Friday, April 19, 2013

Denny McClain - I Told You I wasn't Perfect

I Told You I Wasn’t Perfect


with Eli Zaret


If you look into the abyss

The abyss will look into you

-Frederich Nietzsche

I was 16 years old when Denny McLain took the country by storm by winning 31 games. He also won the MVP and Cy Young Award – a perfect trifecta. In a peculiar twist of fate, McLain released two albums for Capitol Records and made extra money performing the Hammond organ in a three day whirlwind romance with the Riviera Hotel. It seemed like an odd coupling at the time but according to McLain this was only the beginning of a long descent into a self-made hell.

McLain describes life in his family of origin of violence and invalidation. His father would beat him; his mother rarely stepped in. The ghosts in the nursery exerted an undue influence on McLain and set the seeds for his later anti-social behavior. His father was a severe alcoholic who ruled by the strap and threats of the omnipresent leather strap. It was a brutal existence that few children could live through unscathed. As a traumatized kid, McLain was never able to clear out the trauma and accurately assess safety and risk. This would lead to his ultimate downfall – poor decisions resulting in years of imprisonment, divorce and the ongoing disdain of his former colleagues on the Detroit Tigers.

McClain was a natural athlete who was initially courted Notre Dame but when the Major League scouts  from the Yankees, White Sox to the Phillies offered an impressive amount of money. It was enough to turn the head of a working class lad. In 1962 McLain accepted a 17, 000 bonus from the White Sox. He was on his way. At this point in his career McLain could only throw a fastball (and it would forever be his “go to” pitch. McLain threw a no hitter in his rookie debut. It was a sign of things to come. He was “The Natural.”

I found the early chapters of the book to be exhilarating. McLain learned to throw curves, sliders and change ups from the legendary Johnny Sain. He could throw over 90 miles per hour and could over power even the best hitters. He had the killer instinct. But in 1965, McLain hurt his arm and was sent to Henry Ford Hospital to start a series of treatments. This is when cortisone came in his life. It would salvage his career in the moment but the injury would ultimately lead to a shortened career (10 years). McLain mentions his feud with Mickey Lolich – no loved lost on either side of that coin. It was interesting to me that McLain was critical of Al Kaline and intimated that he was not well liked by his teammates; According to McLain the guys on the team resented Kaline for turning down a $100,000 salary. The media played him up to be a hero (I did too) but the players knew it cost them thousands of dollars as the financial threshold was kept artificially low. The door for increasing the players’ salaries was slammed shut – for the time being. A few years later collective bargaining would provide professional baseball players a legal right to negotiate for salary increases, free agency would follow establishing multi-million dollar athletes and an ongoing debate about the astronomical salaries enjoyed by modern athletes in all major sport. They are the modern descendants of ancient Rome  -  gladiators  giving the masses bread and circuses.

There are 398 pages in 37 chapters and at times McLain’s writing is a bit tedious. I was less involved in his dramatic decline and connection to organized crime. I wondered why he could be so callous and hurt so many people especially his family. His long suffering wife divorced McLain while he was in prison only to re-marry following his six years of confinement.  

McLain devoted the first chapter to the death of Kristin, his oldest daughter. It was a tragic accident caused by a drunk driver on M-59. There was a fire and she was trapped inside her car. It became a sentinel event in Denny McLain’s downward spiral into mob affiliations, prison terms and the controversial purchase of Peet Packing in Chapter 27. McLain insists to this day that he had no knowledge of his partner’s raid on the pension fund of the workers who toiled for Peet Packing. He may have been disingenuous about his role in accepting a 2.5 million bank loan during his brief tenure at Peet - only to later discover that it was the workers’ pension money. He savaged the retirement income of the long suffering Peet workers. To this day he’s universally despised in Chesaning Michigan

In the nineties (pre-Peet expose) McLain was the featured speaker at the AHHS Letterman’s banquet. I was excited to see him and he did not fail to impress. He was articulate and funny in a self-deprecating way. He seemed to give an honest account of his life including his connection to organized crime. He was entertaining and accepted questions from the audience. I left feeling as if I knew him a little bit better. The person behind the myth – but then again I’m a sucker for a good story. McLain is out of prison and yet, to this day, he’s still getting into trouble. On September 22nd, 2011 McLain was arrested in Port Huron after officials discovered an outstanding warrant against him from St. Charles Parish, Louisiana. He now weighs over 300lbs and is barely recognizable as the young steed who took the baseball world by storm in 1968. He’s paid a heavy price in a type of self-immolation that haunts his every step. Today he can only make a living playing Denny McLain, signing baseballs, rookie cards and telling stories.



