Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Chris Jensen, 1956-2023

Rest in Peace

(July 15, 2023) - Saddened and shocked to hear the news that Christopher Jensen has died. A true Baltimore character, Chris was a multi-talented guy - a working class hero and craftsman beloved by arty bohemians and blue-collar tradesmen alike. (Be sure to check out The Tradesmen, the documentary by his filmmaker cousin Richard Yeagley that features Chris hard at work plying his trade!)

He was essential OG crew for early Atomic TV (along with Kelly Conway, Melissa Darwin and Todd Stachowski) – a guy who not only could hold the camera while Scott Huffines and I made asses of ourselves, but actually keep it in focus. He was a total pro and (like Adolf Kowalski and Dave Wilcox), a big, charismatic personality, the likes of which we'll never see again. He was very self-deprecating, as reflected in his humor. One needed only to see the Jensen Plumbing van pull up on the street with its Tom Chalkley-designed cartoon of a wrench-clutching plumber bending over to show off his butt crack with the slogan "Your Poop Is My Bread and Butter" to realize that this was not your dad's Roto-Rooter Man! All Jensen Plumbing memorabilia - the business cards, the refrigerator magnets, the t-shirts (I wish I still had my "Your Poop Is My Bread and Butter" shirt!) were and are collector's items, especially the Christmas cards he had specially made by his artist pal Tom Chalkley.

The Jensen Plumbing Man (art by Tom Chalkley)

Everything I know about camerawork I learned from the self-trained Chris, and I used to edit titles in his basement where he had a very effective, old school analog setup (two Panasonic S-VHS AG-1970s! I gave him one of mine when his died, as Chris was an avid fan of "cuts-only" editing, even when he upgraded to fancy digital software), the same setup he used to edit Laure Drogoul's 14Karat Cabaret TV show with her (he also did camerawork for her because he loved crazy Art and Music of any sort!).

Good lord the man loved his art. Every time he did a plumbing job for me, he was willing to trade his time for art – he especially craved the framed R. Crumb “Tommy Toilet” poster I had hanging in the Porcelain Palace and the Yellow Submarine Toilet Seat an obsessive library fan gave me when I got married. I wish I had given them to him now.

He also helped me clean up the clutter in my old Townhouse Shabby in Rodgers Forge. “Tommy, I deal in shit & grime every day, so when a plumber tells you that you need to clean up your act, heed the advice!” Of course, he was the Felix Unger of plumbers, a neatnik who always obsessively cleaned up his work afterwards, just as he obsessively cleaned up the litter around his block in Charles Village.

He was one of a kind, the Joker Wild in the card deck, a loveable nut and loyal friend. I wish we had kept up more. The last time we saw Chris was December 2018 at Joe Squared, where he was out to support a show featuring The Jennifers and ex-Slickee Boy Marshall Keith. He had a cane (years of hard labor had taken their toll on his back and knees), but despite losing a step or two, he was as gregarious and energetic as usual. Time will not flush away memories of what a treat it was to know Chris Jensen.

Be sure to check out Scott’s Huffines’ wonderful appreciation of Chris Jensen on the Baltimoreorless site, which is full of great photos of Chris. Baltimore IS less without Chris. 

As Scott says:

How do you describe Chris Jensen? He was a community organizer and community activist, art collector and artist, plumber and model, unofficial mayor of Charles Village, Atomic TV cameraman… he was a pro and an essential part of what made our little-watched public access program Atomic TV so great and we'll miss him. The last time I saw him (pre-rona) he brought me a case of Bud and I drank it like it was the 1990s at Memory Lane. The thing that impressed me most about Chris was how engaged he was with the community. Baltimore is losing too many cool people too soon – at least the memories survive.

Chris Jensen perched on his throne (photo by Chris Myers)

Related links:

"Chris Jensen, Rest in Peace" (Baltimoreorless)
"Chris the Plumber Turns 50" (Accelerated Decrepitude)
"Close Encounters of the Turd Kind" (Accelerated Decrepitude)
"Everyman Art Collector" (Baltimoreorless)
"Underdog Lady Encounters the Negativity Scene" (YouTube)
"Jensen Plumbing commercial for Atomic TV" (YouTube)

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Thursday, July 13, 2023

Tom & Amy Remember Adolf Kowalski

He called himself The Living Legend," but since his family didn't publish an obituary (it's, um, complicated), it's up to his friends, lovers and bandmates to insure that he is remembered and that his legacy (good and/or bad, depending on one's point of view) lives on in some form. There's the music, of course; he may be only cremains but the tunes remain...but more than that are the memories gathered here, there and everywhere on social media. Ross Haupt/"Adolf Kowalski" touched many, many lives in Baltimore and across the globe. He certainly touched the lives of me and my wife Amy and was always, without fail, nice to us. Following are our thoughts about his untimely passing from renal failure on March 21, 2023. He was 63 years old.


Tom Warner (aka "Tommy Gunn," friend and co-founding bandmate in Thee Katatonix)

 March 21, 2023: I heard the news today, oh boy...the King is dead.

