Rummaging around our very lowpriced storage space in Upstate New york I came across a large plastic bin surrounded by leaves that have blown under the roll up garage door that "protects" our valuables. In the bin are ancient quarter-inch master tapes of my own that have not seen the light of day in 25 years. Is it worth blowing the leaves off and shaking the spiders out? Oh why not. Hell! It is the legacy of "The Tall Lonesome Pines" a rock and roll band that existed in New York City in many variations from 1984. 'Til 1990.
I didn’t really know what I would do with them, but I was very curious to hear them. Who knew that magnetic tape would be nearly extinct and in order to transfer to digital such old tapes would have to be BAKED in an oven to preserve them? I started the process and there was no turning back. After listening over the many tracks it became clear to me that they were worth releasing (and in some cases re-releasing) as (at the very least) a document of that time in New York when clubs still paid pretty dang well.
The inception of the Pines began with me (George Gilmore) and Marek Pakulski getting drunk at an after hours place called the Zodiac (property of Vincent "The Chin" Gigante) on Mercer St. and Houston. We bonded over our love of harmony duos like the Everly Brothers and Sam and Dave and our love of alcohol. So we began as a duo. One guitar and two voices. We sang like boids.
Just up the road in another gin mill called the Blarney Rock on 8th Ave and 38th Street over a few belts, we came up with the name. Both comin' in a few inches over 6 foot in height "The Tall Lonesome Pines" seemed appropriate.
As a duo with me on guitar and harmonizing with Marek we ran the gamut of now defunct legendary joints. This is when the East Village was roaring with what seemed like post-apocalyptic activity and chewing up and spitting out white boy suburbanites daily.
Marek was the bassist for THE FLESHTONES since the seventies and was trying his hand at being a lead vocalist. As a duo we were able to get around quick and play at almost any event as an opener because we had almost no gear so we ended up working a lot. The Pyramid, 8BC, Darinka, The Limbo Lounge, The World and so on. We were the downtown equivelant of an R-rated HEE-HAW show as a duo.
We had started writing songs together mostly to see if we could make each other laugh. Songs like “REPTILE FARM” “TILT A WHIRL” and “CROP FAILURE” were born with a tongue firmly planted in the tobacco-filled cheek.
At the time there was a small explosion of bands that were a hybrid of punk rock and country referred to as “Cow Punk”. Bands like BEAT RODEO, RANK AND FILE, THE TRUE BELIEVERS, JASON AND THE SCORCHERS, GREEN ON RED were working rock and roll bands with a hillbilly slant. We were lumped in to that category as well and we were willing participants.
We started thinking it would be fun to have a band with us. Al Greller shared a rehearsal room with us at the notorius Music Building on 38th and 8th. He was the only guy we knew with an upright bass and we knew that was the sound we wanted. He had recently left BEAT RODEO and was up for it. Along with Al (or "AL DENTE" as he is known) came Peter Moser on drums also recently departed from Beat Rodeo. Peter and Al had logged a lot of miles together so they were very comfortable as a rhythm section. Danny Harvey had served for many years with THE ROCKATS and just the right amount of psycho Billy skills to really move it up a notch.
We became part of the "Big Combo" series at Folk City every Wednesday night for a while along with a regular slot at The Lone Star Café. We were feeling our oats and knew it was time to record for real! So the good fellers over at Water Music in Hoboken let us burn up some time – gratis no less. We recorded "Good Girl Gone Bad" and "Reptile Farm" (with the addition of the great Larry Campbell on pedal steel guitar).
We stayed pretty busy for the rest of the year, but between bouncing back and forth with THE FLESHTONES and the after hours life…well it was all taking its toll and Marek thought it was time for him to move on. Without Marek should we go on? Should it be just one lone Pine a-warbling on his own? Ah what the hell…and so we went on.
After raising some financing we set about to make an album at Water Music with Chris Butler of "The Waitresses" "I Know What Boys Like" fame at the controls and some special guests like Will Rigby of "The DB's" and "The Uptown Horns". A slew of new songs from me "Not Me Never", "Cruel, But Fair," and "Prison Correspondence" were positive additions to the direction we were taking.
A compilation record called "It's So Hard to be Cool in an Un-cool World" added "Prison Correspondence" to its track list, along with bubbling underground bands like "Human Switchboard", "The Schramms", "The True Believers", and "The Reducers". Things were just starting to look up after Marek's departure.
We went on gigging and recording for the rest of the year when suddenly Danny B. Harvey heard the call of the West and moved out to California to pursue what has been a very busy career as a guitar slinger. Now What?
Well luckily for us about the same time THE BEAT RODEO were packing it in and Al and Peter's old band mate Bill Schunk was available and up for it. A really fine picker with great musical instincts and a killer sardonic wit Bill was a perfect fit and off we went. We worked regularly at Terry Dunn's "TRAMPS" on 15th St. in its hey- day when Charles Brown, Big Joe Turner, and a very early incarnation of "Buster Poindexter" could be seen on any given night.
By this time we had Art Edelstein managing us along with the zydeco band "Loup Garou". The Cow Punk thing had morphed into "ROOTS Music" and now bands like THE BLASTERS and LOS LOBOS were selling out big rooms when they came to town. One of those Roots rock/country Nashville acts was "Dwight Yokum" and Art manged to get us an opening slot opening for him and "Buck Owens" at a totally SOLD OUT Beacon Theater.
Once again it was time to record and document the band as it currently was shaping up to be. Now a second guitar was added with Dave Schramm joining and bringing his fantastic lap steel skills as well. Sonically the band had never sounded better and we entered the Late Eddie Sperry's recording studio on 22nd street in Chelsea. We got a swingin' version of "Tilt-a-Whirl" with Marek jumping in for ol' times' sake along with "Explain the Unexplained" (That song went on later to be a early station I.D. song for the SYFY Channel). Art Edelstein worked every which way to keep us busy and the band was truly at it's peak musically, but a decision on my part to make a move to TEXAS (which would be documented later by me in a song called "Texas Nightmare" – you get the drift) ended The Tall Lonesome Pines tenure in New York.
So here is a little window into that time between 1984 To 1990 in New York from a band that wasn't famous and didn't have any hit records (or many records at all) but, had a really good time – IN a really good time – in New York.
~George Gilmore, August 2011
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