I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in sixties baseball and character studies. There’s a little bit of Denny McLain in all of us. It can be purchased at Barnes & Noble or

Spork is Back



                                 Creates an Incredible New CD

                                         A Sweet Alchemy


 Silverspork disbanded in October 2010 following the departure of their mercurial vocalist/lyricist Brian. They had just released their eponymous titled CD that many, including this writer, considered to be a hard rock masterpiece. The band was poised for bigger things, a regional tour and radio support. This was their moment of truth, the opportunity to break out regionally with potential to reach the national market.

Within a few weeks after the release of the album, the band was left without their vocalist and spiritual muse and drifted like a cork in the ocean with no clear direction home. The band retreated into an extended hiatus that lasted for about two years. Review caught up with Carl Abila, the conscious of Silverspork – a minstrel on a mission to keep his music alive. He is last original member of Silverspork and the keeper of the flame.



Carl, It’s been a long hard road for you to resurrect your band. What have you been doing since the breakup?


We’ve played a handful of shows featuring singers like Mike Nowak, Melissa May of the Thunder Chickens and T Roll Nelson from All For the Cause. They were in shows with us, just to keep us playin’. I guess we were doing that basically because we didn’t want people to think we were done playing. We just wanted to stay current and let people know were still alive and well.


You kept Silverspork alive, and you continued to use that name for a while with these other singers. Am I correct in understanding each of these vocalist are great singers but it didn’t quite work out for various reasons.


It wasn’t necessarily that it didn’t work out. Mainly those three singers, they had all their own projects going on as well. It was just that everybody was working and performing in other bands and it was really hard for things to work out. It’s hard enough trying to play in one band let alone two or three.  By the end of the process we got Troll from All For the Cause and we began to do work on the Spork project. We almost said good-by to the whole thing after Troll was gone. We were really just kind of lost at that point. We were starting to lose hope.

Our last show was the Crispy Music Fest at White’s Bar in August 2012. Like I said, at that point I wasn’t even sure what I was going to do. The guys really didn’t know. I almost wanted to start over and go a different direction but we waited it out a little bit longer and this is what happened.


Who are the musicians in the band now?


It’s Mario Salcedo (drums), Jay Burk(bass guitar), Carlo Abila (lead guitar), and Patrick Brennan (singer keys/synth). I’m the only original member really left.  Patrick is our vocalist now. He was in a couple of bands including 2nd System.


 When did you guys get together?


About a month ago. Pat messaged me on line and actually, you know, he messaged me that he was on his way back up to Saginaw. I thought it was going to be a couple months but he said, “I’ll be there in a few days,” so, you know, we got together. It was a different feeling, that’s for sure. We even got this good feeling – we haven’t had a good vibe in a long time. He fit right in. There was a good chemistry there, a different chemistry, I should say. The other singers we had chemistry with too, just on a different level.


Where did the rehearsals take place?


We moved around quite a bit. We were practicing at my basement for a little bit, we were practicing at the Vault when it was there. Now we practice at Jay’s, our bass player’s house.


Does Brennan also play an instrument?


Pat brought keyboards and synthesizers into the mix of instruments on top of him doing vocals. As time goes on we might experiment more with other instruments, so that should make our first couple of shows pretty interesting.


So with these changes, does this mean that Spork has quite a different sound now than the Silverspork that we knew and loved?


I wouldn’t say it’s changed. I would say more evolved, I guess that’s a better way to put it. You know, we still have high energy shows. We just have a couple of different spices we’re going to put on, mix it up a little bit.


Is it going to be heavy music – will expand the sound?


Yeah, we’re going to mix everything. There’s going to be a lot of mixing. We’re still going to be melodic, we’re still going to be light, and we’re still going to be everywhere. It reflects what Pat brings to the table for us. You know, he’s got so many ideas as far as instrumentals and with the stuff he’s written, we’re combining them with what we’ve wrote, so we’re kind of mixing everything up into one ball.


