Regular Guys

Jayhawk Pop CD (H2D/Teenline #102)

The Regular Guys formed in early 1977 as The Victims, regarded as the first punk rock band in the state of Kansas -and certainly the first in Lawrence. But the interest and crowds weren't enough to sustain a scene and by the end of 1978, the punk era was over. After a short hiatus, John Odell, Brad Reid and Mark Gilman of the Victims recruited new drummer John Chiarello, dumped most of the old punk material and exchanged it for "power pop" as the Regular Guys.

The power pop craze was even briefer than the punk explosion, but it was long enough for Guys to gain a foothold. In late 1979, the band released a four song EP simply titled, THE REGULAR GUYS, on their own "National Recording Artist" label (the name was an inside gag ­ the only way a band could get booked into the venerated Lawrence Opera House at the time was to be a "N.R.A") and things began to look up. The disc contained two songs each from guitarist Mark Gilman and singer John Odell. (Actually, everyone but drummer John Chiarello sang and swapped off on guitar and bass throughout the Regular Guys' career.)

Trouser Press magazine (at the time, one of the few national mags to follow indy records -and one of the last to cover powerpop) voted the EP number nine in their top ten records of 1980. But still, without touring, it was hard to gain ground. Mark Gilman soon departed for Los Angeles to make films, including a hit Three Stooges documentary (actually, one theory has it that the band's name comes from a Curly quote: "c'mon boss - be a regular guy!"). Mark was replaced by close friend Dave Stuckey, who came with deep roots in rockabilly and traditional country music and brought those styles along with him. It made for an unusual combination but somehow it worked and the 'Guys started venturing away from Lawrence to play shows in Topeka, Kansas City and surrounding areas. Higher-profile gigs included opening slots for The Only Ones and Secret Affair from England, Pearl Harbor and The Explosions, and at one point the 'Guys even supported a minor Irish band called U2. The Regular Guys set obviously drew on surfeit of original songwriting talent, but they added a handful of well-chosen cover versions, including "You've Got My Number" by the Undertones, "I Won't Look Back" by the Dead Boys, "This Heat" by Gen X, "When I Get My Plane" by Todd Rundgren's first group the Nazz, and a couple Jules Shear tunes...

By this time, the Lawrence alternative scene had its own fanzine ("Talk Talk"), its own local haunt (Off the Wall Hall) and a passel of great local and near-local bands like the Embarrassment, Mortal Micronotz, Thumbs [John Odell was a founding member in '76 and Dave joined them after the 'Guys broke up], The Debs, Smart Pils, etc., and increasingly found itself mentioned in the same breath as other "happening places" like San Francisco and Athens, GA.

In 1981 the band went back into the studio and recorded 11 tracks across three [?] sessions. Though Odell remained the primary songwriter, there were contributions from all three guitarists as well as guest guitarist/singer Bob Zohn (from The Blue Riddum Band, who was happy for an opportunity to record some of his non-reggae material). "Another Occupation" and "Death " are Brad and Dave playing all the instruments. But none of this material ever saw the light of day -until now.
Now, the live material here has been lovingly assembled from a variety of sources, but as they've traveled back and forth across the continent, we're a little fuzzy about their provenance. There would have been a live radio broadcast, too, but the gig got cancelled on accounta tornados...

Odell's sister Carolyn, a singer-songwriter in her own right, joined the band at the height of their popularity and brought with her a catalog of catchy pop songs. She and brother John did harmonies that hadn't been possible before, which expanded the band's possibilities. It seemed for a time that the Regular Guys might see some national success, but like the old story it just wasn't in the cards...
The Regular Guys drew their last breath when Stuckey moved on to Los Angeles (where he worked with Mark Gilman: they collaborated a 1984 Bela Lugosi TV documentary called The Forgotten King), Odell moved to New Orleans, and Reid re-focused on his pharmacy career.

John and Carolyn Odell still live in New Orleans and continue to make music as The Uptights. Mark Gilman lives in Santa Barbara, California and for the last 11 years has helmed old school punk band The DeRita Sisters. Dave Stuckey is in Los Angeles, where he has played with The Cramps, The Flesheaters, The Untamed Youth, The Dave and Deke Combo and his own band, Dave Stuckey and the Rhythm Gang. Brad Reid spent a couple years on the country scene (he backed Ronnie Dunn early on), but he's recently traded his guitar collection and the Hammond for a couple of Harleys for him and his wife. He still works as as a pharmacist in Independence, Kansas. John Chiarello is a graphic artist living in Highland Village, Texas and continues playing locally.


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