THEN - Above is a picture of Tonguesnatcher Revue in the "earlier days" and below is an article written by long time friend and fan, Bill Davison. Bill is currently a teacher in St. Anne Illinois. Thank you for your contribution Bill.
"Broadway Cabaret," by Bill Davison
I fell asleep in late 1970 while staring stoned into a strobe light listening to the final strains of ‘Abbey
Road’ and didn’t wake up until 1977. Lulled by the superficial slickness of manufactured hits and artists marketed like Barbie Dolls, I was adrift from the times when musical expression was a living reflection of current history. The profit motive had subdued popular music in the 70’s to a blandness palatable to both the six-year-old consumer and the hustling masses who prefer music that won’t interrupt what they are doing. I was disco-nected from that surrogate mother which was my lifeline to our culture. But years of dial twisting and wearing leaded shoes to avoid the temptation to dance have been rewarded.
Out of the darkness of the Broadway Cabaret, a cold, slimy hand (or maybe a tongue?) slapped me hard in the face. A happy voice says “Wake up!” A wildly prancing saxophone ignites nerve ends drooping from disuse. My fingers snap uncontrollably. My eyes behold in the brilliant light a bounding, throbbing mass of protoplasm and debris. Six humanoid forms carry a common expression on their faces. It is the contagious grin of a child who has planted a Whoopee cushion in Grandma’s chair. I can feel it on my face, too. They are dressed in anachronisms of American fashion. I sense that they are not of this time and space, but are some mutant evolution of a society which put a man on the moon and Soupy Sales on television. I willfully accept deliverance from a dreary reality and am pulled into a realm of great fun tempered with universal significance. But what is this force passing out revelations by the earful – especially with no cover charge? It is none other than ‘The Tonguesnatcher Revue’.
Perhaps the claim of spiritual re-awakening is overstating the case, but the Tonguesnatcher Revue is an eye-opening goulash of music that is, was and never-should-have-been. The experience is not so much a musical journey as it is a satirical, visual travelogue. It is as if Jonathan Swift and Lewis Carroll had a hot band to back them up. Their looking-glass is filled with disguises but the image is made real by professional artistry and serious attention to historical detail. Gus Kahn’s dreamy ‘Ukulele Lady’ is replete with grass skirts, swaying hips and talking hands. What would a Roy Orbison tune be without shades and vibrato? And talk about social comment, with tense and dazed expressions, they drag the audience in to the black and bored jungle of a Detroit ghetto. A threatening beat crescendos with Motown horns as a flurry of frustration is lyrically introduced in a seethingly savage mood. The deep bass voice of Mr. Doug Rapier conjures up a smouldering fury which belies the black man’s burden. The illusion reaches frightening proportions, enveloping the listener into an almost literal ‘Ball of Confusion’. It is the kind of message that 60’s liberals with recurring guilt feelings can identify with. Even the feud of the early fifties between Spike Jones and Lawrence Welk which polarized the nation is not too controversial a subject to deal with; the formerly banned version of ‘Hats Off to Larry’ pulls no punches.
At this point one has to ask from whose loins hath sprung such a beast. Individual members of the group refused to discuss their parents’ loins, but further questioning revealed the following; Christy Bley, Tad Bley, Rich Denhart, Bill Janssen, Doug Rapier and newly acquired drummer, John Sluzalis, all claim to have come from normal families in the nation’s geographical groin, Illinois. To identify them further is difficult because each possess an amorphous quality vocally, visually and instrumentally. They can be young, black street-corner singers or redneck farmers. They can be the Andrews Sisters at the USO or Frank Zappa exploring the boundaries of music while drooling on a waitress. IT all seems as easy as changing channels.
