Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Baxters - What Ya Gonna Do

What Ya Gonna Do

Don't Run Away

Hey Little Girl

After seeing the Beatles perform on the Ed Sullivan show when he was just 10 years old, Jim Keller knew he wanted to be a musician. Having been drawn to Ringo, Jim started drumming along to songs on the radio on a makeshift drum set that was comprised of upside down wastebaskets until his parents set him up with formal lessons. While in junior high, he played percussion in the school's marching band and by the age of 12 he was making $25 on Saturday nights performing at weddings. Then in high school he was in the jazz ensemble and orchestra.

Jim dedicated an hour and a half each day to practicing drums in his basement before finally starting to play in his first rock n roll bands. They'd perform at parties and play all the high school dances, doing material by the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Savoy Brown; lots of blues-influenced and acid rock.

By the mid-70s a friend of Jim's encouraged him to audition for a band called In A Hot Coma. The band, which had previously been known as Marilyn, had recently changed personnel, and with that, their name. Jim got the gig as drummer alongside Jerome Brish (going by the name Alex Deluxe) on guitar, Scott Krueger on bass, Caleb Alexander on sax, and Martin Krohne on guitar.

This line-up of the band played a warm-up slot for Cheap Trick right before their debut album on Epic was released. It was a jam-packed performance and Jerome was wearing a pair of custom made, skintight leopard pants with nothing underneath. Unbeknownst to him, the entire front seam of his pants had split during one of their final songs. The audience was pointing fingers and the band tried to gesture to him that he had “fallen out,” but he didn’t notice until after they’d completed their set! Thinking he'd be the laughing stock of the city, Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielson assured him after the show that the incident would be talked about for years to come, and that's a good thing!

In A Hot Coma would continue to incur line-up changes throughout most of their existence, but did stabilize themselves for a while with Jerome Brish, Richard and Gerard LaValliere, Guy Hoffman and a promising young keyboard player named Jill Kossoris. When Jill decided to leave the group after a couple years to form her own band, The Shivvers, the remainder of In A Hot Coma morphed into The Haskels.

Martin left In A Hot Coma in 1976 and joined up with another former IAHC alumni named Mark Schneider for the first incarnation of Red Ball Jets. When Mark later split from that band, the rest of the group continued on under the name Jet Pak while Mark continued to record and release tapes under the name Red Ball Jets. Meanwhile, Jet Pak got picked up by a talent agency and was playing frequently around the Milwaukee area until Martin left to play in his next project, Taurus, with a bass player named Greg Scott.

Greg Scott, born Greg Scott Malcolm, was also heavily influenced by the Beatles performance on Ed Sullivan and was enthralled by the music of the British Invasion. He got his first electric bass at the age of 13 and went on to play battle of the bands competitions, as well as small gigs and dances through his high school years. After that he continued playing in various bands, most notably a stint with jazz/blues guitarist Bill "Scat" Johnson, formerly of the Ink Spots.

Greg formed Taurus with some local musicians from his battle of the bands days. Martin Krohne was enlisted to join them through an ad in a Milwaukee newspaper. Though the band primarily played covers, Greg and Martin started writing original songs together. The two of them would trade off lead vocal duties and focus on harmonies. This group was short lived, however. Greg and Martin decided to start a new project and after recruiting Jim Keller and Scott Krueger, they became The Feel.

Backtracking to when Jim left In A Hot Coma, he hooked up with a Rockford-based pop group called The Names. They were managed by Ken Adamany, the company that helped bring Cheap Trick to the masses and later mis-managed the Shivvers. Meanwhile, Scott Krueger was playing in a myriad of bands, quickly became one of the most sought after bass players in Milwaukee. After In A Hot Coma he played in a cover band called The Craze before joining The Feel with Greg, Martin and Jim. Oddly enough, Scott played guitar in this band instead of bass. They primarily did British Invasion material.

Scott eventually left The Feel and went on to play in The Orbits, and later, The Shivvers. By mid-1979, Martin, Greg and Jim had come into their own as The Baxters, a well-rehearsed trio. After placing second at a State Fair Battle Of The Bands competition in West Allis, they made their debut at popular punk club, Zak’s, on New Years Eve alongside The Haskels.

The band sauntered on for a couple years, writing songs and playing shows and parties around the Midwest. They occasionally tried bringing in a second guitar player but typically remained a three-piece. Along with Martin and Greg's originals, The Baxters incorporated some covers into their set from the likes of Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe, with a sprinkling of British Invasion material carried over from their days in The Feel. At the height of their existence they had over 200 original songs in their repertoire!

The band did numerous 4-track basement recordings of some of their originals, and even laid down some tracks at Star Studios on National Avenue in late August 1980. Unfortunately, they were never able to get the money together to release a record. Their song "Don't Run Away" eventually saw the light of day on 1997's Great Lost Brew Wave CD, while "What Ya Gonna Do" finally got heard on the 2001 CD set, History In 3 Chords.

By the end of 1981 the band had run its course. Jim began his own business and stopped playing drums to pursue that and take care of his family. Martin and Greg then formed a top 40 band called Tommy Gunn before going on to play in a short-lived band called Invisible Babylon with Jerome Brish (who still insisted on being called Presley Haskel).

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the posting Mike! Now, if anyone who reads this can find Greg, I would be grateful.