Ross Haupt, aka "Adolf Kowalski"

45 years ago, Katie Glancy and I met the young Ross Haupt in the Towson State University Glen, where Katie and he concocted a plan to start a rock and roll band. I came in as part of a package deal with Katie (kind of like a multiplayer MLB trade) because I wanted to go out with her and lied and said I could play drums because, well, how hard could it be in a punk band? (I hadn't yet heard Rat Scabies - dummy me!). Who knew then that Katie & the Katatonix, the fledgling group soon to be rechristened Thee Katatonix, would blossom and grow (like a fungus) and that Ross - soon to be rechristened Adolf Kowalski - would soldier on through the decades and additional bands (All About Suzie, Blunt Force Trauma, etc), never abandoning his career and lifestyle aspirations of being a rock star and Living Legend. Well, he is no longer living but the legend lives on - warts (there were plenty) and all.

The Heroic Trio? Thee Original Katatonix, 1979 (illustration by David Wilcox)

Katie Katatonic, Tommy Gunn  & Adolf Kowalski

Adolf was always fronting the image, but beneath the hubris there was a guy who would do anything for those he loved. He was my confidant in those early band days, the keeper of secrets I'll take to my grave (and vice versa). He once confided, "The old days were best, man"...They were, but they weren't made to last, not at the pace he set. A charmer, a harmer, a lover, a hater, a changer and a re-arranger -  Ross/Adolf was a complex character who found Better Living Thru Chemistry, even when his body disagreed. RIP, old friend. I know you'll be pissed at missing Svengoolie each weekend, but what the hell ya gonna do? Indeed, that was the question when you became financially independent and stopped working: what the hell ya gonna do? There was dope and booze, of course, but given your creative spirit, that wasn't enough. So you poured your energies into some "venture capital" projects, like releasing Katatonix CDs, recording other artists you liked, financing the ill-fated Coffin Cuties magazine and clothing line, going to lots of concerts, and so on. And supporting any friends that needed a helping hand. That's why Robyn Webb once quipped that, while "Adolf Kowalski" could be one of the biggest a-holes on earth, Ross Haupt was the best friend anyone who experienced that side of him could ask for.

The old days were best, man!

Ah, more memories of those good old days...The early Kats did everything together and saw a lot of shows en masse: Blondie/Rockpile at Merriweather, Elvis Costello at Georgetown, The Ramones everywhere. One of the best was Devo at Painter's Mill, December 29, 1978 - when Mark Mothersbaugh came into the audience playing a wireless guitar, Adolf grabbed his ass and tore this piece off his yellow jumpsuit. I treasured it and had it laminated, apparently using a TSU photo laminator!

Mark Mothersbaugh's Devo suit

When the Cramps played the Marble Bar, we all went and I recall Lux Interior leaning over the stage to swipe Adolf's sunglasses (worn, as the song goes, after dark) and put them on his head. Adolf was touched. 

I'll never forget Adolf picking us up at my parent's house to go to the Preakness in May 1980. He showed up in a full-length blue polka-dot raincoat with a cowboy hat and dark sunglasses and announced that he had just dropped acid for the occasion. ("You gonna be alright with him driving?" my sister Nancy asked. "Sure, what could go wrong?" I naively replied.) We sat in the kitchen watching John Lydon and PiL wreaking havoc on Dick Clark's American Bandstand. It set the tone for the day.

Then there were the infamous shows in D.C. At Madam's Organ in Adam's Morgan we debuted "I Hate D.C." to a less than receptive audience (go figure!) in a shitshow of a performance that found us all suffering from Montezuma's Revenge after our suspect pre-show dinner; we couldn't wait to get off the stage and back to the grimy bathroom. And our show at Scandals caused a riot that shut the place down. But trouble was already brewing before the gig when Adolf - driving Katie, me and new recruit Steevie Squeegee (Mike Milstein) - around Georgetown, sarcastically complimented some Marines on their crewcuts - the irate grunts chased us around for blocks. Not done with antagonizing the Armed Services, on the same trip Adolf also drove by a midnight screening of The Empire Strikes Back and, seeing a line of people waiting to get in, shouted out his spoiler "Darth Vader is Luke's father!" Again, the audience was less than receptive. But that was Adolf. No matter where you were, you had to be ready for an adventure.

Front Page Story: Adolf's "Boogie Nights" profile (City Paper, 1981)

Of all the achievements in his tragically short life - founding Towson's first (and Baltimore's 2nd) punk band, backing Edith Massey, touring SanFran and the UK, playing the Mudd Club, running for Guv'nor, releasing a cult LP (DIVINE MISSION) that goes for hundreds of bucks in Europe, winning those Battle of the Bands contests, the media accolades (who can forget Pam Purdy's "Boogie Nights" profile for the Baltimore City Paper?) - I think Adolf may have been most proud of winning the Dundalk Eagle's "Best Chili in Dundalk" award last year on “21222 Day.” (Dundalk celebrated a once-in-a-century date that Saturday, when the date, abbreviated as 2/12/22, matched Dundalk’s main ZIP code, 21222.) Of course, we “rocked” the vote (much as years ago we got “Katie Katatonic” elected “Homecoming Queen” by canvasing the Towson State campus with “Vote for the Punk” flyers!) It made the front page with the accompanying photo. Too bad he cannot defend his title.

