Monarchs * Electric Shoes * Dead Ringers
What a long strange “ring” it’s been (not to be confused with Tolkein, mind you)….it was the summer of 1991 when Barry Flast, currently hard at work producing a new album for his band KINGFISH was invited by a promoter friend to put together the “acoustic” half of a tribute to THE GRATEFUL DEAD for a summer long tour to coincide with the release of “Deadicated”, the first of what would be many Dead tribute albums (the electric half of the show incidentally was to feature Papa John Creach, Merl Saunders and former KINGFISH guitarist Steve Kimock).Barry was asked to put together an all star acoustic lineup to pay homage to the “American Beauty/Workingman’s” era of the Dead’s music, and it seemed to him the choices were inevitable; David Nelson, fresh from his stint in the Jerry Garcia Acoustic band, Barry Sless master steel player from Kingfish, and Fred Campbell, who though he played bass for Kingfish, also played acoustic lead guitar for The New Riders Of The Purple Sage…..that foursome, joined later in the tour by Tom Constanten, early pianist with THE GRATEFUL DEAD became the acoustic half of ‘GRATEFULLY YOURS” and played all summer long for thousands of Dead Heads all across the USA…..when that tour was over, the members of our band decided to keep it going and would take over doing the electric half of the show as well…but since we were no longer officially sanctioned, David Nelson suggested we change our name to ‘DEAD RINGERS” and we forged ahead in our new identity….three years later, the band split, basically to give Nelson the chance to form his own outfit, THE DAVID NELSON BAND with Barry Sless , Bill Laymon (a bassist who had replaced Fred Campbell in 1993) and Arthur Steinhorn (who had been our drummer for most of the band’s career) essentially gutting what had been DEAD RINGERS…..Barry soldiered on with different lineups featuring such stellar “Ringers” as PETE SEARS, DAVID LAFLAMME, PETER KAUKONEN, PETER GRANT, and DEBBIE (GREENE) ANDERSEN…..but in 1994 he finally put it to pasture when he got a call to play keyboards for JEFFERSON STARSHIP (but that’s another story!).
Jump ahead now eleven years; Barry Flast has moved his family from Marin County to Eugene, Oregon…..a move determined in no small part because of Dead Ringers having headlined The OREGON COUNTRY FAIRE IN 1992 (and having a blast hanging out with KEN KESEY and KEN BABBS while enjoying the faire weekend….and falling in love with Eugene as a result…..now having been given an opportunity to regenerate a musical atmosphere (despite the plethora of Dead cover bands that permeate the musical landscape, it was Tom Constanten that summed it up when he was oft quoted as saying in the old days “we’re a tribute with a pedigree!”) that simply pays homage to a songbook of such wealth and depth, he could hardly turn the offer down, which now brings us full circle to the lineup of DEAD RINGERS 2011;
BARRY FLAST (LEAD VOCALS, KEYBOARDS); While a student at Boston University from 1967 to 1969, he had his first brush with fame when his band, THE TOM SWIFT ELECTRIC BAND (featuring fellow BU student BILLY SQUIER) got the gig as the house band at Boston’s premier rock club THE PSYCHEDELIC SUPERMARKET where they opened for every rock band that came to town like PROCUL HARUM, THE MOODY BLUES, BIG BROTHER WITH JANIS JOPLIN, BLOOD SWEAT AND TEARS, CREAM, THE JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE, and THE ELECTRIC FLAG just to name a few….he continued his career as a session pianist in 1970 when he was hired to play keys in PAUL STOOKEY’s post PETER,PAUL and MARY solo band; continued with POCO’s ‘GOOD FEELIN TO KNOW” album in 1972; moved to San Francisco where he hooked up with KINGFISH in 1974, then again in 1977, again in 1980, and finally re-establishing the band in 1983 once again with BOB WEIR as a somewhat regular member; he’s also recorded a number of albums with COUNTRY JOE McDONALD, one of which ‘SUPERSTITIOUS BLUES” paired him in the studio with JERRY GARCIA; he also played bass in the reunion of COUNTRY JOE AND THE FISH for BILL GRAHAM and his 20th Anniversary of the Fillmore West concert and party; in the nineties it was a couple of years of touring as the keyboardist for the newly revamped JEFFERSON STARSHIP with original Airplane members MARTY BALIN, JACK CASADY, AND PAUL KANTNER; and finally QUICKSILVER GOLD before moving to Eugene in 2004; as a songwriter, his biggest thrill came when he was a mere 19 years old when his song ‘ONE NIGHT STAND” was recorded by the legendary JANIS JOPLIN; BOB WEIR has recorded his songs “EYES OF THE NIGHT” AND “PAD LOCK CUFFLINKS” ; PAUL STOOKEY has recorded “HEY SAD SACK” and ‘THE LIGHT THAT SHINES”; and many other artists have covered his songs as far-off as THE WALKERS in Holland who had a top ten hit with his ‘RUMOR AT THE HONKY TONK”, a song he had reached the Hot 100 himself with his band SPELLBOUND on EMI AMERICA RECORDS in 1978…perhaps his greatest achievement as a songwriter was winning THE GENESIS AWARD for music (given by The Humane Society) in 1999 for his diatribe against the destruction of the rain forests “SUNDOWN ON THE FOREST, which aided by BOB WEIR on vocals was the title song of the last studio album recorded by KINGFISH before the band ended.
