Long John Thomas and the Duffs
Formed in the spring of 2004, Merseybeat / freakbeat revivalists Long John Thomas and the Duffs quickly became a fixture on the St. Louis underground music scene. The band attracted a modest local following, and were known for the strength and energy of their live shows, which almost always ended with a full-throttle, nitro-burning cover of the Lonnie Donnegan skiffle classic “Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor (On the Bedpost Overnight)?".
Primarily a cover band, Long John Thomas and the Duffs sounded like a hybrid of early 60s British rock, American rockabilly, and surf. Their sound was heavily influenced by Hamburg-era Beatles, Johnny Kidd and The Pirates, Cliff Richard and The Shadows, Gene Vincent, The Ventures, and the 1990s Merseybeat combo The Kaisers.
The trio were nominated by St. Louis’ biggest independent newspaper, The Riverfront Times (RFT), as “Best New Artists” for 2005, and in May 2006 were nominated in the “Best Garage / Punk Band” category for the 1st Annual KDHX FM / Playback STL Music Awards. In October 2006, the Duffs were named BEST GARAGE BAND in the RFT’s annual “Best Of St. Louis” poll. The band finished recording their first LP in October 2005; the album was picked up by Wormtone Records (Denver, CO) and was released in February 2007. The Duffs were again nominated as Best Garage Band by the RFT in 2007.
Despite all of the positive publicity, the Duffs found it increasingly hard to book shows, especially locally. There was not much of a market in St. Louis for retro rock acts, and given the Duffs' penchant for dressing as 60s British rockers and singing with mock cockney accents, the band didn't seem to fit well on most bills. (Oddly, many people who saw them live actually thought they were British, including a Brit expatriate from London who yelled out "Bloody Northerners!" during a Duffs' show at the Hi-Pointe.) As a result of the region's indifference to them, the Duffs were one of the most under-appreciated local acts during their run. And aside from a couple of gigs in Carbondale, IL and a road trip to Denver to support their frat rock Wormtone labelmates The Orangu-Tones, the Duffs rarely left St. Louis city. In February 2007, they did play at the famous Continental Club in Austin, TX in support of a Wormtone Records showcase. The high point in their career may have been opening for Pete Best, the original drummer for The Beatles, at a 2006 show at Pop's in Sauget, IL. The consensus was that the Duffs clearly outplayed Best's band that night.
As it became harder to book decent gigs, the members of Long John Thomas and the Duffs decided to form an alter-ego band, The Copulators, which played almost nothing but British punk covers from 1979-81. The plan was to have their side project out and gigging by March 2007, and were hoping to do a show where they opened as The Copulators and headlined as Long John Thomas and the Duffs with another band sandwiched in between. However, drummer Scott Lasser (aka Nigel X), left the band in January of that year to form his own group, The 75s. A long time friend of the Duffs, Martin Verplank, agreed to take Lasser's place. While LJT and the Duffs carried on, Lasser's departure effectively marked the end of The Copulators.
In May 2007 the Duffs held a long-delayed CD release party at Atomic Cowboy in South St. Louis. Soon afterwards, frontman Ray James (aka "Ray Rough") moved to Chicago, but vowed to return to St. Louis for Duffs' gigs. That June, the band supported the South City Rocks Off benefit for KDHX FM, and played an especially spirited set at the City Diner on South Grand Avenue. Although James said that the band would continue despite his move to Chicago (the Duffs did play a gig in the Windy City in late 2007), and that he hoped a second Duffs LP would materialize at some point, the show at City Diner pretty much marked the end of the Duffs as a regularly performing band. In 2008, the band played one last show in Maplewood, MO before spliting up for good.
Former Band Members
- Ray Rough - Lead guitar/lead vocals (2004-2008)
- Randall Van Wanker - Bass/backing vocals (2004-2008)
- Hank Belvedere III - Drums (2007-2008)
- Scott Lasser (aka Nigel X) - Drums - (2004-2007)
- Johnny Saint- Lead guitar (2004; left the band before the first live show)
- Randy Weatherwell - Bass (2004; played bass at the the first live show)
- Duff-O-Phonic EP (self-released, 2005) - "Shake Little Gwendolyn" b/w "Dynamite"
- Presenting... Long John Thomas and the Duffs (Wormtone Records, 2007)
- Live at Ten Mile House (self-released, late 2007)
- "Presenting... Long John Thomas and the Duffs" Review - jumpingfrom6to6.com
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