As you listen to the Sharp Chuckies, something may remind you how much you love the poignant lyrical insights of the acoustic Neil Young, or the dazzling and unpredictable studio virtuosity of Zeppelin in their prime. Your thoughts may drift to the lush sonic canvases of the Bunnymen, or the torrid and uncompromising experimentation of the Velvets.
Then you will think, "Why aren't I listening to that stuff instead of these bozos?" But, as the dozens of Chuckies listeners before you have found out, avoiding this band is easier said than done. With their dozens of incessently catchy albums, and hundreds of insidiously kitchy songs, spewed forth from more major metropolitan areas than you have clean socks, steering clear of the Chuckies' music is all but impossible these days.
The Sharp Chuckies: Their Story
Chapter One: Genesis (the beginning, not the band called Genesis)
The Sharp Chuckies were conceptualizationed in a tiny town in the Berkshire mountains called New Lebanon, New York, in 1985. Ken B. and John B. wrote the song that would become the Chuckies’ first - Hydras Are Extinct (On The Cheetah Plane), a tribute to tenth grade Biology teacher, Mr. Morris. In 1988 they wrote a few more songs and made a 4-track recording. John B. played drums and sang and Ken B. played guitar and bass and sang backup and produced the recording. It was called We’re Not Just Salesmen, We’re Musicians, and they called themselves The Sharp Chuckies.
Ken B. played it for his former Flashback bandmate Stikki Rikki Starr, who was duly impressed but not intimidated. The two had decided to record a few songs of their own about their tiny town and its people. They recorded four songs. Stikki Rikki played drums and sang and played kazoo and harmonica and maybe bass (he’s very talented), he can’t remember, and Ken B. played guitar and sang backup, and probably kazoo and bass too. Their recording was called the Green Peas. That was to be the name of their band, but then they decided along with John B. to just add their songs to the Sharp Chuckies recording and Stikki Rikki officially joined The Sharp Chuckies, thusforthly making them a power trio, like Triumph or Rush.
The Sharp Chuckies released We’re Not Just Salesmen, We’re Musicians b/w The Green Peas in 1988, and the limited print cassette-only release took New Lebanon and small parts of neighboring Pittsfield, Massachusetts by storm.
Chapter Two: Rise To Fame
Having established themselves as local heroes, the Chuckies knew their follow up release had better rock. It did. Where The Hell Are We? (1989) was a solid effort. Although the sound quality was weak due to the substandard VestaFire 4-track that was used by the band, the album was a breakthrough for the band and showed the band’s wide range of songwriting talent as a band. This recording’s brilliance was magnified by the fact that it took only two of the three Chuckies to do it, as John B. was in the hospital with liver damage during the recording session and could not participate.
Later that same year, Yes, As A Matter Of Fact, We Do Need To Drink To Have A Good Time hit the dirt roads of New Lebanon. The album contained fourteen inspired songs written and recorded in just one day, an astonishing feat no other band has ever matched as far as the Chuckies know.
Chapter Three: Hello Headcheese
Later that same year, a high school chum of Ken B.’s, Headcheese Fuck, joined the band, thusforthly making the Chuckies a quartet, just like the Beatles or any other band with four members, like Van Halen, but not like Iron Maiden, who had five band members just like the Rolling Stones, Def Leppard, and possibly, it’s anyone’s guess really, T’Pau (who knows how many people were in that band), but NOT Bad Company, who was clearly a four member band. Another five-member band example is The Grateful Dead but ONLY during when they recorded the live Skeleton & Roses album right before Keith Godchaux joined the band, during Mickey Hart’s absence when they only had one drummer. Anyway, Headcheese was an old school chum of Ken B. and John B. and he was really tough. “I’d rather fight than fuck”, he’d say, but when he said it he was ripping off Stewart Robertson, who actually used to say that. He was a good dude. Stikki Rikki painted a house with him once.
WERS radio in Boston began playing the Chuckies, and requests from listeners proved the band’s popularity in New Lebanon and parts of neighboring Pittsfield, Massachusetts was no fluke. Soon the band was asked to do an on air interview, which they did, representationed by Ken B. and Headcheese (or as the boys refer to him, “H-Cheese”). They appeared on a show called “Alternative Parameters”, but you must keep in mind this took place years before the term “alternative” was used to describe a type of music. The Chuckies were not and will never be “alternative”.
1990 saw the release of The Sharp Chuckies Go Curling, a short but awe-inspiring effort done, once again, despite the absence of John B., who was in the hospital with liver damage. Stikki Rikki contributed only one song, the acoustic country tune “The Ballad Of Stan Johnson”, with trumpet solo played by Stikki Rikki’s personal karate instructor, Paul St. Amour. Ken B. and H-Cheese proved a formidable duo, however, handling writing and performing duties for the rest of the album extremely satisfactorily.