PAUL J. BIONDI (SAX, FLUTE, VOCALS); Paul started his career while only in high school with the most incredible gigs a fledgling musician could only dream about….
FRANK SINATRA, TONY BENNETT, ELLA FITZGERALD, BARBARA STREISAND and RAY CHARLES; he went on to finish his musical training at The Berklee School Of Music in Boston….after high school, he toured for years with GLADYS KNIGHT, ARETHA FRANKLIN and IKE AND TINA TURNER….he then went on a year-long world tour with SMOKEY ROBINSON….after moving to Los Angeles in 1978, he worked with the likes of BILL MEDLEY (THE RIGHTEOUS BROS), THE TEMPTATIONS, THE FOUR TOPS, THE DRIFTERS, THE PLATTERS, and THE SHIRELLES, in addition to writing and playing on movie scores and television theme songs…..after a 1992 visit to Oregon, and falling in love with it(coincidentally the same year that the same experience happened to Barry Flast) he moved there full time in 1998, and these days produces many fund raising projects, as well as coordinating the TED KULONGOSKI and BILL BRADLEY campaigns, which resulted in his developing a friendship with former PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON.
MIKE BREWER (BASS, FLUTE, VOCALS); As a session player, Mike has recorded with some of the truly heavy hitters in the music business, such as BOOKER T. JONES,
DAVID FOSTER, LEE RITENOUR, HAL BLAINE, and the ELTON JOHN BAND’S rhythm section NIGEL OLSON and DEE MURRAY….as a writer, he scored a major coup by having his song ‘FEELING I GET’ featured in the Academy Award winning movie ‘LOST IN TRANSLATION’ starring Bill Murray and Scarlet Johansson….in live performance he’s best known for his years with the underground cult phenomenon, the psychedelic MARY BUTTERWORTH BAND who’s sole album became such a massively bootlegged hit all over Europe that the original vinyl version that came out in limited edition in the US in 1969 now routinely sells on ebay (if you can even find one, that is) for as much as 1000.00……but in addition to MARY BUTTERWORTH, he’s performed with such heavyweights as blues superstar CURTIS SALGADO, and CANNED HEAT legend HENRY VESTINE…..and like Barry and Peter, his songwriting will certainly play a big role in whatever original music ultimately takes the place of the GRATEFUL DEAD songs in the DEAD RINGERS repertoire in the future.
