A History of Memphis Evans Part One

1987-1988-1989-1990-1991-1992-1993-1994-1995-1996-1997-1998-1999-2000-2001-2002-2003-2004-2005-(Part Two: 2006-now)

Suburban Maryland
Memphis Evans, after the first of many unwise, unlucky, broken love affairs, begins writing bad, bad, bad poetry, both rhyming and non-rhyming. Topics include the evil of humanity and seating arrangements at bible study. He shares most of the poetry with no one at all, beginning a tradition that continues to this day. Later, Memphis mentions to an attractive blond high school girl that he has been thinking about learning how to play guitar. (This is not as creepy as it sounds, Memphis being in high school himself at the time.) The first great master, Jeff Man, begins instructing Memphis for free so there will be two guitarists at Young Life to play "R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.", "Fun, Fun, Fun", "It's Amazing", etc.

While learning the guitar, Memphis personally meets a second real guitarist, Barak Weinstein, through neighborhood friend and left-handed drummer Rob Jacobs. Joining their band Suburban Decay on rhythm guitar, occasional lead guitar, keyboards, and vocals, Memphis begins to learn from Barak, the second of three great early masters who will influence him personally. This year, Suburban Decay plays no shows and makes only disorganized "boom-box" recordings. Drummer Rob Jacobs, bassist Scott Mastbrook, and aforementioned guitarist Barak Weinstein all take formal lessons while Memphis does not. Outside of the band, Memphis begins writing songs of which he faithfully records every scrap and plays for no one at all. Memphis friend and third of three guitar masters Rick Calendar suggests Evans leave some strings open when normally they would appear fretted in a chord, blowing the mind of Evans, who plays in and out of this style the rest of his life.

Suburban Decay plays its first show with Memphis, on New Year's Eve as the year ends. The band plays well with substitute drummer Joe Kiriakos (last name potentially misspelled by history) earning special merit for doing so after only one rehearsal. Like many, many SD shows and rehearsals, this show is videotaped and audiotaped from beginning to end. Memphis blows off classmate Scott Weiland, later of Stone Temple Pilots, who wants to form a band, because Memphis considers him "a stoner". In addition, Memphis continues writing his own songs, which he continues to play for no one. Decay records three of their Weinstein-Jacobs original songs along with "Satisfaction" and "Wonderful Tonight" on a relatively high quality four-track demo tape intended for the purpose of getting them into a battle of the bands the following March. The tape succeeds.

Drummer Rob Jacobs returns from Israel. Suburban Decay plays its first and only battle of the bands at bassist Mastbrook's high school, Good Counsel. Even with only five bands in the competition, they neither win, place, nor show. Their performance is nevertheless captured on video for their parents to see. First place band Mushrooms later break up to reform as Fugazi, a name they later lose in legal action. Luckily, Decay get their money back on the equipment rental because a fuse blows during "You Can't Always Get What You Want" right after the line "We're gonna blow a fifty amp fuse." Subsequent resetting of the drums for substitute right-handed drummer (name forgotten by history) so Jacobs could sing as the band performed U2's "Sunday Bloody Sunday" totally without amplification could be one reason for their failure to place.

In August of that summer, Memphis' parents pay for equipment rental and rec center rental for Decay to play a farewell show. Memphis' original song "Suburban Decay" is considered for the performance, but ultimately rejected by Evans himself. Ultimately, Suburban Decay never perform a Memphis original in concert. For this, their final show, they are well-rehearsed and thoroughly videotaped by two cameras. The only performance mysteriously missed by both cameras is an incendiary "You Really Got Me." The show is a musical and critical success. The show has been called "The Last Rock Concert That Mattered" by filmmaker and former Rolling Stone journalist Cameron Crowe, fortuitously in attendance that night due to a stalled car. Suburban Decay, after recording several hours of material yet no compete albums, breaks up as all four members go to college.

