Brownsville Station is still smoking
WANT TO GO?
Live on the Levee concert
WHERE: Haddad Riverfront Park
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday
INFO: 304-348-8014, ext. 105 or www.liveontheleveecharleston.comCHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Brownsville Station's Henry Weck remembers when the band broke into the big time. It was 1973, when "Smoking in the Boys Room" went to No. 3 on the pop charts.
"We averaged 250 to 300 [shows] for 10 years," the drummer said. "The year 'Smoking in the Boys Room' hit, we did 320 cities."
Weck, who performs with Brownsville Station at Friday's Live on the Levee, said it was an amazing time to be in a band from Michigan. The whole Detroit music scene had taken off.
"We were around when it was the MC5, Iggy Pop and Grand Funk Railroad. There was Bob Seger, Ted Nugent, The Rationals and on and on.
"The Detroit music scene was just happening."
Following that massive hit, some subsequent releases were modestly successful. The band never achieved anything on the same level, though, and in 1979, it disbanded.
Singer Cub Koda continued to perform in a variety of bands and took on a second career as a music journalist. Meanwhile, vocalist/guitarist Mike Lutz and Weck turned to session work, songwriting and record producing.
"I recorded some demos for a southern rock band, which they used to get signed. The band was Blackfoot," said Weck.
"Michael went into audio engineering and began producing. [He had] several good albums, but maybe the best known was Ted Nugent's 'Spirit of the Wild.'"
A few years ago, Weck noticed he'd stored quite a bit of old Brownsville Station material. He had old demos, band rehearsals and even some recordings from live shows.
"These weren't cassette tape recordings. They were high quality recordings done with good equipment -- good enough to get us major label deals. They were engineered for sound."
Weck said he had more than 500 hours of material, which he thought might be something the band could put out as a set of previously unreleased material. He and Lutz started talking about an archive project and, to their surprise, began writing songs together.
"It all kind of flowed naturally," he said. "It wasn't a planned thing. It just came up very naturally, and so that's how we're doing it."
The songs became an album, "Still Smokin,'" which was released earlier this year.
While Weck and Lutz have a lot of studio experience between them, Weck acknowledged that more than 30 years had passed since they'd made music as Brownsville Station. To help keep the same sort of rugged sound they had back in the 1970s, they brought in a few players from Detroit.
Weck said, "What I love is the energy is still there."
He acknowledged that at he and Lutz's age, it's a job to maintain that energy, but quite frankly, it's something they have to do. Brownsville Station was known its their raucous and rowdy stage performances. The people who remember "Smoking in the Boys Room," Weck thought, would remember that.
"Everyone in the band works out every day," he said. "You have to do that to keep the stamina. And, you know, maybe we just refuse to admit we've gotten a little old."
It feels good to be back, Weck said, but they're not making too many big plans. He said they got a late start on the booking this year, but they're still pretty much picking and choosing how much they want to play and where.
"It's been a lot of fun so far," he said.
Weck added that they're looking forward to playing Charleston again. They're hoping old fans who might have forgotten about them will give the new stuff a listen.
You're never too old to rock n' roll.
"People have told us the new album sounds just like Brownsville Station." Weck laughed. "Well, yeah, it really should."
Reach Bill Lynch at email@example.com or 304-348-5195.