Saturday, October 31, 2009

Gene Ludwig: Bossman of the B-3

Jerry Byrd, Gene Ludwig, and Randy Gillespie in 1964

Being Halloween and all, Old Mon couldn't resist posting a little haunting organ music for today's entry. And who better to deliver it than Gene Ludwig?

On September 4th, 1937, the coal-mining hamlet of Twin Rocks in Cambria County welcomed young Eugene Ludwig into the world. And while you may not have heard of him unless you're a local jazz fan, rest assured that Ludwig is one of the monsters of the Hammond B-3 organ.

Four years after he was born, his father took a job at Westinghouse Electric and moved the family to Wilkinsburg and then Swissvale, where Ludwig spent most of his youth. And yah, this all does have something to do with his career as a B-3 burner.

The previous owners of the Swissvale crib left an old piano behind, and that beat-up set of 88s was Ludwig's launching pad. His mom, Mary, could see he was a natural at the ivories, and dreamed of her son becoming a classical pianist.

At age 6, Ludwig started taking lessons, but momma's hopes took a hit when as a high-school kid, he discovered Porky Chedwick on WHOD. A steady dose of Ruth Brown, Big Joe Turner, Bill Doggett and Wild Bill Davis turned him away from big-band sounds to the R&B scene.

He still cites "Honky Tonk" by Bill Doggett, "The Sermon" by Jimmy Smith, and "I Got A Woman" by Jimmy McGriff as songs that inspired him and his career.

In 1955, he graduated from Swissvale High and went to Edinboro State Teacher's College, where he studied physics and math (and to this day, Ludwig still looks more like a professor than a jazzman).

But Westinghouse went on strike, and with his dad out of a pay check, Ludwig dropped out and started to earn his own way in the world. He returned to Pittsburgh, and got a gig with Fuller Construction.

He became a habitue at Birdie Dunlap's Hurricane Bar in the Hill, where he was exposed to keyboardists like Jack McDuff, Johnny Hammond Smith, Groove Holmes, Jimmy McGriff, Horace Silver, Ray Bryant, Ahmad Jamal, and Ramsey Lewis.

One night in 1957 at the Hurricane, he saw Jimmy Smith perform, making magic with his B-3 Hammond, and he was wowed.

Ludwig eventually purchased a Hammond M100 organ and later a C Model, branching out his keyboard repertoire after Smith showed him the light. Ludwig was bitten hard by the bug, and eventually started performing as a sideman with groups around town and then forming his own band.

In fact, his trio - Ludwig, drummer Randy Gillespie and guitarist Jerry Byrd - played Birdie's club from 1962 until it closed in 1968, a victim of the Arena project and the Martin Luther King riots. They also played some east coast gigs, and etched some wax for LaVere. Ludwig even hit the chitlin' circuit.

As he recalled for Bill Milkowski of JazzTimes: "It was beautiful. I didn't encounter any problems at all. I was up there playing and we always got return invites to all these places - the Hubbub in Indianapolis, the Key Club in Newark, Count Basie's in Harlem, Lennie's on the Turnpike and the Shanty in Boston. The people liked us."

Ludwig hooked up with tenor saxophonist Sonny Stenton and hit the area club circuit. They gigged in local venues like the Hi-Hat on the Northside, Mason's in the Hill, Tropics in Braddock and Dave's Walnut Inn in McKeesport, even scoring some dates in Cleveland.

Getting a taste of the gypsy life, Ludwig jumped ship and joined up with another saxman, Gene Barr. Barr's band toured heavily, performing in St. Louis, Indianapolis, Philadelphia and Buffalo.

Over time, Ludwig transitioned full monty from the piano to the organ. During a 1964 Atlantic City show, he played on the same bill with Smith, who used Ludwig's C Model.

After the show, Smith told him he should try to get a B-3 because the C Model, a smaller, open-legged instrument, would work him to death. Ludwig returned to Pittsburgh, bought a B-3, and played with his trio (Wilbert Longmire eventually replaced Byrd, and then Pat Martino took Longmire's spot). They traveled to Count Basie's club in Harlem, the 100 Club in Cleveland and other jazz venues around the East.

