Tag Archives: Alton Smith

Jim Steinkraus. Thanks for being a Poochamungas




Norwood Park Fall Festival 2014. L to R: John Joyce, Don Zaloudek, Anna Fermin, Jim Steinkraus, Frank Izzo, Rich Rankin. photo by Betty Boduch

Norwood Park Fall Festival 2014. L to R: John Joyce, Don Zaloudek, Anna Fermin, Jim Steinkraus, Frank Izzo, Rich Rankin. photo by Betty Boduch

Last summer because of music I had the opportunity to play at Lollapalooza with a bunch of great Chicago musicians on the Kidzapalooza stage.  One of the fine folks who played keyboards is a great guy by the name of Rich Rankin. He was backing all the Chicago Kindie Musicians at this event and is a regular member of Laura Doherty’s band and produces her CD’s. When we were at the rehearsal he says to me “You know Jim Steinkraus.”  Jim is the first alternate guitarist for the Poochamungas recommended to the band by bassist Don Zaloudek.  Pete is our regular guitarist but because of life he can’t make some gigs so I call Jim who is awesome. Always has a smile and a story to tell. A gracious man who is fun to be around and enjoys playing. Rich then told me he got into music because of Jim Steinkraus and what a great guy he is and how they are related.  So later that year, at another gig, my keyboard player Alton is unavailable due to life.  I make a call to Rich who agrees to fill in.  It also happens that Pete is also unavailable so the call goes out to Jim.  Wouldn’t you know it that at rehearsal we find out that this is the first time these two guys are playing on stage together! There was a lot of laughing and a good time had by all both at the rehearsal and the gig.   Music had brought us full circle once again. Which is why most of us play. The social interactive aspect of creating something good together for a moment and then it’s gone. Never to be duplicated.  Jim created many of those good moments in his life. He is a man never to be duplicated. Jim Steinkraus passed away yesterday to the shock of the many people who loved him. The evil that is cancer took another one of the good ones much too soon.  I remain grateful to the fact that in Jim’s lifetime I got to share the music.  Jim was an amazing person and he will be missed. Thanks for taking a moment to play with us Poochamungas. It will be cherished. God Bless.

A Bit of Catch Up… Jeff Fest, Slab Fork and Lollapalooza!

WebBanner_960x338What a great time we had at Jeff Fest again!  The band sounded good and the sound folks did an excellent job.  Not to mention Rob and Sharon made us feel like a million bucks and quickly took care of any problems at hand.  It is really one of the best festivals in the City and many thanks to the Jefferson Park  Chamber for making it happen.  If you have kids this is a must festival.  For a mere $5 entry you get the bounce houses, arts and crafts, a fantastic family stage with many interactive acts not to mention the great music coming from the mainstage!  With plenty of great food and beverages available I highly recommend you to put this one on next years calendar.

slab forkI would be highly remiss here if I failed to mention the show my friend and fellow Poochamungas bandmate put together back on July 16th.  Alton Smith gathered some of the best musicians in the city (some of my favorite people too!) and once again paid tribute to the music of Bill Withers. For a mere $10 at the City Winery one got to behold the power and majesty of a tour de’ force musical experience.  When and if they perform again I shall let you know and you should make haste to wherever they are playing.  Thank you Bill, Wally, John, John, Gerald, Mike, Steve, Manny and Alton for doing what you do so well!

Kidzapalooza-6-photo-imageThis Friday I get to play on the Kidzapalooza stage at Lollapalooza with some of my favorite Chicago Kindie Folk!  Many thanks to Laura Doherty for setting it up and for Tor Hyams for having us perform.  If you’re at Lolla stop on by Friday at 1:30pm. I will be performing along with some super talented Chicago folks including Little Miss Ann, Mr. Singer, Jeanie B!, and Ralph of Ralph’s World not to mention Laura herself!  Make a visit it’ll be a lot of fun!

Mixed and Mastered!!!

My temporary waterfront property!

My temporary waterfront property!

