Toothless Ruth returns to rockin’

BILL LYNCH | Charleston Gazette
Back by popular demand, local party rock band Toothless Ruth returns to Grumpy’s Friday to open for hard rockers Black Stone Cherry.

Drummer Mike Felty knew the moment he heard Chris Short sing that he’d found the perfect guy to front that cool, new rock band he wanted to put together.

It’s just where he found him that didn’t seem all that cool.

“I found him at a karaoke party,” Felty said. “He sang two songs: Journey’s ‘Separate Ways’ and Skid Row’s ‘18 and Life.’ As soon as I heard him hit that high note in ‘Separate Ways,’ I knew I wanted to get a band together.”

The drummer approached Short, told him he wanted to put together a band. Short said he nodded, but he’d heard that before.

“Right, whatever,” he told Felty.

But Felty was serious. After the party, he followed up with a phone call, the pair got together, invited some friends and formed what became the first iteration of local party band, Toothless Ruth. 

On Friday night, the band will open for hard rock band Black Stone Cherry in a sold-out show at Grumpy’s in St. Albans.

“We’re really excited about that,” guitarist Chet Williamson said. “We feel really lucky. I mean, we just do this for fun.”

It’s also sort of a public announcement that the popular cover band is back. Founded in 2007, the band was a regular at area bars, particularly Grumpy’s (and its predecessor, Tomahawks) but then last year, it suddenly dropped off the radar.

“We were just burned out,” Short said. “We needed a break.”

The break might have continued, but then the band members were approached about opening for Black Stone Cherry and decided they’d had enough of a rest.

However, it’s not quite the same band. Jeff Anderson, also of the Pink Floyd tribute band, US Floyd, plays bass.

“Toothless Ruth has a great reputation,” Anderson said. “I’m just glad to be here.”

Toothless Ruth isn’t looking for fame, stardom or even a record deal. Everyone in the band is in their 40s and 50s. Most have respectable jobs. Felty works in mental health, Anderson has a state job, Williamson is a utility manager and Short does sales.

Keyboardist John Good, a teacher, is the lone exception.

He smiled and said, “I’m kind of in between jobs at the moment.”

But they love to play and love to be part of the party. While fame would be nice, there’s something liberating about playing because it’s just fun. Toothless Ruth isn’t looking to dazzle anyone with original material, but the band plays competent versions of rock fan favorites that go well with friends and a couple of beers.

They put a lot of work into that.

Good said, “What makes us different, I think, is we take the vocal harmonies very seriously. We pride ourselves on that.”

“And we’re loud,” Short said and laughed.

Getting the chance to open for Black Stone Cherry, the guys say, has reinvigorated Toothless Ruth. It’s encouraged them to work a little harder and work on some new material.

“I think there are going to be some surprises for everybody,” Short said.

The band hopes to use the performance to help get the word out that Toothless Ruth is back.

“We’re looking at playing maybe once or twice a month,” Williamson said. “We’d love to do a few more private parties, maybe some corporate shows.”

“We want to be your s*** kicking party rock ‘n’ roll band,” Short said.

Reach Bill Lynch

at, 304-348-5195 or follow @LostHwys on Twitter.

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