Sunday, November 4, 2007
Wisconsin Bands #3 The Fendermen
1960. Jim Sundquist and Phil Humphrey were The Fendermen. They were from Madison and, at their best, they were minimalists - Just the two of them, guitars plugged into one amp, reverb and volume cranked . There's always power in simplicity and The Fendermen seemed to know it. Audiences went nuts, parents protested. They had one big top ten hit with Mule Skinner Blues - a song originally recorded in 1930 by Jimmie Rodgers (Country Music's first superstar, almost entirely forgotten today). Fendermen fans included Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan and a teenager in Canada named Neil Young. It was fun, they cut some cool tunes and it didn't last long. Success was too much for the boys and they split up. Humphrey kept the The Fendermen name and kept on touring and Sundquist formed The Muleskinners. The last time they saw each other was 1964. However, they are talking again.
A reunion nearly materialized at the Oneida Casino Rockabilly Festival in Green Bay, Wisconsin - an incredible 'round the clock weeklong event that draws fans from all over the world.
Note to Fendermen - If you guys ever decide to get together again, do us all a favor - be just the two of you, your guitars plugged into one amp.
A side note - The initial recording of Muleskinner Blues helped launch Wisconsin's most legendary recording label, Cuca Records. (Sorry Lawrence Duchow and Uncle Ozzie fans, I'm saving the Cuca story for a later post.) The second release of the song was on Soma Records. That version of Muleskinner Blues sold 1,000,000 copies out of the box. To date, 4,500,000 copies have been sold worldwide.