After such an incredulous week with Boston bombing and the Texas explosion not to mention a flooded Chicago, it’s nice to get some good news and spread it around.  We haven’t cured cancer or found the solution to world peace but rather the Poochamungas have finished our second CD.  We have recorded, tracked, overdubbed, added, subtracted, pondered, changed, mixed and finally mastered our upcoming album BLOCK PARTY!   It will be released in August.  Still a few things to do like Band Photos, Album Art, PR, booking gigs, liner notes, etc, etc, etc.  In other words lots of work to do.  Now it’s one step at a time and trying to put our best foot forward.  I think your going to like the results.  I’ll keep you posted here

No More Tracking… sniff.


No more NEVE or Kingsize Studios for awhile.

No more NEVE or Kingsize Studios for awhile.

We did it.  We finished tracking the Block Party CD.  I didn’t think it was gonna happen.  Especially after the way we started.  It was as if nothing was going right.  We had an 11am start.  First we had problems getting the MIDI keyboard to work.  We solved that, decided not to got that route and the board power source for the main board started smoking a little.  So John Abbey(our fantastic sound guy) shuts it down, makes a call and we move to the other control room.  We get vocals done on a track in there but have to be out by 1pm because Johns partner needs the room.  So we finish one song, we’re two hours in and moving back to the original studio.  Johns  partner arrives, checks out the board we started on, declares it safe and after some setup we are off and running!  We got the vocals, the sax, more vocals, the acoustic guitar and done.  Frank Rose our sax player layed down some cool stuff, Alton and I sang on some tunes, John recorded it all and we are DONE TRACKING!  I feel relief and sadness.  But I think Poochamungas fans and any music fan is gonna like what we’ve been doing.  Now it lays in the hands of John Abbey who’s going to  mix it. Then Alton and I will give it a listen and go from there.  The four songs he’s finished so far sound great and I look forward to hearing the final 8.  The goal is Kindiefest and I think we’re doing pretty good.

Booking gigs, demos and the Grammys

So prior to the New Zealand adventure and after I have been endeavouring to book gigs for the band.  Not only am I the Songwriter and Executive Producer for the new CD Block Party which should come out in the spring I have a host of other duties as well.  They are as follows – Manager, publicist, roadie, sound engineer, equipment manager and Guitarist/vocalist.  Not uncommon in the world of music but still a lot to do when you add Husband, Parent of 2 and Chicago Firefighter.  So I try to book one gig a day or at least send an inquiry as to playing a gig somewhere.  I slowed up on this back in December as we were working on the new CD and the holidays were upon us.  So now I am back to the grind.  If anyone would like us to play an event in their  area let us know and we would be glad to inquire.   Now to send another email and make another phone call…

The 4 song demo is nearly ready in time for the Grammys.  All sorts of industry folks are supposed to be there and I should be appropriately prepared.  At least that is the intention.  John Abbey at Kingsize studios has been doing a heck of a job mixing along with Alton Smith who has been doing a heck of a job getting us the right sound and leading the band in the proper direction.  The four songs that are going on the demo are Imagination Train, Bah Humbug Halloween, End of the day and My Favorite Summer Day.  Each is different than the others with four different singers and 4 different styles.  Like a band buffet.  Hope those that get a listen like what they hear.

And since we mentioned the Grammys it looks to be a busy couple of days.  I fly on Friday in the late morning and then go where I don’t know (remember to pick up tickets!)  It’s free day so I’m going to try to visit family and friends.  Saturday it’s off to the Children’s Grammy Nominees Family Concert.  There I shall get to see Bill Harley, The Pop-ups, Elizabeth Mitchell, The JumpinJazz Kids Band and our family favorites and friends The Okee Dokee Brothers.  I look to enjoy the show and it’s followed by the ANNUAL NETWORKING LUNCHEON for the children’s recording arts industry (I took it right off the web site!)  Here is where I hope to hand out a few CD’s.  Then the next day it’s the main event as the 55th Grammy awards take place with this guy in attendance. The seats are a bit high up. (I may take a picture with a Lakers championship banner if you get my meaning.)  But I will be there!  Also the kids Grammy is given earlier in the day (it’s much more informal) in a completely separate building followed later by the main event.  Then to the main event and then dinner with Bill Harley, his wife Debbie and some others.  Looking to be quite an enjoyable evening indeed!


