No Talent Slugs to Play Fundraiser
Special to The Pleasant Glen Daily Herald Tribune Gazateer Times
A podiatrist, an accountant, an orthodontist and a Home Ec teacher all walk in to a bar.
It sounds like the set up to a bad joke. And it may be.
It's also the line up for Pleasant Glen's most unlikely popular underground band, The No Talent Slugs.
Jim Johnson: We recommend you get there early and start drinking quickly. The drunker you are, the better we sound.
I recently sat down with members of the group at The Bar to discuss their upcoming show and their surprising popularity. Johnson, a graying, 54-year-old podiatrist, is the rhythm guitarist, lead singer, and spokesperson for the band.
Jane Smith: Graying? Graying? That's like describing a blizzard as “snowing.” And "singer" might be stretching it a bit.
Smith, a Home Ec teacher at Pleasant Glen High School, is….
Smith: “A smokin' hot babe who makes middle-age look good. As a keyboardist and vocalist with the group, she also gives the band some much needed class.”
So, Mr. Johnson, Ms. Smith has cast aspersions on your singing ability. Based on other comments I've heard, I have to ask... can you sing?
Johnson: “Well, yes. Of course I can sing. You might not want me to sing.”
Smith: We've had to re-program the auto-tune synth three times so far. Shout out to Matt “MC” Currand, our electrical technician and roadie. We've relegated Jim to lead screecher on the heavy metal tunes.
Johnson: We all serve our time behind the microphone now.
Smith: It's harder to know who to boo that way.
Bill Jones: I wouldn't call it singing so much as “vocal stylings.” Remember William Shatner's spoken word performances? We're not that good.
Pleasant Glen orthodontist Bill Jones is the group's bassist and a founding member. Can you explain how the group came together? Or, more curiously, why?
Jones: Our kids – who actually do have talent – joined a high school rock band program at the local music store. They teased us about taking an adult Learn to Uke class... one thing lead to another....
Smith: One beer lead to another. Each of us claimed to have the least musical talent....
Johnson: Dares were made....
Smith: Bluffs were called....
Johnson: Aspersions were cast. You dirty, rotten aspersion caster.
Smith: I'll never live that one down, will I?
Jones: And the next thing you know, we all had signed up for lessons.
So you all play the ukulele?
Smith: Oh, God no. But it's not for lack of trying. I've taken the beginning ukulele class three times, and intermediate twice. I can play a “C” chord pretty reliably. Or is that a “G” chord? Which one's the open one?
Jones: Jim and I switched to electric guitars, because, well, they're electric and we're guys so....
Johnson: And they're much more expensive than ukuleles. Double bonus! Between the two of us we've got the big three chords – C, G, D – down cold.
Jones: Ish. I still have a little trouble with “G” too, Jane.
Smith: I know. Believe me. We all know. Anyway, the kids were having so much fun, that we decided not to let our lack of musical talent get in the way of forming our own band.
Johnson: What we lack in talent we more than make up for in enthusiasm.
Three chords? Doesn't that kind of limit your play list?
Johnson: You'd be surprised how many songs only have three chords.
Yeah, but... not the same three chords.
Jones: You're right. And that's what really sets the No Talent Slugs apart from … well, everyone else. GCD, DAG, EBA, EAG, FBI, CIA....
Smith: It's still rock and roll to me.
So you transpose those other chords?
Johnson: Pffft. Heck no. We just play them as G, C or D.
Smith: Reminiscent of a song, yet not a song.
Interesting. I can't... I can't think of any other band to compare you to. Can you?
Johnson: We used to say we played like first year band students.
Jones: Until the first year band students threatened to sue us for defamation of character.
Smith: We've been compared to Milli Vanilli.
Johnson: Technically, we were urged to lip synch.
Jones: And have someone else play our instruments.
Smith: And appear on stage for us.
Any chance you've been compared to Spinal Tap?
Johnson: Dude. Our amps go up to 12.
Do you take requests?
Jones: We get a lot of requests not to play.
Johnson: Really? From who?
Smith: Your wife. His wife. My husband. The neighbors. Our kids. No, I take that back. The kids upload videos of us to YouTube and wait for them to go viral.
Anything you won't play?
Smith: Billy Joel. His music is sacrosanct.
Johnson: And he uses more than three chords. Show off.
Jones: You'd think we could at least play “Piano Man.” It's the same damn thing over and over again.
Johnson: Yeah, but she can't play the piano, man.
Smith: Aspersions cast, aspersions carried.
Saturday's show will also be the public debut of the band's newest (and quietest) member, Andrew Jefferson James Washington, Accounting Professor at the local junior college.
Johnson: He's the whitest black boy you'll ever find.
Washington: I resemble that remark.
Jones: He holds the dubious distinction of having the least natural rhythm of us all. And that's saying something. He's going to fit right in with our percussion section.
But isn't rhythm kind of a requirement for a percussionist?
Johnson: Not necessarily. For us, anyway. Laurie Anderson, our drummer, sets a pretty steady beat... for the most part. It depends on what she's been working on that day.
Smith: She's a clerk-typist at PG JuCo. If she's had to catch a lot of grammatical and spelling errors that day she tends to be a little edgy. Sets a quicker tempo. If something came in from the athletic director... it's “Katy bar the door!”
Washington: “I may not have much soul, but...”
Johnson: “Any. You don't have any soul.”
