Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Link: A Remembrance of Local Arts Scenes Past

Link published 10 critically acclaimed issues between 1996-2006

The Baltimore-based arts magazine Link published 10 book-length journals to great critical acclaim between 1996 and 2006. I was never fully aware of Baltimore's arts scene in my formative years of the late '70s through the early '90s - when, apparently, a lot of exciting things were happening here - but, in the course of rummaging through my warehouse-sized archive of accumulated books and magazines this weekend, I had an epiphany when I came across Link No. 2," a special issue serving as an exhibition site of Artscape '97." 
You Are Here: Link No. 2 (1997)

I confess, I had never read this issue in detail, but thumbing through its pages now, I noticed a lot of familiar (and respected) names from Baltimore's arts and music scenes past: Kirby Malone, D.S. Bakker, Susan Lowe, Peter Walsh, David Beaudouin, Sandie Castle, David Franks, tENTATIVELY a cONVENIENCE, Tom DiVenti, Steve Estes, John and Richard Ellsberry...and (drum roll, please) Link co-founder and Creative Alliance co-founder/program manager Megan Hamilton.

"I Was There!": Megan Hamilton (photo by Frank Klein)

Megan's opening article "Stenciled on Marble Steps, Woven into Rows: Assembling a Baltimore Historian" spoke to me immediately, for it brought home recovered memories of scenes, places, people, and events of which I had only a hazy recollection. As she wrote in her opening paragraph:
"I write a history titles The Era of Spectacle and The Banquet Years: Baltimore Performance Art 1968-1985. I interview artists, on tape, about events that are often ten, sometines going on twenty years old. Occasionally trying to remember a long-ago, now fuzzy detail, they will turn to me and ask, "Don't you remember? You were there, weren't you?" I don't know how to answer. What I really feel like saying - but only occasionally have the guts to - is: "Yeah, I was there, but I didn't get it." Even more strangely: "But I think that, even though I didn't get it, it got me - somehow snuck into my marrow so that now I try to write a history of the stuff I didn't get in the first place."
Yes!!! This is exactly how I feel when I try to explain to people my piecemeal recollections of moments and experiences I lived through, like the Ad-Hoc Fiascos in Wyman Park (1983), the old Second Story Books and Empire Salon on Charles Street in Mt. Vernon (1981-1982), the Crater Baltimore Alliance project, the Cultural Cryptananalysts Collective's stencil art project, the Museum of the Future,  the TESTES-3 interactive phone line-answering machine (new technology in 1980!)-radio station project (produced by Richard Ellsberry, Doug Retzler and tENTATIVELY a cCONVENIENCE), the video wizardry of Ed "Lizard" Rosen, and the various audiovisual projects of John and Richard Ellsberry. And now, thanks to Megan, at least some of these happenings have been documented so that future generations (not to mention those time-traveling Krononauts from the future who visited Charm City in the near-past) can "get it" as well.

Of the Ad-Hoc Fiascos, Megan wrote, "The Fiascos were anarchic, disorganized, innovative events replete with gestures and processes that reveberate to this day. Perhaps to draw attention to the Baltimore Museum of Art's perceived lack of support for the regional arts community, at the 1984 Fiasco a huge collaborative painting instigated by Steve Estes was 'donated' to the BMA by chaining it to the institution's neoclassical portico."

Steve Estes "donates" his painting to the BMA by chaining it to the museum's neoclassical portico

Of Ed "Lizard" Rosen's video van parked in the Wyman Park Dell broadcasting a live feed of Doug Retzler's Icarus installation (in which weather balloons held Retzler aloft while he videotaped the landscape below him), Megan recalled "To my naive eyes, it was as if NASA had succumbed to some long-hidden rebellious impulse and set up a branch of mission control in the middlem of this chaos. Or, it was like NBC setting up a live remote at an obscure Boy Scout jamboree in Iowa. Whoever these Boy Scouts were, they had technical control of media and that meant, irrevocably, that They Had a Grip."

Hamilton added that Lizard's van resembled some "living Technosaurus" full of "black-boxed monitors and coaxial cables and jacks in various colors, with antennas and electricity and Lizard calmly locomoting around keeping it all well-behaved."

You can read Megan's full "Stenciled on Marble Steps" article below.

Better yet, here's a .pdf version of her article (thanks Scott Huffines!):
Megan Hamilton - Marble Steps

Or, those with ADD like me can watch a capsulized version called "From Fiasco to Not (Ignite for a Better Baltimore)" YouTube.


Link No. 2 also featured Joseph Christopher Shaub's in-depth review of Skizz Cyzyk's Mansion Theater film series, "Microcinemania: The Mansion Theater and Underground Movie-Making in Baltimore, Maryland, USA"...

Joseph Christopher Shaub's "Microcinemania" examined Baltimore's underground filmmaking community in Link No. 2

...Adam J. Lehner's "Black Aggie, Cultural Cryptologists, and the Politics of Locality" (which described the Cultural Cryptanalysts Collective's "Nine New Museums" stencil project)...

...and Peter Walsh's interactive essay on the Baltimore arts aesthetic, "Escape Velocity Vs. the Home-Grown Product," which asked readers to read certain books (e.g., tENTATIVELY a cONVENIENCE's How To Write Your Resume Volume II: Making a Good First Impression), listen to particular pieces of music (like Corky Neidermeyer's "Bowling With You") , and watch several movies (such as John Waters's Multiple Maniacs).

I don't know Peter Walsh, but I think I should because, in addition to being the reigning expert of all things related to Santogold and Blood Circus (the alien wrestling movie filmed in the early '80s at the old Baltimore Civic Center), his essay indicates that he knew a lot of mutual friends and aquaintances - like Mark Harp (aka Corky Neidermeyer), tENT, Dick Hanson (aka Dick Hurts, Larry Vega), Jim Burger, and so on, and so on.

Here's Walsh's account of "The Larry Vega Show":

The Larry Vega Show (1985-1986) 
"The Larry Vega Show": Buzz Bourbon (Kenny Vieth), Oprah (Mark Harp) and host Larry Vega (Dick Hanson) backed by the Mo Fine All-Blind Orchetsra

"The Larry Vega Show," Baltimore's pirate TV show that floated from the Fabulous Galaxy Ballroom on Franklin Street (above the Marble Bar in the Congress Hotel) to the Eight by Ten Club (on Cross Street in South Baltimore) in 1985 and 1986, was a momentary, indigenous attempt to respond to cultural colonization by creating a space where the audience members were the performers and being a couch potato had no meaning. Founded by Dick Hanson (Larry Vega), Mark Harp (Corky Neidermeyer), Dave Sarfati (Mo Fine), and a host of others, the Vega show skewered pop media in that trademark style of over-the-top satire that has risen out of the cultural vacuum of some of Baltimore's post-industrialized white neighborhoods and suburbs.
Corky Neidermeyer (Mark Harp) and Larry Vega (Dick Hanson)

On a stage populated by ex-punk rockers gone conceptual, hangers-on, poets, scenesters, artists and the terminally bored, Larry and crew play-acted their own style of TV with stellar guests such as "Liberace," "Carol Burnett," and "Lou Ferrigno," played by the appropriately dressed friends - or anyone that could be cajoled into getting on stage at the last minute. One show featured a line-up of all dead guests (such as Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison). Another was dedicated to favorite TV characters, like Rosie and the Quicker-Picker-Upper. In one show, a guest named "Art Martyr" repeatedly attempted to end his life, live on stage, while the All-Blind Orchestra accompanied him with "The Art Martyr Dance Polka." Later, another guest aggressively advocated home surgery techniques. The "Thirty-First Annual Holiday Special" included Burl Ives, Miss Manners and a "Special Birthday Salute to Ludwig Van Beethoven" - admission was free with a charity donation of a fruitcake.
Corky Neidermeyer (Mark Harp) loves to go "Bowling With You"

Larry Vega, with his patented one-liner shtick for every occasion ("What the hell ya gonna do?"), couldn't last very long, his brand of do-it-yourself theatrics being generally at odds with making a comfortable living. According to Hanson, the show fell apart when they finally began to take it seriously. Meetings, rehearsals, script revisions and newly acquired expectations of success pulled the rug out from under what had been an "in-house" joke.

"The Larry Vega Show" was one attempt by artists in Baltimore to deal with the intense cultural poverty, induced by cash-driven one-directional mass media, that is spreading out across the entire planet. This vision of "culture as business proposition" necesarrily suprreses the individuality of places and persons in a drive to create the largest possible audience for each available product. When Larry donned his double-knit plaids or Corky sang "Bowling with You," they were digging into the collective memories and experiences of their own local audience.

We are left wondering how to inspire that same kind of spontaneous, grassroots vitality, how to spark it anew, how to collect that energy and release it in its latest unexpected form."

Lehner's "Aggie, Cultural Cryptanalysts, and the Politics of Locality" referenced the Cultural Cryptanalysts Collective (CCC) of Baltimore, which was a collective of anonymous individuals "dedicated to revealing the secret messages embedded in our society's institutions, the media, and our daily lives." The CCC was inspired by the theme of community and their web site is an invaluable reference to various underground projects going on here during this period, including the Empire Salon (the Museum of the Future), the Nine New Museums project, and the Stencil Street Art Project.

The information that follows is from this page, which is hosted by TalkBack! magazine of CUNY.


The Cultural Crpytanalysts Collective of Baltimore (CCC)

The City of Baltimore to Open Nine New Museums project was the Cultural Cryptanalysts Collective's blueprint for re-envisioning urban localities through a program of identifying lost resources, histories and submerged cultures wherever they may be found. A series of stencils subsequently appeared around the city of Baltimore entitled "Secret Messages Revealed." Each stencil functioned as a curious aesthetic marker to the general public, and carried a secret message to particular individuals and/or social groups. Their locations were precisely chosen.

Map of CCC's "Nine New Museums"

Tying in with this was a 1996 press release announcing the creation of "Nine New Museums," named after the nine classical Greek muses, unveiled by the city of Baltimore in conjunction with the CCC.

My favorite museums were The Museum of Gay and Lesbian Culture at the corner of Tyson and Read Streets (commemorating the spot where Divine ate dog shit in John Waters's Pink Flamingos) and The Museum of the Future at 527 N. Charles Street in the old Empire Salon. I vaguely recall attending one of the Krononaut Society events there, as well.

The full list is below:
  1. Museum of Worker Rights. Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Muse: Calliope (Epic Poetry).
  2. Museum of African-American Culture. Site of Frederick Douglass' boyhood home at 1815 Aliceanna Street, Fells Point. Muse: Clio (History).
  3. Museum of Gay and Lesbian Culture. Site of Divine's coprophagic scene in Pink Flamingos at Read and Tyson Streets. Muse: Erato (Lyric Poetry).
  4. Museum of Musicology. Site of the Royal Theater, 1300 Block of Pennsyvania Avenue. Muse: Euterpe (Music).
  5. Museum of Urban Planning. Route 40 West. Muse: Melpomemne (Tragedy).
  6. Museum of the Unknowable. 909 E. Pratt Street (possibly the first location of the commercial manufacture of the Ouija Board anywhere in the world, according to the 1892 Baltimore City Directory). Muse: Polyhymnia (Religious Music).
  7. Museum of Hoaxology. 221 Park Avenue (location of the Recreation Novelty Co., according to a 1968 Baltimore telephone book) . Muse: Terpsichore (Dance).
  8. Museum of Subjectivity. 868 Park Avenue (home of The Brexton, ertswhile flop-house and hippie/Boho hangout). Muse: Thalia (Comedy).
  9. Museum of the Future. 527 N. Charles Street. Muse: Urania (Astronomy).
As Lehner wrote, "The CCC's Nine New Museums project manifested itself in several ways. In addition to the stencils on the street and press releases to city officials, arts administrators and the media, the project was documented in July and August as part of Baltimore City's Artscape '96, at a stencil exhibit called 'On the Street/Off the Street,' curated by another anonymous individual/collective, Western Cell Division."


Empire Salon (1981-1982)

From the CCC ( web site:

SECOND STORY BOOKS owner Allan Stypek came to Baltimore in 1981 hoping to open a bookstore/cafe along the lines of KRAMERBOOKS in Washington, DC (this was long before the 1990s arrival of coffee culture). Once here, he was convinced by a number of people, including Baltimore poet/performance artist Kirby Malone, to transform the cafe space into a multi-purpose art space with a small bar on the lower level. This occurred at a moment in Baltimore history when there were almost no alternative performance spaces available (The Theater Project, which celebrates its 25th birthday in 1996, was under renovation at this time), and so the space bloomed with activity. EMPIRE SALON co-directers Richard Ellsberry and Kirby Malone ran the gallery and performance space, Warren Wigatow, Steve Hargrove, and Joe Potts ran the bookstore itself, and Harry Robinson ran the Empire Lounge, a bar sometimes known as "The Elbow Room" because of its small size. The food manager? Poet Tom Diventi of the late 70s punk band "Da Moronics."
The Empire Salon, 527 N. Charles Street

The space took its name from Andre's Empire Salon, the beauty shop formerly at the 527 N. Charles Street location, and appropriately the downstairs cutting booths were given to local artists as installation spaces for the Salon Grand Opening held on Tuesday, October 13, 1981. Among the installations were Sindee Heidel's "Use Me," Laurie Stepp's "Dreamboat," and Tom Diventi's "Zero Gravity." Murals were painted by Manette Letter. Over the course of the next twelve months, numerous artshows were exhibited in the gallery including notable shows by Stephen Parlato, Bill Moriarty (also of "Da Moronics fame), and Vince Perranio (who designed sets for John Waters' films).
Kirby Malone's "Apparatus: Character Assassination" (photo: D.S. Bakker)

Tom DiVenti's "Zero Gravity" (photo: D.S. Bakker)
Sindee Heidel's "Use Me" (photo: D.S. Bakker)
Susan Mumford of Tiny Desk Unit performs "An Arab in Paris" (photo: D.S. Bakker)

My girlfriend Amy Linthicum was married to Mark Harp (real name Mark Linthicum) back in the day and - Mark naturally being involved in any- and everything to do with Baltimore's underground arts scene - recalls going to the October 13, 1981 Salon Grand Opening.

"There was a naked couple walking around dressed as Adam and Eve," Amy said, adding that the couple's naughty bits were covered by fig leaves.


Crater Baltimore Project (Richard Ellsberry)

In 1981, Richard Ellsberry originated the idea of locating a crater on the surface of the moon that lay at the same longitude and latitude on the moon as the city of Baltimore does on the earth and then declaring that crater to be Crater Baltimore. At that point, approximately 76 degrees 40 minutes West by 39 degrees 20 minutes North, lay a tiny crater in the periphery of the Lavoisier system, a system of craters that borders on the western edge of Oceanus Procellarum.
The official naming of the crater took place at the Empire Salon on March 9, 1982 as part of the Krononauts Reception for Visitors from the Future. Posters were made from photos received from NASA and then-Baltimore Mayor William Schaefer himself was on hand to sign posters for party-goers.

The crater was then designated a wildlife refuge in order to prevent exploitation by shopping mall developers and to insure it as a safe haven for endangered wildlife species.

OK, there's a lot of information at these sites and in these publications beyond my ken to disseminate here. The good news is, you can still score some Link magazines on Amazon. So check them out and, like me, recover lost memories of Baltimore's storied underground arts past!

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Baltimore Sounds: The Second Edition

Baltimore Sounds: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Baltimore Area Pop Musicians, Bands and Recordings 1950-2000
Compiled, written and edited by Joe Vaccarino
(642 pages, MJAM Press, Catonsville MD, 2012)

When area musicians told me about this long-awaited update to Joe Vaccarino's 2004 labor-of-love history of Baltimore's music scene, Baltimore Sounds  (the 368-page first edition - originally published in 2004 and covering the years 1950-1980 - is currently out of print, with used copies fetching up to $200 on, I knew it was an essential purchase. Not because it's definitive; not because it's exhaustively researched to be the "final word" on the subject matter; and not because it finally got my nome-de-plume right under the listing for Thee Katatonix (as original drummer "Tommy Gunn" - though Skizz Cyzyk pointed out that I was also erroneously listed as the Dark Carnival drummer instead of "Big" Andy Small!). (It's funny, I actually met Joe Vaccarino - a former bass player in the early '70s Howard County band Heavey Duty whose first album purchases were by the Beatles and Iron Butterfly - back in 2004 when he had a display promoting his book and celebrating local music down at the Enoch Pratt Central Library; when I told him I was in the book, he asked me to sign my autograph in his copy! "I'm really not worthy," I told him, but the guy's a musical history buff and would not be denied getting my worthless signature - which goes for considerably less than $200 on the open market!)

Joe Vaccarino: the Harry Smith of Baltimore music history
Rather, it was because it's truly a Herculean undertaking that no one else would have the time, energy or passion to pursue (and you would need a whole separate research team just to document all the people who played in Thee Katatonix alone! Or to list all the bands Skizz Cyzyk and Mark Harp played in!). It's a massive undertaking and, while it has its share of factual errors, what could anyone expect one man to do when faced with documenting over 60 years of music in the Baltimore-Washington area and surrounding counties all by himself, relying quite often on materials supplied by the musicians or related principals themselves?  (As Vaccarino himself explained, "Information compiled in this book has been collected from the most reliable sources known...nevertheless, errors in a work of such immense scope are unavoidable. Readers are encouraged to write the author so that they may be corrected in the event of a future edition.") It may not be the "final word" but, just by existing, it's already the most comprehensive book ever written about the Baltimore music scene. Or, as Rafael Alvarez commented, "Joe Vaccarino has done Baltimore as valuable a service as the one Harry Smith provided America's burgeoning folkie movement with his fabled anthology [The Anthology of American Folk Music]. This is history you can use and it's Crabtown through and through."

In his introduction, Tom D'Antoni cited the work as a "miracle cure for lost memory," writing that "Page after page, our life stories, or those of our fathers and mothers, unfolds, no matter what the era. 'Oh, man! I saw that band play at (add the location of your choice)!' And suddenly the flavors, the smells, even the touches from that place in time come to life again. That's the real value of this book."

Dave Cawley of Berserk, Garage Sale, Order Now
Case in point: When I told my bass-playing pal Dave Cawley that Berserk (the late 80s-early '90s pop-punk band he played in with guitarist Brent "Burnt Mattress" Malkus and drummer Skizz Cyzyk) was among the bands profiled in Vaccarino's phone directory-thick tome, he was ecstatic - and went out immediately to purchase it at Ukazoo Books in Towson. (Baltimore Sounds is also available at Atomic Books in Hampden, Normals Books & Records in Waverly, Trax On Wax in Catonsville, Now and Then Music in Arbutus, Greetings and Readings in Hunt Valley, and Mike's Music in Ellicott City.)

Dave quipped, "I never thought I could pick up a book and see the name 'David Cawley' in the index and find Berserk and Garage Sale in there!" (Though he was amused that Order Now, the band he formed with guitarist Mike Milstein (another ex-Katatonix player) and drummer Rick Davidson, only listed Davidson among its members - "And Mike and I wrote all the songs!," he laughed.) "I love that book, a real labor of love! I had to get it; my memory is so bad and it's cool to have info on all those bands. That era is gone so it's nice there is a book about it," he enthused. "And no Wham City crap!" (Hmmm, perhaps in a future edition?)