Upcoming gig, scheduling and the CD

The Poochamungas take to the stage in little over a week at the St. Helen Carnival.  Sunday, August 26th at noon we take to the stage in our usual fashion and will we playing new material as well.   We’re looking to have a really good time.  Come on out if you can and follow this St. Helen Carnival Link for tickets and more info.

It was once said that trying to run a band is like herding cats.  It’s a good analogy. Since we play in the band mostly for fun it’s not the first commitment of the band members.  It’s usually in this order… Family (including kid schedules), Job, Health, Home and then Band.  So it can get crazy time to time but you just have to persevere and work through it.  We did just have a nice rehearsal getting ready for the upcoming gig and I even managed a couple of photos.

So we also managed to make it back to Kingsize Sound Labs and record some vocals.  At this point we need to add one more full song and overdubs and vocals to  thealready recorded songs.  It’s really sounding good!  If your interested in a sneak peek send an email to poochamungas@yahoo.com and I’ll send you a rough copy of My favorite summer day.  It’s a song about block parties and we’ll be performing it at the upcoming St. Helen Carnival.  Be sure to stop by the stage and say hi!

I started a music series because I didn’t have enough to do and back in the studio.

So in my effort to spread the music of “kindie” I started a series called Boppin’ and Burgers.  The Boppin and Burgers Family Music Series takes place every 3rd weekend during the school year.  It was born out of opportunity.  One afternoon after visiting my friend Donna in Mt. Prospect I stopped into a new restaurant venue called the Blues Bar out of curiosity with my daughter.  I wanted to see the place and try their food which I heard was good.  Well their BBQ is excellent to this day as is the rest of the menu.  The smoke all their own meat.  If you go to the back of the restaurant you can smell the wonderful aroma.  But I digress…  During lunch (awesome pulled pork sandwich) I asked waiter/bartender/manager Matt if they would be interested in having a kids band, mine, perform on a weekend afternoon.  After deliberating for about a second he said absolutely.  So later in September 2010  Poochamungas played the first kids show there ever.  After a successful show and really good draw I asked if he would be interested in a monthly series with different bands. He said yes and the series was born.  We could collect donations for the band, the venue provided sound (Joe and his crew do a great job) and they would run food specials.  We are now in our second full season.  We have had national acts Joanie Leeds and Jim Cosgrove venture out on our stage plus all the great local talent (Laura Doherty, Mindy Hester, Jeanie B!, The Boogers) which is why we started the whole thing.  So if you’re not busy today come support Little Miss Ann and her band today at noon at the Blues Bar in Mt Prospect, Il.  Spread the word as the $5 donation at the door  goes to the directly to the artist.  Send an email to poochamungas (at) yahoo.com if your an artist interested in playing or if you’re a fan interested in bringing in an artist.  Stop on by and join the Boppin and Burgers Facebook page for upcoming bands!

So we were back Kingsize Sound Labs Chicago studio last Sunday and got significant work done on three more songs.  Whenever we are in the studio we get stuff done.  It’s coordinating everyone schedule to actually get into the studio that’s the difficult part.  So while things aren’t happening as fast as I hope things are progressing and the work is sounding really good.  Between Alton’s producing and John Abbeys Mixing I am really pleased with the sound we are getting.  Stay tuned and we shall have a sneak peek for our regular readers and Facebook fans next month!

Recording realities and patience

What I want is an unlimited budget and a plethora of available time.  Spending day after day in the studio writing songs, working out demos and ordering pizza and beer at all hours. 

