Friday, March 29, 2013
The Tunes - Elevator
1B. Crowded Heart
2A. Too Proud
2B. She's Mad
THE TUNES (Topeka, KS)
Tune's Tunes (D-1100), 1982
Mike Donoho wanted to play guitar ever since watching the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. He had a pocket transistor radio growing up and absorbed the AM glory of bands like Ohio Express, 1910 Fruitgum Co, Tommy James, Lemon Pipers, and the Archies. He played in a few bands in high school and shortly after graduation hooked up with a booking agency out of Lawrence, KS called American Management Enterprises that booked show bands in the middle half of the U.S. and Canada.
Mike’s first professional gigs were with Teaser, a group that did sets of 50s, 60s, and 70s music with a girl singer. He later joined a top 40 band called Windfall but by the late 70s his entire outlook on music saw a change. After witnessing the Jam perform live he wanted to match that excitement level. Mike attempted to convert Windfall into a new wave group called the Tunes but the results were not what he hoped for. He then brought in bassist Pat Wempe and with Windfall’s drummer Adam Villialobos, the trio recorded a demo on a Teac 4-track recorder which helped the band garner some work.
Mike was the only singer and he found it difficult to survive their 3 and 4 hour gigs so he brought in Bryan Darner, an old band-mate from high school who assisted with vocals and harmonies. The new Tunes toured all over the mid-west in a 1964 school bus with Faith Baptist Church painted on the side. After about a year Bryan quit to join the Artists, a Kansas City power pop band that had some money behind them. Back to being a 3-piece, the Tunes recorded a couple more demos but after only a few gigs with that line-up Pat and Mike started looking for other players.
Much like Mike, Steve Seitz was intrigued by the Beatles on Sullivan and took to playing guitar at a young age. He also had five years of formal piano lessons so when he was working at a liquor store one day and Pat came in mentioning he was looking for a guitar player who could sing and play organ, Steve stepped up to the plate. Putting ads up in music stores and local papers they then found Mark Weolk who took over the drummer’s throne and helped with vocals.
Topeka was by and large a community that absorbed whatever was popular on the radio and the live music circuit was dominated by cover bands. The Tunes wanted to do their own material so Steve or Mike would write songs and then present their ideas at rehearsals for the rest of the band to work out. The band often had to travel to neighboring Lawrence or Kansas City where original music was more appreciated. This final version of the Tunes played about as much as a local band could play within a hundred mile radius of their home, often doing multiple sets each night. To fill the time they’d often mix their originals alongside covers of modern day bands like the Beat, Romantics, Elvis Costello, and Joe Jackson. They also played their own interpretations of the 60’s British Invasion music they grew up on.
In 1982, the band had saved up enough money from gigs to go to a professional studio in Kansas City and record four songs. A 7” EP was self-released in an edition of what they recall to be 200 copies. The sleeves were all hand constructed by the band members sitting around the kitchen table of an old Victorian home they all shared at the time. Promo packs were sent out to record labels and booking agents in hopes of scoring a deal but the call never came. Unfortunately, after a few years of building a supportive fanbase, the band was unable to sustain themselves financially and called it quits.
Cheap Rewards Records is currently working on an LP collection of the Tunes studio and demo material with a planned release this summer.