Maybe it wasn't art, but we sure suffered for it. For the Untamed Youth,
most of the time it meant riding around in the back of a cold old '68 Oldsmobile hearse
eating Spaghettios straight outta the can. In those pre-PULP FICTION
days of the late eighties, it also usually meant giving 115% to a bunch
of disinterested alternative rockers giving us a look like... "What the
HELL are you doing up there?"|
I can't tell you why a bunch of 17 year olds in Missouri started making this racket when we did. It just felt right. And I can't tell you how or why we managed to convince about 200 people across the globe that we were their favorite band. But it's to those fine folks that I dedicate this collection... Our very greatest hits.
--Derek "Deke" Dickerson
by Billy Miller of Norton Records
The seed of this fabled junket had taken root many years earlier when fourteen-year-old Derek "Deke" Dickerson managed to land a local radio show spinnin' harebrain Ronnie Self discs to confuse much detested metal heads. The big wiggers for Derek were long gone local lunatics like whacked out swinger Maynard Horlick and surf/frat dementos the Lydells, proudly heralded in Dickerson's crazed all-Missouri teen 'zine SHOW-ME BLOWOUT. Derek formed the Herbie Duncan Fan Club, the sole purpose of which was to uncover the whereabouts of the off key rockabilly singer. ("Hot Lips Baby may have been the greatest record of all time," challenged the sixteen year old in his newsletter, "yet how many people do you hear talking about him? If you smell the great injustice as strongly as I do, you will spread the word, too!") Duncan proved himself elusive to even the most ardent sleuths of haywire howlers. When Derek finally located Herbie in a Missouri trailer park sporting "a real good voice -- like Charlie Rich," the club was promptly disbanded.
But the main buzz around Columbia centered less on Derek's passion for the off-kilter big beat swamis than on his guitar-playing shenanigans. Mainly, Derek was carousing with bar band cats ("older guys in their late 20s") and was itchin' for a chance to get in with somethin' cooler. Derek saved up enough bottle caps in some kinda goofball midwest sweepstakes to win a round trip ticket to New York. Two things stick out about Derek's wiggy adventure here: 1) he got thrown out of a Jerry Lee Lewis gig despite the fact he wasn't old enough to be there in the first place, and 2) he claimed he was gonna put together a band that was gonna be the next Ronny and the Daytonas.
A few months later, we hooked up with Derek on his home turf. He drove us out to meet his buddy Steve Mace (Derek's rickety van lost a few lug nuts on the short trip, inspiring the A-Bones opus "Lug Nuts"), Derek's primo choice for a bass player. There was a slight problem in that Mace only knew how to play "Hey Joe," but he did boast with extreme pride that he knew it "real well." In no time, Mace (aka "Mr. Hatred" and "Baldilocks") became a savage thud stomper deluxe with an onstage persona -- equal parts George "The Animal" Steele and Corporal Agarn -- that spelled fan favorite. In fact, each Untamed Youth show culminated in the successful sale of Mace's socks. We're getting ahead of ourselves here, but it's always a temptation to overly dish out the praises on this most remarkable human being.
So here it was, 1987, pretty much the official death year of the dreaded Paisley Underground, and Columbia's two finest no-counts coralled organist Doug Walker and drummer Joel "Jet" Trueblood into their ranks as the Untamed Youth, formed with a mutual fanaticism for bygone surf/frat/garage whompers, especially bent on fellow non-coastal kings like the Trashmen and the Astronauts. Teenage music played by real teenagers -- whatta way out concept!
Reverb, beer, and dateless nights seemed in endless supply for the Youth. They shook 'em down at local frat parties (often with worldly college boy Joe Bargmann guesting on King U-like vocals), blew despicable hippie headliners off club stages for no money and apologized for Mace's behavior more than they'd anticipated. Some crude demos were cut at radio station KOPN (later ished on Derek's Teen-Rage label), stokin' us enough here at Norton to suggest an east coast tour. Doug left the group that summer and was replaced by Chris Fletcher, who looked all of thirteen. Meanwhile, we'd arranged a string of dates. Joel's mom questioned the legitimacy of the venture, so we sent a formal letter assuring Mrs. Trueblood that everything was on the up and up and there was certainly no cause for alarm. Derek's dad (affectionately known as "The Old Geez") offered to drive the guys out and keep the young 'uns in check.
Simple enough, right?
Well, not quite. The first New York gig was at the Pyramid, a Lower East Side dive known mainly as an after-hours hangout for gender-bender trendies. The club had just launched a Thursday night rock 'n' roll series to reel in some plain joes, but nobody bothered to tell the regulars. Talk about oil and water! Here were the Untamed Youth dabbin' down their farmboy cowlicks in the men's room mirror alongside he/shes vainly workin' on their cleavage. I remember nervously assuring Derek's pop every chance I got that this wasn't the sorta place I regularly frequented. Still, the Youth were so gassed to be wailin' outside the hometown confines that none of the bizarre trappings mattered and when they hit the Pyramid stage, it was sheer pandemonium. Any adjective you've ever heard heaped on the Rendezvous Ballroom or the Cavern Club could well apply here.
