Straight No Chaser Making A Cappella Cool

Straight No Chaser Making A Cappella Cool

My grandfather was in a barbershop quartet.  His a cappella group was called The Four Guardsmen.

They were pretty good.  They played some big rooms in Reno.  They all had great voices and harmonized quite well.  Their concerts were very entertaining.  Between songs, they talked to the crowd and told jokes. 

I only remember seeing them perform a few times but I liked what I heard and saw.  They probably could have gone professional but they were all family men with good jobs who didn’t want to spend 300 days a year on the road making a go of it.

They were also about a decade too late.  By the time they started performing, popular culture had been hijacked by teenagers and the dominate music genre was rock and roll—about the furthest thing from barbershop quartet.

My grandfather, who had a great voice, led a hardcore barbershop quartet.  They weren’t part barbershop and part doo wop.  They were full on barbershop and performed traditional barbershop songs like “Down by the Old Mill Stream,” “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” and “Wait ‘Til the Sun Shines, Nellie.”

Let’s be honest, barbershop quartet is not, nor has it ever been, the hippest genre of music.  It’s down there in the dustbin of nerd alongside polka, marching band music, and that genre from the 1920s where the singer used a megaphone.  Barbershop quartet is not even the coolest sub-genre of a cappella—that would be doo wop. 

That’s not to say my grandfather and his mates, or any other barbershop foursome for that matter, can’t or don’t make great music.  It’s just that the music they make is far from the vanguard.  Even my pop-pop would agree that barbershop, and a cappella music in general, is the opposite of hip hop and a general chick repellent (no offense to my grandmother). 

It’s not that a cappella is inherently lame.  The style has been used by popular musicians for generations and has produced some hit songs.  Artists that have dabbled in a cappella include Billy Joel, Huey Lewis and the News, Backstreet Boys, Boyz II Men, and Brandy Norwood. 

Some pop stars have released vocal-only versions of their most popular songs/albums—sort of a backdoor a cappella.  The most famous example of this is Jay-Z’s Black Album.  Danger Mouse took the a cappella version of the Black Album and mixed it with The Beatles’ The White Album.  He called his final product The Grey Album.

What kept my grandfather’s barbershop quartet in anonymity, and what stunts most pure a cappella groups, isn’t a lack of instruments but material.  Music written for a cappella groups seldom light up the charts.

To get around that, all you have to do is one simple thing.  It’s the same thing the a cappella dectet Straight No Chaser does all the time and that’s perform hit pop songs.

It’s an unexplained phenomenon but people love it when artists from marginalized music styles, like a cappella, perform popular songs.  The geekier the musicians, the cooler the song, then the more people will love it.  I don’t know why or how but that’s just the way it is.

This explains why we love it when country musicians cover hip hop bands and "Weird Al" Yankovic does Polka versions of Top 40 hits.  You probably don’t even like polka music, and you might not even like the original songs Yankovic covers, but hearing the “Best Song Ever” and “Thrift Shop” played on an accordion is awesome.

The phenomenon also explains why people love it when Straight No Chaser performs songs like “Moves Like Jagger,” “Blurred Lines,” “Call Me Maybe,” and “Sexy and I Know It.”

This fall and winter, you can catch the thoroughly entertaining Straight No Chaser live and in concert.  Their “Happy Hour Tour 2014” kicks off Oct. 14 in Bakersfield, California.  It ends Jan. 3 in Honolulu at the Hawai’i Theatre.

Highlights of their outing include Straight No Chaser in Dallas on Oct. 26, Straight No Chaser in Atlanta on Nov. 14, and Straight No Chaser in New York City on Dec. 5.

Look for SNC to perform matinees in Denver, Hershey, Cleveland, Chicago, and Indianapolis.  Since the band formed at Indiana University, they’ll spend two days in Indianapolis, Dec. 21 and Dec. 22, performing at the Murat Theater at Old National Centre.

