I was standing onstage at a Chicago bar called Roby's in front of about 20 semi-interested people. My wife and I had driven to the big city largely to see the Blue Moon Boys play in a town besides Fort Wayne. We arrived at the bar early enough to surprise the band and have dinner with them at a little dive down the street. It was a little odd to take the Blue Moon Boys out of their usual hometown element and see them in the big picture of a night on the town in Chicago, but they certainly fit in. In fact, by the end of the night it didn't seem so unusual at all; I was just thinking how lucky Chicago was to have them.
Kenny Taylor, the band's unreal guitar player, asked me to introduce the Blue Moon Boys, but I certainly didn't know what to say. Even though only a few people were there (the Boys have since had a very successful run of shows at a different Chi-town venue), my heart was pounding as I shakily breathed into the microphone. "Ladies and Gentlemen - from Fort Wayne, Indiana - my favorite band - the Blue Moon Boys!!!" The band then rumbled into "Howl At The Moon," one of their war-horses, as I staggered to my seat, analyzing my spontaneous introduction.
Were the Boys really one of my favorite bands? Do they really deserve all my flowery praise and kind words? I mean, c'mon - they are just playing simple rockabilly, right? As I sat there pondering these monumental questions, the Boys ripped through a set similar to the dozens I had already seen. The ever-so-pompous Nic Roulette made the locals swoon to his band's over-stimulated version of rock n' roll by twisting, spinning, kicking, jumping and just generally entertaining the socks off an undeserving crowd. Sure, they each paid $5 to get in, but Nic was putting on a show worthy of Super Bowl-priced seats.
And that's why my answer to the above questions is a resounding "yes." Because the Blue Moon Boys are professional, all the while remaining genuinely entertaining and artistically viable, they are definitely my favorite unsigned band, and there are only a few national acts I like better. There are many reasons that I think the Boys are worth talking abut all the time, even if I do get persecuted frequently by my family and friends for being "obsessive" about the group.
First of all, the Blue Moon Boys are, in fact, among the top five live acts of any band I've ever seen. I base this on their remarkable consistency and ability to play to any crowd in any situation. I've seen them perform at all-ages shows, BBQ parties, Piere's, wedding receptions full of middle-to-senior aged people and as the opener for national acts. And they always have been appropriate. The Boys tackle everything handed them with a zeal for genuine rock n' roll excitement. That's why I'm such a huge fan. It's my contention that with proper marketing the Blue Moon Boys would be loved by millions worldwide. Whether under the microscope or at a distance, they are one of the brightest spots in rock and roll's shady future.
Of all the Blue Moon Boys, I first became aquainted with "Flava P. Coltrane." Since drums have always been my favorite element of rock n' roll, I decided to approach him first on a level that exceeded "stupified fan." We shared common interests in Van Halen, old-school rap, Miles Davis and Newcastle Brown Ale, so we felt pretty comfortable with each other right off the bat. As a huge fan I felt silly complimenting Flava on his powerful yet simple drumming all the time, but his willingness to talk in depth to me about it showed a sincere humility that remains consistent with Flava.
Hailing from Hazard County, New York, this young drummer uses only the bare essentials when providing the Boys' foundation, but he uses them very well. Like the bass playing, rockabilly drumming may seem deceptively easy, but a night or two focusing solely on Flava will bring anyone to a different conclusion. His snare-heavy fills and thunderous kick give the Boys their blinding sparkle. Without Flava P. the Boys would lose their sting, not to mention the unique personality dynamic that he brings to the table.
In tandem with Flava rhythmically is Jumpin' Jerry Sparkman, one of the smoothest bass players to pound the fat string. Though the three other Boys certainly are hard to take your eyes off of, it is Jerry who I find myself watching most frequently during the shows. Something about his far-off gaze matched with his rock-solid groove transfixes me. Jerry successfully shoots down the myth that rocakabilly bass playing has to be a standard, boorish affair. Instead he seems to interact with the music and his stand up bass in a spiritual and heavily sensual way. Jerry was the hardest personality for me to crack as a fan and a friend, but underneath his quiet, slick off-stage demeanor hides what is probably the most kind Blue Moon Boy. Not that the other guys are unfriendly, but Jerry oozes a hospitable vibe.
Jerry and Flava P. provide a rhythm section that's as solid and amusing as possible, and the guitarist who completes the band is no slouch either. Night after night Kenny Taylor churns out killer guitar licks, each more unfathomable than the previous, yet he always remains tasteful. The fact that Taylor shreds the fretboard like he does without cluttering up the Boys' overall sound is a miracle. It's like adding the most complex, yet fitting, icing to a cake. Taylor's playing is unwaveringly impressive enough to cause naive onlookers to stand gawk-eyed and musicians to scratch their heads in amazement. If Kenny Taylor isn't the finest guitar player in all of the Midwest, then I don't know who is.
And then there's Nic. He incorporates all the attitude and swagger found in the prototype James Dean/Elvis rock-star personality into a genuine gift for entertaining. Nic is the stand-out member of the band. His onstage charisma and flair make him the most likely to hold your attention, offend your grandmother or simply "turn on" your younger sister. The one who spearheaded the band in the first place, Nic undoubtedly has a genuine passion for the music and is great at what he does. His performances are often exhausting to watch, but they are worth wearing yourself out on. Whether he is humoring the audience with between song banter or spinning in circles between lines of lyrics, Nic constantly engages his audience with an overwhelming amount of confidence and desire to please. In a band full of likable personalities and talents, Nic is the band's best shot at being adored by the masses.
It isn't just that the Boys are so fun to watch. Something exists at the root of what they do that repeatedly blows me away. Original tunes like "Spank Me" and "Shoe Leather" point to a band with potential to write hit songs. And I'm not just talking novelty, one-hit songs. The Boys are writing songs that will stand the test of time. Which is why I have no qualms in heaping such boatloads of praise on this band. They deserve it.
In the hierarchy of musical and entertainment aesthetics, I think songwriting should come first. That the Boys can hold their own in this department, as well as put on such terrifyingly good live shows, is impressive. Take it from me (a well informed music maker, critic and fan), no one else is doing anything nearly as exciting as the whole Blue Moon Boys gestalt. The Boys are pro enough to impress anyone with enough sense and maturity to admit it. The Blue Moon Boys are taking rockabilly boldly into the next millennium by redefining its boundaries.