Berserk boys with Shonen Knife girls at CBGBs, 1990

Dave also liked that the book listed the major venues and circuits that bands played, many of which he had long forgotten. Yes indeed, places like the bygone Memory Lane, Club Venus, Mansion TheaterCafe Tattoo, Talking Head, Club Midnight, and the Flamingo Lounge (which was located downstairs in the back of the Flamingo strip club on Baltimore's infamous "Block" - Fudgie Dobson booked bands at this late '90s venue that threw together perhaps the oddest-ever mix of hipsters and horndogs passing through its doors! I recall many a well-weathered pole dancer looking at me, realizing there was no interest or tip potential, and resignedly pointing the way to the back with a "You want back there, hon.")

Sample page from "Baltimore Sounds"

I loved that the entry for Dave's "surf-garage-mod bug music" band Garage Sale listed, among their numerous gig venues, "the Atomic BBQ" - this was just one of many episodes of late-'90s public access program Atomic TV that featured (de facto house band) Garage Sale in its lineup. (You can watch this episode, also known as the "Atomic TV Labor Day Cookout," online at the Atomic TV web site.)

Since I briefly played in bands in the late '70s and early '80s, and was passionate about music in that era of my lost youth, I naturally gravitated towards the entries for groups from that period. But there's so much more to learn about in Baltimore Sounds, like all the African-American Funk, Soul, R&B and Doo-Wop artists from the '50s and '60s, the psychedelic undergroup groups that played the Bluesette (A Go Go), Baltimore's Heavy Metal and Prog scenes, not to mention all those cover bands that played the county bar and high school circuit, like Paper Cup, Mannekin, and Shor Patrol.

The Bluesette Teen Discotheque

Of the latter type bands, Tom D'Antoni astutely observed that "A lot of the bands in this book sucked. And it doesn't matter one single bit. This book is not a "best of," it is an of, period...If your idea of musical perfection is six guys in matching burgundy velour suits , with huge collars and big hair, on a stage in Ocean City singing 'Brandy, You're a Fine Girl,' well that's OK with us."

In other words: to each, his (or her) own. Whatever your trip, be it hip or drip, it's all here.

Tori "Ellen" Amos's "Baltimore" promo single (1978)

And from Tori Amos (born Mary Ellen Amos, and whose first recording was a 1978 Orioles promo called "Baltimore") and LesLee Anderson (Marble Bar co-owner and chanteuse) to Frank Zappa and Zehn Archer, it's all listed here A through Z. I even learned that there was a '70s show band called Celebration that existed way before today's indie band of the same name featuring singer Katrina Ford; these guys wore tuxedos and played places like The Flaming Pit, Annabelle's in Towson, and the Holiday Inn circuit.

Joe Vaccarino and Ernie Berger of The Stratfords in front of Joe's memorabilia display at the Enoch Pratt Central Library

Skizz Cyzyk: Music Man About Town
Plus, Vaccarino added bonus sections at the end for local radio stations (WKTK!), DJs and promoters (e.g., Kerby Scott, Johnny Dark, Johnny Walker, Fred "Rockin' Robin" Robinson, Paul "Fat Daddy" Johnson," Maurice "Hot Rod" Hulbert) and record labels. Some of the graphics - including flyers, Globe posters, record labels and sleeves, and vintage advertisements - are a real treat. (I especially loved the many David Wilcox graphics for his and other Marble Bar-era bands.)

Thumbing through these pages filled with vintage black-and-white images and memorabilia, I felt like I was reading the latest issue of Mike Stax's Ugly Things magazine, another publication celebrating the history and diversity of lesser-known bands and musical genres in all their bygone glory.

OK page-flippers, to save you time, following is a highly selective list highlighting noteworthy '80s, '90s and 'Noughties local musicos (i.e., "My Era") listed in the updated second edition's index (bold indicates pages with pictures).

For the record, Skizz Cyzyk holds the record for most index listings!

