David Uosikkinen and Andy Vineberg in "In the Pocket" on Wildfire Radio interview Tommy Conwell in an in-depth conversation that takes an "entertaining look back at his eventful career, including his short-lived meeting with his favorite band of all time and stories of his great 'lost' album. He also performs a new song in its entirety."
One highly unappreciated aspect of Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers’ recordings and live performance is what DJ Caterina has dubbed the collective “Rumblers vocal.” It’s Tommy, Paul, Rob, Chris and even Jimmer (if he’s mic’d) singing In unison—sounding like that Philly street gang with an attitude that you always wanted to join.
It’s distinctive, it’s got swagger, and, as an event, it’s kind of rare.
But when it happens—hold on to something—‘cause it’s cool.
Some great examples in this list:
Performing "Big Big Love" live at Market St. Station in Wilkes-Barre, PA. Sept. 8, 1988.
At the end of a 1989 cover of “Philadelphia Freedom”—with other Philadelphia-based artists. Freedom!
In 2005, DJ Caterina came across a 1996 WMMR radio interview on Street Beat with Tommy Conwell raving about a band called Simon and the Bar Sinisters. Cut to 2018--and Simon Chardiet is doing things his way. As former leader of the New York City-based surfabilly punk 'n' roll band, Simon and the Bar Sinisters, his repertoire runs the gamut from surf rock to bebop to rockabilly, and, yes, he’s even been known to throw in a country and western cover like Lefty Frizzell now and again. In the 1980’s, Simon was a member of Joey Miserable and The Worms, a band that ruled their base in NYC's East Village. In Steven Blush’s 2016 book, “New York Rock: From the Rise of The Velvet Underground to the Fall of CBGB,” the author details the importance of the band to the city’s music scene: “Cree McCree crowed in High Times: ‘If not for [this band], Blues Traveler, Spin Doctors and Joan Osborne and NYC's jam-band scene may’ve never happened. Guitarist Jono Manson [and company] showed these whippersnappers how to turn a blasé bar crowd into believers at the now-iconic hole-in-the-wall, Nightingales.’” Born on the day Buddy Holly died, Feb. 3, 1959, does Simon ever have trouble starting a rock n roll conversation with any musician? One would think not. And with his charming personality and wit, he always has something interesting to say. ================================================ First things first, do you remember when Simon and the Bar Sinisters opened for Buzz Zeemer (Tommy Conwell on lead guitar) at Philly’s Grape Street Pub in 1996? Yes, very well. First, Tommy is a first-rate musician and, of course—we jammed! I was doing the 2-piece version of the Bar Sinisters at that time; Tommy Carr (formerly of Black Market Baby) was on drums. He’s a D.C. guy. That was a fun gig! I always liked Philly when I was in my early teens. I used to cut school [in New York] and go to Philly, ride all the trains and trolley cars, watch trains, go to EVERY guitar store, and eat a cheese steak. How did it come about that you were featured in a character study in the New York Times? ("Rocker of the Rockaways," May 2014) I know the writer for the Times, Corey Kilgannnon, from the beach out here in Rockaway. Ninety-nine percent of what I do is through people I know! Too bad I didn’t lose 10 pounds until AFTER the photo shoot! Do you ever hear from fans who want Simon and the Bar Sinisters to get back together? No. Who are your guitar heroes? Who did you hear growing up that you really wanted to emulate? My parents were true music heads; my mom was an excellent piano player. In my house, my dad played records by Django Reinhardt, Laurindo Almeida, Andrés Segovia, and Manitas de Plata. On my own, I discovered Pete Townshend, Chuck Berry and Hendrix, Cliff Gallup, Muddy Waters… I listen to a lot of horn players; Charlie Parker, Sonny Stitt, Wardell Gray, Gene Ammons, Arnett Cobb. When punk hit, I went for Johnny Thunders, Link Wray (he played in the punk circuit with Robert Gordon), Chris Spedding, Steve Jones (Sex Pistols); also, Denise Mercedes (Stimulators), and Fast Eddie Clarke (Motörhead). I also like D.O.A. and the Subhumans [from Canada]--those guys are hardcore punk but they really know their Chuck Berry. Where are some of your favorite studios to record? [The former] Coyote Studios in Williamsburg, Brooklyn—r.i.p. Owned by Albert and Mike. (Michael Caiati co-founded Coyote Recording Studios with his brother Albert in 1983.) [Also] Melody Lanes—r.i.p. Fuck gentrification! Now, next door to me in Rockaway is Oceanus. Matt Walsh is incredible! My favorite quote about labels in music is from Tommy Conwell who once said, “Labels are a drag.” How do you feel when a critic or writer tries to lump you in one genre, like saying you’re just a punk guy or just a roots rock musician? They don’t write about me much—I need more opportunities to GET pigeon-holed! You give guitar lessons as well. What is the one piece of information that you want your students to walk away knowing about playing guitar? If you neglect your art for one day, it shall neglect you for two. What is your guitar of choice when you perform? (Although, you’ve also been known to play a stand-up bass.) Gibson Les Paul with P-90 pickups and the old one-piece wraparound bridge tailpiece combo. It MUST have [a] big wide neck--strings are VERY heavy .013-.017-.022plain .034 -.044.-056. [I set the] action low on bass side VERY high on treble side. Also, a Rick Kelly pine telecaster with broadcaster pickups brass bridge saddles-same strings. Always a Fender amp or a copy of a fender. NO effects! I think I remember seeing that you had a go-fund-me type of project for a new record several years ago? How successful (or not) was that? What did you learn about the process? Yes, I did that was last year. I’m about to do another...hey, [there’s a] studio next door!! I’ve done three bebop jazz records--a punk rock record and a roots/rockabilly record. I’ll be panhandling the general public soon!
What’s the best band name you’ve ever heard? Suicide. Do you have a playlist on your phone? What are you listening to? I only have a flip phone. I hate phones. Where are you usually playing these days? [I play] out in Rockaway a lot. Mostly [at] Thai Rock, Uma’s, or Rockaway Brewing Company. In the summer, I play a lot of gigs on the boardwalk. I play with a couple of local jazz groups on upright bass or guitar. I lead my own jazz and blues trio, the Rooftoppers—we play Sunny's in Red Hook, Brooklyn on Nov. 30.
I play electric bass with the Supertones who play surf music. I still do my own thing Worms/Bar Sinisters-style, but usually solo. Sometimes with just a drummer—when the opportunity comes up.
Not really leading a "rock band" right now. I would have to be at the Irving Plaza-Webster Hall-record label-publicist-van-booking agent level of the biz to do that. And I’m not. I played all the bass on my last two rock and roll records and I will do that on the one I’m about to make. What else are you currently working on? Got another rockabilly record I’m going to start plus a duo record with Vic Ruggiero from the Slackers. We have a little skiffle band we do from time to time—two guitars, two singers. Vic plays a kick drum with one foot and tambourine with the other. If I’m visiting NYC for the first time, where’s the most non-touristy place I can go? Ray’s (Ray’s Candy Store) on Avenue A between St. Marks and 7th. Get an egg cream. Go there at night when Ray’s working. He’s 86 years young. I’ve known him since 1979!! =========================================== Find Simon Chardiet’s music catalog on Bandcamp: https://simonandthebarsinisters.bandcamp.com/