After spending the last few months writing about music and publishing a short story about a rock and roll record collector, I decided to create a compilation on Bandcamp for my old group, the Welterweights. The “album” is available for free.
I wrote all these songs (sang ’em too) and collaborated with a great bunch of friends. I’ll post the history and some thoughts below, but here are the front and back covers (featuring art I drew on bar napkins while waiting to go onstage or get paid over the years):
The Welterweights played from 1998 (our first gig was on New Year’s Eve) until around 2003, performing along the I-70 Corridor between Lawrence, KS and St. Louis, MO. We had the usual ups-and-downs, including
- having three drummers in as many years (all amicable partings as guys left for better out-of-town jobs)
- slugging it out in regional clubs trying to get a good-paying, well-attended shows
- doing several recording sessions paid for out of our own pockets with a legendary roots-rock producer held in reverential awe by the singer/songwriter (me)
- garnering local radio airplay and in-store shows at record shops
- self-releasing a CD that came out in late August 2001, just weeks before a horrific national event made no one anywhere care about pop music for a while (reading Sarah Pinsker’s A Song for a New Day has really brought these memories flooding back)
- getting nominated for a local music award and listed in a “Year’s Top 10” list in the local paper
- gradually fizzling out as age/careers/other interests took precedence
I’m proud of some of the songs and accomplishments, not so proud of others. Some sound better now than they did then. Mostly, I just remember working really hard to write good songs.
The dated references are food for thought. “Little Red Light” only works if you’ve seen an answering machine attached to land-line phone. And, could any songwriter, then or now, write about answering machines without accusation of aping the Replacements? (Though to be fair, we were also aping their sound, performance style, and probably blood-alcohol content then too). “Just Plain Fall” (a favorite of several folks close to the band) has a chorus with the term “Indian Summer” in it, which may not bother anyone but me. It seemed like a pretty benign phrase but has a darker history I didn’t know when I wrote it circa 1997. “St. Martin’s Summer” means the same thing (same # of syllables and everything), so it’s easy to fix if I ever sing it again, but the recorded version is what it is. I’m all for learning better/kinder ways to say things. All this is just proof that a lot of time has passed. These songs already belong to an earlier age.
The combo of Covid-19’s forced isolation, Pinsker’s novel, and “The Record Collector”‘s publication finally got me to document that band in an accessible way.