The big daddy Andy Shernoff of the Dictators and I both caught an instant case of the Murry Wilsons and told the guys if they'd wanna come back out in a few months we'd love to cut an album on 'em for Norton. There was one problem. Her name was Lola, like in L-0-L-A, Lola.
Apparently, this Pyramid barfly Lola was so infatuated with lovin' tenderfoot Joel the drummer that she stalked him not only to the next two gigs, but to Joe Bargmann's mom and pop's suburban Jersey pad (where Joel was staying) as well, decked out in the same ditzy Cyndi Lauper regalia the entire weekend. Poor Joel tried everything to shake her loose, but made the fatal mistake in the home stretch of forking over his address to Lola so she could keep in touch. I clearly remember bidding the Youth goodbye after their knockout outdoor blowout at the Hoboken River Fest and there was Lola (STILL in the same tawdry bustier and torn stockings) stumbling behind the van with mascara streaming down her face, murmuring, "Joel, come back, I love you."
In a scene right outta "Dobie Gillis," when the Untamed Youth wearily pulled into Columbia, they were greeted at the Trueblood home by Lola, still in her tainted party duds! Somehow, she'd beaten the band back to Missouri and had infiltrated Joel's family, announcing that she was his new girlfriend. Joel totally flipped! Lola was persistent. She took a room at the nearby Tiger Motel and spent all her considerable free time in constant pursuit of Joel, who was by now so frazzled he was virtually unable to leave his parents' house. He became, as Derek put it, "Like Elvis, but without the fame and money."
Lola gave up the chase after a painfully long month, and brokenhearted, headed back to NYC. Joel, however, appeared scarred for life. Fearing the wicked power his boyish charms held over the fair sex, he elected to drop outta the entertainment racket. Enter Clarke Martty, a first class drummer but a unique cat blessed with a truly vivid imagination best explored in depth in issues of the Youth's in-house fanzine, THE UNTAMED WHIRL, which also kept the faithful clued in to pizza-eating tips, Lola sightings and fart contest results.
Derek, Mace, Clarke, and Chris blasted out the first Untamed Youth album SOME KINDA FUN in a frantic two-day whirl at Brooklyn's still-under-construction Coyote Studios. They definitely wore their allegiance to midwest sloplords on their Moon Equipped T-shirt sleeves, leaning heavily on landlocked anthems like the Apparitions' "She's So Satisfying" and the Scotsmen's deranged tribute to drunk driving, "Beer Bust Blues." The kicker of the lot, tho, was Derek's own lager rhythm surf rev up "Pabst Blue Ribbon," the Youth's anthemic hat tip to the nectar of the clods.
The fall 1988 semester forced Chris Fletcher outta the group to finish his senior year of high school. Amazingly, his folks actually encouraged him to consider sticking with the band over school, but Chris thanked the guys for a most wonderful summer and bid the glamorous show biz life goodbye. Steve "Sammy" Rager was imported from Peoria, Illinois, bringing to the fold a supreme command of the Dave "Baby" Cortez songbook plus an overflowing video collection (which helped further delay the members' entry into the real world). The band rented an old house in Columbia, where they erected shrines to Big Daddy Roth, Cash Flagg, and the Trashmen by day, and worked up a dizzying stomp arsenal of cars/girls/surfin'/beer blasts in their basement by night.
The Untamed Youth was truly rollin' like Johnny Olenn. They tore up the road in their customized, but barely roadworthy 1968 Oldsmobile hearse. One night the vehicle konked out in a dingy section of Newark with no hope of mechanical rescue 'til morning. The time honored show biz tradition dictated that the show must go on. Of course, the time honored tourist tradition dictated that outta state plates in downtown Newark spell a long walk home to the Show Me State. Derek, Mace and Clarke caught a ride to the gig while Rager, with his hands white knuckled around a tire iron, spent the night in the hearse enjoying the scenery.
For a spell, it seemed like the Youth were constantly in New York (always sleeping on my floor -- even on my wedding night!) much to the delight of Manhattan mozzarella melters. The entire combo became A-1 connoisseurs of NYC pizza, taking in three triangle shaped meals a day and spending countless hours debating the pros and cons of pizzerias even locals had never heard of.