Another decent rock album, Erik Estrada, was released in 1991. It featured the hit song “Erik Estrada Wants Me”, written by John B. about Erik Estrada’s sexual lust for him. This album was done by John B. and Stikki Rikki without the help of the other two members.
Also in 1991 (or maybe it was 1993, no one can really remember), the band tried something entirely revolutionary and quite a bit different and unique and groundbreaking. Due to the fact that Stikki Rikki and John B. had relocated to Denver and Ken B. and H-Cheese still lived on the east coast (Boston by this time), the band decided to do two separate but complimentary albums to be released simultaneously (at the same time). Thusforthly, Do Ya Think I’m Sexy? Pt.1 and Do Ya Think I’m Sexy? Pt.2 were born. Part 1 featured John B. and Stikki Rikki, and Part 2 featured Ken B. and H-Cheese, along with Mike Dugger on drums for four tracks and lead vocals on “Cookin’ Man”. Dugger was the drummer for the early ‘80s New Lebanon based rock band Flashback, with Ken B., Stikki Rikki, and Paul St. Amour. He filled in for one session when H-Cheese had to appear at a divorce hearing that would finally put an end to his tumultuous marriage to Cher.
Chapter Four: Goodbye John B.
One day John B. didn’t want to rock anymore. It was a sad day for the Chuckies. But then they said “Oh, fuck him then”, and moved on to rock again.
It was around this time that Ken B. changed his name to The London Ken for obvious reasons.
Chapter Five: The Band Peaks
In December 1993 the band converged in Boston to record what would become their agreed upon masterpiece, Gunrunning With The Sharp Chuckies. Joined by friends Celia Coolidge (who sang the part of the little school boy on "I Match Today"), Aura Weiss, and Rick Schuttig, the Chuckies wrote and recorded an exceptionally inspired nine new songs. It was freakin’ magical. This was actually the first time The London Ken, Stikki Rikki, and H-Cheese were all three present at the same time during a recording session. The resulting creative force was astonishing, even to them.
They repeated the magic in December of the following year. 1994’s Dancin’ With Danger was done by the three remaining Chuckies alone, with no help from anyone, not even their moms. Seven new songs were written and recorded in a single day. It was another great album by this talented and handsome and good smelling group. The only bad thing that happened was they ordered pizza with bacon on it and the bacon tasted rancid.
1995 was a year in which the band could not meet in one place together, so The London Ken recorded some demos on his own, comprised of songs written by him and Stikki Rikki. The result was London Goes Wilde!, a technological masterpiece that drew comparisons to Tangerine Dream and the writings of Oscar Wilde. It contained the hit song “We’re Gonna Make It To The Top Of The World”.
Chapter Six: Live At Last / Touch Me Tom
In January of 1996 the Chuckies decided to perform their first live rock concert at a secret warehouse in Denver. But they needed a charismatic frontman, since John B. had departed years ago. Touch Me Tom, a “casual acquaintance” of Stikki Rikki’s, was asked to fill the role. Although he had been kicked out of his high school choir for being tone deaf, Touch Me Tom had an electrifying presence and he could even play bass somewhat satisfactorily. His total lack of discipline fit right in with the established band policy.
Opening act Little Fyodor & Babushka thrilled the crowd of twenty with a brilliant set, allowing the Chuckies time to comb their moustaches, drink champagne, snort coke, and enjoy some burlesque dancers backstage. By the time the Chuckies hit the stage, Little Fyodor had whipped the crowd into a mild frenzy. As the band launched into their theme instrumental “The JB Melody”, there was a rock explosion heard around the world. It actually encircled the whole world and ended up back to the Mexican take out restaurant El Taco De Mexico down the street from the warehouse. Touch Me Tom performed semi-adequately, barely remembering some lyrics, not remembering others, but looking spectacular all the while. Live Down The Street From El Taco De Mexico is available on both audio and video media. Disappointingly, the band failed to sell any merchandise, but five cassette copies of Dancin’ With Danger were stolen from the merch table by the enthusiastic crowd.
The band hit a real low point in recording in January 1996. A lengthy recording session of two days took place, but due to its incredibly poor sound quality those recordings were not available to the public until 2002, when a painfully remastered version of The Lost Album was finished. This offering, the only studio album featuring Touch Me Tom, was spotty at best. Some songs from this album have since been rerecorded on subsequential projects so that the Chuckies could fully realize their glorious potential.
After the live concert and The Lost Album sessions, Touch Me Tom was never heard from again. He is presumed dead and is no longer considered an official member of the band, although evidence suggests he is a firefighter in Colorado somewhere.
