Jerry Wick and Jenny Mae: Part 19 “There’s A Bar Around” & Cheater Slicks


1995-2001

Jenny had a great talent for ducking out when things were going well for her, some may say that she had a fear of success but I now believe that it had more to do with her mental illness and an inability to handle stress in any sort of proactive way. This was true for many of us, life came easy for us, the successes as well as the failures slipped in and out of our collective grasps as so much rain hurtling to the ground in November. Jenny split town shortly after her first record was made, she and her husband flew the coup to New Orleans where she always felt a kinship.

Jenny used to listen to New Orleans jazz and ragtime every Saturday night while living in rural western Ohio. The station was from Dayton or Indianapolis, was most likely a tiny AM band that seemed to flicker in and out of our beat up radios deep into the night. On a good clear night in rural Ohio one can quite easily listen to stations from Chicago, New York and even Canada. These far off locales adding more mystery to an antsy teenager than the music they play. She loved the sound of old jazz and very early on became a big fan of Louis Armstrong, Kid Ory and Billie Holliday. In 1989 she and Dan Dow conspired together and bought me a ticket to New Orleans. It was one of the sweetest presents anybody has ever given to me. Dan asked me to go to the airport to pick up one of his friends and when we got there, Jenny produced the tickets.

Jenny and I stayed in a bed and breakfast in the gay section of the French Quarter; it was there I went to my first gay bar with her. It was a giant, bigger than most bars in Columbus and they had a huge wall of videos playing the Pet Shop Boys version of “Where the Streets Have No Name”, it cemented my thoughts that The Pet Shop Boys are one of the finest bands of our time. Anyway, we stayed in the quarter, drank tons and saw a shit load of music. Jenny loved the Preservation Hall Jazz band and we went to the tiny jazz club and watched some of the oldest jazz musicians alive at the time practice their trade. I was glad to get home to the comfortable confines of Columbus but I suppose Jenny’s heart always thirsted for the romantic notions that New Orleans seems to produce from people who are always lost in the wonderment of place.

She moved there with her former husband David, both finding work as bartenders and soon they had a small apartment in the French quarter. I, on the other hand was becoming somewhat unglued as I tried to piece her debut record together. It was a mishmash of cassettes and digital tape, we didn’t know exactly who played on what and Jenny’s delicate finances made certain that her phone was frequently cut off. She sent me a box of photos and said that this was to be the cover. I never liked the cover of her first record and thought we should have used one black and white photo but it wasn’t my record. I had just gotten a production and distribution deal with Revolver USA, a conglomerate of people centered around Gary Held, one of the nicest gentlest men I’ve ever come across. What the deal entailed was that Revolver would manufacture and distribute any record I wanted to put out. Jenny Mae’s debut was the first record as part of this deal. Needless to say this was a bit nerve-wracking. I would get together with a twelve pack and go through the songs with Ted Hattemer and Steve Evans (who produced the record) and we would discuss the track listing, art work and credits while Jenny sat a thousand miles away, most likely on a humid barstool. We decided to call the record “There’s a Bar Around the Corner…Assholes” after Jenny flung open the door to one of the new coffee shops on campus one afternoon and shouted that to the bewildered customers. She was aghast that any sane person would spend an afternoon in a coffee shop instead of a bar.

When the record came out it got glowing reviews, it was featured in Entertainment Weekly, the College Music Journal and countless fanzines, she toured a little behind it. Some of these shows were opening for Will Oldham and Chris Knox in the south and East Coast. But she never got her shit together at this time to establish a permenant backing band, it was usually a hodge-podge of muscians who would practice a few days together and go. The basic line-up at this time was Jovan Karcic (drums), Wil Foster (bass), Sean Woosely (guitar) and Jenny but it could change nightly.