In the New Year, SNC ventures overseas for a series of shows in the United Kingdom.  Their European tour begins Jan. 28 in London and ends Feb. 24 in Zurich.  They will also visit Dublin, Berlin, and Paris.

Straight No Chaser Lineup
Michael Luginbill
Randy Stine
Dave Roberts
Charlie Mechling
Jerome Collins
Walter Chase
Don Nottingham
Seggie Isho
Tyler Trepp
Steve Morgan

In addition to the great harmonies and vocalizations, Straight No Chaser is super charming and they yuck it up on stage.  They’ll make you laugh, they’ll make you dance, and if you’re a mom, grandma, or aunt, they’ll make you swoon.   

There is another way an a cappella group, or artist performing a marginalized style of music, can win over fans and that’s performing Christmas music.

The so-called “cool” bands generally eschew holiday carols (because Christmas music isn’t cool) and to be quite frank they don’t really do the Yuletide tunes justice.  Dave Matthews Band and Justin Timberlake are great for most seasons but they don’t come to mind when one thinks of the Noel season.

Needless to say, Straight No Chaser performs Christmas music.  In fact, their first two albums were dedicated to Santa’s big day. 

They released Holiday Spirits in 2008 and Christmas Cheers in 2009.  The works contains secular and religious carols as well as “Indiana Christmas,” “Who Spiked The Eggnog?” “Donde Esta Santa Claus,” and a live version of "The 12 Days of Christmas."  Expect to hear some holiday harmonies during Straight No Chaser’s upcoming tour.

The ten-man band released their first non-Christmas album in 2010.  With A Twist contains instrument-less renditions of “Wonderwall,” “Single Ladies,” and “Fix You.”  Their latest opus, Under the Influence, dropped in May of 2013.

If my grandfather’s barbershop quarter had covered some popular music tunes then maybe this writer would now be enjoying the boons of a hefty trust fund.  As it is, my grandfather and his fellow crooners did their thing and entertained a lot of people.  That’s exactly what Straight No Chaser is doing today.

By David B.

Motley Crüe Is The Most Important Unimportant Band Of All-Time

Motley Crüe Is The Most Important Unimportant Band Of All-Time

Motley Crüe is the most important unimportant band of all-time. 

Here’s why they’re unimportant: they only have one number one album and two top ten singles. 

They’ve never won a Grammy Award.  In fact, the only trophy on their mantle is an American Music Award for Favorite Heavy Metal/Hard Rock Album (Dr. Feelgood), which they won in 1991.

They didn’t really advance, innovate, or revolutionize any genre of music—unless you think “hair band” is a legitimate category.  They’re not particularly great musicians.  They’re not transcendent songwriters. 

Despite all that, I have not come to bury Motely Crüe.  In fact, I’ve come to praise them. 

They may not be artistic pioneers with an overabundance of musical prowess, but they are the epitome of what think of when we think of a hard rock band.  Their music, as well as their behavior on and off the stage, is hedonistic, wanton, and licentious. 

They are the living cliché of a rock band.  Some of the clichés they invented while others they leaned into.

When you see a decedent and fictional rock band in a television show or movie, you’re seeing Motley Crüe. 

Motley Crüe sing songs that champion reckless lifestyle choices (like “Girls, Girls, Girls”) and they live(d) that reckless lifestyle.  In doing so, they have endeared themselves to millions of fans. 

That last paragraph is part of the “important” part as well as the band selling more than 75 million albums and countless Motley Crüe concert tickets all over the world.

Love them or hate them, Motley Crüe provides the ultimate rock and roll fantasy.  For millions, Crüe’s music and their escapades offered the perfect escape from the responsibilities and commitments of everyday life. 

I’m not talking about the behavior that resulted in committing vehicular homicide, getting arrested, or dying from an overdose and then bolting from the hospital before being released.  I’m talking about the behaviors that said “screw it” to society’s norms and expectations because I’m going to do whatever the hell I want to.

Motley Crüe extols the virtues of drunkenness, promiscuity, and general debauchery.  We don’t want those values in our politicians, professional athletes, and offspring, but we do in our rock bands.