Chapter Seven: Beating A Dead Horse / Tim Of The Woods
With their best efforts officially recognized as being behind them, the Chuckies did what all true rock groups do. They kept recording, releasing substandard album after substandard album year after year. The band pressed on, determined to continue unnecessarily adding to their already bloated catalog.
By late 1996, the three remaining Chuckies found themselves far away from each other, with H-Cheese still in Boston, The London Ken in Nashville, and Stikki Rikki forcibly relocated to San Francisco to comply with a restraining order, although he maintains that he “did not make out with that woman and did not at any time hit her husband with a lunchbox.”
Once again in need of a fourth band member, the Chuckies recruited Tim Of The Woods, a “casual acquaintance” of Stikki Rikki’s, to help with the next album. The Sad Clown was recorded in a chalet in Vacaville, California without help from H-Cheese, who was nursing a broken hand after having “opened up a can of good old fashion whup-ass” on someone in the parking lot of a Super K-Mart. The London Ken sent a cassette of recorded guitar leads and vocals, which Stikki Rikki masterfully mixed into the rest of the recording to make it magically seem like The London Ken was actually there at the recording session. Guest appearances by Celia Coolidge (lead guitar, backing vocals), Jennifer Ganser (backing vocals) and Rainbow Free (keyboards, backing vocals) helped add to the convoluted mess. Tim Of The Woods and Stikki Rikki decided it would be a good idea to record all of the vocals drunker than had ever been done by the band before, so they sat in an outdoor hot tub and drank countless martinis before attempting to sing. Before they passed out on the floor, they managed to lay down several vocal tracks, and made it half way through "I'm Bad At Golf But I'm Usually Drunk". The tediously lengthy album was complete in April of 1997. It sports the hit party anthem “Partyin’ In The Shed” and wonderfully psychedelic “Sittin’ On The Couch”. The album was marred by some uninspired songs, however, such as “Gonna Get Some Beer”, a low energy attempt at a party rock song. It was another spotty effort by this fantastic and very handsome group.
Chapter Eight: A Return To Form
December 1997 saw the band release the fine rock album Affirmative Sexual Action. Recorded in Boston, the album was done by H-Cheese and Stikki Rikki, once again with help from Rick Schuttig, who provided a much-needed Christmas song and some hot guitar work, not to mention backing vocals and timely hand claps. And again, via prerecorded cassette, The London Ken contributed keyboard and guitar tracks and Kimi Crivellone, full-time plaything of The London Ken, contributed lead vocals for the free-form jazz cut “Beer Truck”. Also featuring the now legendary “Hard Rock Song”, this solid album brought the band back to life with some truly inspired rockers.
Around this time H-Cheese shaved his head but chose to make it very clear that he is not a Nazi or Nazi sympathizer, and that he’s pretty sure he’s not even German, although he does think the Jag Panzer is a cool tank and the Scorpions fucking rock.
Chapter Nine: Battle Of The Bands
In October of 1998 The Sharp Chuckies were asked to lend their talents to a battle of the bands at San Francisco’s Tip Top Club. The London Ken and H-Cheese couldn’t make it, so Stikki Rikki and Tim Of The Woods recruited “casual acquaintances” Jim Paul and “Bum Leg Lightning” Ken Kantor to complete the lineup. The group rocked despite Jim Paul’s concern during the performance that he was inhaling asbestos from his fake mustache. This performance was captured on both video and audio, is available under the title The Sharp Chuckies Live At The Chix Vs. Dix Battle Of The Bands.
Chapter Ten: The London Ken Sells Out To The Man / Teenager Joins Band
It was sometime during 1998 that The London Ken sold out to THE MAN. The Chuckies aren’t sure how it happened. He was quickly replaced by The Teenager From Outer Space. He was a fantastic player, and had obviously been practicing along with Def Leppard albums. But there was something suspicious about this new riff-master.
In December 1998, the Chuckies made a great album called Allston Rock City. Named for the rockin’ city where it was recorded (Allston is a neighborhood in Boston), the album was done entirely by H-Cheese and Stikki Rikki. The album contains the story of the sad departure of The London Ken in a song called “The London Ken Sold Out To The Man”. The song also introduced The Teenager From Outer Space as his youthful and exciting replacement. It has since become evident that The Teenager From Outer Space was actually a cleverly disguised The London Ken all along.
It was around this time that Stikki Rikki decided to add the moniker “Fast” to the beginning of his name and thusforthly became known as “Fast” Stikki Rikki Starr. He explains, “my guitar playing was becoming so fast, I thought I should let people know.”
