The Tummies Bring The Sound of 60s Liverpool to Nashville
When the Beatles released “She loves You” on August 23, 1963, in the UK, no one knew it was the beginning of an invasion. The Beatles changed everything. The rock and roll of the 50s gave way to British pop music, and Liverpool was the center of that revolution. It would claim its own music city heritage. Pop music was in the news, and the Beatles and the Rolling Stones would become kings of the pop rock scene in their native England. On February 7, 1964, a plane landed at JFK, and with their first steps on American soil, four kids from Liverpool brought Beatlemania to life. Overwhelmed by the reception they received from a swarm of screaming fans, it was American radio that really caught their attention. England had but one station, the BBC, and it didn’t play what the Beatles longed to hear. American radio played like a jukebox, and the Beatles wanted to be part of the mix. Just two months later, on April 4, they would set a record in the U.S. by holding the top five spots on American charts simultaneously. It was a sound like nothing that had come before it, and it caught like wildfire. The less than three-minute pop single ruled the airwaves, and with each spin on the turntable, a legacy was in the making. By 1966, the sound was already changing. The flowery tie was in fashion in London, and the Kinks responded with the satirical, “Dedicated Follower of Fashion.” In 1967, the Beatles offered “Strawberry Fields Forever” as their take on the psychedelic turn the era had taken. Their iconic album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, was released in June of that year, and encapsulated the feel of the changing times. The BBC launched Radio One in September, and brought pop music mainstream, just as the focus of the pop world moved from England to San Francisco. By the end of the decade, the pop single gave way to longer songs. The Beatles ceded their reign of the pop world and passed the baton to a band formed in London in 1968 – Led Zeppelin. Fellow British rocker, David Bowie, would usher in glam rock. The short-lived sound of Liverpool in the mid-60s was enough to cement its lofty place in music history. At no time since has anyone come close to recreating the sound or the feel of those magical years……until now.
The Cavern Club in Liverpool became the most famous venue for pop music in the world in the early 60s. On February 9, 1961, it played host to the original Beatles lineup, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Stuart Sutcliffe, and Pete Best on drums. They were a band of five until Sutcliffe left the group to pursue a painting career in July, 1961, and McCartney took over on bass. On August 19, 1962, Ringo sat in the drum seat for the first time during the Beatles performance at the Cavern Club that Sunday night. The Family Wash in Nashville may one day take its place in music history, alongside the Cavern Club, as the venue that first hosted a five-piece band with a fresh pop sound, albeit with a vintage heritage of Limey descent. The Tummies are coming!
THE TUMMIES ARE COMING!
Though no plane need land at BNA to bring Tummiemania to Nashville, their arrival may be just as heralded. The five members of this long-overdue band will invade The Family Wash Saturday night, March 19, at 9pm. Judd Fuller (lead vocals, bass), Dana Radford (lead vocals), Phil Shouse (guitar), Jeremy Asbrock (guitar), and Sandy Gennaro (drums), have created this retro sounding music that will have you checking the calendar year and your location. The genesis of this band started not far from where an American Revolution took hold, and British tea was dumped into the harbor in protest. In the late 90s, Judd Fuller and Dana Radford were residents of nearby Martha’s Vineyard. Judd would often travel off-island with his band, and they would pass the time by making up silly songs, sung with an English accent. It wasn’t long before this music became the catalog of his fictitious band, The Tummies.
Fast forward to the current decade and Judd and Dana’s home in Nashville, Tennessee. For years after they met, the two would say something to each other in normal conversation and suddenly start singing it, Tummies-style. Bopping their heads and singing in an English accent, they would amuse their dogs with this collection of songs they’d giggle about and acknowledge as part of the Tummies growing catalog. On a recent day of revelation that felt much like a revolution, they decided that The Tummies would no longer be a fictitious band. It was time to bring The Tummies to life. In the fall of 2015, Judd had hip replacement surgery and was forced off the road to recover. With the two at home over an extended period of time, Dana said they wrote two songs every morning over coffee for awhile. She likened the organic writing sessions to a beam of light striking them and songs coming out in a very natural way. Before they realized what hit them, they had 17 or 18 new songs. Judd and Dana have penned the entire collection to date, and it’s a project they took the reins of from that moment.
The Tummies now had a voice. What they didn’t have was a band to bring the music to life. Like making a Christmas list for Santa, the two discussed their dream band. They quickly and easily settled on Phil Shouse (a longtime tourmate of Judd’s), and Jeremy Asbrock (a longtime friend and fellow player at Thee Rock N’ Roll Residency), as guitar bookends, if you will. Their chemistry is extraordinary, and rare to find in today’s fast changing music world. The only unanswered role was who would play drums. Sandy Gennaro had played a stint with The Monkees, no strangers to the pop sound of the mid-60s, and he was familiar to Dana through a friend in New York. He also happens to live in Nashville now. As soon as his name rolled off her tongue, there was no further discussion needed. The group was already practically family, and it was the perfect band for the project they envisioned. The next step was to invite the other three members to be in the band.