Washington: “No, I don't have any funk. I don't have much soul, but I play a mean tambourine. I think. I've never actually played with a band before, but I've got the moves down from watching “Josie and the Pussycats” cartoons. Mostly I just shake a paper plate along with the kitchen radio while I'm getting dinner ready.”
Jones: I saw him playing air tambourine at our neighborhood picnic and I knew he would fit right in.
Smith: We stole him away from the Tambourine Tamers. They put up a good fight, but the group kind of fell apart when the lead 'bourine developed tinnitus.
Washington: Rumor has it he was experimenting with adding a triangle to the group.
Johnson: Sad, really. Know your limits, I always say. Don't let them stop you, but know them.
Washington: I also had an offer from Martha and the Accordion All-Stars.
Smith: You play the accordion?
Washington: Play... own... potato, potahto. I was a punch card operator in another life.
Smith: Mad skills, A.J. ...J. Mad skills.
Sad situations and, dare I say, scandal, seem to lurk in the Slug's backstory, in particular when it comes to percussionists....
Johnson: Ahh, yes. Patty the Postal Worker, our original drummer. Such force, such precision, such a stickler for the rules. You know, I really can't comment on her situation, other than to say the court-ordered anger-management classes conflicted with our practice schedule.
Sounds a little cliché.
Johnson: Isn't all rock cliché?
Washington: It's like Freud said, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”
Smith: Did Freud really say that?
Washington: Beats me. But he should have. Anyway, sometimes a postal worker goes postal. Don't we all? But if you said “she went accountantal,” it just wouldn't have the same... umph.
Smith: I can't believe you didn't tell us about the Accordion All-Stars. You're a man of mystery. I like that.
I have to say, you don't seem like the stereotypical rock and roll band members. The talent limit, the whole three chord thing, the white-collar jobs...
Smith: See? I told you I added credibility to the band.
Jones: How do you figure?
Smith: I spent one summer filling all the tampon dispensers on the University of Iowa campus. Definitely not white collar.
Washington: We're the new face of “Dad Rock.”
Jones: We're not just the face. We're the gut, receding hairline and bifocals of “Dad Rock.”
Smith: You guys do look more like Richard Simmons than Keith Richards.
Johnson: We're not a typical band, or typical band members. Amy Yoder, our … well, we're not really sure what Amy plays...
Jones: She calls it's “rock oboe.”
Johnson: Ummm, yeah, we'll go with that. Anyway, Amy works as a parking garage cashier...
Jones: In a pre-paid pass only parking garage.
Johnson: She says if she didn't have The Slugs, she'd go...
Washington: Accountantal? That woman is hard core. Joan Jett has nothing on her. Except for talent.
Smith: Jon Nesmith, our theremin player-slash-manager, works summers as a detasseling crew leader when he's not holding a stop/slow sign for road construction crews.
Jones: And in the off season he candles eggs and works as a mall Santa. He says he's used to herding cats, so we keep his skills sharp.
So your band is a cure for mass mid-life crises?
Johnson: No. That name's been trademarked. And they protect it ferociously. We're the No Talent Slugs. Or at least Pleasant Glen's No Talent Slugs. Sheesh. And you call yourself a journalist. Try to keep up.
I'm beginning to think that's not just soda that you're drinking.
Smith: Reminiscent of a soda, yet....
Johnson: Now who's casting ashpersh... asbergs... oh, you know what I mean.
Jones: We're just a group of people who like music and have a good time playing music.
Smith: But through some horrible, horrible twist of fate, none of us have any talent for it.
Washington: We're very serious about our band. We couldn't be this bad without being serious.
Johnson: We're like the kids that always get picked last for the dodgeball team, but who really like dodgeball. So we decided to make our own damn team.
In a weird way, I think I kind of get it. But what I don't get is why the legendary Bob Viner, owner of The Bar, and avowed patron of the musical arts, the man credited with launching the career of near-superstar recording artist Joe Davenport of The Average Joes...
Smith: I had Joe autograph my boob once, when I was in college.
Johnson: I have Joe's autograph on a restraining order.
Jones: I have Joe's partial crown on display in my office.
Washington: Who's Joe?
My question is, why is Bob is letting you play at The Bar? This is one of Eastern Iowa's most popular and respected venues for live music. I've heard rumors of bribes. Care to comment?
Johnson: No bribes were exchanged. He lost that card game fair and square.
Washington: Never bet against an accountant.
Smith: Boobs for beads... or bookings.
Jones: Nepotism is alive and well, right Uncle Bob?
Viner: You! (Pointing at Jones) I'm not your Uncle. You! (Pointing at Smith) Keep those things covered up. You. (Pointing at Washington) Hand over the ten bucks you owe me. And you (Pointing at Johnson) couldn't win a game of “Go Fish” if you cheated. Because you did cheat. And I still beat you. Your friends better drink as much as you say they do, or you'll be scrubbing toilets to pay off your bar tab.
As for you, Miss Reporter Lady, it's a fundraiser for the school. These yahoos play for free. Fewer expenses equals more money raised. End of story.
Well, that clears that up. Any final comments?
Jones: Get there late. Leave early.
Smith: Drink lots. Please.
Washington: Tip your waitress... but, like, with money... don't actually tip her over.
Johnson: Support Pleasant Glen's Fine Arts, so your kids don't end up like us.
For booking information, contact jsalemink through this publication.
Viner: After consulting a licensed health care provider.