Who are the principal songwriters?


It’s all of us. For some reason, that’s how it’s always happened. Since we’ve started, we’ve all wrote together. It’s never been a one-sided deal or anything like that. It’s just happened naturally somehow, and it works better that way for everybody. There’s no fighting and arguing and none of that stuff. We’ve never had a problem with that.


How many new Spork songs have you written?


Well, we already have a full set, so we’re up to nine complete songs. We’re still going to play some support tunes and we’ve got about four originals that we’re planning to have done by our April 6th show. We were thinking about doing a song by the Police. We were thinking of doing Synchronicity. That was back in the 80’s. We are putting our own little twist on it. We might do a song by the Subhumans and a Roy Orbison song. I really like when bands put their own twist on other songs like that. I think it’s pretty cool



Do you ever talk with Brian? Have you ever talked with him lately?


I do talk with him occasionally. Not so much after things went down the way they did, but, you know, some time has passed where I’m civil now and let by-gones be by-gones, I guess. I have talked to him. He’s doing well. I do wish him well. I wish whatever he does…


When I reviewed your CD and you’re going on tour, and it sounded like you were on the verge of breaking big.


Yeah. Before Brian left, we were actually very, very close .We had everything set up exactly the way we had planned it. We worked 12 long years to get to that point, and we all pretty much worked our tail off for that, so yeah, we were pretty close. We had some cool tours coming up with some big bands, and the album was released. And you know we just couldn’t do it. When Brian quit, we didn’t have no choice any more. We couldn’t play. We couldn’t promote the album.



You had things lined up, it sounded like. Those people, like managers, producers, or people that were kind of offering you things, have you talked to them again to let them know that you’re back?


I’ve already mentioned it to a couple of agents that I work with. They’re just waiting on me, for us to get our act together and we’re going to see what we can do. We are not necessarily going to start all over, but we’re kind of starting all over and they’re going to see what we can do now. I still have all the contacts. I plan on playing around the local area, as usual, and try to get back out on the road. I try never to burn any bridges with anybody so, for that reason only, because you never know, so hopefully we’re back on track.


Do you have a studio lined up for your new music?


We will probably end up going back to the studio that we used before - Random Awesome Recording Studio in Bay City, Michigan. Josh does a really good job and he’s an incredible guy to work with.




On your last CD you wrote a song about Pee Wee Herman


Yeah, I wrote that song and that was the one that was kind of raising eyebrows a little bit, even from our independent label, Revolution Music. They wouldn’t let me sell it online, but I did it anyway. I mean not to sound like a rebel or anything, but you know, I don’t know how a lot of labels are when it comes to that kind of stuff. I love Revolution Music. I just wish they would have let me have a little more freedom with it, but at the same time I understand where they were coming from. They met me 50/50 on it, so I put it on the album, and they just said, “Well, as long as you don’t sell it online. Just sell it at a live show.”  I’m like, “Okay, I’ll do that. That’s fine.” So after Brian quit, I didn’t think it really mattered any more so I put it online anyway.


(Laughter) What a rebel.


Yeah, yeah. It couldn’t get any worse at that point, so why not?


 What do you have in mind for Spork?


 I never looked to get rich or anything like that. You know, I just wanted to make a living at it, and that’s still what I want to do now.  Having Patrick in the band has given us another spark that we haven’t had in a long time to do that…like there’s a renewed sense of energy and purpose.




Now as you recreate your sound, are there any influences that has inspired you or got you thinking about a different form or type of music?


Not so much in the last few years. I don’t have anything’ against the music out right now. It’s not my cup of tea. We’ve always been on the same wavelength as far as our influences go. I think that that’s why we’ve been without a singer so long. It’s so hard to find musicians that are all on the same page. I’ve actually gotten into more industrial stuff over the last couple of years. I used to like industrial a lot, but I’ve kind of grown a bigger appreciation for it. I know Patrick has a lot of Nine Inch Nails influence. I still draw a lot of my influence from the ‘50s and ‘60s style of music. I still want to try and do something to that effect, to mix it up a little bit.


Was there any particular achievement or moment that meant so much to you as a musician - one of those magical moments that you always remember?