Flanked by event organizers Peggy Sue Oliphant (left) and Will Feur (right), Adolf Kowalski takes home the cash prize for winning the “21222 Day” Dundalk chili cook-off (Dundalk Eagle photo by Dan Belson)

Kathleen Glancy Milstein (nee Katie Katatonic) just reminded me of another Adolf Kowalski achievement in his CV: He won the 1977 "Best Punk Costume" prize at the Iggy Pop/Ramones/Crack the Sky show at the Civic Center. This was before either of us had yet met him! But even then he was "in it to win it."

Best Punk Costume winner, 1977

His look changed constantly over the years from that initial bad boy punk style, but the attitude always remained the same. 

Adolf, hair-bent for leather

Adolf, "philosopher king and the boy most likely to" (City Paper photo by Jennifer Bishop)

I particularly liked his Prince Valiant look when the Kats went into their psychedelic flower-power phase.

Before he was King...Adolf as Prince Valiant, at a 1980s New Year's Eve Party…

Adolf, you left us too soon and took away all those great memories of "the good old days." I will miss your anecdotes, your wit, and your sense of humor. But hey, you went out on your terms, living the high life and going for the gusto. Living fast and, well, dying young. It’s kinda cliche, but it’s  “The Rock ‘n’ Roll Way.”


Amy Warner (nee Davis, nee Linthicum; friend and former Dundalk High schoolmate)

Ross Haupt before the transformation…into Adolf Kowalski

Way back in the Dark Ages when I was in high school, I was friends with this guy Ross. He was likeable, kinda pudgy, quite smart. We liked the same music. That's how you bonded with people in those days. He took me to my first rock concert (Kiss), and my second (Queen). Then I went off to college in southern Maryland and we lost touch. Then either through a chance encounter or a phone call, I forget which, we were communicating again. He told me he was now calling himself Adolf Kowalski and fronting a band, Thee Katatonix, and he invited me to see them at the Marble Bar. I didn't drive back then, and I actually took public transportation to go and check them out. But alas, something happened and they didn't play that night. That was my first visit to the Marble. I did see them play soon enough, and was amazed at the transformation of Ross into this gaunt, theatrical and somewhat threatening persona. Adolf was always pissing people off, and would say and do things that would make me cringe. He could be quite rude. Yet he was always so generous to me, and to Tom. I remember a few years ago he plucked us out of the crowd at The Damned show, and put us where he was, with the unobstructed view. He offered to send us on a honeymoon... I wouldn't have met Tom Warner (Kats' drummer), or my first husband [Mark Linthicum, aka “Mark Harp” or “Harpo”], or any of my Marble friends if I didn't know I will miss Adolf; I will miss Ross. R.I.P. my friend.

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Tuesday, April 11, 2023

A list of Atomic TV on DVD releases

A funny thing happened on the way to the Dollar DVD Bin...people actually mistook Atomic TV for a legitimate media outlet! Who knew? But here we are listed - like a penny stock on the New York Stock Exchange - as a legitimate accredited media outlet whose work warrants inclusion as a "bonus extra" on the following DVDs and Blu-rays. Biggest of thanks to Dave Wright and his friend Bruce for tracking down the Dr. Lamb Blu-ray! Of our mainstream media legacy, Scott Huffines adds, "I also remember the Howard Stern TV show used a clip [probably of Underdog Lady] and we were also on Fox 45 News." Oh, and I've heard there's a shot of me interviewing reviled porn director Max Hardcore (Paul Little, who died in March 2023) in the trailer for Max Hardcore 9 (a credit I'm all too willing to forget!). Following are some reviews of DVD releases featuring Atomic TV "Special Features":

Dr. Lamb (1992; Unearthed Films Blu-ray, 2022)

Indie Horror Films - Review: Dr. Lamb Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2022 “The last featurette is the Atomic TV Interview with Simon Yam (9 min), which is the only one of the four documentary extras that is archival, from a 2000 Anime convention. Yam discusses his overall career.” MCBASTARD’S MAUSOLEUM DR. LAMB (1992) (Unearthed Films Blu-ray Review), August 2012 “In the 16-min Atomic TV Interview With Simon Yam the actor talks about various film roles including a near fatal incident on the set of Bullet in the Head.”