Around the same time, the always troubled H-Cheese was going through yet another divorce, this time from Erin Gray, former star of television’s Buck Rogers In The 25th Century. Things got ugly, and H-Cheese’s excessive drinking and violent arthritic outbursts were the cause of mild concern from his bandmates, who quickly lost interest. He then married his former teen love interest Smackie Wesson.
Chapter Eleven: Are We Over The Hill Yet?
The band’s return to its previous rockin’ form was short lived, as the summer of 1999 saw two dismal failures by the Chuckies in the span of a few short days. Three of the Chuckies converged in San Francisco (H-Cheese was again indisposed), and recorded nine unfinished songs. Basic tracks were done, but upon further consideration the band decided the songs were just plain bad, even by their low standards, and that they would scrap the project. The next day, as the band was preparing to perform its third live show (at the Sand Bar in San Francisco), The London Ken said he had to “go get something” and abruptly left town. The band considered this perfectly reasonable, and he was forgiven.
Chapter Twelve: A New Millenium, New Life For The Band
After the debacle that was 1999, the band took some time off to revel in its creative pothole.
To kick off the new millenium, the band performed a live show at San Francisco's Thee Parkside, in 2002. Once again, The London Ken and H. Cheese were unable to attend, claiming there was something on TV they couldn't miss. So Tim Of The Woods and "Fast" Stikki Rikki recruited surrogates "Lightning" Bob Hopkins on lead guitar and Gerald Leroy on drums. Gerald was rumored to be over 100 years old, and a veteran of both world wars. The band did a rocking set including an aborted attempt at Gonna Get Some Beer, a shitty song that no one is sure why they tried playing in the first place.
In 2004, though they came back in full force with the spotty but pretty good Rokning Dodar (which was a big label on a pack of smokes Stikki Rikki bought in Sweden, and it apparently means "smoking kills"). The London Ken mailed it in once again and Tim Of The Woods was back in Denver, but "Fast" Stikki Rikki and H. Cheese slapped together a respectable effort highlighted by the track "Don't Go Back To New Lebanon Or They'll Think You're Gay", a true story of when H. Cheese and The London Ken went back to New Lebanon after living in Boston and because they looked so damned good were asked by some old friends if they were gay. You can only assume, right? When one pays for a haircut and such. Anyway…
The follow-up to Rokning Dodar was possibly the rocking-est rocker the boys ever did, The Sharp Chuckies Kill Stuff. It was the whole band together except The London Ken once again mailed it in (some hot licks, and all). Both of those albums, by the way, were recorded at NHT office/warehouse space, thanks www.nhthifi.com! The next year, Wanted: Dead Or Alive was cut in San Francisco, and surprisingly it was a damn good album and features the hit song "Cell Phone Guy" sung by Tim Of The Woods about his sweet cell phone.
2009's excellent Easy Sailin'/Smooth Sailin' (More Songs About Dogs And Yachting) was the band's effort at making a yacht rock album. Unfortunately, they could write only two yacht rock-y songs, but they stretched it to three by using an entire song (Easy Sailin') as a different song (Smooth Sailin') just by overdubbing the word "smooth" in place of "easy" thanks to studio wizardry. Actually, only the lead vocal track got the dub, the backup vocals still say "easy", but you can't hardly tell. The other yacht rock track was She's Either Like The Breeze Or The Tide, about a guy who can't decide which one his girl is more like. The London Ken sang that one real nice. So, the rest of the songs were pretty much just a bunch of rockers except for their cover of "Gold" by some guy from the '70s with Stevie Nicks singing backup (on the original, not the Chuckies' version). Tim Of The Woods sat out on this one, so it was just H. Cheese, The London Ken, and Stikki Rikki, who by this time had changed his moniker from "Fast" to "Moderately Paced".
A five year hiatus followed and the band returned with an album for which the band had absolutely no ideas. Southern Comfort is thusforthly named for the 1.75L bottle of the shit that the boys inherited and drank during the sessions. Thankfully, H. Cheese came up with some song ideas, including the hit song "Quinioa" which the band does not have a strong opinion about one way or another. The album also features three identical songs about getting physically hurt but each song is about getting hurt in a different way and each is sung by a different singer, including guest musician Brian Spiker, who sang "I Got Stabbed By A Bucket", a true story. Brian also played some guitar on the album. "Bum Leg Lightning" Ken Kantor, a live surrogate of the band, contributed backing vocals on "Girls Are Hot". The album is deemed "ok" by the band.
…and this brings us to present day.
There will be more from The Sharp Chuckies, but the boys don't know where or when. So BE FUCKING PATIENT!!! >: (
Artist descriptions on Last.fm are editable by everyone. Feel free to contribute!
All user-contributed text on this page is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply.