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Friday, June 26, 2015

The Lustre Kings wsg Truckstop Cobras June 26 @ Tip Top Deluxe

For Mark Gamsjager, guitarist and singer of the Lustre Kings, work life is pretty good right now. His Albany NY-based rockabilly band gigs about 150 dates a year. The versatile unit performs club dates, concerts, and festivals and supplements the rest with weddings and special events. Throw in a newly recorded Luster Kings CD and you can say he is already living the life of a King.

“I manage the band and I have a day job as a school bus driver,” Gamsjager said. “Other than that I work on my guitar playing and singing which keeps me busy.”  

The Lustre Kings bring their heralded brand of East Coast rockabilly to Grand Rapids on June 26 in an 8pm show at the Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grill.

Gamsjager is the first to admit he’s not been much of a songwriter. Performing pure DNA songs from the lexicon of American music is really where he’s at.

“My hat is off to anyone who can write quality material,” Gamsjager said. “But there’s so much bad stuff out there too. Maybe I’m not giving myself enough credit to try it. I just don’t have time to sit down and write 12 or 14 songs like they’re all going to be great.” 

The latest CD by the group, Go Green, came out in May. Gamsjager explains how the title and material contained therein by Big Joe Turner, Johnny Horton, plus a new version of Sleepwalk, are essentially re-purposed.   

“Basically I wanted to do a CD of tunes that we do live at a show,” he said. “Every time we play these songs people always ask for them, so we recorded a couple. In a way they’re kind of like recycled songs.”

You might be surprised to learn that Elvis-mania is alive and well all over the world, almost like to it never went away. Every year in January the Lustre Kings embark on a month-long Elvis Birthday Bash Tour.

“I’ve been into this kind of music since I was a kid,” Gamsjager said. “It’s ingrained in me. I am also a big fan of Chuck Berry and the blues." 

Gamsjager has figured out that audiences want to hear what they’ve already heard from the band whether they’re original songs or not. But he admits it is hard work when trying to spruce up the already nattily attired.

“Overall I’d rather record and perform good songs,” Gamsjager said. “There’s a craft to that. I’m not trying to change the world I’m just trying to entertain the best way I know how.”  

The Lustre Kings wsg Truckstop Cobras, 8pm, Friday @ Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grill. 

Lustre Kings website: www.lustrekings.com/

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Doug Deming & the Jewel Tones w/ Dennis Gruenling 6/13 @ Tip Top Deluxe

Maybe it wasn’t the biggest shock for Dennis Gruenling to find his likeness pasted on the cover of a new Hohner Marine Band Crossover harmonica box, their latest in high performance harps. They would have already seen him around the office or over in Quality Assurance. 

“I’ve been playing Hohner’s since day one, literally,” Gruenling said during a recent tour stop in West Virginia. “I tried others during my first years playing but I kept going back to the Marine Band.”

So now without ever hearing a note you might surmise how Dennis Gruenling, sought-after music instructor and part-time radio host, has the tools to make a run at a spot on the short list of Harp Players to Watch.

Gruenling appears with Doug Deming & the Jewel Tones, one of the very best swing and traditional jump blues bands, in a show Saturday at the Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grill.

Ahead of the curve for certain, Gruenling came up ordering and playing specialty low key harmonicas designed by harp historian and technician Joe Filisko. Hohner recently released a line of low key harmonicas similar to Filisko’s customization. Gruenling is a product tester for the German company and helped with the design of this new Thunderbird series.  

“I’ve been playing low tune harps since before my first record in 1999,” Gruenling said. “No one else was even making them back then. I had Filisko custom make me those harps before you could get them anywhere.”

Greunling is all things harmonica if you hadn’t already noticed. But wait, there's more. If you look closely on Saturday you’ll notice the chrome microphone he uses to amplify his instrument. He probably refurbished it himself at some point as part of a side business he runs. Gruenling got into restoring these 1940s-era vintage “bullet” microphones, like the Astatic brand, almost out of necessity.

“When I was first on the scene I bought a microphone from this guy and it didn’t work that well so I kind of got ripped off a little bit,” Gruenling said. “I think because I was so mad at getting ripped off I started looking out for and collecting them. I have hundreds of old vintage microphones. I started repairing them for myself and now I have customers worldwide like Kim Wilson (The Fabulous Thunderbirds), Charlie Musselwhite, and Tom Waits.”

According to Dennis Gruenling, in a fitting gesture, Joe Filisko’s face is purported to grace the covers of the new Thunderbird harmonica box. These guys will say it’s all about nothing but, really, how cool is that?

“It’s kind of like getting your picture on a box of Wheaties,” Gruenling said with a laugh. “Whatever happens I’d still be playing a Hohner no matter what.” 

Doug Deming & the Jewel Tones w/ Dennis Gruenling, 8pm, Saturday @ Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grill

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Dennis Gruenling's Wide World of the Harp and Microphone: badassharmonica.com/