And, indeed, TSR is an offshoot of the media bombardment which informs the world of everything from deodorant tampons to the SALT Agreement, but to say the TSR is just another band is like calling Shakespeare and historian of European royalty. The wit and wisdom with which a variety of musical styles are performed serve first to entertain, but also function in other ways. They are a living collage of modern American musical history from which the viewer may choose his favorites but cannot deny the existence of others, not the qualities of goodness they exude. Music becomes the tie that binds. IT is a reminder of our common heritage. At a recent performance, I watched as both a tourist from Nebraska and a motorcycle gang enjoyed the same songs and jokes. Amid the sweet harmony and fascinatin’ rhythms, the world lost its perplexity, the messiah had returned to comfort me once more.
As is true of event the smallest miracle, you have to see it to believe it; don’t just take my word for it.
Tonguesnatcher Revue Picture Album
Review of The Tonguesnatcher Revue Assisted Living Tour, September 24, 2011
The Tonguesnatcher Revue was started in 1958 by two naive college students looking for summer jobs. Marketing their love of quirky yet popular American music from all eras, the two, singer and accordionist Hootsie Smoots and harp-guitar maestro and crooner Johnny "Doc" Chronos, eventually sold their idea to a couple of even more unsuspecting college students in 1970 who as fate would have it, were also looking for summer jobs. These two, Christy Bley and Rich Denhart, partnered their musical talents with vocal styling of Douglas Rapier and The Tonguesnatcher Revue was, in a sense, born again.
In 1971 saw the trio interested in expanding their project and it wasn't long before they recruited drummer Pat Greenan. This heady quartet began exploring the possibilities built into the popular music scene of the day and decided that here indeed was something of interest to the wider public. To complete the lineup they engaged doghouse bassist William B. Hart. The band, now five strong, began to prepare in earnest for a special event that coming spring at the prestigious and brand-spanking new Sangamon State University (now U of I - Springfield) in 1972; an event that would unleash The Tonguesnatcher Revue upon an unsuspecting world.
For that inaugural gig the band was amplified by a horn section comprised of Bill Janssen on saxes, Jay Fry on trombone and Tom Cartwright on trumpet. Of this new horn section only Janssen, a true Resonance Man, would survive. Fry exited music to study carillon in Belgium and Cartwright foolishly figured he could make more money as an investment banker.
Tonguesnatcher Revue came back to life in the Assisted Living Tour 2011 and as a result they were, we were all reminded that it really, truly, absolutely, without question, really did exist. They were everything that they imagined that they were and as good as we all remembered. AMAZING!
The band poked fun at the passing of time since the early 70's. Entering in by way of wheelchairs, walkers, and canes, the humor that is Tonguesnatcher Revue let us know not much had really changed. They were far from needing devices that help them move and groove on the stage. The energy and musicality of the group could only have been accomplished by seasoned professionals. The only problem with the Revue Assisted Living Tour, is their committed fans were left wondering when they would once again be entertained by the genius that is at the core of The Tonguesnatcher Revue.
TR-thank you for bringing us back to a time when your generation were the movers and the shakers on the dance floor. You reminded us, that we had it, we got it, and with only a little supportive "apparati," we can do it again and again!
Revue, rewind, redux, just let us know when you will "re"appear again!
Come back time and again for more updates!
Tonguesnatcher Revue Picture Album
The Tonguesnatcher Revue
Douglas Rapier - lead vocals, antoinetto
Rich Denhart - vocals, guitar
Bill Janssen - vocals, saxophones
Pat Greenan - drums
John Sluzalis - drums
Ably supported onstage by:
Mary Jo Curry - vocals
Eric "Winkie" Tinsley - bass
Cory Brown - keyboards
Dick Gerretson - trumpet, horn arrangements
Mike Gillette - tenor saxophone
Jim Turner - Host
Larry Wagoner - stage manager, vice-president
Ric Major - FOH sound & lights "Thanks Skippy!"
Special thanks to Mike Rapier, Michael Rapier Surveying, Inc., talent scout, the lay of the land
Carolyne Janssen - posters, and program graphics, patience
Mike Getz - artistic advisor
John Siverly - intern
Supporters -Recycled Records
Capital City Bar and Grille