Rural Minnesota
Memphis, heartbroken by another bad love affair, the end of his band, and going to college in Minnesota where he has no friends, begins earnestly writing songs and not performing them anywhere where anyone could possibly hear them. He sees (name forgotten by history) in a campus coffeehouse and admires the way he plays and sings a whole bunch of his own songs in front of other people. Memphis continues writing, recording, and not performing.

That fall, Memphis begins performing and recording with fellow St. Olaf College student-singer-songwriter-guitarist Scoty Cinnamonn. Calling themselves The Beatless, they record two original songs, "Peasants of Guatemala Dietary Supplement Shake" and "Travellin' Around". In order to have something to give to venues to potentially get shows, they head to the St. Olaf Theater Department sound studio after hours. There they capture the spontaneity of their live sound after only seventeen studio takes of "Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard", approximately ten takes of "Mother Nature's Son" and twelve takes of the Cinnamonn original composition "Steering Wheel." They attempt recording a Memphis original, "Missing Sara" but give up on it due to its embryonic nature. They also contribute their best recordings, a different version of "Steering Wheel" and the Paul Simon inspired, St. Olaf themed "Another Simple Desultory Phillippic" to the Larson Coffeehouse's Double Exposure cassette, finally released in Spring 1993. The cassette also features two co-written originals from the somewhat new band Great Uncle Helmer, which is Memphis on piano and vocals and Kaptain Karl on vocals and harmonica.

Great Uncle Helmer begins when Kaptain Karl wishes aloud to Memphis to be in something like the Beatless and Memphis wishes internally to have as many friends as Kaptain Karl. The two begin writing and not performing until they are almost ready.

Also, the Library of Congress, in their dedication to recording and registering everything in the United States of America and abroad, demands that Memphis turn over the secret Tascam Porta-Two tapes he has made along with several checks for twenty dollars. Memphis agrees, not realizing that he has made a critical clerical error. The problem is not sorted out until

This is a big year for Memphis. This is the year he got hooked for good. After finally correctly registering his first volume of copyrighted material, Memphis writes a great deal more. He feels inspired by this new arena for his material to be recorded, catalogued, neatly put away, and not necessarily heard by anyone ever.

The Beatless continue performing, including a March 31 show at Hogan Brothers' sandwich shop in downtown Northfield, Evans' first non-residential/unrented/off-campus venue performance. The show is well attended, recorded, and successful, despite several broken strings. Paul Simon, in Minnesota on a US tour, happens to come by and says The Beatless' performance of the entirety of Side B of Simon and Garfunkel's Bookends album was the finest (only?) such performance he had ever heard. He offers them a recording contract on his own label, which folds the next day. Subsequent calls to Simon are answered by an obvious impostor. The entire incident is called into question. Scoty leaves for Ohio, and then England.

Memphis begins and nearly completes a series of short stints in small bands. The New Roots of Suffering, featuring Evans and singer-songwriter Julie Niksich, play some well-received shows during which Memphis tries alternately to cry and then not to cry, as another bad love affair has ended mercilessly. The New Roots of Suffering will change their name to Cobranana and then break up in the middle of the 1994 recording of their first album, Tsssss!, leaving a project unfinished to this day.

Conjunction (Andy Honigman and Matt Braaten), after one show with Evans as Conjunction And, resumes its roots as Conjunction, leaving Evans out of its future plans. The show is recorded, yet there are no indications then that Memphis will work with them again. The important lesson here for Evans was, "Take it down a little on verse 3." The lesson stays with him.

The group Fingers, with sensual lead vocalist Letta Gorder, plays a few shows in the Larson Coffeehouse, with a searing version of "Can't Help Falling In Love With You" a highlight. The group unfortunately makes only the most primitive of live recordings then break up.

Great Uncle Helmer is a bright spot as Karl and Memphis' songwriting skills and musical and personal relationship grow together. They make their first in a still ongoing string of albums, Synthesis, which was recorded and mixed relatively carefully, if quickly. It sells no copies but is given away to at least five people.

Memphis also records two one-hour long, all-original albums on his own, Ringin' Far and Wide (summer), and Mellby 324: Fake Rock Star (fall/winter) which he then crudely edits and mixes with old recordings and a 1 7/8" per second EP of covers he had made called Froggy and gives to one close friend.

