Chuck E. Weiss
Chuck E. Weiss grew up in Denver. A rebellious child and adolescent, he always felt alienated from others his age and just slightly left of the mainstream. "I felt, " Chuck E. recalls of those days, "like a Ubangi dropped in Times Square on New Year's Eve." Chuck E. loved music and found himself greatly influenced by what he heard on the radio and by the music his father listened to, an eclectic mix of boogie-woogie, sabre dance, sambas, mambos, and Hank Williams. Read more... trash collector who left Chuck E. his vast collection of old albums. When Chuck E. was nine or 10 years old, he got a job at the local movie theater where he swept floors, popped corn and ushered. He spent his money on records and hung out in the local nightclubs listening to musicians like Charles Brown. Gatemouth Brown lived in town and performed often. Chuck E. liked a lot of music, basically anything that had a good rhythm. "I couldn't control myself when I liked music, " he says. "I'd lock the door and roll around in a frenzy when it grabbed me." Unable to read music, he did have a knack for finding the beat, so it only seemed natural that Chuck E. would express his rhythm on the drums. When he was nine, his folks bought him his first drum kit. By the time Chuck E. was a teenager a local manager and promoter asked him to sit in on drums during a nightclub appearance by Lightnin' Hopkins. The gig went well and Chuck E. convinced the legendary bluesman to take him on tour. By the late '60s, Chuck E. Weiss had toured with Hopkins, and found himself performing and/or recording with the likes of Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, Dr. John, Roger Miller and others. Chuck E. first met Tom Waits in 1972 at the now defunct Denver club Ebbett's Field, where Waits was scheduled to perform. "I met Tom when we were both sitting at the counter of the little coffee shop next door to the club, " Chuck E. reminisces. "I was wearing a chinchilla coat and 3-inch platforms and I thought he was just some bum folk singer. I remember braggin' to him about all the people I knew." The pair connected musically right away and struck up a friendship that has lasted more than 25 years. Chuck E. lived in Chicago for a while and subsequently moved to Los Angeles when "Spare Parts, " a song he co-wrote with Waits, was recorded live at the Record Plant. In the late '70s, Chuck E. lived at West Hollywood's famed Tropicana Motel along with Waits and an up-and-coming singer-songwriter named Ricki Lee Jones. Jones would later immortalize Chuck E. in her top five hit "Chuck E.'s in Love." In 1981 Select Records issued Chuck E.'s debut, The Other Side of Town, a collection of demo tapes. Chuck E. spent the next 11 years performing a weekly gig, with his band The G-d Damn Liars, at the L.A. nightclub The Central and later partnered with pal Johnny Depp to convert the space to the now trendy Viper Room. He penned several tracks for various film and television projects including "The Brave, " starring Depp and Marlon Brando, the cult flick "Dabeateo, " the Judge Reinhold, Willem Dafoe feature "Roadhouse, " as well as the theme for Showtime's "Rude Awakening." Figuring that he had taken a long enough break from recording, Chuck E. decided the time had come to make a new record. Unwilling to compromise his artistic vision, Chuck E. had dialogue with several labels before finally signing with the Rykodisc imprint Slow River. The result of his 18-year recording hiatus is Extremely Cool, a stunning and strange collection of tracks that showcase Chuck E.'s eclectic tastes and musical influences. He creates a unique sound, what he describes as "twisted jungle music." Produced by Waits, Extremely Cool is one of the most brilliant, adventurous and risk-taking discs to come along in many years. The record features 13 songs including "The Devil With Blue Suede Shoes, " that was originally scored for "The Brave." The dirge-like "Deeply Sorry, " is an ode to what Chuck E. calls a "teen-age dilemma, " while "Jimmy Would" is a mocking tribute to House of Blues band leader Jimmy Woods. Chuck E. honors "a dear friend ^× a belly dancer and Shakespearean actress" in the French-accented "Oh Marcy" while "Rocking in the Kibbitz Room" is a paean to the famed Fairfax eatery Canter's Deli, where a booth is named in Chuck E.'s honor. "Sonny Could Lick All Them Cats" pays homage to boxer Sonny Liston, one of Chuck E.'s Denver neighbors. Chuck E. and Waits co-wrote and share vocal duties on two tracks "It Rains on Me, " and the decidedly offbeat "Do You Know What I Idi Amin?"