I met Juan Miguel Avila in 1987 because he had a T- shirt that said “I learned how to play guitar in just five minutes!” We were college students looking for extra beer money so we started playing on State Street in Madison, Wisconsin for loose change. I’d sing about my love of various Wisconsin cheeses and he’d play flamenco style behind me and we’d rake in twenty bucks in quarters and dimes. We loved playing the streets and the occasional open mike night, but in 1990, we decided it was time to start a real band.
We teamed up with Chad Grochowski (bass) who had an attic we could practice in and a 4-track. We roped in Steve Wilks (guitar) and Dennis Golden (drums), began writing songs, and did the house party circuit under the name Mamma’s Groove. Donovan Hart (sax) joined in for some of our shows. We played our own tunes, all of which were in the funk/rock genre and a few covers, like The Jeffersons TV show theme song, a Robert Johnson tune, and Hendrix’s “Fire.” Eventually we landed gigs at Club deWash, The Willy Bear, and other local bars. I guess that our height was in 1991 when we performed at the Mifflin Street Block Party. Juan and I even did a dance routine.
We once sent a tape to a contest that was promoting safe sex. Our song “Put it On When You Get It On, Don’t Do a Thing Without a Thing on Your Thing” had the lyric: “If you’re with you lover getting ready to squirm, don’t forget to roll a rubber down your worm.” Real classy stuff.
I was taking a course in video production, so I did this mockumentary of sorts about Mamma’s Groove. (Let’s just say that I was a wee bit influenced by having seen Spinal Tap like fifty times.) This was back when you had these massive machines that could lift something from one VHS tape and layer it onto another one. All I remember is that it had something to do with magnets and it took hours just to get a few seconds spliced. Looking back, I am wondering why on God’s green earth I chose to perform wearing goggles and a long Hawaiian robe I borrowed from Chad's BMW motorcycle obsessed roommate called a “muumuu.” I am not proud of the costume choice…but hey, it was 1991. (Although I am not sure how saying it was 1991 explains anything.) In the movie you’ll see a brief cameo of the street musician Art Paul Schlosser, a Madison legend, singing “I See a Watch.” People around Madison say that he dropped too much acid in the 60s. He was on America’s Got Talent as a novelty act in 2010 as “Buddy Holly Cheesehead.”
I still have some of the tapes we made on Chad’s 4-track –working on digitizing them now. Getting ready for the 25th reunion I guess.