During a gig in Newark, New Jersey, Nesuhi Ertegun (Ahmet's brother) of Atlantic Records caught the band in action, and he signed Ludwig and the trio to cut a 45, "Sticks And Stones," which led to the "Organ Out Loud" LP for Milestone Records (#6032).

In 1966, "Mother Blues" was released on the Jo-Da label, and Ludwig's own label, Ge-Lu Records, issued "This is Gene Ludwig" (GL-1415).

In 1969, Ludwig replaced Don Patterson in Sonny Stitt's band for a year, long enough to cut "Night Letter" with the group for Prestige Records. Though he left the band, he would sit in with Stitt over the years.

Ludwig returned to Pittsburgh and started working regularly with saxophonist Bill Easley and later, Walt Maddox. He took to the road with big band crooner Arthur Prysock a couple of times, once for a year beginning in 1973 and again in 1978.

David Parr of the La Rells, who was also a sound engineer, remembers one session loaded with superstar talent. In 1974, he taped “Dancing on a Daydream” by Flora Wilson. One of the backing singers was Phyllis Hyman.

But the jocks turned the record over, and the big hit was the instrumental B side, done by the Sound of Philadelphia Orchestra, credited to the Soulvation Army Band. Parr taped the flip side in Philly, and added some sugar in Pittsburgh. He had sax man George Green honk for him, and Gene Ludwig pumped the B-3.

Phyllis Hyman backing on the vocal track and Gene Ludwig on the B side? Hey, ya gotta be kiddin'! Pittsburgh sure had some sidemen back in the day.

Although he got his share of club dates and was a popular session player, the era of the organ was winding down. He was turning down gigs that wanted him to mellow out (he remained true to jazz and R&B), and it looked like the Hammond players were fast becoming an endangered species.

That is, until Joey DeFrancesco, Papa John's kid, fueled a resurgence with a series of Columbia albums running form 1989 through the nineties and revived the genre.

Throughout the '80s and '90s, Ludwig's schedule picked up, and he toured the eastern and midwestern circuits while working in local jazz clubs like the Crawford Grill and James Street Tavern.

He appeared at the Montreaux Jazz Festival. He's honky-tonked at the San Francisco Jazz Festival, Birdland in NYC, the Stanford Jazz Festival, and Newark's Jazz Organ Jam. Ludwig has gigged at the Blue Note in Las Vegas, Philly's Zanzibar Blue, and Trumpet's in Jersey.

Dizzie Gillespie, Jimmy Smith, Charles Earland, Don Patterson, Nancy Wilson, Barbara McNair, Damita Jo, and Ester Philips are some of the artists he's shared stages with during his career. He played at the Mellon Jazz Festival.

Locally, Ludwig organized his own Jazz Organ Jams at Shadyside's Balcony club, where he had a regular gig until it closed its doors a decade ago. Ludwig and fellow Hammond B3 giants, Jack McDuff, Joey DeFrancesco and Papa John DeFrancesco, put together a super-group performance there that they called "ExtravOrganza."

And hey, he's kept busy even as the jazz joints become fewer. In the past few months, he's rocked the Rhythm House in Bridgeville, Blue in McCandless, Morgan's Restaurant in Penn Hills, The Sweetwater Center For The Arts in Sewickley, The Backstage Bar, Downtown, and Pangea in Shadyside.

That's a pretty active schedule, we think, for a guy that's in his seventies, has 50 years in the business, and lugs around a 400 pound instrument.

The last decade has seen a flood of tracks being laid down by Ludwig, too. With the release of his 1998 "Back on the Track" CD, the gates opened.

Five other CD's have since hit the market: "Soul Serenade" in 2000, "The Groove Organization" in 2002, "Hands On" in 2004, "Live in Las Vegas" in 2006 and “Duff’s Blues: Live at Zoellner Art Center” in 2008.

Oh, and Ludwig was recognized by the Manchester Craftsman Guild as a "Jazz Legend" last year with eight other local giants during its 40th anniversary bash. He even found time to marry Pattye Zamborsky on September 30, 2000.

