Singing with Ken Stringfellow in St. Louis

October 8, 2017

Ken Stringfellow and Toby Weiss, October 6, 2017 in St. Louis MO

I’ve been in awe of Ken Stringfellow since hearing my first Posies album in 1989. I’ve traveled to see them be a part of a resurrected Big Star in the early 90s, and stood in sticky-floored clubs or among used vinyl (Euclid Records in 2016). And always, always singing along with those exquisite songs and harmonies on their chain of records, with not a bum one in the bunch.

When Ken brought Tears of Silver to St. Louis, this happened to me:

While it FELT like magic mushrooms conjured this fever dream, it really happened and only because Rick Wood asked if I wanted to be the gal singer Ken requested for the night. So freaked out by the concept, I was about to say no until given a good talkin’ to.

Ken sent me files and lyrics so I could learn 4 songs. The guy writes sophisticated material, and when I heard some of the songs, it felt like I got in over my head. Maybe I should back out, ‘cos who wants to fail in front of Ken fuckin’ Stringfellow?

But I did massive homework to learn Doesn’t It Remind You of Something, Superwise, History Buffs, and Whatever Hell (shown above).

“On carpet” with Ken Stringfellow and Tears of Silver.

Ken provided precise and insightful pointers during soundcheck, and wisely advised to stop thinking so hard and just follow musical instincts. He’s right, obviously, but it didn’t curb supreme nervousness.

With an audience of roughly 60 in-house, I sang those 4 songs shaking like a chihuahua. It was an out-of-body experience. When I did become present, the adrenaline was so strong I had to detach to auto-pilot, or else. Afterward, I was exhausted, and relieved it was over and I’d survived.

It was way more fun than this description. In retrospect.

This wasn’t my first rodeo; I’ve sung with 4 healthy handfuls of amazing musicians in front of larger audiences for 15 years or so. Being nervous before performing is a given (or as Tony Bennett once said: If you aren’t nervous before going onstage, you have no business performing), but this was a whole new level of nervous, bordering on fear.

Simply because it’s Ken Stringfellow. He’s Master Class! It was a To Sir With Love situation of wanting to please him while not embarrassing myself. I was completely aware that I was part of just 4 songs in a long night of great music and performances from all the Tears of Silver fellows. Once I emerged unscathed from that guest moment, I loved their set even more, because I had survived.

Ken Stringfellow with Toby Weiss, St. Louis, MO 10.06.17

My deepest thanks to Rick Wood for the chance to do this, to Tears of Silver for being so damn good, and Ken Stringfellow for creating a treasured musical memory and teaching an old dog a few new tricks.

 

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The Remodels with Tory Starbuck – Harmony (Elton John)

February 6, 2017

Letting our Elton John flags fly, down in the Rumpus Room.

Professor Ellis and Toby Weiss are joined by Tory Starbuck.

Turns out Tory and Toby are both North St. Louis County ex-pats who were major Elton John grade school obsessives in the 1970s. Hence “Harmony.”

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VIDEO: The Remodels – Happy New Year (ABBA)

February 6, 2017

Ringing out 2016, welcoming 2017.

Down in the Rumpus Room with Professor Ellis and Toby Weiss, with a new take on the exquisite ABBA tune, “Happy New Year.”

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VIDEO: You’re a Mean One, Mr. Trump

December 10, 2016

I’d once done the proper version of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” with the venerable Rough Shop. While rehearsing it to be trotted out again this year, it became far too obvious to change Grinch to Trump.

So we did.

John Ellis on guitar
Toby Weiss singing
Down in the Rumpus Room in South St. Louis, MO, December 2016.

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VIDEO: Peace on Earth

December 10, 2016

With the passing of David Bowie in January 2016, this Christmas promised to be especially sad when the perennial duet between he and Bing Crosby aired.

While working on a cover of the Bing & Bowie tune, we realized that David Bowie’s portion was particularly meaningful right now. And the song – divorced from the “Little Drummer Boy” format – was songwriting of gorgeous simplicity.

So we excised Bing, went full-on Bowie!

John Ellis on guitar
Toby Weiss singing
Down in the Rumpus Room in South St. Louis, MO, December 2016.

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NEW SONG: Gustine – The Remodels

June 23, 2016

Here’s a brand new song – with free download – from The Remodels.

“Gustine” is the slightly revised tale of a St. Louis rock legend; the ending is changed for a better Hollywood ending.

The tune is written by John “Professor” Ellis and Toby Weiss. Professor plays all the guitars, Toby sings.

Rounding out the track is Steve Scariano on bass and Spencer Marquart on drums.

All production, recording and engineering is by Matt Meyer.

2015-06-14 14.25.06

After John Ellis and I (this is Toby) wrote the song in December 2013 (I think it was), we finally got around to recording it as a simple voice and guitar track. That’s us above, early in 2015.

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With the decision to go “full band” we brought in Steve Scariano (top middle) and Spencer Marquart (top right) to round out the sound. Professor Ellis (top left) piled on the guitars. And then everyone left to go to Christmas parties. This was December 2015.

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Matt Meyer (above) recorded everything either at Fire Brand studios or his own studio in DeSoto, MO. He’s a kick ass man, all around.

So are Professor, Scariano and Spencer. Thank you to everyone who came along on this journey.

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VIDEO: Bomb Pop Boy

August 3, 2015

Oh, the joy of having a video diary of the Bomb Pop Boy journey!

Thank you to Bill Streeter of Hydraulic Pictures for all the filming and production work on the final product. And to Ann Hirschfeld for illustrating the memories of that hot night on a summer long ago…

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The Remodels – Bomb Pop Boy

July 26, 2014

john ellis toby weiss the remodels

The Remodels debut an original song, written by John Ellis & Toby Weiss (above). Recorded partially in Dallas, TX and St. Louis, MO. Produced, mixed and mastered by Jack Petracek. And it’s yours to listen to and download for free.
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Live Debut of New Single “Bomb Pop Boy”

July 26, 2014

6.14.2013, St. Louis MO – The Remodels debut “Bomb Pop Boy” for Kittypalooza at Off Broadway. Video by Don Hollenbeck.

It’s a departure for The Remodels in that it’s an original song written by John Ellis and Toby Weiss. Studio recording is available to listen and download on Soundcloud.

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The Remodels – “Year of the Cat”

June 20, 2013

June 14, 2013 at Off Broadway in St. Louis, MO for Kittypalooza.
We ended our set at the charity benefit with a 6/8 reworking of Al Stewart’s “Year of the Cat.” Another of those cool Steve Staicoff ideas taken to the nth degree with an extended Allman Brothers Band jam at the end.

Thank you to Cat Pick for inviting us to help raise funds for Tenth Life Organization.

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