Don't you treat them like no low down dogs
May 24, 2011 10:10 PM   Subscribe

They began as a folk duo on the lower east side, doing irreverent versions of songs from the Harry Smith anthology. They became the backing band for The Fugs, had a brush with fame on the soundtrack to Easy Rider, briefly featured playwright Sam Shepard on drums, moved to Oregon and became the uber bar band. After carrying on for more than 40 years, they are still the most underrated band in history, The Holy Modal Rounders.

Somehow, they were even on Laugh In. Drummer Roger North also invented the North Drums. And, despite selling very few records, they had a record company named after them.
posted by snofoam (15 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Fuckin' Amen.
posted by dhammond at 10:20 PM on May 24, 2011

one of my favorite bands. I was just playing Low Down Dog on the banjo earlier today. Also, there's a great documentary.
posted by Subcommandante Cheese at 12:20 AM on May 25, 2011

I just finished reading Patti Smith's memoir Just Kids, in which Sam Shepard features somewhat prominently. IIRC, she went out with him several times before Candy Darling clued her in to the guy's day job. And, uh, his name.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:09 AM on May 25, 2011

Underrated by who? Not me!
posted by OmieWise at 3:10 AM on May 25, 2011 [4 favorites]

Jeffrey Lewis puts The Holy Modal Rounders in context as a link in the chain of evolution from folk into punk.
posted by Kattullus at 4:04 AM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

they are still the most underrated band in history

I like the Rounders, The Flamin' Groovies, Tony Joe White, Doug Sahm, the Fastbacks and yes, even my beloved Dictators are all more underrated.
posted by jonmc at 5:04 AM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

Jeffrey Lewis has just come off a tour with Peter Stampfel of HMR, and they just recorded a CD together.

It's fair to say that Peter Stampfel and Steve Weber don't exactly get along. They haven't spoken in about a decade. If you want to see a painful documentary about two musical brothers, Bound To Lose (trailer) will have you laughing and crying.

Peter helped me with an early banjo lesson by phone from his book-, parrot- and bottlecap-filled lair in New York. Steve wanted me to build him a website, and we had several impossibly elliptical phonecalls. For reasons best known to him, he accidentally called my answering machine while he was jamming with friends, and left a charming version of Michael Hurley's "Blue Navigator" on it.

To bring in a Hurley connection, there's the 1976 work of genius from the Unholy Modal Rounders, Hurley and others, Have Moicy!. This is also the name of HMR's somewhat fractured yet often hilarious mailing list have_moicy.

There's a very speedy (in the pharmaceutical sense) release called Live in 1965. Not their best, but gleefully frantic. Its release has some unpleasantness around it — according to Stampfel, it was a tape found in his late mother's house. He was looking for a label to release it on, when Weber borrowed a CD-R copy and had it released on ESP Disk without Stampfel's permission. Neither of them have seen a cent from it, so if you see it on a download site, well ...
posted by scruss at 5:07 AM on May 25, 2011

Fun post, snofoam, thanks. I never knew either the Sam Shepard or the Rounder record connection.

Kattullus, that link is great.
posted by madamjujujive at 7:56 AM on May 25, 2011

My 2nd favorite Holy Modal Rounders song, Flop Eared Mule. A song with only five words in the lyrics, and I love that one of the singers manages to start on the wrong verse, yet they kept that take and released it.
posted by fings at 8:21 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

I love the Holy Modal Rounders. They practically taught me how to play the banjo!
posted by interrobang at 8:36 AM on May 25, 2011

My husband is of the (only mildly facetious) opinion that "Flop Eared Mule" is the best song ever.
posted by mneekadon at 8:47 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

An early staple of the Dr. Demento Show.
posted by Quasimike at 10:30 AM on May 25, 2011

The Holy Modal Rounders were also the first group ever to use the word "psychedelic" in a song, in their version of "Hesitation Blues."
posted by jonp72 at 11:38 AM on May 25, 2011

Husband of mneekadon evidently has impeccable taste. Flop Eared Mule is the best song ever.
posted by scruss at 12:31 PM on May 25, 2011

One of our early dates (late 90's) was a Rounders show at the old Tonic in NYC. A friend had given me the tickets. Vividly recall Weber looking like a toothless panhandler and Stampfel looking kinda like a turtle. They were absolutely brilliant. Their two encores were "Euphoria" and the theme from "Teletubbies."

Eons later, "Too Much Fun" and the Rounders 1 &2 collection are still in heavy rotation on roadtrips and Sunday mornings. I own "Indian War Whoop" but it's pretty unlistenable.
posted by mneekadon at 6:14 PM on May 25, 2011

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