Now about that national recognition thing. It's an out-of-sight, out-of-mind conundrum, and in the east, if you're not in New York, you're nowhere.

Marty Ashby of the Manchester Guild said of Ludwig and his home boys: "These are the people who have stayed in Pittsburgh, who could have been anywhere in the world, and they elected to stay here and pass the tradition and the language of this music on to future generations."

Jazz producer Bob Porter told the Jazz Times that "To a certain extent, if you are a local musician, you’re either so good that you’re always working or you’re not good enough to travel. There’s no real middle ground. And Gene is just one of these guys who is so good, and his reputation is so strong around Pittsburgh, that he really didn’t have to come out that much." Amen to that.

"I chose to stay in Pittsburgh for my home because I love this city and my many friends and fellow musicians here," Ludwig wrote on the Pittsburgh Jazz Network. "I haven't found as rich a source of great musicians as in Pittsburgh."

Pittsburgh has been the mother lode of jazz for longer than Old Mon has been alive (and yes, that's a long time), and will be as long as guys like Gene Ludwig are here to pass on the torch to the next wave of be-boppers.

EDIT - The next generation will have to do without Gene Ludwig; he passed away on July 15th, 2010, at the age of 72.

Gene Ludwig live at Zanzibar Blue - "I Got A Woman"

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Southside Jerry

southside jerry
Southside Jerry Mellix

Jerry Mellix was born in the Lower Hill, and went to Soho and Forbes schools. He got his start in music in 1961 at the age of fourteen, blowing a sax for the Fifth Avenue High School band and with his Hill District community players, the Hill City Marching Band.

But his muse was his brother Ron, looking sharp while marching in the Saturday morning parades with the HCMB. Ron would then spend his Saturday nights with Clairton's Shirley and The Splendors, coming home after a gig with his cut of the pot - $15. Jerry wanted to get a piece of that action.

Not that there weren't other influences over his career. "Sax players like Art Nance, the late great J.C. Gordon, Stanley Turrentine, Hammond B-3 player John Papi, guitar player Larry "Butch" McGhee, vocalist Hattie Taylor, members of These Gents, the late Johnny Jack and Jerry Betters, and of course everyone from the group The Memories, inspired and encouraged me," he said.

"A lot of those players, too many to name, were cats who only got to play in those hole in the wall joints. They never got recorded or will never be known outside their neighborhoods, but I appreciate them all."

When he was sixteen, Mellix hooked up with his first professional band, Little Willie Beck & The Crossfires (Beck forged Mellix's folks signatures on the work permit papers). Mainly a club band, they never recorded, though they did perform at the Stanley Theater for a 1963 show headlined by Lee Dorsey and Derek Martin of "You Better Go" fame. In fact, the Stanley performance was Mellix's first gig.

The Crossfires rode the circuit of the local venues - The Holiday House, Twin Coaches, and the other supper clubs that once dotted the region. They got to open for groups like The Miracles, Brook Benton, the Coasters, and ‘Wicked’ Wilson Pickett.

While the band may have never cut wax, they did get on radio, doing live commercials for WAMO DJ Bill Powell.

Like the other young males of the day, Mellix spent his year in 'Nam, joining Uncle Sam's crew in 1965. Then he came back home to a long run with the Memories.

He spent the next twenty plus years as a member of the band. They started out as an acapella doo-wop group the first year, then changed some personnel and added musicians, putting together a sweet show act. The Memories did an album worth of recordings in the mid 70’s for Terry Lee, but the DJ never released the cuts.

But the Memories did record again, on their MEMCO Label, and released their first wax, "Can I" b/w “Lovey Dovey” in 1976, followed in 1978 by "Sha-Boom" b/w "Once And Awhile." They later recorded and released a 4-song mini LP on cassette, a hot medium in 1981.

The band based their later choreography ala The Temptations, as they found themselves opening for a number of Motown acts playing the area like the Temptations (who were duly impressed by the Memories' show; imitation is the greatest form of flattery, no matter what biz you're in) and the O'Jays.