PETE “THE BEAT” BURGER (DRUMS); In 1968 Pete traveled across the country and found himself living on Haight Street in San Francisco right at the apex of The Summer Of Love….his family moved back east in 1969 just in time for Pete to attend The Woodstock festival on Max Yazgur’s farm…..as they settled in to the new Woodstock digs, Pete began to hang out with the local music legends and found himself playing with folks like RICK DANKO of THE BAND, JORMA KAUKONEN of HOT TUNA, and even TODD RUNDGREN…… But by the 80’s he was playing in big arenas with rock legends like CHUCK BERRY and THE COASTERS…..then for the next few years he threw himself into the blues, touring with great blues artists like JAMES COTTON, HUBERT SUMLIN, and MARK HUMMEL just to name a few….once he had moved to Eugene however, he began playing with more ‘left coast” artists like SAM ANDREW of BIG BROTHER AND THE HOLDING CO., HENRY VESTINE of CANNED HEAT, NOKIE EDWARDS of THE VENTURES, and BRIAN SETZER of THE STRAY CATS….he soon hooked up with THE PRANKSTERS, and found himself playing drums for KEN KESEY in his namesake band ‘THE COOLAID TESTERS”, as well as with the next generation of pranksters in local bands like LOST CREEK, THE REVELATORS, and FRAGILE THUNDER who opened for groups like BABA OLATUNJI, JEFFERSON STARSHIP, MERL SAUNDERS, NEW RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE, and DAVID GRISMAN. Pete’s strongest connection to the San Francisco scene is through his work as an artist production manager. He’s worked with great artists like PETER MAX, ANDY WARHOL, KEN KESEY, and for many years with MIKIO KENNEDY creating artwork for THE JERRY GARCIA BAND, KINGFISH, ARLO GUTHRIE, CARLOS SANTANA, STRING CHEESE INCIDENT, WIDESPREAD PANIC, as well as THE GRATEFUL DEAD. Pete, as a part of Mikio’s studio has collaborated with many artists from the SF/DEAD scene such as ALTON KELLY, STANLEY MOUSE, RICK GRIFFIN, PHIL BROWN, and WILLIAM GIESE.
KEN LUKER (LEAD GUITAR, VOCALS) is a singer, songwriter and musician who has layered his love of music with his enthusiasm for life. From his roots as a northwest native, hailing from Portland OR, he has traveled many musical miles, and cultivated a style that runs deep and strong.
His relationship with music began at the young age of six following an accident in which his thumb was nearly severed. He took up the guitar shortly there after, and has never put it down. He has studied, taught and performed throughout his life and honors such influential and diverse artists as JOE PASS, JERRY GARCIA, JAMES BROWN, CORNELL DUPREE, DUANE ALLMAN, JOHN PRINE, FRANK ZAPPA, TOM WAITS, and WES M0NTGOMERY. His musical skills encompass acoustic and electric guitar, vocals, mandolin, bass and percussion.
Ken has travelled and performed from Canada to Florida . He's studied delta blues and the jazz flavors of the south. He's shared stages with STEPPENWOLF, ERIC BURDON, THE DRIFTERS, RAY STEPHENS, and THE COASTERS. He's performed in many bands including the rockabilly group "THE NERVE AGENTS", his own jazz fusion group "PRESSURE GROOVE" and the afro cuban group "LOG RHYTHM".
But now Ken has been discovered by BARRY FLAST who helped launch the careers of a couple of guitar heavyweights in the 1980's; Barry plans to introduce Ken much in the same way to the legions of Dead Heads who had never heard of STEVE KIMOCK before we hired him to play guitar in KINGFISH (and at the same time joined forces with John Cipolina to form Zero) ; nor had they heard the brilliant guitar style AND pedal steel genius of BARRY SLESS before we hired him to join KINGFISH, and a few years later to fuel the fire that became GRATEFULLY YOURS (and then DEAD RINGERS) which morphed into the DAVID NELSON BAND....nowadays, Kimock and Sless are household names among the Dead Head crowd, and that's precisely where KEN LUKER will be in the years to come.
BILL SHREVE (LEAD VOCALS, GUITAR, KEYBOARDS) ; Born in San Francisco, Bill had a
first row chair in watching and participating in the Bay Area music scene of the late 60’s/ early 70’s,
performing and playing with rock and blues greats such as JOHN LEE HOOKER, LARRY GRAHAM & GRAHAM CENTRAL STATION, JORGE SANTANA & MALO, THE TUBES,
NORTON BUFFALO and THE GUESS WHO. He was studio bassist for Penthouse Records and appeared on many albums for the label. Upon moving to the northwest, he co-founded Project One Audio, a music production studio where he composed music for videos produced by ESPN Sports, KEZI TV, Westcom Productions, and others. More recently with his own Shreve Family Band he’s performed with MARCIA BALL on a number of occasions and they continue to play festivals and concerts throughout the northwest.
The Electric Shoes gigged and toured the dark corners or London town before disembarking to different twines of their lives. Luke and James continued to play and formed the Trailer Boatride.
3 years and several continents later, the Shoes reformed and with a quick change in bass player in the shape of Tom, they are back with a more mature sound and feel.
See the boxes for new songs and upcoming gigs.
Cheers, The Electric Shoes