It's funny, I had forgotten about our impromptu interview with Simon Yam until my friend David Wright mailed me a copy of the "Dr. Lamb" DVD. I recall that my friend Dave Cawley and I used to go to the first couple of Otakon anime conventions at Baltimore's Convention Center (before it moved to Washington, D.C.) because we liked to check out the merchandise in the Vendor's Room. But in 2000, I got a press pass for Atomic TV and brought my camera along to take video of all the colorfully dressed cosplayers and fanboys and fangirls. I don't think I even knew Simon Yam was there (I believe he was there because his model wife did anime voiceover work) but, as was the guerilla-style aesthetic of Atomic TV, seized the opportunity when I spotted Simon Yam in the hallway. Quickly springing into action, I asked Dave to be my cameraman while I asked Simon some spur-of-the-moment questions. Dave and I were both big Hong Kong Cinema fans (dating back to the days when we used to buy bootleg movies from Potung Trading on Park Avenue in downtown Baltimore), so Dave was more than willing to help out and afterwards posed for a selfie with Simon. - Tom Warner

Tom Warner interviews Simon Yam at Otakon 2000

Simon Yams sings the Atomic TV theme song

Dave Cawley with Simon Yam at Otakon 2000

The Prince and the Nature Girl (1964; Retro-Seduction Cinema DVD, 2017)

Third Eye Cinema DVD Review: Prince and the Nature Girl (Doris Wishman), November 13, 2017 “Extras include a 4m excerpt from Maryland local show “Atomic TV” covering the 1999 Maryland Film Festival, with brief footage of Wishman, John Waters and of all people, the B-52s Fred Schneider (!).” Mondo Heather Mondo Fever Dream: Doris Wishman’s The Prince and the Nature Girl, December 6, 2020 Text by Heather Drain “With this release from Pop Cinema, we get a handful of terrific supplements, including trailers, three vintage nudist short films, an amazing segment from the Baltimore Public Access show, Atomic TV featuring Doris, John Waters, and writer/Wishman biographer Michael Bowen.”

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

The Marble Bar (1978-1987)

(The following was written for Tim Hinely's "Dagger Boy" magazine.)

Baltimore City Paper writer Michael Yockel described it best: “Dark. Dank. Sweaty. Fetid. Subterranean. A physical eyesore in the basement of a once posh hotel long gone to seed. In other words, the perfect rock venue." He could have been talking about any number of grubby clubs providing refuge for rock and roll misfits and their bands, but he was talking about Baltimore’s answer to CBGBs, The Marble Bar

The Congress Hotel, 306 W. Franklin Street

Buried in the basement of the Congress Hotel (306 W. Franklin Street), a once swank venue that had become a fleabag hotel by the late ‘70s, the Marble Bar became a mecca for punks and New Wavers under the management of Roger and LesLee Anderson from 1978-1985. 

LesLee Anderson behind The Marble Bar (photo by Jim Moon)

“Talk to any Baltimorean who was a punk in the late ’70s and ’80s, and they will wax rhapsodic about the Marble Bar,” Kendall Shaffer and Hope Tarr observed in a May 2022 Baltimore Magazine retrospective. 

What’s in a name? The iconic Marble Bar

"It was a dump, no two ways about it,” Adolf Kowalski (Thee Katatonix) recalled, not quite rhapsodically, in a 2000 City Paper profile ("Glory Hole" by Brennen Jensen, City Paper, December 6, 2000). “In the summer it was blistering hot, in the winter it was freezing cold. It was dark, dingy, and stunk like piss." 

Maybe so, but it was also the only game in town for aspiring local indie bands like Da Moronics, Judie’s Fixation, Thee Katatonix, The Accused, Food For Worms, Infant Lunch and countless others - not to mention nearby DC-based acts like Bad Brains, The Razz, Black Market Baby, Tru Fax & The Insaniacs, Root Boy Slim, The Insect Surfers, Teen Idles and especially The Slickee Boys, who adopted the Marble as a second home. Roger and LesLee Anderson themselves played there with house band The Alcoholics, who were fronted by David Wilcox (aka Steptoe T. Magnificent), a veteran musician (Pooba, Rockhard Peter, Problem Pets, Pang Pang, Chelsea Graveyard) and artist who, along with his brother George, created many of the club’s iconic flyers. Even Baltimore native David Byrne’s Talking Heads played there in their early days. “At that time, the network of clubs where emerging acts could play was spotty and limited,” Byrne told Baltimore Magazine. “We played Marble Bar when Talking Heads just had our first record out [1977], which allowed us to play outside the handful of NYC clubs that had supported us.”

David “Steptoe” Wilcox and LesLee Anderson of the Marble Bar house band, The Alcoholics (photo by Jim Moon)

And it was also a haven for Baltimore weirdos of all stripes, be they from the ‘burbs or creative types from the nearby Maryland Institute of Art.“It was a refuge for a lot of people, and nobody judged you,” Wilcox said in a 2022 interview with Baltimore Magazine. “You knew you were hiding in a safe place to be who you were. If you had a two-foot-high mohawk, nobody was going to bother you, but you walked out onto Eutaw or Howard Street and somebody might hit you in the head with a rock.”

Probably the highest-profile alumni of the Marble Bar scene is Gina Schock, a Dundalk gal who went on to find fame playing drums with The Go-Gos after playing there in Scratch 'n' Sniff and backing John Waters's underground film star Edith Massey in Edie and the Eggs. “It was like the hippest, coolest place,” she fondly recalls. “If you were a musician, that’s where you wanted to go.”