Due to no demand at all, by the end of the year Memphis also begins performing solo in the campus coffeehouse where he had seen (name forgotten by history) just a few short years before. This shift from not performing for anyone to performing for hardly anyone who cares at all goes completely unnoticed by anyone at all in the media except for talk show impresario Larry King, who devotes an entire week of his radio show to Evans and his musical history. The series receives the lowest ratings for a series in the history of radio. The entire incident is thrown into question.

Evans graduates and moves into the attic of a house. Kaptain Karl moves into the basement, and the two begin a live performing career that would take them from the giddy heights of having strangers say they were good to the crushing depths of severe depression. Their lyrics are head-turning, their music has wonderful melodies and harmony, and their artistic integrity and vision are fully intact. Memphis has developed into a unique acoustic guitarist complemented beautifully by Karl's ever growing harmonica work. Their performances are no less than the most important and deeply felt music being made at that time according to both Evans and a USA Today pie chart published August 11 of that year. However, they get no offers from labels major or indie and remain totally underground and obscure. Evans continues his solo recording career as well, giving random tapes of what he calls "preliminary mixes" to family and a few friends. "Preliminary" to what no one knows. He has, by this time, recorded well over 200 hours of material alone and with friends.

Great Uncle Helmer continue then stop work on a follow up to Synthesis called Anybody Seen My Wallet, which doesn't work out due to technical difficulties. (For the technically curious only: a dying battery in Memphis' guitar pickup is later thought to be to blame for the hideous guitar sound on these tapes. Plus either an inadequate understanding of and/or a malfunction in the busing system of his four-track.) The crushing heat and lack of AC in Memphis' apartment doesn't help. Still, they continue to grow musically and personally, performing excellent shows through a borrowed sound system that is a complete piece of shit.

At some point during this year, or possibly 1996, Kaptain Karl does some voice over work for Northwestern Wisconsin's Luther Point Bible Camp, who are having a video made about themselves. The producer of this video, Evan Johnson, reveals himself to Karl as a highly competent singer/songwriter/guitarist with a unique and attractive sound. The men of GUH accept and respond favorably to his demo tape featuring the songs Keepin' It Out, How Could I Know, The Nickel Song, and The Bells. Johnson begins opening GUH shows. Soon he is joined in his performances by Karl on harmonica and Memphis on bass to the enjoyment of all.

In the fall, disgusted by no sales of no CDs, GUH decide to make a CD. When shopping around for studios, GUH decides to insist upon good equipment, low rates, and having ostriches nearby. Only one studio of the many in their adopted hometown of Northfield meets these stringent criteria, and they record twenty-one songs, including 18 originals, at Craig Wasner's Rented Room On An Ostrich Farm Studio. Ericka Mars and Scoty Cinnamonn contribute to the recordings. Evans continues recording original material at home heard by almost absolutely no one, but struggles with writer's block for the first time, alarming only himself.

Unhappy with the first test pressing, Great Uncle Helmer decides to remix parts of the album, necessitating a remaster of the entire thing and adding to the spiraling studio costs. After paying for their own duplication, total costs reach over six thousand dollars and the album does not get finished this year.

Evans breaks powerfully out of his writer's block, having perhaps his best year yet as a solo songwriter, recording artist, and not performer. His mother, father, and sister enjoy some of his new material a great deal.

The GUH CD old man will travel is finally released to moderate acclaim from friends and family. Sales of the CD start out sluggish, but grow to be completely non-existent by the beginning of 1999, when Great Uncle Helmer take a hiatus. Memphis considers the expense of making the next GUH album in another rented studio and buys digital studio equipment. He continues his solo career, writing, recording, and not performing. (Except for one place barely worth mentioning except for this one time when some people there (including the owner) got arrested during a show.)

Attracted by a poster promising guitar, keyboards (sic), vocals, and a sound like They Might Be Giants, Doc's Kids, a band of college kids at St. Mary's University, come to a Great Uncle Helmer show at the Acoustic Cafe in Winona, Minnesota. The band consists of Justin "J." Bell (guitar), Rob "Weav" Weaver (bass), Ben "Benny Balloon" Young (drums), and Brian "BPZMAG" Zirngible (vocals, trombone). Doc's Kids and GUH trade tapes. Memphis and Karl realize that Doc's Kids is really, really good. When they return to Winona, crucial Doc's Kids member Brian Zirngible has gone to Mexico for a semester and Doc's Kids is no more. J., Weav, and B.B. reform with acoustic rhythm guitarist Carla "Carla" Sloan as Urban Rust.

In March, Evans, disguised as a bassist, temporarily joins relatively new rock band Urban Rust on a brief tour of Taylorville, Illinois and an even smaller town 10 miles away from there. Memphis is reminded how great it is to play in a full rock band. He eventually becomes the full time bass player and occasional lead singer/guitarist on his own songs, three of which are recorded that fall at Jeff Thompson's J-Tec Studio in Winona along with seven songs by the rest of the band, Justin Bell (guitar/vocals), Carla Sloan (guitar/vocals), and Ben Young (drums/vocals). After the band finishes recording, the studio is dismantled in a messy divorce.

At home, Memphis struggles to assemble a follow up to Fake Rock Star from the hundreds of hours of tape he has made since then, but fails. Evans' ability to edit and prepare his own music for release seems gone. He records many more hours of tape and now has the ability to record onto a hard drive, which he does prolifically. This results in no real solo albums being prepared for any kind of release at all. A stopgap measure, Bullet Collection, is released only on cassette. Songs are considered for inclusion based on a complex ratio that encompasses performability in a solo setting, length, accessibility, and quality. Sadly, this rather haphazard, poorly remixed, and totally unmastered cassette is the most widely distributed album of Evans' original solo material, selling two copies to strangers and reaching over ten close friends and some family members as a Christmas present.

By the end of the year, GUH have sold 209 copies of their CD. Kaptain Karl and Memphis also complete the first Kaptain Karl solo album, Art Is A Lie, Baby, the first product to be completed in the newly christened Memphis Studios. It is released to over ten friends on compact disc to very positive reviews. The overriding sentiment seems to be "Wow, I didn't think it would sound so professional!" Cassette sales increase when Karl moves to Denver and performs in that city's burgeoning open mike scene. During a tearful goodbye, Memphis and Karl vow that their mission is far from over and indeed before the year is out they have recorded a new Great Uncle Helmer version of the Kaptain Karl epic "Garbage".

Evans also begins recording the work of a mysterious five-man singer-songwriter-acoustic guitarist from Deer Park, Wisconsin. Boo-Dog (acoustic guitar), Lapdog (reverberation), 'Possum (delay), Shotgun (modulation), and Luscious (lead vocals), collectively known as Evan Johnson, are accompanied by Memphis on bass, Kaptain Karl on harmonica, and Lindsey Buckingham on pitch shifter.

As Jesse "The Body" Ventura begins his first term as Minnesota's governor, Leave This Place, the first Urban Rust album featuring Evans, is released to some acclaim and a tiny, tiny bit of airplay that does not register with ASCAP, denying Evans and the rest of the band any royalties. Evans has mixed and mastered the album himself, at home, assuring that quality is high and that recording costs are kept low. Unlike any of Evans' projects so far, the Urban Rust CD produces a modest profit, unless you count the thousands of dollars worth of equipment and/or assign monetary value to the hundred or so hours Evans spends mixing and mastering.

Evan Johnson's first solo CD is released to sales of about 60 and lots of praise.

Evans (not to be confused with Evan) completes the assembly of his digital studio simply by realizing that you can always buy one more piece of crap that will slow down your recording process that much more and subsequently deciding to not buy any more, at least for a while.

Memphis develops a plan to begin releasing everything he's ever recorded. The plan begins with what would have been the 1994 album The Last of the Pink Lemonade, a sequel to Mellby 324: Fake Rock Star. The plan will obviously include at least ten CDs. Demand is low, but what demand there is is enthusiastic.

