Jerry Wick and Jenny Mae part 12: Early Gaunt

Jerry, like myself, was full of self doubt although both of us did a tremendous job and hiding in under a veneer of self-assurance that was bolstered by our vocal opinions on music, art, lifestyle, politics and just about anything else we were confronted with. We had little resources to support our own emotional well being and a headful of doubt when it came to relationships and our own talents as artists. It was quite easy for each one of us to use the resources of our profound love of music to be the face of our lives, for we had been practicing this ideal for almost as long as we had been living. From our early purchases of Kiss records to the hiding out in our respective bedrooms listening to hour after hour of music that stretched our worlds a billion different directions. Even to this day, one of the highlights of my life is climbing aboard a treadmill or writing a paper listening to music through my headphones. For us music was the shelter in our lives and we took umbrage with anybody who wasn’t as enthusiastic or respectful as we were. This may have come off as a sense of snobbishness or a case of unwarrented seriousness, it most likely was both in hindsight but it came down to a certain protection for both of us. We were in essence protecting our armor and defending the love of our lives.

There was a point in my own life, somewhere around the age of fifteen when I had a revelation of self-assurance, this also came to fruition via my passion for music which provided me a haven to explore feelings and a burgeoning wonderment of love and the grandiose aspirations of a teenage boy. In the early to mid-eighties the there was a distinct disadvantage of exploration of art and music for a young person living in rural Ohio. I received most of my education via Rolling Stone and Record magazines and the low-wattage college radio waves of WUSO, based in nearby Springfield. Springfield lacked an adequate record store that could cater to my blossoming curiosity of music. There was a Camalot record store in the mall but it was limited, I usually ended up making bulk purchases at School Kids Records in Athens or Columbus (where years later I would cement my personal identity in the same physical building.) In a record I could reassure myself of a world that was different from what I was surrounded by, which consisted of corn fields, inarticulate language and dull flatness. In non-physical manners I felt constricted by what I perceived as tight fearful conservative values, pride in being skeptical of outsiders, racism and an overabundance of male stereotypes. I was lost in a sense but I took solitude in the music and books I read.

I also consumed books and magazines, I read nearly every Vonnegut book, Mark Twain, historical and crappy musical biographies such as “Up and Down with The Rolling Stones” and the ridiculous “No One Gets Out Of Here Alive” about Jim Morrison. Even at the age of sixteen I found that “No One Gets Out of Here Alive” was a sub-standard exercise in the mis-glorification of a drug addled rock star whose sexuality made up for poor poetry. I mistrusted rock stars even at that young age. I envisioned my rock stars to be approachable and the sort of people whom I could have a conversation with. My meeting R.E.M. at the age of fifteen bolstered this as Peter Buck and Micheal Stipe both asked me to go drinking with them after the Wittenberg concert (I appeared physically older at that age).

I believe both Jerry and I mistrusted some of the excesses of rock stardom, although Jerry in his own way aspired to be a star. This latter point had to more with being immortal than holding riches or beautiful models on his arm; he was too sensitive to hold women in that regard. The picture of music for many of us during that time, was bleak, most radio stations played either the vapid non-dangerous music of Phil Collins, Lionel Richie or Michael Jackson or the mind-numbing music of anthem rock such as Def Leppard, Motley Crue and Journey. There was little room for anything else unless you dug for it, which we both did. Jerry had the luxury of living in Parma, Ohio a large working class suburb of Cleveland. He was just down the road from Cleveland and had its vast resources of music to bathe in. He was exposed to the emotional dangerousness of The Dead Boys, Death Of Samantha and Pere Ubu at an early age, while I would comb through the stacks at WUSO during my summers and play anything that had an interesting cover from the rootsy rock of The Beat Farmers and Jason and The Scorchers to more standard college rock fare as The Replacements and Camper Van Beethoven. I was at a disadvantage musically because I did not have a chance to experience live music until moving to Columbus and having resources of such small clubs as Staches, Apollo’s and Bernies.

While Jerry and I took solace in music we both channeled this passion in divergent ways, Jerry picked up the guitar while I never had the discipline nor the inclination to be a musician. I desired to sub-consciously make my mark as a fan.  I envisioned myself as a writer, one who would document the events around myself both externally and internally for nobody in particular but myself. Jerry on the other hand made music, music that derived from his vast record collection and sense of  the musical history that swayed and evolved around him. Jerry craved attention, but at the same time he held it at bay, he insisted that it be on his terms hence his dilemma when it came to his music and his personal life.

Gaunt was a powder-keg live, at once brilliant and in another moment a disheveled angry machine if a guitar string popped or the atmosphere wasn’t right. When Jerry formed Gaunt he had an ace-in-the-hole fellow musician in Eric Barth. Eric had played in several excellent Columbus bands, most notably Two-Hour Trip which was comprised of the Spurgeon brothers (Dan Spurgeon was once Jerry’s roommate.) Eric was a deft and melodious bass player, Jeff Regensberger however was new to the drums but what he may have lacked in drum rolls he brought in an easy-going enthusiasm to the seriousness of Jerry’s songs. Jeff was more than capable of banging out a basic even quick punk rock beat to the music of Jerry and he smiled throughout their live sets, he was lantern of good-will on stage.

