Thursday, April 12, 2012

Covers vs. Orginals

DON VAN DYKE recently wrote a great blog on The Local Q about cover bands, what he likes and doesn't like, and what makes a good one.

I play in the Quincy band The Cheeseburgers. I am modest by fault but I think our band is pretty good. We don't look for gigs and we play two or three weekends every month, sometimes more. We play a variety of cover music, mostly classic rock, but we throw in blues and country, pop and tried and true songs everybody knows and loves.

We try to be as Cheesey as possible. We have a Disco Medley, a Cowbell Medley, a ZZ Top Medley. We play Mustang Sally, a song just about every band hates but everybody on the dance floor loves. We just unleashed a version of Love Shack that has gone over huge during a recent run of shows.

I enjoy playing in the band because the guys are a lot of fun to travel, practice and play with. We have never had a fight or disagreement, and we talk things out and communicate before issues arise. Our practices are productive, though we do tend to laugh as much as we work on music.

Burt Shackleton plays keyboards, guitar, sax and does vocals, and every band needs an all around musician like him. Eric McCaughey joined the band on guitar and vocals this year, and he has fit right in and brought some new (to us) songs to play. Bass player Jeff VanKanegan is the glue and Kirk Gribbler is rock solid back on drums. Kirk lights himself on fire, too.  FUN.

I would be remiss if I didn't give our roadie, Frank Haxel, lots of love. Ask Frank how he got the gig, You Can't Make It Up. Frank is worth his weight in gold, because after we play and collapse, he's wrapping chords and moving heavy stuff around. He also does the lights - you haven't lived until you've played Mustang Sally in the dark, and don't even know it.

I'm the goofball who sings a bit and tries not to wreck the songs with rhythm guitar. I also play acoustic guitar on a lot of songs, something no other cover band around here does, which sets us apart.

Our goal is to get people to dance and sing along and have fun. Burt does the set list for each show and we usually stick to it, but this band isn't afraid to veer off when we sense what the crowd is like. And the deeper we get into the night the faster we like to crank the songs out, one after the other, without giving anybody a chance to leave the dance floor.

We have some very good cover bands in the Quincy area. My favorite is probably Eleven, which plays songs no other band even tries. The Local Q has a list of local bands here.

One of my favorite bands is Fielder. They play their own original music, have recorded several CDs and have a big local following. We sell their CDs in our store, Second String Music. The Texas Funerals are another unique band with a large local following. There are some really good young bands that are beginning to get well deserved attention, which cheers the heart of an old and burned out rock guy.

My old band, The Funions, recorded three CDs at Coppermine Studio with the legendary Alan Lawless. I miss playing originals with those guys, and we had our share of good shows, but many times we had to institute the dreaded "We can't start until there are more people in the venue than are in the band" rule. Later in the band's run, we started playing more covers, until at the end that's pretty much all we did. And lo and behold, more people started showing up at our shows.

The Cheeseburgers get paid and we've had a lot of adventures playing weekend gigs in illustrious places like Keokuk, Iowa (ask my brother and sisters about the show last Labor Day Weekend), St. Francisville, MO, and Hamilton, IL. I love playing in the band and we are going to have a great summer, with some way cool shows lined up. Click here on the Second String Music blog for the Cheeseburgers schedule.

About a month ago I put together a band to play original music for the Baby Ella benefit at Union United Methodist. Former Cheeseburger guitarist John Hodge, Second String Music guitar teacher Warren Riley on bass and the The Mighty One, Sgt. Adam Yates on drums learned five or six originals in one practice, and we had a fantastic show before a small but enthusiastic audience.

For whatever reason the band, dubbed Sidewalk Chalk, clicked. Playing your own songs and seeing people get it is a powerful thing, and it has left us wanting more. There are lots of excuses for not playing, like we all have families, jobs and other bands, plus a lack of venues for original music, but they are lame and I would love to do more shows, maybe even think about recording a CD.

To me, a good band has energy and the love of playing is apparent when they are on stage, no matter what kind of music they perform.

Wherever you live, big city or small, get out and support your local musicians and bands!


  1. I think there's more than enough room for both cover bands and originals. The audience and the goals won't be the same, but that's okay. Variety is the spice of life!

    As a child of the era of Roulette and Dark Winter here in Quincy (DW 'grew up' across the street from Second String, in fact!), I know that playing songs everyone knows can get the crowds going. But seeing shows like The Texas Funerals now where covers are mingled with originals, there's a good response there, too.

    Bands that everyone knows - Poison, Guns N Roses, even Metallica! - play cover songs. At least two of those three have released entire albums of covers.

    So, again, I think the room in there for both Cheeseburgers and Sidewalk Chalk. Just don't confuse the two.....

    ...that would taste awful.

  2. The Texas Funerals CD's are great and I can play them all the way through, enjoying every song.

  3. it's just a shame that playing other people's songs is where the money is. the fact that there are really great bands out there doing all original music can barely make 100 bucks a show, and other bands who do only covers can make 400 or more in a night is kind of b.s. it's the reason dj's and jukeboxes are everywhere.

  4. I don't know if you wrote this before or after I talked to you today Rodney... but I was going to post on FaceBook (I still am) about supporting live, original music in Quincy, because I was taken back at how good the demo of Sidewalk Chalk was,.. and, like the previous post mentions,.. and our conversation today indicated,... there IS talent here, and original work, or major twists on existing work that is an original twist,... and it is underappreciated, and undersupported (if that is a word). I've heard from too many sources, that an expert in Quincy,.. is someone from at least 50 miles away. I've found in reality,.. that they can be found even 50 yards away. You know how I can be when given (or taking) a soapbox,.. so I'll stop here. But thanks for being a part of that talent pool,.. and especially for your blurbs and insights online and off. Second String Music is a wonderful example of a community oriented, user-friendly, and caring place,.. not just a store. It would all be perfect,... if you took Mustang Sally out of the set list.

  5. Glad to hear you're doing some originals out in the world again. And I have great memories of Mustang Sally being played out on my parents' deck by the Hart cousin band (+ my husband) one year.

  6. I still have a scar on my knee from Keokuk. THAT'S how fun Labor Day Weekend was.