Kaptain Karl releases his second solo CD, The Chicago Tapes. This excellent music is recorded around the country on a dying cassette four track, then is digitally mixed and mastered at Memphis Studios.

Great Uncle Helmer begin recording their second CD and third overall album, Generic Mayhem. Recording goes farily well and then is interrupted by Karl's travel for work.

After parting ways with Carla Sloan at the end of 1999, Urban Rust begin the year triumphantly, playing a New Year's Eve show at the Madelia, Minnesota VFW. However, after a few more shows with and without second guitarists, the band stops being interested in booking shows. They enter one of those Trip Shakespeare-like extended hiatuses that becomes a breaking up. They still have fun playing a few more shows at rural bars, mainly for the money and to get rid of the boxes and boxes of CDs and t-shirts.

Doc's Kids, now back to being just J. Bell and BPZMAG, make a good CD, Relaxed But Not To Slow: An Anthology. The disc features two tracks recorded at Memphis Studios.

In a blast from the past, Conjunction returns to live performance at the hottest new music venue in Northfield, The Tavern Lounge. Memphis hears them goof around on Live's "Lightning Crashes" and is impressed by Braaten's uncanny impersonation of Ed Kowalscyk. Braaten and Evans do a few shows together, then Conjunction more or less adds Memphis on lead guitar, this time without the "And" in the band name. After several enjoyable Conjunction shows with the Matt Braaten-Andy Honigman-Memphis Evans lineup, Matt Braaten moves to California.

Evans and Honigman continue on, changing the band name to Contraption. This new band focuses on long medleys, Big Star covers, and a few recastings of Honigman's and Evans' original songs from their numerous previous bands.

Sally Weinbach, a singer/songwriter with a tremendous gift for hooky, personal, accessible folk rock, gets Honigman to play bass with her and her guitarist, Joe Stephans. Singer Sharon Lichter (pronounced Leesh-ter) adds harmonies to the group, now christened Jubilant Dogs. The band plays their first ever gig opening for Contraption at the Tavern Lounge. Evans is blown away, especially by the powerful Weinbach original, "The Answer".
After the show, Evans compliments the band and they are invited to play with Contraption anytime. At the next show, Evans sits in on piano and is suitably impressive that he is asked to join. He quickly and happily agrees.

The remaining members of Urban Rust reform as Justin Bell. This features Ben on drums, Memphis on lead and rhythm guitar, and newcomer Clark Thaldorf on bass. The band is a hit with the old Urban Rust crowd, with some people saying it is better. And yeah, it kinda is in a way.

Jubilant Dog Joe Stephans moves to New York City and the Dogs begin recording a five song demo CD without him. Memphis fills in on 6 and 12 string acoustic guitar and borrows Honigman's sweet sounding Wurlitzer electric piano for the keyboard parts. Weinbach and Lichter record their vocals and Honigman records his melodic electric bass parts. Impressed with their skill in the studio, Evans presses the band to record the other four original songs in their set to make something they can sell at shows for 10 bucks with a very clear conscience. the blame, a lowercase-letters-only 1997 Memphis composition, is added and the 10-song disc Abby is released in May.

Memphis Studios is also involved in the digital remastering of Stringbusters Classics: Are Girls Included In The Contract?, an album of classic early twentieth century songcraft featuring Archie Opitz and Charlie Hafer on mandolin and vocals/guitar, respectively. Every song is in the key of C.

Because of a single web-based order for the album, the long overdue digital remix and remaster of Mellby 324: Fake Rock Star is begun at Memphis Studios in April. It is finished in June, but after receiving pricing and ordering information, the stranger who ordered the album disappears mysteriously. Artwork remains tantalizingly close to completion and the CD may be available at some point in the future.

Memphis parts amicably with the Justin Bell and Lazy Susan rock combo. He is replaced by a keyboard player. Work on the first full Justin Bell solo rock band album continues.