The escapism they heaped on fans should account for something.  While the band has done some inexcusable things since forming in 1981, they have also transported millions of fans from the banalities of reality to the “Never Never Land” of rock and roll.

During their 30-plus years of existence, Motley Crüe has pretty much kept to their degenerate ethos. Yes, they’ve released just four albums in the past 20 years (and one in the past six) while launching 23 tours, and they have a bunch of greatest hits collections, but they’ve never really allowed themselves to get bloated like Fleetwood Mac and Crosby, Stills & Nash.

To prove that point, the band not only announced that “The Motley Crüe Final Tour” will be their last but they signed a binding legal documenting stating as much.  This legal document says the band will never tour again—at least under the banner of Motley Crüe—once the calendar turns to 2015.

How exactly will the Motley Crüe’s “Magna Carta” prevent further tours?  I have no idea.  They probably don’t either but that’s not the point. 

What is the point is the band that epitomizes the sex, drugs, and rebellion promised by rock and roll is trying to end their career still embracing those concepts—at least as much as four guys can that are north of 50.

Motley Crüe is trying to end things the same way they started and that’s on their own terms.

Their final musical odyssey began July 2 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  The first leg concluded on Aug. 31 at the Darien Lake Performing Arts Center in western New York. 

They resume their tour Oct. 10 in Oklahoma City.  On Oct. 15, Nashville welcomes Motley Crüe to the Bridgestone Arena.

Motley Crüe has two shows planned for Hollywood, Florida and the Seminole Hard Rock Live.  The band also has two shows planned for Atlantic City.  One is scheduled for Oct. 24 and the other for Oct. 25.

The highlight of the band’s final leg is when New York City hosts Motley Crüe at Madison Square Garden.  That concert is scheduled to go down on Oct. 28.

After that, Crüe visits a bunch of mid-size cities like Moline, Madison, St. Paul, and Edmonton. 

The penultimate date in the touring career of Crüe is Nov. 21.  That night Motley Crüe performs in Vancouver, B.C. at Rogers Arena. 

The city that will host Motley Crüe’s final concert is Spokane, Washington.  The last time the band will ever rock a stage will be Nov. 22.

Opening for Crüe will be legend and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Alice Cooper.  According to reviewers, Cooper doesn’t disappoint.  Besides playing hits like “School’s Out,” “I’m Eighteen,” and “Welcome to My Nightmare,” Cooper also entertains fans with a boa constrictor, macabre decorations, and a very convincing beheading.

As for Crüe, their live show is packed with pyrotechnics.  Their evening terminates with a pyro display suitable for a bicentennial celebration or a small war in Central America. 

Motley Crüe has designed a setlist that will please just about everyone.  If you’re into early Crüe or late 1980s Crüe you will leave the venue satisfied.  The band also plays some of their new stuff (relative) like “Saints of Los Angeles” and “Mutherf—— of the Year.”

The band ends their set with “Kickstart My Heart” and then encores with “Home Sweet Home.”  Other songs in their setlist are “Primal Scream,” "Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room,” “Shout at the Devil,” and “Same Ol’ Situation (S.O.S.).”

When you attend a Motley Crüe concert make sure you make some noise.  If you don’t you might be chastised in a Tommy Lee tweet.

After an Aug. 27 show in Allentown, Pennsylvanian, Crüe’s drummer posted the following on his Twitter account: “Wow! Allentown! You guys win the “Most Absent” award tonight! Thanks for trying to be there!!!”

The media’s excuse for the apparent subdued crowd was the fact that the band played the same songs when they performed in nearby Bethlehem in the summer of 2013.  Fans who actually attended the concert said the crowd was restrained because the sound wasn’t very good.

By David B.

5 Great Tours Beginning In The Fall Of 2014

5 Great Tours Beginning In The Fall Of 2014

Dave Matthews Band is set to perform at the beautiful Gorge Amphitheatre from Aug. 29 through Aug. 31.  That’s Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of Labor Day Weekend.  This year, Labor Day comes early, Sept. 1, but it’s still the unofficial official end of summer.