There were a couple of times - it’s a toss-up. One was in 2007 when we won a contest to open for Godsmack at the Wendler Arena in Saginaw. That was a huge thing for us! There were thousands of bands all over the country in our bracket. It was really cool how they had it set up. We also played at the State Theatre in Detroit and the place was just packed full of people. Winning that competition was like… I can’t explain it. That’s when we ended up playing at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.


Any last comments


Yeah, we’re not done yet. We’ve got a lot of music left to offer and hopefully a lot of the people who have supported us will continue to support us and our families too. I mean our families have been there through thick and thin. Our band is our family, our immediate family. We’ve been through it all. We’ve moved, we’ve been through deaths, we’ve been through babies, families, you name it, and we still stuck together. That’s got to say something for our integrity.


It sure does.

Tim Avram Stretches Out and Finds His Voice


Tim Avram’s Elastic Fantastic, Auto-erotic, Folk-Roots & Roll Vision

Modern Spirituals with One Foot in Hell

Tim Avram is a tattooed and spanked “take me home and make me like it” punk rocker disguised as an under the radar country roots musician, a wolf dressed in sheep’s clothing. For the last nine years, Avram has fronted various incarnations of the last great punk band - The Mongrels. It may be surprising to some but to me it makes perfect sense that Avram grew up learning the mandolin from Zydeco Ziggie while grandma played the banjo as she spit chew tobacco and drooled a gooey stream of unseemly profanity. Yep country punk was born. 

 Avram has modestly big plans that zoom in close yet back up to a safe wide angle distance. Hell he just wants to get his damn CD released. It’s not too much to ask if you have nothing else to do. He’s been working on it for a few months with the help of James Ross from JAR Music and his posse of Sean Drysdale , Charlie Klein  and Don Zuzula.  Avram plays the guitars, banjo, mandolin, lap steel, and drums and sings like Tom Waits channeling Johnny Cash .

For the newest CD Avram wrote several originals but his first release was a remarkable remake of Solitary Man. It gives the song a gravitas that Neil Diamond never imagined when speed dialed this formulaic Brill Building pop song. Avram gave it a realism that colors the heartache more accurately in plain sepia tones. One of the best overhauled pop songs I’ve ever heard

This is new millennium soul music that is in stark contrast to the business controlled Living Dead music business that is connected to life supports by flash drives that control and disseminate bread and circuses to a public quaking with eternal ennui while being spoon fed pharmaceutical solutions to problems that don’t exist… or not.

Pick it up and Pass it on

The Tim Avram Interview follows:

What led you to an interest in music?

Oh, that’s a hard question. I think it was my dad.. He had a collection of all these great records, and they were more fun to play with and I liked to put them on the record player and just listen and put other records on the turntable just to change something. I liked music.

Do you recall the type of music your dad was playing?

Oh, lots of Credence and Pink Floyd and Cat Stevens and Zeppelin.  

When did you first realize you had a facility for playing music, for singing and playing?

You know, it must have been when I was in elementary school I tried playing all kinds of things when I was six years old until I was in middle school. I tried piano, and I tried violin, and I took all these different lessons and you know, just because I thought it was cool. I remember taking lessons at Whitehead Music way back.

What was the first instrument that you used, that you really had a facility for?

I think it was probably the guitar.  I got a Harmony guitar for Christmas. By the time I was 15 or 16 I  was playing the mandolin. Most of the instruments I played when I was a teenager were because we needed it for the band, and nobody else played it, so I learned them. In my first band, we had four guitar players and a drummer. We figured we needed a bass so I just stopped playing guitar for a few years and just played bass.

What was the name of the band?

Bluefield Daisies. The band consisted of Tom Rafferty, Ray Torres, Hymie Torres,Todd Patrick and me.  It was a pretty good band. We played school dances and we played at coffee shops and one bar in Midland.  It was at the Midland Lounge and Lanes. Essentially it was a bar in a bowling alley. We were 15, so we had to play and leave right away. The patrons  thought it was great. They thought we were the next Led Zeppelin when we were kids. (Laughter). Tom and Ray sang most of the stuff. I wasn’t singing at that point

So, were you staring to play a lot. Were people starting to know and support the band?