And then there were all the national acts that came to town, from Bauhaus, Black Flag and Butthole Surfers to The Stranglers, The Undertones and X (the latter featuring baltimore native John Doe). Many were standing room only affairs, including Iggy Pop, The Psychedelic Furs, Squeeze, Simple Minds, The Cramps, Dead Boys, 999, The Ventures, A Flock of Seagulls, Johnny Thunders and The Dead Kennedys. Who can forget: Dead Kennedys' singer Jello Biafro almost getting electrocuted when his microphone shorted...Katatonix frontman Adolf Kowalski writing "Huey Lewis SUCKS" on the men's room wall just as Huey Lewis came in to take a leak - and then shaking his hand and giving him a Katatonix button!...Mark “Harpo” Harp (Null Set, Cabal, etc.) shaving his beard onstage with the Casio Cowboys...Rootboy Slim passing out in the dressing room...Judie's Fixation singer Ben Wah (Vaughn Keith) opening beer cans with his teeth...Da Moronics singer Don White banging his mic and ad-libbing "Spinal tap, I got a spinal tap" during technical difficulties...Edie Massey doing her "punk" show with a last-minute pick-up band to open for Eddie & The Hot Rods...Half of the Sex Pistols (Steve Jones and Paul Cook) showing up as The Professionals…A well-medicated Johnny Thunders vocally abusing the crowd throughout a shambolic set until someone plunked him in the head with a beer can and he abruptly pulled his band offstage...The Butthole Surfers taking a dump in the electrical closet and wiping their asses with (local band) Grey March flyers...So many memories of performers there spring to mind, covering all styles and skill levels, from the comedic performance art of Oral Fixation and the Motor Morons to the guitar artistry of Jorma Kaukonen and Chris Spedding…and from  the prog rock stylings of Allan Holdsworth and Pierre Morlen’s Gong to the hardcore thrashings of Fear of God and the Circle Jerks.

Goodbye Marble Bar poster listing all the bands that played there

“The Marble Bar had its own fanzine, Tone Scale, and its own after-hours restaurant, the Renaissance Room,” Michael Yockel wrote in a 1987 City Paper appreciation. ““Both were crummy. Both were cool.” The Marble Bar also played host to open mic nights, jam nights, poetry readings and film screenings like John Ellsberry and Michael Gentile’s Dead Strippers that was shot in Baltimore’s famous red light district, The Block.

When Roger Anderson passed away following a sudden heart attack in 1984, LesLee carried on managing the bar for one more year before calling it a day. She then passed the baton on to others. Ed and Robin Linton ran the Marble for another year until closing the doors for good on May 9, 1987 with a final “Goodbye Marble Bar” gig featuring Da Moronics, Thee Katatonix and Human Remain.

The final show: May 9 1987

Many people lost their marbles at the Marble Bar and the club lost a number of regulars as goodbyes would follow to many who once called it home. Edith Massey (Edie & The Eggs) died in 1984; Roger Anderson (Clear, The Alcoholics) died in April 1984; Vaughn Keith (aka "Beh Wah," Judie’s Fixation) died in 1990; Scott Marcus (aka "Stoc Markut," Fear of God) died in 1995; Mark Linthicum (aka “Harpo” and “Mark Harp” of  Null Set/Cabal, The Beatoes, Casio Cowboys, The Motor Morons) died in 2004; City Paper writer and Marble Bar chronicler Pam Purdy died in 2007; Kraig Krixer (The Accused, Orange Wedge, Poobah, Weaszel, Razor, Trixy & The Testones) died in 2011; Tom “Pope” Croke (Infant Lunch) died in 2012; Chris Dennstaedt (Poverty & Spit, The Beatoes, Casio Cowboys) died in 2020; David "Steptoe" Wilcox - who probably fronted more bands at the Marble than anyone - passed away in June 2022; Keith Worz (Iowa Basics) died in October 2022; Adolf Kowalski (Ross Haupt of Thee Katatonix, Poverty & Spit, Blunt Force Trauma, All About Susie) died in March 2023; Billy Bien (Fear of God) died in July 2023; and Mark O'Connor (OHO, The Dark Side, The Beaters, Food For Worms, Trixy & The Testones, B.L.A.M.M.O., Buck Subtle & The Little Planets, Big Top) died in August 2023.  

"The only reason any scene ever happened in Baltimore was because of the Marble Bar,” Wilcox said after the lights went out for good in 1987. It truly was a place and a scene etched in time that may never come again. Or, as Baltimore Magazine’s Kendall Shaffer and Hope Tarr concluded: “It was the coolest place, with the coolest bands, and the coolest vibe—like nothing that came before it or since. Either you were lucky enough to have been there in person, or you missed out—your loss.”