Now, pop music stars, "You can look it up!"
  • The Accused: 2
  • The Alcoholics: 6
  • The Beltways: 33-34
  • Berserk: 35
  • Beyond Words: 36
  • Big As a House: 36
  • Boy Meets Girl: 51
  • David Cawley: 35, 176
  • Martha Colburn (The Dramatics): 132, 539, 549
  • Skizz Cyzyk:  35, 43, 60, 124, 154, 176, 181, 183, 231, 236, 251, 303, 373, 398, 417, 430, 441, 442, 501, 524
  • Da Moronics: 111
  • Dark Carnival: 114
  • Elements of Design: 140
  • Food For Worms: 165
  • Freewater: 169-170
  • Garage Sale: 176
  • Ginger: 182
  • Joe Goldsborough: 56, 137, 397, 501, 506
  • Greenberry Woods: 191
  • Grey March: 192
  • Mark Harp: 31, 63, 68, 200, 227, 265, 316, 335, 373, 465, 484
  • Hassassins: 201-202 
  • Helicopkter: 205
  • The Jennifers: 236
  • Judie's Fixation: 246
  • Kicksouls: 251
  • The Last Picture Show: 266 
  • Liquor Bike: 275-276
  • Little Gruntpack: 276
  • Little Hans: 276
  • Loose Shoes Rhythm Band: 280
  • Lungfish: 284
  • Mambo Combo: 290
  • Matt Clark 5: 298
  • Motor Morons: 316
  • NEMB: 322
  • Null Set: 335
  • OHO: 337-339
  • Order Now: 344 
  • Pearl Fishers: 359
  • Pleasant Livers: 369
  • Plow: 370
  • Pooba: 373
  • Pornflakes: 373
  • Question 47: 385
  • Reactors (Charm City Reactors): 341
  • Tommy Reed: 6, 11, 476
  • Rumba Club: 414 
  • Square One:  461
  • Thee Katatonix 485-486
  • Wally and the Weirdos: 527
  • David Wilcox: 6, 94, 352, 373, 377, 407
  • W.O.D.: 526
  • Frank Zappa: 552
My only (minor) quibble with this impressive undertaking is, I would have liked to have seen entries for the major music venues where bands played (e.g., The Marble Bar, Galaxy Ballroom, Brass Monkey, Girard's, 8x10, Cafe Tattoo, Memory Lane, Hammerjacks, Hanratty's, No Fish Today, Talking Head, The Rev, The Ottobar, Towson's Oddfellows Lounge, etc.). Each venue/club seemed to develop its own unique crowd or "scene," which in many cases became just as interesting as the bands that played there. Maybe in the next edition?

*** Baltimore Sounds: The Video Documentary ***

As a companion to his Baltimore Sounds book, Vaccarino is currently working on raising money to create a video production about local music. On his Baltimore Sounds web site, Vaccarino writes: "If you have anything to contribute - historical, artistic, monetary... - let's talk about it. We would also love to find vintage video footage of local bands. For more information contact Terry Willaims via email at"

Below is a 10-minute promo clip for the video project:

*** Reviews for the 2004 first edition of Baltimore Sounds ***
"Baltimore Sounds" first edition (2004) covering 1950-1980

Baltimore Business Journal - May 28, 2004
"...the most comprehensive book ever written about Baltimore's music scene..."

Susie Mudd - Music Monthly - June 2004
" would take me pages to tell you everything I like about this book, the most important thing is that it was born out of a love for our music (I share that love) and includes so many bands and artists. Congratulations and thank you Joe Vaccarino for caring enough to put out such a wonderful book... This is a must have for every music fan in Baltimore."

Brennan Jensen - City Paper - June 30, 2004
"...To call this decades-spanning documentation of Mobtown musicianship - from the ensembles of A New Day to Zzzap - a "labor of love" is an understatement. For Baltimoreans of a certain age, the tome presents nothing less than a sonic life story: Here are the bands from your wallflower days at local teen-center mixers, your senior prom slow dances, your boogie nights at the local singles lounge, to the celebratory waltz of your wedding reception. From cookie-cutter cover bands to up-and-coming musical pioneers, they're all here."

