25 to 4 to 6

I don't know what the 25 part means, but it seemed like a reasonable way for a cover band to preface the news that we will be adding 2 new members: Holly and Sara, of Prairie Fire Lady Choir fame. We LOVE harmonies-duh-and they is bringing it. Can't wait to integrate their lovely voices into our group. Stay tuned.

Chime Uncovered

What does it mean to be a cover band in this age of DJs? When I was a kid the closest we came to hearing DJs in a bar, at a wedding or a party was from a jukebox when we called the tune with a coin. Live music was cool, yet there were not many bands in Waterloo, Iowa, so we had to make them ourselves. At 14, my friends and I came up with the “Pawns,” not our first choice for a name, but one that fit on the bass drum with the big stencils we bought at the drugstore.  And it was an appropriately humble name for snot-nosed kids.

When you are 14, you are not yet embarrassed to have your bass player’s dad drive you and your stuff to a gig in a 30-foot station wagon. At 14 you also have no clue that it’s illegal for you to play in a bar, so we did -- again and again. When our drummer turned 16, his parents got him a VW minivan, soon to be the iconic hippie transportation. It took us regularly to Iowa City, where we played drunken frat parties and official U of Iowa events. It took us to tiny towns across the state; to homecomings, proms, VFWs and some of the saddest watering holes in the middle of nowhere. Somehow we survived high school without becoming drunks or druggies. Highlights included coverage in the local paper with the headline, “Short Hair, Good Sound,” and winning a free 45 recording at a tiny studio in Milford.  Hearing it on the local AM station was such a sweet reward.

I didn’t let it go to my head, but as my hair grew so did my income, enough to tell my mom to stop buying clothes for me. She was appalled when I came home with my first Gant shirt. “$9.00 for a shirt? That’s outrageous!”

I digress. So what does it mean to be a cover band in this age of DJs? It means not much work at bars and parties, because DJs can play anything and they don’t cost that much. Neither do we, but we can’t play anything, nor do we want to. We want to play the music we love by groups you remember. Sometimes it’s the big hits, but more often we wade into the deep tracks and hook the ones that got away from you the first time around. These songs are just as good, sometimes better than the hits you heard on the radio. 

Another plus for our live music is getting to see it made by people who really know how to play. We don’t play it just like the record, we arrange it so it feels right for us. There is a special, magical, almost spiritual experience to playing solos in our songs. We don’t play them the same way twice. We play what we feel at the moment -- a musical conversation that energizes everyone in the room.

Okay, so it sounds as if it is going to my head, but really, we believe in what we are doing and want you to have a piece of it. Listen to the cuts on our “music” page and use our “contact” page to start a conversation with us. We want to play for you in person. Let’s make that happen.


i heart Ricky

Hey, this is my first blog ever. In fact, it's just about the first time I've typed the word "blog." 

I've been haunting thrift shops since I was a teenager in the 70s. It was distinctly uncool back then-Goodwills were for poor people, not nice kids who lived in split-levels on corner lots in the newer part of town. Just going there had a patina of shame, like slipping into an adult bookstore. Didn't really want most of my friends to know about it. Now I wish I had just bought pretty much the entire stocks of those Salvation Armies and St Vincent DePauls. But at the time I was after mainly old books, clothes and the holy grail-a fedora like the ones in the black and white movies I watched on our RCA at night. (Even if I had found one, it wouldn't have fit my oddly big adolescent head-people were tiny in the 40s.) 

Luckily I had one person who shared this secret double-life with me. My friend Jack and I were definitely (and still are, in fact) enablers of each other, and we could rhapsodize about the respective nuances of the 4 or 5 grimy shops scattered around the bleaker parts of our town. Two things distinguished him from me as a collector, though. First, he was blessed with more than his fair share of dumb junker luck. He would come back from a foray with, say, a hard-bound set of  the complete novels of Joseph Conrad, with cool art deco gilt covers and illustrations that he scooped up for $2. It was kind of maddening, though I was enough of a sick junkie that I could still bask vicariously in his scores. Second, he bought records. My taste in music didn't really go back any further or deeper than 50s rock, and that stuff was already kind of hard to find in the thrift bins. But Jack was into crooners and big bands and, again, he made out like a bandit. But god bless him, he was in the right place at the right time, a time he was well ahead of, and we still listen to many of those sides today, on his old console phono.

It took me a few years to catch up with Jack, in taste and in fortune. I now have way more LPs than I should, but perhaps because it gets harder and harder to find anything at Salvation Army that's not by Mitch Miller or the 1,001  Strings, it's still irresistible when you find even a minor jewel in the muck. And that's how Chime came to play this deeply obscure Ricky Nelson tune, the real subject of this essay.

The whole idea of a cover band, they tell me, is to play tunes that people already know and like. That's all well and good, and we do that, but I guess I still can't get that jones for the undervalued, unnoticed flower waiting to be picked out of my system. But first of all, I just love Ricky Nelson. And not only his hits, but the whole idea of him. He was prime teen idol beef, had his dad's TV show as platform, had that hair and that jaw; he didn't need to be what he also was, which was talented, tasteful, and honorable. Like an Al Green record in stack of dreck at the Elk River Goodwill, he was a minor miracle. So I was excited to find this odd, jazzy track hiding on side 1 of an otherwise unremarkable early 60s disc from Rick. It's called "Only The Young" and was written by Jimmy Seals and Charles Eugene. I'd like to think this is the same Seals as the later Seals & Croft-it has a family resemblance to some of their still tasty soft-rock hits. (FYI: we also do a mean "Diamond Girl.") I suppose I could look it all up on the web like a good digital soldier, but just like the old lovers I've never once googled, I'd prefer to let the mystery be, and go with my own version of poetic truth.

It's a great song. Tim plays Martin on it in a lovely double-time feel that is either faster or slower than the original-I'm really not sure. More mystery, I guess. We love playing it, but what I also love is that this is one more in a line of emotional rescues, and THIS is what this blog is really-no, really-about: when you find some little gem in a thrift store, much of its value comes from its context. The same item, "curated" at some groovy shop, and with a more realistic price tag, is, well, not the same item. And it's not just that it's a "find," that you're getting something for cheap-although I never turn that down-it's that you're choosing to love something that someone else discarded. Marketing would like us to believe we are defined by our choices-the stuff we buy. But it's easy to see the value in a fine car or expensive rug; when we get these things we are mere receptors. Choosing something just because you love it is active, requires a big part of yourself to be invested. It's those kinds of choices, where we implement our own scale of value, that make us interesting humans.

And that, we think, makes us an interesting cover band.