By the late 80’s, the members of the group were being raided by The Vogues, who took Keith Dix & Dave Wingo, The Marcels, who lured Jules Hopson, and The Clovers, who added Richie Merritt. The Memories became a memory. Mellix cast his lot with The Laurels.

He spent a few years performing with them, and decided to strike out on his own. His first gig was as a member of a South Side blues house band. The leader had trouble pronouncing Mellix during the group intros, and so "Southside Jerry" was born.

In 1997, he taped his first solo effort under his new stage name. That recording, released on cassette by RAM, was titled "Blues 'N' At" and won Pittsburgh's EXCEL Award for best independently produced Jazz/Blues record. Southside Jerry reissued it on CD in 2000 on his own impress, the Jermel label.

Now on his own, Mellix expanded beyond his Motown roots, and added blues and jazz to his R&B and doo-wop repertoire. He also expanded his stage, performing in places like Buffalo, Rochester, Charlotte, New Orleans, and Atlanta.

His favorite gig was at Trump Plaza in Atlantic City. There, Mellix got to perform with The Clovers, which included his old band mate from The Memories, Richie Merritt, who sang for a host of local groups, including the Electrons and the Marcels.

He joined forces with Morgantown's oldies/shag act, the Subway Band, which toured the east, and in 2005 cut the album "Black, White, & Blues" on their own label. His playing is also heard on albums with Pittsburgh's Stingers, Memphis Mike, and Kari Throm.

Heck, in 2006 he even played a gig with Gary Racan and the Studio E Band for the opening night gala after Matthew McConaughey's and Matthew Fox's "We Are Marshall" movie premier in Huntington, West Virginia.

The Subway job landed him an opportunity to play with Chicago's "Daughter of the Blues," B.B. King's girl Shirley, as a member of the R&B Station. His last performance with her was in Toronto, where Mellix parted ways to work in the Reno and Carson City casinos with a R&B show band called Musicole w/Michael Coleman.

But when the economy went south, so did the casino budgets. Mellix returned to his old stomping grounds in 2007 to earn his daily bread, and has been doing nicely ever since.

Here, he's back on the oldies circuit, backing The New Holidays, The Four Townsmen, and the Soul Merchants; he was with the El Monics before they broke up. He also performed with his own band, the Blues 'N' At Band, under his Southside Jerry persona.

Mellix plays the tenor sax, but also has been known to blow on a alto, bari and flute when it's called for and still is a pretty fair vocalist.

Forty-five years in the show, traveled the country, and yet got to come home again, to Wilkinsburg. Oh, and made enough of the long green to send his daughter through medical school (a day job with the Post Office helped that cause).

Southside Jerry is one of the unsung blue-collar success stories of the Pittsburgh music scene, and we hope he's back to stay.

Southside Jerry doing "Jerry's Blues"

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Meeting Of Important People

Meeting of Important People (photo by Rebecca Chiappelli)

In the late summer of 2008, a Pittsburgh band with the high-falutin' name of Meeting of Important People had one of their songs, “Mothers Pay More,” released on a national "Key Party" sampler.

And hey, the Brit-pop tune, a sort of Zombies-meet-The Who mash-up, became an internet hit. The guys followed the cut with a full-length CD, and self-released their self-named debut in March of this year.

It didn't take long for the tracks to pick up a following. In July, the band signed with the LA-based Authentik label. The impress is a twenty first century company; instead of peddling hard-copy CDs, they put their acts' material on the web for download on sites like iTunes and Amazon MP3.

They reissued "Meeting of Important People" the following month, and it's gotten some love on the digital platform. It was considered "new and notable" on the iTunes Store's singer-songwriter category, not a bad accolade for Pittsburgh garage rockers.

MOIP's sound is from the 1960s British Mod Invasion, deconstructed music with upbeat rhythms, bouncy melodies, crash-bang-boom drums, and mindworm hooks. Their themes often center on the odd-ball relationships of youth with his personal world.

Sounds a little off-the-wall, but angst has moved a lot of wax, and they have enough tongue-in-cheek lyricism and the musical chops to pull it off.