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Some Have Gone...and Some Remain

Remembering David (Steptoe T. Magnificent) Wilcox: 
May 28, 1950-June 8, 2022 

(Friday, June 17, 2022) Great memorial celebration - standing room only! - today for the late great David (Steptoe T. Magnificent) Wilcox. Steptoe was a popular and beloved guy who fronted many, many bands (The Great Pooba Subway, Pang Pang, Rock Hard Peter, The Alcoholics, The Non-Alcoholics, Problem Pets, Chelsea Graveyard & The Screams At Midnight), so it's not surprising that a who's who of local musicians & artists packed Evans Funeral Home to pay their respects to him and his family - and not once but twice (2-4 and 6-8 pm). Many great anecdotes were shared by friends and family, but none better than this John Lennon lyric on the back of the memorial cards adorned with Steptoe's art.

In his life, he was loved by all

Lotta love in that room today, love that will get passed on and on. It was basically the Marble Bar Reunion that Leslee Anderson had long planned for at the Ottobar (until Covid and its variant strains repeatedly delayed it), just without the bands and the music.

David W. Wilcox: Steptoe T. Magnificent

Oh well, here's a partial roll call of the many (good) old familiar faces on hand, along with the Wilcox Family: Bruce Lilly (he lives!), Bill Bowen and Donna Stinnett Bowen ("Donna Diode" was wearing her "Bravo Baltimore Weirdos" button!), Ed Linton and Robin Linton, Beth Sherring (Henry Lingenfelder and Robbie Lingenfelder were out of town, but were there in spirit), Harry "Chick" Veditz (in his Chelsea Graveyard tee, natch), Marble Bar matriarch LesLee Anderson, Richard Taylor, Robyn Webb, Charles Gatewood (aka "Mr. Urbanity," still urbane & still on the wax and not the wane!), Mark O'Connor, Rod Misey, Carol Underwood, George Wilcox (sharing great anecdotes about Steptoe's teen years!), Bob North, Tommy Reed, Bob Tiefenwerth, Paul and Diane Reiger (thanks for the flash drives of Pooba mp3s, Paul!), Marty Benson and his fellow Loch Raven High alumni Diane Hosmer, scrappy Keith Worz (battered but not shattered after a rough night at the Dead Kennedys show at the Baltimore "Poundstage"), Rosalie Wampler, former Katatonix drummers Big Andy Small and Ken Hebden, Joe "Baltimore Sounds" Vacarro, John Spokus, Patti Codd, Pierre Volkman, Kathleen Glancy Milstein and Chelsea Graveyard bandmate Mike (Squeegee) Milstein, Cindy Borchardt, Mary Butler, Mary Crivello Milburn ("Myrt"!), Michele Hovatter (Mrs. Bill Dawson), Steve "Beef Jerky" Daudican, Geoff "Holy Frijoles" Danek, Ronnie Barker, Kyle Andrea Powers, Chuck Gross, Adolf Kowalski, Patti Jensen Vucci, and even more at the late show...the list goes on, and included many young faces of artists and musicians Steptoe inspired and mentored (you know who you are!), including a "Stoc Marcut" (or a mini-Jeff Lynne, if you prefer) lookalike whose name I didn't catch, but who gave a touching, tearful tribute to David at the end, much like Steptoe's old Pooba pal Wayne. The Wilcox family - Alice, Julia and Alex - gave boffo tributes to the legend known as Steptoe T. Magnificent to the world at large but who was just "Dave," doting dad and couch potato roustabout, at home.

There would have been even more friends there if not for work and the pesky pandemic & other related medical maladies - case in point: longtime friend Scott Pendleton was supposed to speak at the memorial but had to cancel because of Covid (which he may have caught at the June 12 Camden Yards Super-Spreader Event, aka, The Paul McCartney "Got Back Tour"). Likewise, Chelsea Graveyard super-fans The Maxwells (Mike and Gayle, who were also at the Macca concert) had to play it safe, otherwise they'd have been sure to post.

Self-portrait memorial card art by David Wilcox

Memorial Cards art by David Wilcox.

Many people "lost their marbles" at the Marble Bar and in turn the Marble Bar has lost many of its people. A number of friends were absent today because they had already said their goodbyes over the years to the house that Roger and LesLee built: Vaughn Keith (Judie’s Fixation) died in 1990; “Stoc Markut" (Scott Marcus, Fear of God) died in 1995; Mark Linthicum (aka “Harpo” and “Mark Harp” of  Null Set/Cabal, Beatoes, Casio Cowboys) died in 2004; City Paper writer and Marble Bar chronicler Pam Purdy died in 2007; Kraig Krixer (The Accused, Trixy & the Testones, various GOHOG Revue bands) died in 2011; Tom “Pope” Croke (Infant Lunch) died in 2012; Chris Dennstaedt (Poverty & Spit, Beatoes, Casio Cowboys) died in 2020.

But many remain with memories intact of why those now gone mattered. In the end, the fans were legion and they turned out in numbers to pay props to a man whose art and charisma touched so many. In his life, Steptoe was loved by all. That's a life well lived by any standard!