Yeah, yeah. We played this open mike night at this coffee shop like every week or whatever. They started paying us to be at the open mike and play because people would come out. We didn’t even have to book shows. We just knew we would show up there.We did at the Coffee Factory a lot. It was right on the corner by White’s. The Bluefield Daisies also played at Jamestown a few times, it felt like it was really taking off



Well, what happened next?


You’re a kid and you have stars in your eyes. Actually I stopped playing in the band, and they went on to play whatever shows they were doing. I was still close with all the guys in the band, so we all started listening to bluegrass a lot and we created a bluegrass band called the Haly Quartet.  We thought it was great because there were five of us, and we called it a quartet. We thought it was hilarious.


What was the lineup?


Tom Rafferty and Ray Torres both played guitars, Nick Young played bass, Brian Hartland played banjo, and I was on mandolin. I took lessons from Zydeco Ziggy for about a year and then jumped in this band.


What was your first real successful band?


The Mongrels. It had to be.  We formed that band in 2002 with me, Chris Phillips, Matt Nyquist, and Patrick Shell played drums. We got Patrick out of necessity because we didn’t have a drummer, but we had shows booked. On his first show - and he was in the band for two years - every show we played  he said, “This is going to be my last show, guys.” He hung on for two years, and then that’s when Shane Swank joined the band around 2004..


Who were some of the members that flew through your band?


Oh, Josh Jeckel was in the band and Dan Castrava was in the band. Jeckel played guitar and then he played bass for a little while. Castrava played second guitar and then Scott Saxton played a little bit with us. He played lead guitar for a couple of shows, I think. Later he was in Astra and the Flash Mob. And then we had Marx on bass. Marx split and now Don Zuzula (of the Tosspints) is playing bass. We’re still around once every six months.


How many Mongrels CDs did you release?


Oh gosh. I think, I honestly think there were just like two just self-titled ones and then there was one that Scott and I  had together that was Old Ship, New Ship, Live Ship.


What were your favorite Mongrel songs?


I think, if any of them, it would…a lot of the old stuff I liked. I liked Mafia at least. When the band started, I didn’t know how to write a song, so I just kind of made words that rhymed. I don’t actually have favorites, but some of them mean things to me. You know, One Last Day, was kind of a sad suicide song. A lot of friends that year decided they couldn’t handle it anymore, so then I wrote a song about that. The songs, none of them are favorites, but some of them are important to me. One of them was Try Everything.  I liked that one.


My memory of the Mongrels is that you were gigging a lot. You were huge at Wise Guy, Pete Crawford’s Bar. Then you came into White’s Bar and kicked it in high gear. You were really popular. So you gigged a lot. Where did you perform? I mean, what other states did you perform in?


Oh, we played in Chicago, we did a lot in Detroit, and Kalamazoo. We did some Lansing. We did Cleveland, and other parts of Ohio, New York. I think those were the big places.


You were really getting out there. Why do you think you didn’t have more success, because I thought you were going in that direction. You had some managers, as I recall, or people that thought they might be. …There was a dude that wanted to be your manager. I forget his name and ended up not doing a whole lot. Remember that?


Yeah, I can’t remember his name. He was the tour manager for, oh what was the name of that group? He was kind of a washed-up tour manager. You know, he wanted me to say I was 19 years old and not drink. He wasn’t doing anything right. I think things like that kind of took a lot of thunder out of our drive. You get so many people saying, “This is what you have to do.”  It’s like after a while you don’t believe it, and you’re just like, “Screw it.” We had a booking agent who got us into some of our big out-of-state shows. I was never the business man. Shane knew all that stuff.


Do you recall a particular performance that you thought was just great, that was notable, that you kicked ass, and all cylinders were firing?


You know, I think one show. We were tired for this show. We’d just gotten back from New York, and we had done a couple of shows in Michigan, and we went down to Chicago. We were all exhausted, but we chilled this club in Chicago. It was like 2005 or something like that, but that was one of my favorite shows. I think we just thought of something. It was just one of those doldrum days and as soon as we plugged in, we were all just high.



What was it like to play CBGBs?