It's not the first time around the track for the trio. Guitarist/lead Josh Verbanets, bassist Aaron Bubenheim and drummer/keyboardist Matt Miller have all played in big-time Pittsburgh bands.

Miller was pounding the kit for Lohio, Troy Hill's Bubenheim played for the bluesy Br'er Fox, Resistor, and Central Plains, and frontman Verbanets made a couple of stops along the road himself.

Plum's Verbanets came by his rock jones honestly, hooked when his dad spun Alice Cooper's "Love It to Death" when he was a kid. He played in a high school group, went off to college, and came back as a member of the power-pop threesome The You in 2006. They recorded an LP with producer Brian Deck (Modest Mouse) for Pure Tone Music, a subsidiary of Sony/Epic.

But amid some major-label politicking, the album was never released. When the deal went south, so did The You.

Verbanets eventually sat in with Lohio, and Miller recognized him from a The You show he had caught. They collaborated writing with band founder Greg Dutton, but three is a crowd, and Dutton was the alpha dog of Lohio. Rather than bang heads creatively, the pair eventually decided to chase their own vision, and MOIP was born in 2008, first as a side project, then as a full-time gig this year.

The band members have shared the stage with The Secret Machines, Blonde Redhead, and the Sam Roberts Band. Their tracks have received heavy airplay on XFM and terrestrial radio and have been placed into films and television, even before their album was released. The iTunes suits gave them some recognition.

Hey, they've even released their own Authentik vid of "Brittney Lane Don't Care," directed by Thom Gunt, who's done some Anti-Flag and Iggy Pop stuff. It, like their songs, has a hook - everything in it but the band members is made of cardboard, which helped get them some notice and ink in the rush hour crowd of internet music vids.

They're finishing up the year by touring the state, performing at a label party in Brooklyn, and on stage for a couple of rockfests - Brooklyn's CMJ Festival, Bruar Falls showcase in October, and Toronto's International Pop Overthrow Festival in November. MOIP did over 30 shows to support the CD in the East, Midwest and Canada, and they were named WYEP-FM's local act of the year for 2009.

Whether MOIP break out will have a lot to do with the Authentik business model. They have a solid indie sound that should appeal to the college radio scene, and being web-based instead of a local phenomena gives them quick access to national markets. Whether that works better than the traditional "release a CD, push it on the radio, and tour like madmen to support it" model will be seen.

But hey, so far, so good. In July of 2010, they released their new "Quit Music" CD, a garage rocker with a 60's pop sound. They'll hold a release party July 24th at the Thunderbird for 21+, and an all ages show, with Good Night, States Friday, July 30th at The Andy Warhol Museum. Everyone that attends will get a copy of the CD.

But MOIP is in a sort of limbo state right now, with two CD releases but not yet known well enough outside the region to tour full-time, and with home front responsibilities that require some steady bread. All have day jobs: Miller works in the Carnegie Cafe at the Carnegie Museums in Oakland, Verbanets is a financial analyst at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, and Bubenheim works in the title department for Federated Mortgages on Mt. Washington.

As Albert Einstein, renowned player of the slide rule, once said "I never think of the future - it comes soon enough." We'll see what it holds for MOIP.

MOIP - "Brittney Lane Don't Care"

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A. T. Vish

A. T. Vish

You can trace the Pittsburgh music scene fairly linearly, from the crooners to the jazz era to the R&B/doo-wop bands segueing into the pop/punk sound of more recent decades.

But beyond the club bands, musical genres of all stripes have bubbled just under the mainstream radar in the 'Burgh. Goth and industrial rock have been underground mainstays in the region, and some strong if locally underloved experimental electronica groups have emerged.

One of the veterans of the area's side stream scene is drummer A.T. (Al) Vish.

He's played the kit for Pittsburgh bands like the 90's garage-psych Thickhead Grin, InShalla, MACE, Una De Luna, electronica Jilted Brides, and perhaps the best-known of his groups, of New York's Projekt label, the goth/darkwave Lowsunday.