P.S.: Steptoe always called me by my Marble Bar nom-de-stage, "Tommy Gunn." I liked that his worldview was always framed through the lens of rock 'n' roll! And his depiction of me for a Katatonix flyer remains my favorite artistic rendering (it made me look good - proving that art, like fiction, is the lie that tells a better truth!).

Related Links:
Pooba Page (From Paul Rieger's United States of Existence. web site) - contains Pooba songs and Rod Misey's WCVT Pooba radio interview
Pooba On WCVT (Baltimore Or Less)
Marble Bar, a Haven for Punk (Baltimore Magazine, May 2022) - David Wilcox quoted throughout

Friday, March 04, 2022

A Stinch In Time Saves Music Minds

How the Stinch Stole Tuesdays on WKHS (90.5 FM)

WKHS volunteer DJ Charlie Stinchcomb

DJ Charlie Stinchcomb owns the airwaves on Tuesday nights when he spins records from 6-10 pm on WKHS (90.5 FM) at Kent County High School ("The Voice of the KCHS Trojans") in Worton, MD. That's when the volunteer jock hosts two must-listen shows dedicated to two very different music genres: Doo-Wop and psychedelic-tinged '60s Garage Rock.

  • "Voices In the Hallway" (Doo-Wop), 6-8 pm
  • "Psyched Out," (Psych-Garage), 8-10 pm

WKHS has been "serving the shore since '74" and Charlie has been spinning old R&B and "Doo-Wop" platters from his personal collection (over 6,000 LPs and 10,000 45s) there since 1992 on shows like "Voices from the Hallway" (originally co-hosted with Bucky Murphy) - not to mention his previous stints hosting "R&B Alley" on WYRE 810 AM and his long-running "oldies" show "The Time Machine" on WNAV 1430 AM in Annapolis. 

Charlie Stinchcomb tunes "The Time Machine" for WNAV 1430 AM

The retired Anne Arundel Health Department worker is one of the many talented volunteer jocks who take over the airwaves at the student-run station on nights and weekends because they not only know "Who put the Bomp in the Bomp" - they love the Bomp! (As well as the lama lama ding dong, the bop shoo bop & the dip da dip da dip!) Or, as Charlie says, "I love the music. You just have to have a passion for the music, and radio. I mean no one's getting rich doing this."

Charlie Stinchcomb in the WKHS studio

(The “music jones” must run in the Stinchcomb family bones, because Charlie’s vinyl junkie brother Bart operates Bart’s Records in Chestertown MD, as well!) 

Every Tuesday starting at 6 pm, Charlie Stinchcomb hosts “Voices in the Hallway," a two-hour block devoted to what is generally called "Doo-Wop" (though purists would probably prefer calling it "Group Vocal" or "Group R&B"), a fascinating genre that existed from the late 1940s up through the early 1960s and featured predominantly Black vocal harmony groups (typically two tenors, a baritone and a bass singer, often with alternating bass and falsetto tenor vocal solos) backed by minimal R&B instrumentation. (In fact, the term "doo-wop" wasn't ever used as a title during the genre's reign, making its first appearance in print in a 1961 review of The Marcels' "Blue Moon" - just as vocal harmony groups died out and groups with guitars took over the airwaves).

Whatever one calls it, the music from this period provided the roots of what would evolve into early Rock & Roll,  Jump Blues, Soul and the "Motown Sound." If you ever listened to Nay Nassar and Kenny Schreiber’s “Echoes of the Past” doo-wop show on WTMD back in the ‘90s (1990-2004), "Voices in the Hallway" is the heir apparent to that legendary show - and that's high praise indeed!

And now, Charlie is hosting the required-listening program "Psyched Out" on WKHS Tuesday nights 8-10 pm, when the "Voices In the Hallway" grab their guitars and head out to the garage. It's one one of the best psychedelic-garage rock shows out there, highlighting the rarest and choicest underground nuggets and psychedelic pebbles from the '60s and early '70s. If you read SHINDIG! or Mike Stax's UGLY THINGS, this is the auricular version of those mags, with vintage playlists Jon Savage and Little Steven would tip their hats (or bandana wraps) to. So chapeaus off to Charlie and his show that'll make ya flip your lid as you turn on and tune in!

Like Robbie White (left) and Weasel (right), Stinchcomb is a tenured professor at the Radio College of Knowledge

I get a musical education every time I tune in to Charlie's shows, for like WTMD 89.7 FM's Jonathan "Weasel" Gilbert (host of "Weasel's Wild Weekend" every Friday night 7-10 pm and Saturdays at 12-3 pm) and WOWD 94.3 FM's Robbie White (host of "Forbidden Alliance" every Sunday 9 am-12), his knowledge of his material is second to none. I admit I only have a superficial knowledge of psychedelic and garage rock gleaned from Lenny Kaye's Nuggets and similar compilation series, such as Pebbles and Back From the Grave. But Charlie digs deep into his massive collection, introducing listeners to lesser knowns purveyors of this genre, often creating mini-playlist sets for a featured artist. Case in point, he played five or six songs by The Blue Things on the very first show I heard. 