 "Hammering out the Block Party"

  Like a behind the music episode.  Well my reality is a wife, two kids and a full-time job.  This is a reality for members of my band as well.  My budget is limited as well so studio time has to be efficient.  There has to be a plan.  Scheduling is probably the hardest thing to do.  So about twice a month we get together the necessary pieces and go to work.  So March is upon us and back to the studio we return.  We have 8 songs right now in different stages of finished.  Block Party Day is the closest along with Games We Played and Little King

So we are progressing as we overdub in Mid-March and maybe lay down a few new tunes around the end of March.  I think we’ll have 12 songs when all is said and done on the yet to be named album. 

So goods things are on the horizon it just takes a little patience to get to the finish line.

A gig, a FREE Song, and an evening show…

So yesterday the band headed northwest to the suburb of Lake Zurich to play at the Lake Zurich Performing Arts Center.  We opened for the show Alice in Wonderland as part of a Community Day they were having.  My friend Marcel and I had been talking about a kids music series and we gladly accepted when he invited us to play  The space is really cool and the techs and everyone else were quite excellent.  Mind you other than my friend Marcell they are all Lake Zurich High School students.  They did a great job.  My thanks to all of them who helped us as they were outstanding.  Plus we got to watch the actors warm up as we were setting up.  Their costumes were outstanding as were the characters they were playing.  It looks to be an excellent production.  Thanks for the invite the Poochamungas had a great time.

So in the previous post I talked about the song Imagination Train and how because of my  inexperience the song never sounded quite right.  I as the producer was a bit green.  Well John Abbey has re-mixed the song, Anna Fermin was kind of enough to re-cut the vocals and Alton Smith did the harmonies and PRESTO!  It sounds great!  If you would like a copy of the song all you need to due is send an email to this address – poochamungas_at_yahoo.com   (Be sure to skip the spaces, just trying to avoid spammers).  We will send you the new version of the song.  If you don’t want to be added to our mailing list add it to the body of the email.  That’s it!  Thanks for being a fan of the Poochamungas.

For all our friends without kids who have been wanting to hear us play it looks like we are going to do an evening show the second Friday in April.  As soon as we have a final confirmation we’ll put the event up on facebook and post it here as well.  We’ll do some Poochamungas and some covers and maybe a debut a song or two!  So thanks as always for reading and support your local Poochamungas!

Re-mixes, overdubs and album themes.

So the song Imagination Train on our first CD is one of my favorite songs but the final mix we put out  never felt quite right.  Now it being one of the first songs I ever recorded I really had no idea what I was looking for in a recording.  The fact that I had put something down on a CD was amazing in itself but as time went on and I have listened to it a few thousand times I began to feel the song was cluttered and a bit muddled.   I love when we play it live but the recording lacked my ability to  really hear it and make it more.  Well we remixed it and added another vocalist and WOW!  I am loving it again.  Anna Fermin sang the vocal track and is absolutely brilliant.  (She starts a series of shows at Fitzgerald’s Tuesday,  February 14 at 8pm. Go check it out!  She is a wonderful talent and super nice to boot!)  Plus John Abbey did the remix stripping it down and rebuilding it and this Sunday we’re gonna put the final touches on it with Alton.  And then were gonna give it to you the reader… FREE.  As soon as we are done we’ll let you know the details right here in this blog.

So not only are we doing final overdubs to Imagination Train we’re gonna work a few other tunes as well this Sunday.  We have a song called My Favorite Summer Day also referred to as Block Party Day and Around the World up for attention. Plus a Bo Diddly beat inspired Places You Go.   We’ll be laying vocals and drums and keys, maybe guitar and whatever else we think of while we’re there.  One step closer to  completed songs takes us closer to a completed CD.   The new stuff is sounding really great!

So the album/CD theme is something new to me.  The first CD I just put together a bunch a songs that I had written and liked and put them on the CD.  This time there is a definite family/childhood theme present.  It  may have a lot to do with the huge amount of time I spend with my kids and the wealth of material they provide.  My thanks to Sue Demel for pointing this out to me during one of my singer/songwriter sessions at the OTS.  She does good work.

Thanks for reading and see you again in the next few weeks!  Stay tuned for the re-release of Imagination Train!