Summer, as music fans know, is the best time to attend a concert.  Nothing beats listening to your favorite band on the lawn of some amphitheater with nothing but the night’s sky overhead and a little “something special” in your red cup.  The halcyon days of summer are perfect for just about every genre of music.  Besides, you should attend a music concert in shorts and sunglasses, not scarves and mittens.

This summer was ripe for great tours.  You had Lady Gaga’s “Art Rave: The Artpop Ball,” Aerosmith’s “Let Rock Rule” trek, Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s “On the Run Tour,” Motley Crüe’s “The Final Tour”, Tom Petty hitting the road with Steve Winwood, Cher’s “Dressed to Kill Tour”, and several live dates from The Zac Brown Band.

Now, just because summer “ends” on Sept. 1 doesn’t mean you’re done with live music until next Memorial Day (the official unofficial start of summer).  The fall of 2014 is shaping up to be a good one for live music.  Below, BSTLV looks at several great live music tours that begin this coming autumn.  Sadly, you might have to wear pants and a sweatshirt to some of these shows but that doesn’t mean you won’t have one hell of a good time.

Continuations
A few of the tours we mentioned above stretch into autumn.  Motley Crüe’s last show of the summer is Aug. 31 in Darien Center, New York.  They return to the road Oct. 10 in Oklahoma City and will keep rocking until Nov. 22 when they play the Spokane Arena in Spokane, Washington.  Tom Petty’s fall dates are highlighted by a three-night stand at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre.  That much-anticipated run begins Sept. 30.  Cher resumes the concert trail on Sept. 11 in Albany, New York.  Her massive trek, which began in the spring, finally ends Nov. 3 in Wichita.

Phish
A Phish tour is a usual staple of the summer music scene.  In 2014, they will also leave their mark on autumn.  Phish embarks on a 12-concert trek of the U.S. on Oct. 17 in Eugene, Oregon at the Matthew Knight Arena.  This short jaunt ends Nov. 2 when Las Vegas welcomes Phish to the MGM Grand Garden Arena.  That date is the last of a three-night stand in Sin City (which includes a show on Halloween night). 

All 12 Phish concerts will take place in the states of Washington, Oregon, California, and Nevada—that’s great news for West Coast Phans.  If you get some time off of work, you’ll be able to follow the band throughout their entire autumn tour.

Garth Brooks
Garth Brooks is back.  After retiring from the recording industry in 2001, Garth Brooks returns to touring on Sept. 4 with a concert at the AllState Arena in Rosemont, Illinois (Chicago).  Brooks will perform ten concerts in Chi-Town between Sept. 4 and Sept. 14.  On three of those nights he performs two shows (Sept. 6, Sept. 12, and Sept. 13) one at 6:00pm and another at 10:30pm.

After Chicago, Brooks visits Atlanta.  He performs one show at the Philips Arena on Sept. 19 and two on Sept. 20.  So far, those are the only two stops of what is being billed as “The Garth Brooks World Tour With Trisha Yearwood.”  Since Brooks is the third bestselling artist in the history of the United States you can rest easy that plenty of more dates are coming.  His world tour might not end until next autumn.

The Australian Pink Floyd Show
Yes, the Australian Pink Floyd Show is a tribute act.  Yet, this isn’t the kind of tribute act you’ll find on a sea cruise.  The Australian Pink Floyd Show is arguably the greatest tribute band of all-time.  They not only sound like Floyd but they recreate the experience of seeing everyone’s favorite psychedelic band in concert.  They’re able to do this because they’ve been recreating Pink Floyd for more than 20 years and they work with many of the same professionals the real band did.

Beginning Sept. 19, The Australian Pink Floyd Show kicks off the U.S. leg of their “Set the Controls Tour” with a gig at McCaw Hall in Seattle.  They’ll remain in America through Oct. 26.  That night they’ll rock the Best Buy Theater in New York City.  Highlights of their autumn journey include a Sept. 25 concert in Phoenix, an Oct. 2 show in Chicago, and an Oct. 11 performance in Philadelphia.

Kinky Boots
Kinky Boots?  Is that Scott Weiland’s new band?  No, Kinky Boots is the name of a Tony Award winning musical.  Hey, actors singing their emotions on stage may not be Jimmy Buffett at Red Rocks but it’s a still live music and it still counts.  Besides, the weather is getting colder, so why not retreat to a warm and cozy theatre and enjoy one of the best musicals of the decade.

Kinky Boots is about a shoe factory owner and a drag queen.  The owner, with help from the drag queen, stops making traditional men’s shoes and begins making shoes for drag queens.  The hilarious and heartwarming show contains music and lyrics by pop diva Cyndi Lauper.   Her hard work earned her the Tony Award for Best Score. 

The first U.S. tour of Kinky Boots kicks off Sept. 4 in Las Vegas.  After that, the show visits Tempe, San Diego, Portland, Seattle, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Costa Mesa.  That pretty much takes us into the New Year.  Kinky Boots has dates scheduled deep into 2015.

Enrique Iglesias
In the fall of 2014, Enrique Iglesias is hitting the carretera with Pitbull.  Their tour begins Sept. 12 in Newark, New Jersey and ends Oct. 28 in Orlando, Florida.  The highlight of their musical odyssey has to be their Oct. 26 concert in Miami, Florida.  Miami is the hometown of both artists.  Also on the marquee is Colombian recording artist J Balvin.

You want to keep an eye on this tour because it’s the only one where you can catch the top selling Spanish-language artist of the 1990s.  Iglesias has sold more than 100 million records in a career that began in 1994.  It’s easy to see why he’s called “The King of Latin Pop.”

Five Touring Musicals You Must See

Five Touring Musicals You Must See

WickedJersey BoysThe Lion KingLes MisérablesPhantom of the Opera.  When one of those musicals comes to your town you drop everything and attend.  It doesn’t matter who’s in the cast, who’s the director, or the name of the production company, you have to get tickets.  To put it another way, those five shows, regardless of geography, are can’t-miss musicals.

Of course, they aren’t the only traveling Broadway shows and they aren’t the only musicals worthy of your hard-earned cash and precious time.  Below are five other touring musicals that you’ve absolutely must see when they come to your corner of the world.  The following five shows are entertaining, inventive, and enthralling—a few are even hilarious.  These shows are so good they might even usurp the aforementioned quintet of musicals as your favorite.

The Book of Mormon
The Book of Mormon is in the argument for the greatest musical of the century.  The side-splitting show is the brainchild of Trey Parker and Matt Stone (the guys who created South Park) and Robert Lopez (co-composer of Avenue Q and the music from the movie Frozen).  The original cast included Andrew Rannells (from The New Normal) and Josh Gad (the voice of Olaf in Frozen).

The production, which makes more fun of musicals than of Mormonism, is about a pair of missionaries stationed in Uganda.  These intrepid proselytizers try to teach the Book of Mormon but the villagers are more concerned about AIDS, war, and famine then their spiritual life.  It’s hard to believe but that’s the backdrop to arguably the funniest musical of all-time. 

The Book of Mormon is currently playing on Broadway at the Eugene O’Neil Theatre.  The show is so popular that it has spawned two national touring companies.  One will be in Philadelphia until Sept. 14.  The other will visit Seattle, Spokane, and Minneapolis during that same time frame.  Also, look for TBOM in Miami from Dec. 2 to Dec. 14, Houston from Jan. 20 to Feb. 8, and Chicago from Feb. 24 to May 15.

Kinky Boots
Kinky Boots came out of nowhere to be the smash hit of the 2013 Broadway season.  When it debuted in March of 2013, it was not well liked by critics and it struggled at the box office especially against its rival, Matilda the Musical.  Undeterred, the musical kept plugging away and a month later it had surpassed Matilda.  Not long after that, Kinky Boots was nominated for 13 Tony Awards.  It won six of them, including Best Musical.  The following day, fans snatched up $1.25 million in Kinky Boots tickets.  The show became so popular that a special lottery system was created to prevent fans from camping outside of the Al Hirschfeld Theatre.

Based on the 2005 film of the same name, Kinky Boots is about the relationship between Charlie, a prim and proper shoe factory owner, and Lola, an outrageous and vivacious drag queen.  With Lola’s help, Charlie saves his factory by producing shoes for drag queens and kings.

Kinky Boots’ music and lyrics were written by Cyndi Lauper.  Her first attempt at writing a musical earned her a Tony Award for Best Score.  By winning, Lauper became the first woman to ever snatch up that award all by herself.  The book was written by the incomparable Harvey Fierstein.

Kinky Boots will be in Los Angeles from Nov. 11 to Nov. 30.  In 2015, look for Kinky Boots in Houston from Feb. 10 to Feb. 22, and Philadelphia from April 28 to May 10.

Newsies
If you want a great old fashion musical with memorable melodies and rousing dance numbers, then you need to see Newsies.  Nominated for eight Tony Awards, Disney’s energetic musical landed on Broadway in 2012 at the Nederlander Theatre.  The show is set to close Aug. 24, 2014 after more than 1,000 performances.

The North American tour kicks off Oct. 11 in Schenectady, New York.  The trek is scheduled to last 43 weeks and will visit 25 cities including Philadelphia, Chicago, Atlanta, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles.

Newsies probably sounds familiar.  It’s based on the 1992 film of the same name and it’s about the Newsboys Strike of 1899 that occurred in New York City.  Two historical figures are characters in the musical, Joseph Pulitzer and Theodore Roosevelt.

Alan Menken wrote the music while Jack Feldman penned the lyrics.  The duo won the 2012 Tony Award for Best Original Score.  Newsies is also the second musical on our list with a book written by the great Harvey Fierstein.  One of the best things about Newsies is the dance numbers.  The extravagant routines are choreographed by Christopher Gattelli. 

Once
Once is the third musical on our list based on a movie and the third that won the Tony Award for Best Musical.  The show made its Broadway debut in February of 2012 at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre.   The stage adaptation contains many of the songs from the movie, including “Falling Slowly,” that were written by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová.  The book was the product of Enda Walsh. 

The original Broadway cast starred Cristin Milioti.  You may remember her as “the mother” from the CBS sitcom “How I Met Your Mother.”  She originated the role of “Girl.”  The male lead is called “Guy.”  When actors are done with their scenes they sit on chairs situated on the outskirts of the stage.  They also play instruments and serve as the musical’s orchestra.

The touring production of Once is currently in Los Angeles at the Pantages Theatre.  In the near future you can catch the show in San Diego (Aug. 12 to Aug. 17), Costa Mesa (Aug. 19 to Aug. 31), Baltimore (Sept. 9 to Sept. 14), and Nashville (Sept. 16 to Sept. 21).

Pippin
The U.S. national tour of Pippin begins Sept. 6 in Denver.  After that, the show relocates to San Francisco and the Golden Gate Theatre.  Then, from Oct. 21 to Nov. 9, Pippin will be in Los Angeles.  Other cities on the itinerary include Las Vegas, St. Louis, and Washington D.C.  In 2015, look for Pippin in Atlanta, at the Fox Theatre, from May 5 through May 10.

Pippin is the only revival on our list.  It premiered on the Great White Way back in the early 1970s.   Most people know the work through a watered-down, amateur version.  The Broadway version, if done in the vision of its original director, legend Bob Fosse, is actually one of the deepest, surrealist, and most unsettling shows to ever hit the boards.  The revival, which adheres to Fosse’s concept, is directed by the incredible Diane Paulus who won a Tony Award for her efforts.

Pippin tells the story of its titular character, the son of Charlemagne, and his search for purpose and meaning in life.  Although Pippin and Charlemagne are representatives of their famous namesakes from the Middle Ages, the plot adheres little to historic events.  The musical was originally conceived by its composer Stephen Schwartz as a student project.  If you recall, Schwartz went on to concoct the music and lyrics for Wicked.

As you might imagine from a musical originally directed by Bob Fosse, the dancing in Pippin is done in his iconic style.  The show also features the amazing acrobatics of Les 7 Doigts De La Main.  The touring production will star Sasha Allen as the “Leading Player” and the brilliant John Rubinstein as Charles.  Rubinstein originated the role of Pippin when the production premiered at the Imperial Theater on Oct. 23, 1972.  Also in the original cast were Ben Vereen, Jill Clayburgh, and Irene Ryan.

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Ten Unsung Heroes of Rock And Roll

Ten Unsung Heroes of Rock And Roll

What exactly does it mean to be “unsung?”  Well, it’s easy to know who isn’t unsung.  Paul McCartney, Lagy Gaga, and Justin Timberlake are NOT unsung.  They are sung.  They are way sung.

What about “underrated?”  Is that the same thing as “unsung?”  Well, to be underrated means you’re better at what you do than most people give you credit for.  Again it’s easier to point out who isn’t underrated.  Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, and The Eagles are NOT underrated.

Being “unsung” means you’re good but you don’t get the same attention as others that are equally or less accomplished.  Choosing the “unsung” heroes of rock is very subjective.  If ten pundits each made a list we are likely to get 100 different artists.

You may disagree with one or all of the names on our rundown.  That’s okay.  We’re confident you will learn a thing or two about a bunch of artists you should know a thing or two about.   Who knows, maybe we can get you to sing a song from an artist that’s unsung.

Andy Partridge
Andy Partridge is the founding member, singer, guitarist, and songwriter for the British pop/rock band, XTC.  If you need someone to write a catchy, complex, and superior pop song, Partridge is your man.  He’s right up there with McCartney, John, and Joel although you’ve probably never heard of him.  XTC’s fame was throttled by Partridge’s adult onset stage fright.  You need an upbeat love song?  Andy has “Mayor of Simpleton.” You want an accessible rocker?  Andy has “Respectable Street.”  You crave a melodic apocalyptic dirge?  Andy has “This World Over.”  You desire a more psychedelic offering?  Andy has “The Mole from the Ministry.”  We could go on but you get the picture.

Cheap Trick
Cheap Trick is the quintessential unsung rock band.  While they are known as the “American Beatles” in Japan, in America they’re only known for the single “I Want You To Want Me.”  Cheap Trick is an amazing live band who seems to be perpetually on the road.  They have also influenced a plethora of artists like Kurt Cobain, Pearl Jam, Billy Corgan, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Kings of Leon.  The band probably has more fans in the music industry then out of it.  Cheap Trick might not be in the same stratosphere as Van Halen, Journey, or Green Day but they were one of Joey Ramone’s favorite bands.

Deep Purple
Is Deep Purple really unsung?  Well, they are mentioned in the same breath as Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath as part of the three best British hard rock bands of the 1970s and the first song most guitarists learn is Purple’s “Smoke on the Water.”  However, Deep Purple are not members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Yeah, we can’t believe it either.  The reason why this band wasn’t more “sung” is their lineup fluctuated greatly and they took a lengthy hiatus in the late 1970s and 1980s when they really should have been making music.  Go back and listen to their stuff.  You will be deeply impressed.

“Little” Jack Lawrence
His name may not sound familiar but it’s probably on a bunch of albums in your music library.  “Little” Jack Lawrence is the bassist for The Greenhornes, The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather, and City and Colour.  He also plays banjo for the alternative country outfit Blanche.   If that wasn’t enough, Lawrence does session work on side.  For example, he played bass on the Bond theme “Another Way To Die.”  Lawrence constantly overshadowed by his frontmen—Craig Fox, Jack White, Dallas Green, and Brendan Benson—but the contributions Lawrence makes to a song should earn him more recognition.

John Paul Jones
It’s hard to say John Paul Jones is “unsung.”  After all, he was in Led Zeppelin, one of the greatest bands of all-time.  Of all the members of all the major classic rock bands from the 1960s, Jones is probably the least heralded.  After all, when the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Fame he thanked Plant and Page for finally remembering his phone number.  Known as a bassist, Jones can play a bunch of instruments including the keyboards, violin, cello, sitar, and koto.  He’s also a composer, arranger, and producer.  Jones is now a member of the supergroup, Them Crooked Vultures.

Malcolm Young
Everyone knows Angus Young, the duckwalking lead guitarist of AC/DC who’s always dressed like a schoolboy.  The charismatic axe player gets all the attention, but his brother, the band’s rhythm guitarist, Malcolm Young, handles things away from the spotlight.  He’s the business brains behind the scenes and plays a major role in shaping the band’s sound—he’s even composed some of AC/DC’s most famous riffs.  Malcolm is widely considered one of the greatest rhythm guitarists in rock history.  Unfortunately, Young fell ill in April.  We wish him a speedy recovery.

Martin Barre
It’s hard to get attention when you play in a rock band and your frontman is a lanky flautist.  That’s part of Martin Barre’s problem, the lead guitarist of Jethro Tull.  His amazing guitar skills are the second most interesting thing in the band.  How do you top a guy playing rock flute?  You can’t.  Barre’s style is like Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck playing in a progressive rock band.  Barre never gets mentioned in conversations about rock’s great guitar players but he has received praise from Guitar Player, Guitar World, Mark Knopfler, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, and a great blog called Clickitticket.

Phish
If you’re an average to below average music fan chances are good you have at least one Beatles album, a few U2 songs, “Baby’s Got Back,” and Michael Jackson’s Thriller in your music collection.  You may not be fans of any of those acts but their music is in your collection. 

Chances are also good that your music collection is Phish-less.  You probably can’t name one of their songs or albums.  Despite all that, the Vermont jam band can sellout any venue in the United States and that includes three nights at Madison Square Garden (which they did last December leading up to New Year’s Eve).  If they aren’t rock’s premiere touring act then they’re definitely in the top three. 

You can see for yourself this fall when the band launches a 12-concert tour of the western United States. The tour begins Oct. 17 in Eugene, Oregon and ends Nov. 2 when Las Vegas welcomes Phish to the MGM Grand Garden Arena.  The band will also visit Seattle, Santa Barbara, Inglewood, Chula Vista, and San Francisco.

They’ve only sold eight million albums in their 30-plus year career, they’ve never won a Grammy Award, and no one will ever sing one of their songs in a televised singing competition.  Yet, there isn’t an act that can pack an arena, amphitheater, or performing arts center better than Phish.

Producers
We can make an entire list with nothing but producers.  They are the unsung heroes behind our favorite recorded music.  Some have gone on to become major artists (Kanye West) while others were major artists who became producers (Ric Ocasek).  Some producers have become famous in their own right like George Martin, Phil Spector, Rick Rubin, and Timbaland.  Most producers remain nothing more than a small name on the back of the album.  Popular music’s all-time great producers include Todd Rundgren, Brian Eno, Robert John "Mutt" Lange, Bob Rock, and Glen Ballard.

Roadies
When you go to a Phish concert, or a Dave Matthews Band show, you probably take the stage, lighting, and sound quality for granted.  Don’t worry, we all do it.  Someone had to set up all those speakers and lights.  Someone had to erect the drum kits, tune the guitars, and hook up the microphones.  The hard workers who do all that stuff are part of a unit called the road crew—more commonly known as roadies.  They not only set up all the stuff necessary for a rock concert but they do it quickly and in complete anonymity.  There are no credits at a rock show.

Popular musicians that were once roadies include David Gilmour, Lemmy Kilmister, Krist Novoselic, and Noel Gallagher.

By David B.