If the name is not enough to suck you in, please believe me, Tonguesnatcher Revue is a must-see band. And seeing is an important part of experiencing this musical group, long disciples of the theatrical side of rock and roll music. Hearing, though, is believing with this bunch, since despite all the schlock, they always rock.
Started way back when in the early 70s (time is a variable in these instances, especially during that era), Tonguesnatcher Revue consisted of Rich Denhart, Doug Rapier and Christy Bley, as an acoustic trio. Purportedly, the original notion concerned performing classic songs from American music periods, with a song list covering the Beatles, Frank Zappa, Motown and Elvis Presley, plus classics and standards from the 20s through the 50s. Tonguesnatcher allowed the extreme creativity of the times to permeate performances, creating a unique and formidable live show complete with costumes, props and band banter galore, complimented with excellent music.
Yes, folks, seemingly utter chaos emerged on stage, combined with an extraordinary sense of musical direction taking this band where no band had previously dared to go. Along with the peculiar stage travels came physical travels, as the band hooked up with a Nashville-based booking agency, performing mostly down South and out West, playing gigs that seem totally fictional when reading saxophonist Bill Janssen’s blog report on tonguesnatcher.com. Here Janssen, who joined the band early on as part of the Magic Tongues horn section, describes events and shows nearly unbelievable in content and circumstance. All along the band encouraged fun and expansive behavior from within and received it from the audiences along the way.
After a good long run featuring legendary (infamous?) central Illinois musicians, characters, venues and institutions such as Pat Greenan, William B. Hart, John Sluzalis, Tom Cartwright, Jay Fry, Mike Getz, Larry Wagoner, Jim “Tooter” Troxell, Tad Bley, SCI, SSU, Tino’s Hideaway, Cwazy Wabbit Studios and the Cinema Art Theater, Tonguesnatcher Revue came to rest. During the band’s adventures, they met up with a budding, young, unknown, “killer” guitarist named Adrian Belew, who through the enticements of Christy and Rich moved to Springfield to record and hang out in the early 80s. Belew worked with Frank Zappa, David Bowie and is likely most remembered for his work with Talking Heads on their hallmark album, Remain in Light.
Janssen, Christy and Denhart, as the band GaGa (way before the Lady), along with the creative artwork of Mike Getz, contributed a great deal to Lone Rhino and Twang Bar King, Belew’s major label releases on Island Records, and they performed memorable live shows with the experimental guitarist and songwriter. I saw one with several other Springfieldians at Mabel’s in Champaign where the great drummer Larrie Londin played and Getz’s stage setup was in full view. After all that excitement wound down by 1983, the Tonguesnatcher Revue entourage wandered their respective ways, finding other paths in life to entertain and experience.
Now more than 30 years later (say it ain't so, boys) the band reunites for one more last show with the usual suspects, plus local stalwarts Dick Garretson, Mike Gillette, Mary Jo Curry, Cory Brown and Eric Tinsley filling out the sound. And come prepared, for when a group is this creative and that out there, no telling what’s going to happen when they get together, and when you do tell, no one is going to believe it anyway.
Have fun, folks, and rest assured, the Tonguesnatcher Revue’s long reach is still stretching out.
Contact Tom Irwin at firstname.lastname@example.org.