The Blue Things (RCA Victor, 1966)

The Blue Things, I learned, were a mid-'60s garage-rock band from Hays, Kansas. Originally called The Blue Boys, they changed their name to avoid legal issues with Jim Reeves' backing group of the same name and while Kansas may be flat, their psychedelic-tinged sound was anything but, mixing gritty garage-folk (Dylan's "Girl From the North Country") and freakbeat ("La Do Da Da" - not to be confused with Sting's "De Do Do Do, De Da da Da"!) with Dylan-inspired lyrics and Byrds-influenced guitars on tunes like "You Can Live In Our Tree" and "The Orange Rooftop Of Your Mind." The Blue Things blew my mind and, suffice to say, their lone '66 LP on RCA Victor is well worth seeking out!

Repeat As Necessary: Artist, Song, Label, Year

And, like a seasoned "Oldies" format jock, he always lists the artist, song, label and year released. (e.g., "That was the Pasternak Progress, 'Cotton Soul' on Original Sound, 1967"). I love this because it's short and sweet (a la Sgt. Joe "Just the Facts" Friday) and harkens back to the days when indie and regional labels ruled and singles platters mattered to fans, bands and collectors alike.

The Fallen Angels (Roulette, 1967)

Also, if you call in to the show or contact Charlie on his Facebook page, he will play your requests - though maybe not that minute (it's a lot of work to prepare for a request show, as he well knows from his days hosting the WNAV oldies show) - as I learned when he recently gave me a shout-out on-air and played a four-song set of tunes by The Fallen Angels,  a legendary Washington, D.C.-area band whose eponymous 1967 album can fetch anywhere from $50-$200 these days. I had previously contacted Charlie on Facebook after a patron at my workplace, the Enoch Pratt Library in Baltimore, mentioned that her brother Rich "Spider" Kumer played drums in this band; the minute I mentioned them, he excitedly texted back "Yes, they had a minor hit with "Room At the Top"! I will try to incorporate them into a show." And true to his word, the very next week he not only played "Room At the Top" but also "Your Friends In Dunderville," "I Don't Want To Fall," and "No Way Out." (For more on the Fallen Angels, check out the fanzine Here 'Tis #9.)

Fallen Angels - "Room At the Top"

And the week before Charlie gave a shout-out to my friend Ariel, who had requested songs by Grapefruit, one of the first bands signed to the Beatles' Apple Records label in 1968 and a favorite of both Paul McCartney (who directed the promo film for  their song "Elevator") and John Lennon (who named the band after the art book by Yoko Ono). (Grapefruit's main songwriter was George Alexander - born Alexander Young - who was the brother of Easybeats rhythm guitarist George Young and AC/DC founders Angus Young and Malcolm Young.) Charlie responded with another mini-playlist set featuring not only their minor UK hit "Dear Delilah" (#21 UK charts) but also "Yes," "Elevator" and their Four Seasons' cover "C'mon Marianne." 

By request: A playlist slice of Grapefruit

Grapefruit's "Dear Delilah" single (RCA Victor, 1968)

There's not a whole lot of information about Stinchcomb on the internet, but according to a 2012 Capital Gazette feature about "Record Store Day," Charlie grew up in Annapolis and has been collecting records since he was a kid, buying 45s at the old Homewood Pharmacy (now Pinky's Liquors), the old Sears at Parole, and Cooks in Brooklyn Park. "If you wanted good soul or R&B, you got that stuff at Richman Drugs at the corner of West and West Washington streets," he told the Gazette. Better yet was the Jess Radio shop on Francis Street, where they had listening booths. "You could listen to both sides of the record to see if you liked it. And they were all under a buck."

Radio Free Worton: WKHS 90.5 FM

And what's better than a listening booth to check out music for free? Radio shows like "Voices From the Hallway" and "Psyched Out," every Tuesday night, from 6-10 pm! So tune in and let Charlie turn you on to some great sounds!

Stinchcomb Serendipity:

Charlie's first album purchase: The Buddy Holly Story (Coral, 1959)

Charlie’s all-time favorite vocal group: The Ravens (“They had a great falsetto and a phenomenal bass singer, so they covered both ends of the spectrum.”)

The Ravens: Featuring Jimmy Ricks (uptempo bass) & Maithe Marshall (soaring tenor)

Charlie’s vote for all-time most influential person in history of music: Ray Charles

The Music Man: Ray Charles

Partial "Psyched Out" Playlists:

Charlie doesn't post his playlists, so below are some music highlights (culled from the internet) of some bands played on recent programs.

"Psyched Out" Highlights (3-1-2022)

"Psyched Out" Highlights (2-22-22)

"Psyched Out" Highlights (2-8-22)

Related Links:

"The Faces of Annapolis Radio" (Capital Gazette, Jan. 2016)

A Few Minutes With Charlie Stinchcomb (WNAV News video, Dec. 2017)

"Record Store Day Trumpets Remaining Disc Shops" (Capital Gazette, April 2012)

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