Well, that was great. That was great. Other than that, that week it was really boring. You know, as exciting and hustle-and bustle New York is, when you’re waiting to play at a club you’ve been wanting to play at since you knew who the Sex Pistols were, nothing’s magic until you do that. That was an act. That was great. There were opening acts. I think one of them was Call Of The Road and the Or Us. We were the last band on that Saturday night. The band that played right before us, as soon as they finished playing, an A&R guy came and signed ‘em and left and didn’t listen to us.



How was the crowd for you at CBGB’s?


It’s not as, you know it’s not as glamorous and outstanding as you might think. We weren’t a big signed national act. It was just like a random show and a random club. There’s regulars that hang out there.


 You and Shane talked about trading off shows with other bands


Yeah, we did that a lot with the Whiskey Diaries in Detroit. We’d go down there, and they’d come up here. We did that with Johnny Mohawk and the Assassins. We would swap shows in Ohio with them, and they’d come up here.  We did that a lot, I mean like every weekend, one or the other. We’d be in Ohio or we’d be in Detroit or they’d be up here. That was those two bands. We did a lot more than once or twice.


I thought that you were connected to Cash O’Riley and the DownRight Daddies.


We did a lot of shows with Cash O’ Riley. Festivals around here like  the Back-to-Schoo Punk Fest and the Cash O’Riley’s Secret Stash Fest, things like that. We didn’t fit well on the venue, but we enjoyed each other’s music, so we just kind of … Who cares if we fit? I like listening to you, and you like listening to me.


You started a solo career a few years back…


I feel that when the atmosphere is just right, you know, yeah you start, you become a singing comedian sometimes or even more than that. It’s like when you start getting comfortable and it starts being hanging out in the living room with your friends, but they’re all strangers, you know.


Tell me about  Eric Summer. You know, he’s really cool, a great singer, picker and all that. How did you connect with him?


I’d been doing Tuesday nights, the acoustic shows, for six years by the time I met Eric. Somebody had said, “There’s somebody else on the marquee. You should go look into it.” So I went, and I met this weirdo, this old guy, you know, in his 50s. I was like, “Oh, okay,” you know. This was in the afternoon. I said, “Well, I’ll be back in a few hours and we’ll play a show. No big deal.” I get back to the bar, and there’s 10 amps and 7 guitars on stage for this one guy. I’m like, “What the hell’s this guy going to do?” I saw him, and I was blown away. I still play that guitar. That night I was like, “You’ve got to sign my guitar.” I still play that. We’ve been, you know, that was years ago. We’ve been friends since and swapped shows.

Recently he  got us pretty much a headlining show at the Johnson City Folk Festival in Tennessee.

We went down there, and that’s a story in itself with how the band became a band, you know with that Johnson City show. He and I would swap gigs,  he’d play in Saginaw, and I’d go down to Kalamazoo and stuff like that.  I didn’t have a group until I found out about Johnson City. He said, “You’ve got to come down. You’ve got to play this folk festival.” I said, “I should put a band together for it.” He said, “That’s cool.” That’s when I got a hold of Charlie Klein and Sean Drysdale and said, “Do you guys want to be a band and play this show? “ They said, “Sure,” so we practiced for months, went down to Tennessee and got an awesome response from everybody, came back, and we’ve been a band two years now. We were supposed to be for just one week. We became the Tim Avram Band.

We’ve been recording. We’ve, you know, kind of as a band. You know we play as a band, but in the studio we just, we’re our own little entities. We just play our thing. Like me and Sean have put together the first Tim Avram CD. That went pretty well. Right now Charlie Klein and I are working on the second CD which has a lot of our new songs…that’s why we started the second one and then that’s when the record label JAR Music came along and has been representing me since. James Ross is the CEO he has a couple guys, hip hop guys out of New York on this label, and then he’s got one of the guys from PM Dawn which was  pretty big name in the ‘90s for R&B, hip hop. He said, “Look, I’ve got this label. I want you to be on it, you know, because you’re good.” I said, “All right, let’s do it.”  Now next month I’m touring out towards that way and I’ll  be doing a bunch of New York shows.


Solo or with your band?


I’m still a solo show. I’m going to promote this new CD we have and a lot of it, it’s not going to be totally done by the time I go out there. I hope it will be done, but it probably won’t. A lot of the songs will be on iTunes and on the label’s website and stuff like that. They’re out there right now. Yeah, everything that we record, I pass it on and it goes right on iTunes, and you can download and we can wait until the new CD comes out. We just got permission from Neil Diamond and Sony music to record Solitary Man. 


