From Up Around the Bend

...And A Partridge In A Pear Tree

Thursday evening, December 15th, found fans and first-timers crowding into the festively decorated Court Street Grill with familial Christmas spirits in tow. Visiting Pomeroy for the fourth time, New York jump blues band, The Gas House Gorillas, had stopped by to wish everyone a happy holiday tear up the joint.

As most people knew and a few found out, these are not goody-two-shoes gorillas. After singing a rousing rendition of Marks and Brodie's "Run, Run, Rudolph," vocalist Rick Fink rolled into the band's original "I Love How They Swing That Thing" and was soon down to his wife-beater undershirt, suspender-suspended pleated pants, and pork pie hat cocked confidently over one or both eyes. He hung from the spiral staircase singing Wynonie Harris' 1949 swinging single "All She Wants To Do Is Rock." He paraded up and down the bar belting out the late 70s hit by Cheap Trick, "I Want You To Want Me," while chairs and tables provided perfect perches for his delivery of Gorilla original "Burglar In The House Of Love."

Dressed in black boots, kilt, and a shirt that came off for the end of the evening encore, the animated Crusher Carmean, was frequently seen on the bar, back to back with Rick, bouncing and spinning the bass, an upright that was downright distinct. He designed and assembled the entire bass from slip grip diamond sheet metal – yep, like the running boards on trucks, and with K&K Systems, an acoustic instrument company, Crusher designed the special sound system inside. John Lohse, long time bass player for Mudfork Blues Band and soul singer Johnnie Rawls, when he's in town, was impressed with the bass as well as with Crusher's playing. "He's awesome and incredibly athletic!"

Often given to hyperbole, Crusher exuberantly referred to "Seltzer" Jim Davis several times as "the greatest sax player on earth." Jim is certainly seasoned, and his leads always receive whistles and applause. He knows how to make that horn sing and swing into your soul, and like Rick and Crusher, he isn't shy about wading out into the crowd. His calming clarinet lead on "How'd You Like To Spend Christmas On Christmas Island," written by Lyle Moraine and originally performed and recorded by the Andrews Sisters and Guy Lombardo's orchestra for Christmas, 1946, was a pleasant, unexpected surprise.

Proudly wearing a New York Yankees hat, Dean Shot, repeatedly declared "the greatest guitar player on earth" by Crusher, laid down leads and rhythms with right-on-time digital dexterity and taste. Dean's vocals and guitar playing came together for a crowd-pleasing cover of "Tiger Man," the Burns/Lewis tune made famous by Elvis Presley. Jared Sheetz, who plays guitar for Mudfork Blues Band and has backed Johnnie Rawls at Buddy Guy's Legends in Chicago, made this perceptive observation: "He really grounds the group. He's clean without going over the top." Late in the evening, however, Dean was spotted – yes, on the bar - playing a lead to Gary US Bond's "New Orleans" with his mouth. It was only once, and the other Gorillas probably coerced him.

"The greatest drummer on earth," Noel Sagerman, sat on his throne in the background, cool, calm, and confidently composed, behind cymbals and tom-toms, behind the wall of theatrics. He was the band's steady, rhythmic pulse, the thump and flutter of the band's heart. He performed a stirring solo during "New Orleans" right after Dean's oral application to the strings. And no, he wasn't on the bar.

The gift given to each person by the ill-mannered Gas House Gorillas that night was the experience of controlled, musical madness. As everyone excitedly exited The Right Reverend's establishment in the first wee hour of the tenth day before Christmas, no one was heard to say, "You know, I'd rather have had a partridge in a pear tree." Now, I mean no offense to the English or perhaps the French authors of "The Twelve Days of Christmas," a fine song celebrating the giving of increasingly grand gifts to demonstrate one's love. However, if asked, I'm certain that everyone who was there would agree that all of it - the laying geese, the leaping lords, the milking maids, the partridge in a pear tree - would pale in comparison to the evening's excellent music.

Spider - The Big Bend Blues News (January 18th, 2012)