As was her nature she met an assortment of characters in New Orleans, some musicians, most notably Azalea Snail whom she recorded with. There was an elderly woman from Guatemala who used to be a well known stripper in the nineteen fifties and sixties. They called her “mama” and whenever Jenny’s phone was disconnected I could reach her through “mama”. I would call down and in broken-slurred English, mama would say “noooo, Jinny no here now. You sounda like-a sexy.” I was always taken aback that some old woman would hit up on me from five states away,
thinking to myself “where does she find these people?”  Mama claimed to have once had Bobby Kennedy as a lover. She would appear on the cover of Jenny’s single for “Runaway.” Jenny started doing cocaine with Mama and would tell me stories about this eccentric old woman (who must have been in her seventies) and her young twenty-something lover whom she called “tha dairee boy.” Jenny wrote a song about this relationship.

When Jenny finally moved back to Columbus in early 1997 she moved behind a pair of bars, one was an old lesbian bar called the Summit Station and the other was called Whisky Flats (both are now the Summit and Bourbon Street respectively). The house was small, just two bedrooms and lime green in color. The neighbors were two gravel parking lots, and she quickly constructed the house in her own style complete with a functioning waterfall that she found in a dumpster. Both her and Dave got jobs bartending at high end down-town hotels.

David Olds was a bright and handsome man who resembled a California surfer in looks and a wary on-looker in personality. He was devoted to Jenny, he quite simply adored her and at times he appeared to follow in her wake. He encouraged her and at times became so frustrated with her that he would try to move her to settle her down. As with New Orleans, one had to be careful where one moved in order to get away. David was wise, a man whose politeness was as asset as he was able to procure upper class service jobs as a bartender, playhouse manager and maitre d at various institutions where dinner cost more than their rent. David also liked to drink as much as Jenny did and both of them had no difficulty putting in long nights and being able to rouse them in the morning to catch the bus downtown.

We lived just several blocks from Jenny and Dave, some mornings I would jog over, rouse them from bed and lift weights on their universal weight set. In the evenings we may wander over and sit on their back patio, listening to jazz or the Beach Boys and drink till we were wobbly. She became fast friends with the Shannon brothers. Tom and Dave Shannon were 2/3 of the Cheater Slicks who had resettled to Columbus after rising rents and a Midwest fondness brought them back. I had met Tom and Dave some years earlier when I twice booked the Cheater Slicks. The first time I saw them was with the unsightly Kudgel, a noise rock outfit from Boston who consisted of four large but insanely funny men who wore dresses and shouted into the microphone. The Cheater Slicks made a noise that sounded as if the paint on their guitars was weeping. I was entranced. The second time they came back was in support of 68’ Comeback, an truly oddball assortment of under-ground rock fugitives like Jack Taylor and Darren Lin Wood, centered around Jeff Evans of the Gibson Brothers. Compared to 68’ Comeback, the Cheater Slicks looked like garage door salesmen.

Tom and Dave were sweethearts, in a way they fit right in with the distant romantic sensibilities of Jenny and her love of old jazz and vintage dresses. They trucked around vast quantities of 78” records and both had an encyclopedic mind for music and all things vintage. Although they did not overtly romanticize the past as many of the time whose idea of cool chic was a tattoo of a buxom gal, a girlfriend with a Betty Page hairdo and a wallet attached to a chain. The Shannon’s, despite the mournful squalor they could raise, have always been sophisticated in their taste whether it be literature or an affiliation with Lee Hazelwood. Both of them, instead of seeing the eccentricities of Jenny as outlandish behavior, had a respect and affinity towards her and her way of life and she did them. Years later, as I swam in the bottom of shit pile of my life, Tom did his best to pull me out and let me stay with him for several months, no doubt earning a highway of gold bricks in heaven.

101666

Cover for the first record

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2 Responses to “Jerry Wick and Jenny Mae: Part 19 “There’s A Bar Around” & Cheater Slicks”

  1. ian Says:

    a 78″ record is a big fucking record.

    arbitrary snark aside, love this blog. keep up the good work. found this after revisiting the Gaunt LPs and some curiosity googling..

  2. Dave Olds Says:

    Hi Bela.

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