I was going to mention that. I loved your rendition of it. It gives the song a deeper sense of something, like loss. You’re devastated, but you’re also pissed. It’s a different feel that Neil Diamond’s rendition of it. What do you think?


Yeah, I think Neil Diamond’s rendition kind of has a silver lining in that dark cloud of a song, and I think it’s just the way we recorded it and then the way that I sang it, it turned out to be hopeless. (Laughter)


Your voice has changed through the years. You had this really nuance, kind of raspy voice, you know deeper, and I think it’s just a great voice. So your voice has changed. Is that because of age, cigarettes, or are you just trying a different style out?


I think all of those things really. I can’t sing in the voice I could sing in years ago. I crack now, and I hold notes differently, and it has been working because it wasn’t working. When you’re singing out of key and so on, trying to, you know…I smoked a lot of cigarettes, and I drank a lot, and I got older.


 You have this facility to mix humor and pathos. You know, it’s like a modern reality. It’s dark, but there’s hope there too. Is that kind of the aim of your new music?


Yeah, yeah. I think that happens. You have ups and downs. I do a lot of stuff in minor chords so a lot of it’s down, but there are ups involved. Love songs, things like that.

Love songs, yeah. You know I started focusing on writing songs instead of music, and I look for one clever line and I put it in there, and then I base a song around it. Just whatever. Depending on what line that was, it’s either a sweet love song or a song about robbing banks or, you know, hurting somebody. Well, I think I just wanted to stop making rhymes and start telling stories.

I like to be able to listen to the whole song and not just, “Oh, listen to this part.” It’s, you know, you really have to listen to the words, like “What’s going to happen next?” I like, even if they stop rhyming and it just turns into whatever. I want a story with some music behind it.


What’s next for you?


Next? Finish this CD and we’re going, well I am, I’m going to promote the upcoming album at the end of April on the east coast. Then sit back for a little bit and go at it again.


He and I are doing another show together in Rochester, New York on April 26. It’s going to be wild. It’s kind of a hip hop club. I’m going to do my show, and he’s going to do his show.  Hopefully we can get together and do a couple of tunes together


Any advice you can give to budding musicians, some young man or woman that aspires to get involved and they’d ask you about it? What would you say to them?


I would say, “Call me because I’m always looking for people to play with.” (Laughter)


What do you think of open mic nights?


I am intrigued by open mic. I’m glad you brought that up. It seems to me that there are times when there is a lot of interest in younger and even older people coming in and playing and singing their songs and all that, but it’s variable. I think like any business, the weather has something to do with it. For two weeks I might have one night a 30-minute set to play and the next night I’ll have a 45-minute set to play because there are musicians there, and they’re taking up the rest of the night, and then the next week I could play for four hours straight. It’s rolling dice every week.


 Any last comments?


Not really. I guess not other than thanks to you for 100 years of support and doing things like this for me. Yeah, it’s fun and sober. It’s better. You know as much as I thought I was creative and being creative and like that, it was nowhere near what it is now. You know, with a clear head you can do way more physically and mentally.

A Grand Concert

Brody & The Busch Rd Trio

Invades Fischer Hall

Mach Schau


Eric ‘Brody’ Braeutigan vocals, rhythm guitar

Derek Burk, lead guitar

Josh Rodhammer, bass guitar

Cody Little, drums

Brody is the alter ego of Eric Braeutigan, the erstwhile leader of the band. Though the Busch Rd Trio are relative newcomers to the mid-Michigan scene, they gained a sizeable following in a very short time. The band formed in the summer of 2009 and released We Are Just Visiting in 2012. It was their first full length LP and it signaled a remarkable period of growth in musicianship and overall craft. It was an inspired and triumphant body of music that marked their ascendance as one of the best bands in Great Lakes Bay Region. As their reputation grew, the band continued to hone their skills and experiment with sound to create new musical territories. Not content to rest on their laurels, the band upgraded their equipment, buying different amps, effects pedals and Bare Knuckle Pickups. Brody purchased a Fender American Telecaster. They are experimenting with bass tones, acoustic and electric and using flatwound bass strings to get better tones. The drums anchor the rhythm section with a tight and consistent groove. Cody is the band’s secret weapon. As the music evolved, their confidence grew and they began to fashion more complicated music that took them outside their comfort zone to a whole new vista of experimentation.