John Lewis - Baltimore magazine, September 2004
"Anyone interested in the local music scene will enjoy paging through (Baltimore Sounds)... Extensively researched, the book chronicles a vast array of groups, from chart-toping pop acts to bands that barely made it out of the garage. Best of all, Vaccarino uses vintage ads, old business cards, record labels, snapshots, and publicity photos to illustrate the book, and these images show the players in all their grooving, twanging, rocking, and head-banging glory. The photos taken at local high-school gigs are particularly cool. If you were too young to catch the Playmates (formerly the Cruisinaires) at Woodlawn Sr. High School in the early 1970s, here's a chance to get a peak at those shows. And if you were there, you'll be thrilled that someone cared enough to assemble this book."

Style magazine - December 2004
"Where are they now?... An illustrated encyclopedia of Baltimore area pop musicians, bands & recordings from the likes of Gary and the GTO's, Calvert Hall's The Nomads, Paper Cup, Crack the Sky, and Great Train Robbery. Hey, you might even be able to dig up dirt on your brother's old disco band."

Rambling Rose - Baltimore Afro-American - April 2005
"...illustrating the history of bands and individual musicians from Baltimore and the surrounding area, from teenage amateurs to professional hitmakers; from 1950s rhythm and blues vocal harmony groups to 1970s headbangers; and rock, soul, jazz and country. The book includes biographies and discographies with more than 2,000 images of bands, musicians, vintage advertisements and photos of hundreds of popular and rare records..."

Jim Hughes - 2004
"Way to go, Joe V! Fantastic! This is the book we've needed for years! All your research, hard work and investigation has paid off. Now, every musician and fan will be able to see their old friends, favorite bands and what took place in the golden era of rock and roll history. The flavor of the period is captured by the various ads for clubs, teen centers, and favorite hangout restaurants throughout the book. The section on radio stations, personalities and DJ's is a particularly nice touch. We can't relive the past, but through this book we can certainly celebrate the glorious past of the entertainment scene in our area. As for myself, I consider it fortunate to have been a part of it all. As I was reading the advance copy, I couldn't put it down! You, Dear Readers, are in for a real treat. Joe, thanks from all of us, past and present musicians included. Rock and roll never dies!"

*** Joe Vaccarino's bio from his Baltimore Sounds web site ***

It all started way back when... Even as a teenager Joe saved memorabilia (band cards, photos, etc) from bands that he knew, or bands that his groups appeared with on multiple billed events. Joe's own groups barely got out of the basement, while the ones he worked for as a road manager (Sage and Bandit) worked extensively at clubs, teen centers, proms, frat parties, pool parties, concerts, etc. An older brother of an early childhood friend was a drummer for the Horde and later Cherry Smash. As a pre-teen brat Joe enjoyed peering in the window of their basement practice room and listening to the bands. He took an interest in the bass guitar and was a member of several neighborhood bands. Joe went to many teen center dances and was intrigued by local groups such as Seed, The Boat, Penny Candy, etc. He rarely missed any of his high school dances that featured groups such as Grand Jury, Majestics, Wizard, Flagstaff, Pine Street Station, Ellicott Brothers, Grapes of Wrath, Jupiter & the Jets... Around 1974 he befriended the local band Sage and became a road manager. Working the circuit during the mid-'70s Joe remembers multiple bills with groups such as Appaloosa, Royal 5+1, Joshua, Wintersunn, OHO... He also attended many parties and concerts with friends in local southern rock band Dragonfly... Working with his brother Mark in the '80s, they booked many great groups to play at the Back of the Vac: bands such as Nightshift, Gary Brown & the Doubts, the Boucher Brothers, Richard Taylor & the Ravers, the Danny Lough Band, Wally & the Weirdos, Vinnie D, Daryl Beard... the list goes on...

Fast forward.... Some friends at the Arbutus Record Show (read about the monthly show on our NEWS page!) began publishing a magazine as a tribute to '60s era local bands titled "Charmed Times." Joe was eager to contribute, but his knowledge at the time was more '70s oriented. When the magazine folded, Joe continued to search for information about local groups and any records that they released. Eventually the Baltimore Sounds book was created. Joe chose the moniker "pop" music as it encompasses most mainstream musical styles including rock, R&B, soul, country...

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