On May 17, Great Uncle Helmer begins their summer tour with the release of the all new studio album Generic Mayhem and the limited edition album Generic Mayhem Live. Generic Mayhem Live is only available via a complicated system involving a golden ticket and at least one purchase of the studio release. The studio album receives kudos from all who hear it. "Much better than old man will travel" raves J. Bell.

Jubilant Dogs merge with Minneapolis Funk-Pop outift Hi-Fi, which requires adding only Dan Page on guitar and vocals and Kent Mortimer on drums, since Andy Honigman already plays bass for both bands.

Memphis Evans accepts an invitation to join forces with current multi-band bandmate Andy Honigman and their fellow singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist David Addington in the new band "Honigman". Memphis has long admired the work of Mr. Addington via the medium of magnetic tape. The new band has a fun, well attended debut show on December 27. The show is recorded in its entirety and considered for possible release on a similar basis as the Generic Mayhem Live limited edition, which has now sold all but nine of its run of twenty.

Metro Minnesota
Kaptain Karl begins recording again in earnest, planning three albums, at least two of which will be released almost simultaneously. The album titles and tentative song lineups as of January 19 are a closely guarded secret available only on this page.

In January, after gradually losing interest, Memphis Evans leaves Jubilant Dogs, freeing up more time for other projects.

The band Honigman adds two musicians, Stu Edeal and Kent Mortimer, creating a fuller sound and a rounder number of band members. (5)

Evan Johnson releases a live album called "Stealing Stage Time" which features two reimagined classics from the "How Could I Know" album as well as five previously unreleased songs. Everyone should own it. The three-date "I Know It's Not Rock And Roll But I Like It" tour promotes the album for a single weekend in June in Minneapolis, Amory, WI, and Minneapolis. The tour is a great success musically. It is beseiged by car trouble, but the $453 repair is covered by an essential patron of the arts in Minnesota and Wisconsin, allowing the tour to show a modest profit, at least until the participants eat dinner at a casual dining restaurant on Saturday night. And also only if you don't count the instruments or equipment.

In the fall, Great Uncle Helmer begins work on a new CD of covers. Recording is done out at Karl's place. The complete list of cover songs is available here.

Evan Johnson releases a 5 disc anthology of everything he had recorded but not released to that point. Highlights include "Slice of America" and "Your Kung Fu is Very Powerful".

Memphis Evans gets a full time job for the first time in his life.

The year begins with a tremendous show at the historic Eden Prairie Dunn Bros. Coffeehouse. Scot Ninnemann performs with GUH and a large audience enjoys the trio a great deal.

Mixing, overdubs, and recording of a much needed "other fast song" is done on a snowy weekend out at Karl's. Recording for the still untitled CD of covers is complemented by the construction and constant use of three fantastic and dangerous sled runs and a Sunday afternoon bluegrass potluck with several people over the age of 60.

In September, Jubilant Dogs decide to record the best 14 songs they had not recorded at the time of their original breakup. October and November rehearsals and recording sessions in Sally's basement are very informal and enjoyable. A CD release/reunion/farewell show is scheduled for January of...

On Saturday, January 29, Jubilant Dogs release their second CD "The Game Is Up" at a reunion/farewell show at Linden Hills Dunn Bros. The show also features Arianna and Great Uncle Helmer with Pete Rivard. It is well attended and much appreciated and sales of the CD are relatively brisk. Jubilant Dogs finally have a fitting end for what was actually a pretty great group.

After learning that Dave Addington is moving to San Francisco, Honigman plays its final long show at Craig Bell's art studio in Minneapolis. Two acoustic sets feature all five members of the band, thereby outnumbering the crowd for much of the show. The freewheeling blast of a show is recorded on one mike and the recording sounds surprisingly good. A short opening set scheduled at the 400 Bar for the following Wednesday makes this not quite the historic final show. However it, along with the following show, makes a fitting end for what was actually a pretty great group, the second such ending in less than a week.

On Saturday, July 23, Kaptain Karl releases his third solo CD, Nothing Strange. A CD release party at Luck, Wisconsin's Cafe Wren goes very well and features guest appearances from Memphis and BPZMAG.

Continue on to 2006 and beyond!

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