The band’s influences sneak into their compositions from crazy shit Radiohead musings to Dylan word play and Nirvana nineties alternative rock. They listen to great new artists like the Black Keys and Gary Clark Jr. as well as the ancient blues and soul of Wilson Pickett and Ray Charles. It’s an impressive melting pot of influences, an intoxicating brew of rhythm, sound and fury.

The band continues to record new songs with Andy Reed at Reed Recording Company. Braeutigan says that sessions are different this time around as they experiment in the studio instead of bringing in complete road tested songs. It allows creativity to exert itself in the studio and allow songs to emerge like taking a hammer to the anvil and fashioning something entirely different from the original spark of an idea. There are several songs in the can at various stages of completion and I was able to get my trembling mitts on several of the songs. It was like the first time I bought a Beatles bootleg and waited with bated breath until I heard those excavated treasures buried within the grooves. The songs are as diverse as they are familiar. The band has come up with a formula ripped it apart and reconfigured it to allow a whole new sound to emerge. Listen to the Band…

Coming To Fruition has a Nirvana-like vibe, quiet and loud with synth splashes, tempo changes and a great backbeat. Braeutigan sounds like a cross between Caleb Followill singing Use Somebody and Rob Thomas doing Unwell. Great stuff! God’s Country Revisited is a stream of consciousness expose of the American zeitgeist. It’s a song from the road, a highway blues that is accompanied with some fierce acoustic patterns and pounding drums with some cool fat tones from Burks’ lead guitar. Needs is a funky little number about carnal desires, hot loins and sweaty athleticism between lovers that own the night.  The guitar playing is sweet and tight. Burk is capable of great harmonics and Braeutigan is squeezing the lemon with all he’s got. Sing For My Supper is a slowed down minor chord exploration of the chasm between craft and popular acclaim. The singer may have to sing with a smile in his voice even if he’s doing Midnight Hour for the umpteenth time.


The show at the historic Fischer Theatre marks the occasion of Eric Braeutigan’s 30th birthday. It is the perfect venue for these Frankenmuth born and bred musicians.  Theodore Fischer built Fischer Hall in 1894 with a vision of a wholesome place where “guests and entertainers could perform in Frankenmuth and where residents of the city could meet.” Fischer was a Freemason of Lodge#258 and painted a slogan in the arch over the Fischer Hall stage, It read “Einegkeit macht Stark” (togetherness makes strength). The hall was immediately popular and became the place to go for weddings, meetings, funerals and graduation parties. It became the meeting place for the Gray Fox Club, a popular men’s club that sponsored dances, raffles, kinos, raffles and parties from 1889 until 1956. In 1950 the Zehnder family purchased the Fischer Hotel and Hall. The hall was reduced to a homely warehouse for the Bavarian Inn Restaurant. But in 1973, the Bavarian Inn began renovating the theatre and opened a summer theater show called the Gaslight Revue. It was wildly popular. In October 1986 the Frankenmuth Historical association moved Fischer Hall from its location behind the Bavarian Inn to its present location on Main Street. In June 1987 the renovations were completed and the Gaslight Revue entertained visitors from all over America during the summer months. The Fischer Hall has returned to its historical importance as a gathering place for Frankenmuth residents, thousands of satisfied tourists as well as members of the surrounding communities in the Great Lakes Bay Region of Michigan. It is a lustrous reminder of a bygone era that was bawdy and boisterous as well as respectful and good natured.

 Brody & the Busch Rd Trio is part of the young musical tribes that are helping to resurrect interest in original music and to restore the Fischer Hall to its former glory as the #1 place in mid-Michigan where entertainers welcome the public and celebrate life through music, poetry and dance.

The show is on Friday April 5th @ Fischer Hall at 613 S. Main Street in Frankenmuth. Doors open at 7pm. Tickets are $20. The ticket price includes all you can drink, a menu of a variety of beer from Sullivan’s Black Forest. The lineup also includes Hell Toupee and American Underdog featuring Andy Reed.

“Drink to me, drink to my health, you know I can’t drink anymore”

- Pablo Picasso