Lowsunday was named by Alternative Press as one of the "Top 100 Bands You Need to Know of 2002," and was featured on MTV and The Real World TV series before their breakup, when Vish departed to work on some solo projects.

In the summer of 2003, Vish was the drummer in South Side's City Theater and Hartford Stage production of the rock musical "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," starring Anthony Rapp. He also backed Rapp during his "Without You" show that premiered at the City Theatre in 2008.

But his raison d' etre has been Carol Blaze, the collective name for his solo work.

Apart from a couple of guest vocalists, the CD "Carol Blaze" is Vish's love child, featuring a mixture of drone, psychedelia, goth, darkwave, and rock, originally conceived as the soundtrack to a fictional character by the same name.

Written, performed, and recorded by Vish, he claims that the tracks are "the product of a confused sexual relationship between Nick Cave, The Sneaker Pimps, Bowery Electric, Tangerine Dream, Peter Gabriel, U2, and Monster Magnet."

Well, we don't know about all that; the mind shudders at contemplating a sexual bond between Sneaker Pimp and Monster Magnet. But it is an interesting sound, kind of a Bowie meets Pink Floyd mash-up with generally bleak, gloomy undertones.

One reviewer compared it to a "cleaned up Bauhaus mixed with New Order." The songs range from analog to darkwave to lo-fi to radio rock, quite a lot of genres to wrap one's ears around.

While the approach is an honest representation of Vish's collective musical experience, if you're a hard-core fan of one style over another, you'll find some tracks awesome, but will pound the "skip" button on others.

Even Vish recognizes that a melange doesn't suit everyone. So he's put together a pretty unique sales pitch - he offers 32 different tracks at his MySpace Music site, and will customize a mix-and-match Carol Blaze CD to your liking. How's that for service?

It's also available at other e-outlets, like i-Tunes and Amazon, for the less ambitious or more catholic listener.

Cuts from "Carol Blaze" have also been snapped up by a couple of indie film-makers, who used its dark, foreboding tracks to evoke the right mood for their flicks.

He's just followed up 2003's "Carol Blaze" with the September release of "Soul Surrender," on his All Terrain Vehicles label.

Vish also stays busy in his ATV recording studio. He's recorded and/or produced bands such as Peace Project, Between the Waters, Debutante, Boxstep, The Drag Strippers, Violaria, and Freddy Hall, among others.

So hey, remember there's life beyond the pop/punk scene in Pittsburgh. A.T. Vish is living proof.

A. T. Vish "Staring," video by Jilted Bride's Tanya Andrea Stadelmann

Saturday, October 3, 2009


Punchline from Starpulse

Punchline is a pop punk band from Belle Vernon that first formed in 1997 as a trio. Its original members were lead vocalist/guitarist Steve Soboslai, bassist Chris Fafalios, and drummer PJ Caruso.

They were all students in BVHS, and began by playing local Mon Valley shows. They recorded "How to Get Kicked Out of the Mall," that was heavy on punk/ska, their initial trademark sound. In later recordings, the ska influence would wane; pop harmonies gradually replaced the Jamaican rhythms.

In 1999, the band self-produced and released their first full-length album, "Punchline."

Guitarist/vocalist Paul Menotiades signed up, and they recorded and co-produced "Major Motion Picture" in 2001. Punchline followed that in 2002 with "The Rewind" EP. The EP's four tracks featured for the first time their now signature pop-punk sound.

In 2003, the band signed with Fueled by Ramen Records, the Tampa-based indie label. "The Rewind" was remixed, remastered, and reissued. Early pressings included a DVD of Punchline in action.

With February 2004's "Action," Punchline continued on its pop-punk trail by featuring sharp harmonies, catchy melodies and riffs, and a strong rhythm section.

Soboslai, Menotiades, and Fafalios interweaved vocals on the disk, and the first 10,000 pressings also included a new DVD. Gotta love that multi-media approach.

That's when they lost their first player. Menotiades left the band in mid-tour, and Greg Wood replaced him for the remaining shows on the schedule.

Wood, a solo artist and member of Connecticut's West Beverly band, eventually joined the group full-time, and played keyboard and guitar on Punchline's 2006 release "37 Everywhere."