Andy Shernoff and I took the Youth back to Coyote in the summer of '89 for MORE GONE GASSERS, this time stretching out for a marathon three-day clip. This time out, the Untamed Youth came loaded with an amazing array of cool material, again paying homage to landlocked kings like Bobby Fuller ("Angel Face") and the Astronauts ("The Hearse"). They even raised their Pabst cans to Mr. Shernoff with a rippin' update of the Dictators' "I Live For Cars And Girls," helped along by 'Tator Scott "Top Ten" Kempner on backing vocals. Derek kicked in some killer originals in "Overcast" and his sonic nod to the sultry Clampett queen, "Hey Elly May," while Mace double clutched on his barrelling "Supercharged Steamroller" and a second song praising Pabst Beer called "What'll You Have." The two PBR toons were always performed live as a medley after the ritual reading of the Pabst Beer Man's Creed and prior to the foamy baptism of the in-house watusi crowd.
The twin blowout of MORE GONE GASSERS and the Yuletide gear masher "Santa's Gonna Shut 'Em Down" was welcomed with shaken hooves, tho there was one great negative writeup in which some college-boy dork capped his review with "the only good group to ever wear matching outfits was Gary Numan and Tubeway Army!"
Before GASSERS hit the racks, Clarke was gone. Joel was well enough outta Lola detox to sign back on with the Youth for local gigs, while ex-Crawdaddy Ron Silva manned the traps on their coast-to-coast treks. There was one wild night in New York when Derek swung madly above the crowd from a CBGB ceiling pipe only to fall, seriously pounding a fan and himself. Out west, the Untamed Youth appeared on the cable TV show IT'S HAPPENING, performing in front of eight priceless vintage longboards (on loan from a surf museum) that came crashing down on their gear during the set. This modern day Chef Of The Future mishap actually landed the group their all-time biggest national exposure when ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT aired the clip to showcase the pitfalls of low-budget television.
Back home and drummerless, Derek and Mace decided Californy is the place they oughta be, but Rager elected not to relocate. A live-to-two-track bon voyage session was booked at Column One in Springfield, Missouri, with the Skeletons' Lou Whitney at the helm. Lou's bandmate Bobby Lloyd Hicks pounded the skins on the date and Donnie Thompson played a second guitar on "Sour Grapes." Eight bustin' numbers including Elvis' SPINOUT swiveler "Adam and Evil," the frat shaker "KAPO," and maybe the greatest Untamed Youth recording yet, the berserk "Rollerland," made up the third Youth long-player, SOPHISTICATED INTERNATIONAL PLAYBOYS. With that, in January 1991, Derek and Mace loaded up the truck and moved to the far outskirts of Beverly...
But swimmin' pools and movie stars weren't exactly in the cards. The new album was geared to plant the Youth's flag in the Promised Land while Derek and Mace rebuilt the organization. Instead, we were notified that the LP cover boys, gospel singin' duo the Singing Palermos (both still kickin' at around 90 years old, each sportin' a healthier head of hair than D&M combined) were understandably upset. The crooners were apparently also under the impression that cover artist Pete Ciccone was Madonna's brother and somehow this was all an evil plot hatched by the devilish diva. The album was recalled after enjoying sales of approximately 36.
Clobberin' the coast was certainly tricky biz. Dave Stuckey (later Derek's guitar strummin' partner in the Dave and Deke Combo -- imagine, hillbillies that played Gary Lewis covers on the side!) filled the drummer slot, but the west coast branch of the Youth never settled on a permanent organist. Greg Hunt (later of the Finks and Bomboras) was on deck when the Youth cut the brilliant "Drag Race Tragedy" in '91. The following year, I got to catch a few Youth shows with the mighty Trent Ruane imported from Frisco's Mummies on organ and the Untamed Youth were every bit as stomp worthy as that long gone night at the Pyramid. Dig their cool fidelity-free platter LIVE FROM THE FABULOUS LAS VEGAS STRIP or the sporty "Sophisticated International Playboys Theme" 45, both on Estrus, for the skinny on this stellar lineup. Another future Fink/Bombora Jake Cavaliere later pinch-hit for Trent, but once the wipeouts began to outweigh the wigouts "the next Ronny and the Daytonas" called it a day.
It was pretty much apathy towards surf music that split the Untamed Youth in 1993, and ironically, it's the overabundance of post-PULP FICTION lukewarm surf slouches that now sends the Youth back out on the road as true rulers of the reverb roost. Just like the boast on their beloved pizza boxes -- you've tried the rest, now try the best.
-- by Billy Miller of Norton Records
Giant longboards fall like dominoes while the Youth rehearse for their appearance on "It's Happening"
"Hey Elly May" on "It's Happening"... without the falling surfboards this time!
"Supercharged Steamroller" music video
"The Hearse" music video
Long-lost Dolemace! movie trailer
Elvis returns, backed by the Untamed Youth!
More Untamed Youth on YouTube.com...