Stewart, a former Marvel Entertainment Group executive, is clearly enthusiastic about the job--and about music. He referenced Kool & the Gang in his remarks. He has served on the Rhythm and Blues Foundation's board of directors. He owns more than 200,000 vinyl albums and the grand jury exhibits used to indict Alan Freed for payola. On his lapel, he wore a silver replica of a 45 adapter. "My house looks just like the inside of this building," said Stewart, a native of Alabama who lives in Connecticut.
Judging by his resume, Stewart will push the Rock Hall in new directions. During his tenure at Marvel (1989-1997), the comic book publisher attached its brand name to restaurants and parks, and sought merchandising and licensing agreements. Controlling shareholder Ronald Perelman imagined Marvel as the new Disney. By the mid-'90s, however, business was less than superheroic. Sales of comic books and trading cards (Marvel had purchased Fleer) were stagnant, and the company was burdened with debt. By December 1996, Marvel was in bankruptcy court, and Perelman was characterized by Wall Street watchers as a villain worthy of Spiderman for putting the sacred name Marvel in such jeopardy.
After Marvel, Stewart served as president of Diversified Entertainment Strategies, which "focused on the development of location based entertainment," to quote from his Rock Hall-produced bio. Stewart sounded a trifle ashamed of the company at Thursday's press conference. Understandable: The business concentrated on finding a permanent home for the Ice Capades and bowling centers.
The board is convinced Stewart is the person to lead the museum. Howley described his qualifications as "impeccable." The Rock Hall's fifth chief executive since it opened in 1995, Stewart has a three-year contract and will start the job January 4. "Nobody wanted it more than me," he said. "Nobody will try harder than me."
Booking agents can be cruel. With a show in Cincinnati the day before Thanksgiving and one in Chicago the day after, Marky Ramone and the Intruders were trapped in the Midwest for the holiday. But the punk rockers didn't go without a home-cooked meal. The band drove to Cleveland and shared an 18-pound turkey and trimmings with the Beatnik Termites. "They ate like hogs," said Termite drummer Reggie Silvestri. After dinner, the guys watched videos (Ramone requested Evil Dead 2) before grabbing beers at the Mars Bar in Lakewood.
The bands met in February, when the Termites opened for Ramone and the Intruders at the Euclid Tavern. The New Yorkers were smitten enough to ask the Termites to open six weeks' worth of shows last summer. "We were kind of shocked to find out they were fans of our band," Silvestri said. "They had tapes in their van." Silvestri said Ramone and the Intruders will cover a Termites song on their next record: "I don't know what they're going to call it. I think 'I Want to Win the Lottery.'"
The Termites will release Bubblecore, their fourth full-length album, in March. They begin work on another record in January. "There's so much longevity to an album," Silvestri said. "Playing a live show is like jerking off: You play and it's over in an instant."
The Cliff Habian Trio trio released its Christmas album, First Snowfall, at the University Circle Arabica last Friday. "It was time," said Habian of the decision to add a holiday record to his catalog, which includes two albums with jazz powerhouse Milestone/Fantasy Records.
Habian has played with everyone from Sammy Davis Jr. to Joe Lovano, and even toured Russia on the strength of his two Milestone records, before he left the national spotlight to start over on his own terms. "This is the ultimate holiday album," Habian promised, saying that his goal was to "go for the same kind of sound as the Guaraldi Trio." That's Vince Guaraldi, perhaps most famous as the guy who wrote the Peanuts theme.
First Snowfall contains unique jazz renditions of standard Christmas music, along with Guaraldi favorite "Christmas Is Coming" and other nontraditional gems like the theme from How the Grinch Stole Christmas. "You can play so many games with the tunes," Habian says, explaining why Christmas music translates well into jazz. "Christmas songs are so well written harmonically that you have the freedom to play with the music."
Ah, Christmas. Sleigh bells ringing, good will toward men and women, vandalized manger scenes, getting drunk and embarrassing yourself at the office party ... and reunion/supergroup shows. Missile Toe, "the world's greatest all-Christmas rawk band," is back to stir your holiday spirit. The band--featuring Jeff Hardy of CD Truth, Jim Millar of Peep, Dale Houston of Planet Log 3000, and Mike Raphone of the Nimrods--plays live in the WRUW-FM/91.1 studio at 10 p.m. Thursday, December 10. December 18, Missile Toe opens for the Balboas at Karl's Elbow Grill in Akron. December 23, it's at the Rock with a reunited Final Solution. Christmas Night, complain about your crappy presents at Wet (formerly the Daily Double) with Missile Toe and a re-formed Joy Circuit.
The mother of all reunion gigs looks to be the Cleveland Cafe show at the Odeon Friday, December 18. The Cafe was a popular hangout for musicians before it closed in 1996. Mark LaValle, who owned the club, has rallied the original lineups of Outta the Blue, Bronx, Hammered, Tie Dye Harvest, S.O.S., Kidd Wicked, and Sammy's Good Eye to perform. "There's probably five or six people flying in from out of state for this thing," LaValle said.
Former vocalists from Funkamungus, Bootleg, Powerage, and other special guests will hop on stage. LaValle isn't saying in what order the bands will play, so be there at 8 p.m. if you don't want to miss your favorite.
Spare Change?, a Canton punk band, will unveil its new 7-inch Saturday, December 12, at the Grog Shop. I Don't Know Why ... features four tunes. The band opens for Unwritten Law.
Jazz saxman Lenny Curry is now a member of Real Life. Check 'em out Friday, December 11, at the Savannah.
Pittsburgh's Buzz Poets have made it to the finals of the Ernie Ball/Music Man Battle of the Bands, which will be held in Los Angeles in January. Before they conquer Hollywood, catch the Poets at Peabody's DownUnder, with the Simpletons, Friday, December 11.
Graven Image, Disraeli, and Static Erosion will play a show to benefit the Cleveland Foodbank Friday, December 11, at the Phantasy Nite Club. The night also serves as re-release party for Graven Image's Black Lung Cathedral CD. Further confounding matters, the AIDS Task Force of Greater Cleveland will be on hand, and Jon Adams hosts an art show in the club's back quarters. Geez. Why don't ya throw in a George Peppard retrospective while you're at it?
So, can you pay the cover with counterfeit money? Tribute bands prog for your pleasure at Art Rock for Charity Saturday, December 12, at Akron's Highland Theatre. Feel like a druid with Envision (Yes), Afterimage (Rush), Trilogy (Emerson, Lake & Palmer), and Paul Fayrewether (Genesis, Peter Gabriel, his own stuff). Proceeds benefit Project St. Nicholas Returns and the Hannah Rose Fleming Foundation; bring two canned goods for the Good Samaritan Hunger Center.