Why that title? The album's CD notes explain: "The number 37 is everywhere. It is in your daily routine and it will surprise you. Look for it and it will look for you." Even the liner notes contain 37 references to the number 37, and the band had 37 titles to select from when putting the tracks together. Spooky, hey?

"37 Everywhere," was released in 2006. The album was dedicated to John "Beatz" Holohan (1974-2005), former drummer of Bayside, and had a half-dozen guest punk players pop up on its tracks.

Greg Wood amicably bailed out in the summer of 2006. He left the band to pursue a solo career and to teach guitar. Keepin' that fourth member around was proving to be quite the chore for Punchline.

Wood was replaced by keyboardist Jon Belan, who was a high school bud, former member of The Berlin Project, and now lead singer for Gene the Werewolf.

In early 2008, the band left Fueled By Ramen, which had helped them become a presence locally and internationally. Later that summer, Punchline created their independent label, Modern Short Stories, using the $25,000 winnings from Heavy's Contraband Contest, a net-based battle of the bands. Punchline’s videos were viewed over 1,100,000 times in four months on the site.

It's a unique boutique. Modern Short Stories has released a children's book authored by Fafalios and Tony Hartman, and plans to be a multi-media producer. For now, it has a couple of albums in the works and a DVD planned, both aimed for year-end release.

The album "Just Say Yes" was released on their label in September of 2008, with a limited four-track bonus disc. It marks a transition, from less of a punk sound to more of a heavy rock beat, ala Green Day and Weezer.

Punchline isn't just a studio band, though they've moved over 100,000 albums worldwide. They've cultivated a dedicated fan base (the "Punchkids"), using a blend of social networking on the web and a well-developed, often self-depreciating, sense of humor, and toured like madmen.

Punchline has played with Catch 22, Coheed and Cambria, Good Charlotte, Brand New, Reel Big Fish, Sum 41, Less Than Jake, and was part of the Warped Tour

In 2003, as a FBR act, they appeared in over 200 shows. During the summer of 2004, Punchline strutted their stuff in Japan with Fall Out Boy. In the spring of 2005, they embarked on their first headliner road trip, the Now or Never Tour.

They returned to the Land of the Rising Sun in June of 2006, when they had top billing on a Japanese tour with Paramore and October Fall. Punchline toured the UK for the first time in 2007 as a supporting act on the Good To Go Tour, and returned in 2008 for a second go-around on the GTGT, in addition to a lot of Tri-State dates.

This year, they're riding the bus for a series of American stops. In June, Punchline co-headlined the Major/Minor Tour with the band Socratic.

In September, Punchline set out on the AbsolutePunk Next Favorite Band Tour with groups Farewell, Between The Trees, and Action Item, focusing on midwestern and southern venues, ending in November. They'll follow up by taking to the highway with Hawthorne Heights, Just Surrender, Monty Are I and Nightbeast.

And hey, besides those early DVD's, the band also has a couple of vids to their credit for the tracks "The Ghostie" and "The Hit" from "Just Say Yes."

2009 saw a little more shake-up on the personnel front. In January, long-time drummer and original member P.J. Caruso left the band (on good terms; he said was going back to college and had a day job), to be replaced behind the kit by Pat Dee.

Then in late August, guitarist Jon Belan exited, to howl as Gene the Werewolf full-time. Former guitarist Paul Menotiades (currently playing as part of the singer/songwriter duo The Composure with Jesse Hall) is replacing Belan for their autumn tour "and possible future recordings."

"Delightfully Pleased," their newest release, hits the stores on August 10, 2010 from Modern Short Stories/TDR Records, and will include a limited vinyl edition. The release party is set for Friday, August 13 at Club Diesel. Its music features return to Punchline's roots sound, uptempo and percussive.

The band is now Soboslai, Fafalios, and new drummer Cory Muro, along with founding member Menotiades; the original trio are back together. The band will its US tour dates in the coming weeks.

Hey, the faces change, but everything old is new again, and the Punchline remains the same.

Punchline - "Ghosties"