meaning no disrespect to the host of great players who have done their time with the Experience, I've always considered the line-up of Chuck, Ken Frank, Jimmy Mac, Dave McIntire, Joe "the Bone" Columbo and myself to be not only the definitive band but also the one that best represented Chuck's vision.

That being said, I can't stress enough the importance and the fondness I have for the 1985-1987 line-up of Chuck, Bernie Heveron (upright bass), G. Elwyn Meixner (guitar/banjo), Jimmy Mac and myself. It was a completely different band that was in many ways more diverse, less focused and more humorous than any version before or after it.

The biggest difference was the more "democratic" approach the band had. It was closer to Chuck's early jugband days in the Water Street Boys. Save for Jimmy Mac, everybody sang and everybody contributed original material.

Bernie's contributions included the popular First Day of Spring ("She's a witch!"), Three Feet and Nocturnal Emissions. G. Elwyn's songs included his own I Gave You My Number (which exists on the "Live at Jazzberry's" cassette) and Poor Able, which later appeared on the Crossing Lake Riley LP by his own group the Wilderness Family. I tried out a bunch of songs but the one's that stuck were the instrumental Havoc Theme and the song that became a millstone around my neck, Summer Of Love.

The gigs were often chaotic and silly and bounced from Bernie covering Sesame Street songs ("Hey, Kid! Where'd you get the lid?"), G. Elwyn's 10-minute workouts on Ry Cooder's Chevrolet and my primal scream nonsense on S.O.L. Chuck would bide his time while everyone took their turn until he could launch into Rodeo Night, Walking My Camel Home or some other chestnut.

G. Elwyn was the first to leave, needing to pursue his own leadership role in the Wilderness Family. The W.F. also released its own LP, Crossing Lake Riley, on Personal Effects' Earring Records. For the short time they were around, they offered the Rochester scene a completely unique sound of Gary's beautiful voice and very underrated guitar backed by upright bass, drums and accordion.

G. Elwyn originally had been the vocalist on Chuck's "German Girls" but Chuck went in and re-recorded his own vocal once Gary split.

Bernie's departure was more problematic in that his song "First Day of Spring" was included on the first LP, getting airplay on John Peel's show, and talk of touring was in the wind. Night after night in England Chuck would find himself apologizing to fans that we were not going to play FDOS because the guy who wrote it was no longer with the band. Regardless of what one may think of the song, Chuck would never sing someone else's song unless it was some time worn gem of Americana. Some fans were irate, to say the least.

Once the line-up got overhauled with the addition of Ken, Dave and trombonist John Ebert, Chuck took the opportunity to end the democracy and place himself as sole songwriter. I encouraged that as well having experienced an immediate sense of band focus after G. Elwyn's departure. Not contributing original material played a big part in Bernie's decision to leave to. For awhile he put his own band together, Flatfoot, to highlight his songs.

For many fans, the sheer absurd fun and potshot approach of the early line-up was everything. Many did not transition into the touring line-up. It was more focused but for them, too much was lost in achieving it.