The first Gaunt single was a split with the New Bomb Turks, released on Craig Regala’s Datapanik label. The funds were cobbled together from as assortment of Columbus underground music-fanatics such as the band members, Ron House, Craig and myself. It was an immediate collector’s item, it was furious and fast one part Saints, Husker Du, Pagans and all Mid-Western. The Turks side got the most attention, and while Gaunt could be breathtaking at times, the Turks were a combine compared to the diesel engine of early Gaunt. All of the Turks were more than average musicians, with the only hesitancy (hard to believe now) coming from the vocal mannerisms of singer Eric Davidson who, fully confident stage wise pranced around like a cross between an obnoxious eleven year old and Mick Jagger. From the strength of their split with Gaunt, their next single and fans such as Johan Kugelberg who worked at Matador, the Turks quickly got a deal with Crypt Records, who at the time was the quintessential garage label in the world. Jerry felt left behind for a moment. He confided in me before “Jim Motherfucker” came out that he had the blessing and the curse of sharing a record with The New Bomb Turks, shortly before the single was released he asked Jim Weber from the Turks to play second guitar in Gaunt.

Jim wasn’t in Gaunt very long, just a hic-cup really but his being in Gaunt gave Jerry the realization that Gaunt would benefit from another guitar player. Shortly thereafter he asked Jovan Karcic to be in the band. Jovan was a perfect foil for Jerry’s manic energy he was a little taller than Jerry with a bushel of handsome hair and a reserved demeanor he constrasted brilliantly with Jerry.  Even Jovan’s guitar playing was filled with smart humorous licks that would balance perfectly with Jerry’s almost psychotic playing.

Jerry and I were almost inseparable at this time, I was still nursing my break-up but had started coming out of my shell.  I had started dating again, a bit hesitantly at first and I was staying off the booze for the most part. At some point I came to the realization that alcohol would help with my renewed interest in dating. All the while, Jerry would keep an eye on me, no doubt guarding my heart and my life with his concern. I had started “dating” a stripper who was impressed that I didn’t drink too much and hated drugs. I say “dating” because we only got as far as kissing and eighth grader-ish petting. She would not French kiss because she hated anything being in her body. We went to movies and out to eat, she liked the idea that I didn’t really want sex, I was much too scared of that at this point in my life. She had been molested as a child and told me stories about this, I believe her father was a sheriff somewhere in small town Ohio and took advantage of his little girl. I was horrified by her stories and spent a lot of time listening to her. Around this time I attempted my first substantial short story based on her life and the life of my new dog. Jerry would ask me if I had slept with her, not so much out of curiosity but out of concern. After making out with her one day on my porch, we decided to move inside, suddenly my dog Istvan who had escaped earlier in the day came bounding up the porch steps and jumped on the couch.  “Who’s this” she asked as she scratched his ears, just then Istvan puked next to her.  It was surreal, he had found some Dinty More Beef Stew or something that resembled it out of some garbage can and vomited all over the couch. Too make matters worse the vomit was covered in what appeared to be hundreds of tiny maggots. She got up and left, I never saw her again. I suppose I wasn’t really ready to go upstairs with her. God works in mysterious ways.V


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3 Responses to “Jerry Wick and Jenny Mae part 12: Early Gaunt”

  1. Amanda Says:

    I remember that night so vividly. She was painfully thin and wearing a bright teal outfit. How horrifying of Istvan, but how totally apt.
    I also remember seeing Gaunt version 1.0 at Bernie’s and being in awe of Jerry’s energy singing “I got a bottle of cheap, cheap whiskey!” He was the Real Deal. And I regret to this day that I wasted so much time arguing with him. I am grateful that, much later, I did get the chance to tell him how wonderful I thought “Bricks & Blackouts” was. Keep writing, Bela!

  2. Hedges Says:

    There was also that little record store on E. Main St, right by Burnett Rd… though that may not have come around for a couple more years.

  3. lp Says:

    These posts have been pretty great. In one sense I lived in the same world as the people mentioned, but I had few meaningful interactions with them. I went to shows because I genuinely liked the bands. I didn’t go because I knew someone in the band or because a group of my buddies would be drinking away at the place all night. In hindsight I guess it made me seem anti-social, but I was more interested in simply hearing a good song live than drinking any amount of alcohol.

    An acquaintance from Croatia once sent me a copy of his zine in which he had interviewed Gaunt during one of their shows in Europe. He really wanted me to give me to Jerry, someone who I had never really spoken with. One day, zine tucked in my jacket, I went into Used Kids and made my way to the back counter where Jerry was standing guard. I pulled out the zine in a gesture that probably made him think, for a split second, that I was pulling out a gun. But he was happy to receive the zine and was trying to decipher the Croatian as I left. I think that’s the last time I interacted with him.

    I was always a huge fan of Vibralux and was surprised at the time when I discovered that so many people hated their music. Some of their shows were so sparsely attended but they were always fun, like the one extremely cold winter night when Stache’s had no heat but the show went on even with just a handful of coat-wearing people in the “crowd”. I wasn’t part of Jenny’s entourage that would drink a shot at some point during the set, but I must have watched Bela and Jenny’s then-fiance and others collectively consume the shots dozens of times. It made me sometimes wonder if I should have been a drinker too.

    One day I was doing my laundry at the place next to Stache’s and was sitting outside (the place was often too hot and cockroach-infested to sit inside for lengthy periods). Also outside, on the other side of the doorway, sat someone who looked really familiar. She had a head wrap on so from the face alone it took me a few minutes to realize it was the Vibralux singer. Being shy I really didn’t say anything to her other than probably a hello. But as we sat out there a huge dark Ohio cloud wandered through the sky, changing the light and colors of the entire sky for a few minutes. It was one of those temporary beautiful and bizarre weather moments you don’t get in many other parts of the country. In one version of this memory we looked at each other and silently each did a “did you see that?!” nod, but I don’t think that part actually happened.

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