Music » Livewire

Ugly Radio Rebellion Featuring Ike Willis

Friday, December 21, at the Winchester, Lakewood.

by

comment

Burly singer-guitarist Ike Willis traces his career back to Frank Zappa. Willis met the bizarro rocker in 1978, when he was a college student who managed to get backstage at a St. Louis concert. The two hit it off, and Zappa invited Willis to audition for his group, which he constantly rotated. Willis — who began singing when he was two years old and playing guitar when he was eight — soon became the band's vocalist and rhythm guitarist. But according to Willis, the thing that Zappa liked most about him wasn't his musical proficiency; it was his silly sense of humor.

Willis was a chief inspiration behind Zappa's 1979 album, Joe's Garage, and he played a key role on early-'80s records like Tinseltown Rebellion and You Are What You Is. Willis played with Zappa for a decade until Zappa quit touring in 1988. (Willis spent more time as a Zappa sideman than anyone else.) Since then, Willis has released a pair of jazz-inflected solo albums, performed with the Zappa tribute band Project/Object, and continued to tour with a group that plays a mix of classic Zappa tunes and Zappa-inspired originals. (Zappa died in 1993.) Years of working alongside the music legend taught Willis a few things: He accurately captures Zappa's distinct experimental style in such songs as "Lucille Has Messed Up My Mind," "Son of Orange County," and "Filthy Habits." We can't think of a better way to celebrate Zappa's birthday on Friday than with one of his most esteemed bandmates.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at news@clevescene.com.

Cleveland Scene works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Cleveland and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Cleveland's true free press free.