After they’d written the first dozen songs or so, they invited the guys over to audition for them. On a Sunday afternoon, they prepared a casual feast and sat around the dining room table to play the songs acoustically. Judd played guitar and both, he and Dana, sang the vocals. Phil and Jeremy started bopping along and adding air guitar solos where appropriate. They ended up playing about eight songs before Judd told them to go home and sleep on it and they could talk the next day. Exchanging glances, neither of their prospective guitar players needed any additional time to make a decision. They were in. At that point, Sandy raised his hand and consented to being a Tummie. In that magical moment, The Tummies went from fictional to a live band. They hung out to celebrate and ended up writing two more Tummies tunes that night. From a goofy conversation, their song catalog grows.
The music is a retro gift to the ears. Like a time capsule had been opened and previously unheard material came spilling out, Liverpool’s music scene of the 60s was alive in Nashville. Dana played several tracks for me, and it was a Back to the Future moment. The sound was unmistakably 60s English pop, but the delivery was as fresh as something recorded just days earlier with 21st century technology. The vocals are early 60s style, with two lead singers. Though they will not be singing in an English accent, the phrasing and the melodies are very English. Judd and Dana will handle all the vocals, singing everything in unison and jumping into harmonies together. On every line, you will hear two voices. Judd’s mother is from Liverpool and Dana’s family heritage is English as well, so they come by the English construction of these songs naturally. Hit play on any one of the four songs they have up on ReverbNation and you’ll think you’ve time warped to an English recording session in the 60s. The authenticity is incredible, yet it sounds so new.
To bring the project to fruition, Judd and Dana have dipped into their own pockets to fund it. They believe firmly in paying everyone for their time and talent and owning a project they stand proudly behind. Whether it be rehearsal time, studio time, photo shoots, or playing gigs, their band members and any support personnel will be paid fairly. It speaks volumes of the character and integrity of the project and of the professionalism with which Judd and Dana approach everything they do. They’ve tracked four songs in the studio so far, with the help of Caleb Kbc Sherman co-producing and engineering. The mixes they’ve done are spot on for the time period, and the finished product is four vintage-sounding tunes that are endearingly Tummies-style. You can’t help but start bopping your head the minute the music starts. This is pure musical fun.
The distribution of the music is still up in the air. A mastering of the songs could get them up on iTunes or the like. Dana would personally like to see a physical copy, CD edition available, to whet her old school appetite for such things. The music would certainly adhere to the old school format. A vinyl edition would be the icing on this retro cake. As for live performances by The Tummies, the current plan is to play every four to five weeks. They hope to generate excitement for the live tunes without burning anyone out through repetition. Their debut will be hosted by The Family Wash in Nashville on Saturday, March 19, with a second show at The 5 Spot, Nashville, on Thursday, April 28. Future shows will be announced soon.
Nashville, Tennessee would hardly seem the place for a revitalization of English pop music, nor a sister city to Liverpool in the 60s. Yet if you get outside the commercialization of the country music scene in Music City, you’ll find that Nashville’s music scene is a lot more diverse than most people know. The town is bursting with musicians and artistic talent in all genres, going about the business of making the music they love. The five people in this inventive new retro band are skilled far beyond any one individual genre or style of music. What they bring to this project is years of professional experience and decades of immersion in music history, much of which shaped their careers. There’s an excitement surrounding this project that Dana says is unlike any other she’s been a part of. It’s the spark of being on the cusp of something unique in a musical landscape that’s seen far too much replication without adding anything new. There’s no one in Nashville playing anything like this, as there was no one in Liverpool who generated the excitement The Beatles unleashed with their brand of pop music in the 60s. British radio was considered “stodgy” at the time, and wouldn’t embrace the music that inspired them. Nashville radio today isn’t big on genre diversity, despite what’s being created in its backyard. Perhaps The Tummies will indeed spark a revolution by invading their own home turf. With the proper support and development, Tummiemania could become a Nashville legacy. A whole new era may begin with a single performance at The Family Wash. The coming of The Tummies is history in the making.
Listen to The Tummies on ReverbNation: https://www.reverbnation.com/thetummies
Follow The Tummies on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/The-Tummies-949510508450616/?fref=ts
For information on The Family Wash, Nashville: http://www.familywash.com/
For information on The 5 Spot, Nashville: http://www.the5spot.club/
Photographs by Bill McClintic of 90 East Photography.
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