Tuesday, August 25, 2009

10,000 Maniacs a Jamestown Band

10,000 Maniacs is a United States-based alternative rock band, formed in 1981


The band was formed as Still Life in 1981 in Jamestown, New York, by Dennis Drew (keyboards), Steve Gustafson (bass), Chet Cardinale (drums), Robert Buck (guitar), and Terry Newhouse (Buck's ex-wife and vocalist). Steve Gustafson invited Natalie Merchant, who was 17 at the time, to do some vocals. John Lombardo who was in a band called The Mills (along with brother guitarist/vocalists Mark Liuzzo and Paul Liuzzo and drummer Mike Young) and used to play occasionally with Still Life, was invited to join permanently on guitar and vocals. Newhouse and Cardinale left the band in July, and Natalie Merchant became the main singer. Various drummers came and left. The band changed its name to Burn Victims and then to 10,000 Maniacs after the low-budget horror movie Two Thousand Maniacs!.

They performed as 10,000 Maniacs for the first time on September 7, 1981 - Labor Day, with a line-up of Natalie Merchant, John Lombardo, Robert Buck, Dennis Drew, Steve Gustafson, and Tim Edborg on drums. Tim Edborg left and Bob "Bob O Matic" Wachter was on drums for most of the 1981 gigs. Tired of playing cover songs - though oddly enough their first notable American hit was found in covering Cat Stevens hit "Peace Train" - the band started to write their own music, usually with Natalie Merchant handling the lyrics and John Lombardo the music. In February-March 1982, with Jim Foti on drums, the band recorded an EP album called Human Conflict Number Five. More gigs followed in 1982. It was during this time that they lived in Atlanta, Georgia for a short while at the encouragement of friends who said that many gigs were available there. The band moved back to Jamestown in November 1982.

At the beginning of 1983, Jerry Augustyniak joined the band as their permanent drummer. The Maniacs met Augustyniak when they played in Buffalo, New York, where he was in a punk band called The Stains. Between March and July, the band recorded songs for a second record, Secrets of the I Ching - their debut full-length album, which was pressed by Mark Records for the band's own label Christian Burial Music. The record was well-received by critics and it caught the attention of John Peel - DJ at Radio BBC Radio 1 in London. One song, "My Mother the War" turned out to be a minor hit in United Kingdom, and it entered the independent singles chart. During 1983 and 1984, touring was a way of life for the band, which included gigs in the UK.

Peter Leak, an Englishman living in New York City, became interested in the band, made contact and was made their manager. With the help of Leak and Elektra Records A & R man Howard Thompson, 10,000 Maniacs signed to Elektra in November 1984. In the spring of 1985, they recorded their second full-length album, The Wishing Chair, in London at Livingston Studios, with Joe Boyd as producer. Though the album was not a blockbuster hit, its status the band's major label debut did win it some notice, and it received significant critical acclaim.

Co-founder John Lombardo left the band during a rehearsal on Monday, July 14, 1986. The remaining five members started the recordings of a new album in Los Angeles, with Peter Asher as the producer. In My Tribe, a more pop-rock oriented record, was released on Tuesday, July 7, 1987, hit the charts where it stayed 77 weeks, peaking at #37 and established a large US audience for the group and was also well received in the UK. The next album, 1989 Blind Man's Zoo hit #13 and went Gold further increased the group's following. In 1990, with the help of John Lombardo, they remastered their first two records Human Conflict Number Five and Secrets of the I Ching and released them as a compilation called Hope Chest: The Fredonia Recordings 1982-1983. John Lombardo and Mary Ramsey, who had formed a folk act called John & Mary, opened gigs for the Maniacs on the Hope Chest Tour in 1990. In 1991, during the recordings of a new album, Natalie Merchant revealed to the other members that she would be leaving for a solo career in two years' time. In 1992, Our Time in Eden was released. On Wednesday, April 21, 1993, 10,000 Maniacs recorded MTV Unplugged and Natalie Merchant announced her leaving the band on MTV on Thursday, August 5, 1993. The MTV Unplugged (10,000 Maniacs album) album was released in October 1993. The band also played President Clinton's Inaugural Ball in January 1993, with Merchant a vociferous supporter of the Democratic Party

I was friends with Terry Newhouse in High School at Chautauqua Central and we had allot of fun in Creative Writing class. I recall those years when I was newly married and the Maniacs played at "Smokes" in Mayville on summer nights.

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