David and the Happenings

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David and the Happenings was a band out of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale (SIU) that had strong ties to Chicago and was associated with the alternate music scene in Illinois from 1980 to 1982. The band incorporated elements of punk, new wave, 60's garage rock, Motown, soul, rockabilly, R&B, ska, funk, free jazz and even gospel. The lead singer and front man was David "Tremor", real name David Siegfried, who is originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin and is James Chance's brother.

History of the Band

1980

Formed in January 1980, the initial lineup included Scott Nelson on bass, Joel Wells on lead guitar, Scott Morrow on rhythm guitar, and J.J. Jackson on drums. Most of the band members were part of a tight knit punk/new wave dance party scene that was burgeoning at SIU in 1978 - 1979. The band came together after a visit by Jackson in late 1979 when he met Siegfried and the others and was immediately inspired to relocate from Wichita State University in order to join the Carbondale music scene. All five original band members were involved in either the photography or film departments at SIU.

Wells and Jackson were the only band members with previous band experience. David and the Happenings initially covered The Stooges, The Sex Pistols, The Ramones, The Clash, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, Paul Revere and the Raiders, Jackie Wilson, Motown, James Brown, and other more obscure bands like The Sonics and Black Randy and the Metrosquad. They briefly had two female singers billed as The Velveteens: Lynn Vavra and Jeri Lee Sparks (who is the sister of Donita Sparks of the LA girl punk band L7). The band performed in Carbondale on The Strip at places like Hangar 9 and T.J. McFly's and also at several infamous parties known as The Deca-Dances. They had a number of notable original songs, including an Archie Bell and the Drells influenced dance tune called The Scream; Microbes In Action, which predicted biological threats like AIDS, SARS, and anthrax scares years before they occurred; (I Want to Be) Technology, which predicted the domination of computers; Leap From Nealy, the true-life story of a college girl's suicide; Wasted On Your Love, which could have come from the Stooges Raw Power songbook; and Wells' raunchy punk diatribe, I'd Rather Be Queer (Than Fuck a Girl Like You). Their sometimes offensive lyrics and punk style, along with Siegfried's antics like stage diving and flashing the audience didn't exactly endear them to the sleepy Carbondale crowd weaned on Marshall Tucker, The Grateful Dead and The Charlie Daniels Band, but they definitely got noticed. The first version of the band lasted just five months, ending in May 1980 when Wells abruptly quit the band and Jackson joined the ska group Riff Raff. Scott Nelson briefly joined Jason Ringenberg (later of Jason and the Scorchers) to form the rockabilly group The Catalinas and it looked like David and the Happenings was history. They played their "last ever" show at Hangar 9 May 22, 1980; a recording of the show exists on cassette tape.

1980 - 1981

Regrouping in the summer of 1980, the band reformed with Steve Lamberson on drums plus a female guitarist: four-foot-eleven pistol Ronnie "Rocket" Cetner. With Well's Robert Quine inspired leads gone from their sound, Scott Morrow stepped up to play lead with his blistering James Williamson impersonation front and center. Songs like First TV Generation, Man's Place is in the Gutter, and Punishment and Reward leaned more toward new wave than basic punk; the Morrow-penned tunes Calculator and Is it Love or Is it Memorex took the group firmly into the funk genre; and Danger Daddy was pure rockabilly. Saxophone player Frank Trompeter aka "Frankie Axwell" was discovered by Morrow one day playing on the campus steps and was asked to join, adding a jazzy dimension to the group. As they refined their sound and began to be taken more seriously by the music community they started to tour outside of Carbondale. They played numerous venues in Chicago including Space Place, Tuts, Gaspars, (now Schuba's), Misfits, and The University of Chicago (Ida Noyes Gymnasium). They also performed in Milwaukee at The Starship and in Rockford at Charlotte's Web. (Nelson, Morrow, and Cetner all hailed from Rockford).

This second version of the group lasted until May 1981 when Morrow graduated from the film department and moved to Los Angeles, eventually forming his three-piece punk metal band The Fiends. Cetner also disappeared from Carbondale and the group temporarily disbanded once again.

1981 - 1982

In the summer of 1981 Jackson quit Riff Raff and rejoined Siegfried and Nelson to form the third and final version of David and the Happenings; Dave Schultz, a friend of the group who had been around the scene for a number of years, took over on guitar (his short-lived band D Minus was the first Carbondale punk band). With this incarnation the band moved more towards a rootsy 60's rhythm and blues sound; they kept their punk edge but gained a wider audience. They had success touring all over the midwest, both as headliners and as the opening act for Siegfried's brother James Chance (billed as James White and the Blacks). They also opened for acts such as Iggy Pop, Joan Jett, Martha Reeves, and Sam & Dave, playing venues from St. Louis to Chicago, Milwaukee, Rockford, The Quad Cities, Indianapolis, Columbus, Detroit, Philadelphia, and in New York City, opening for Joe Bowie and Defunct at Trax in New York in December 1981. In Chicago they performed at The Holiday Ballroom, On Broadway and the other venues mentioned previously. Their punk/soul/R&B originals included Pay the Wolf, The Scream ver. 2, Nuclear Function, Hips So Wide, I’m Gonna, I Ain’t Got Nothin’, Funk ‘n’ Rock Party, Do Unto Others, Selfish, and others. They usually ended their shows with a gospel/punk rendition of Rev. Cleophus Robinson's There's Only One Bridge, with the "Wrong Reverend David Tremor" and the band imploring the crowd to "release yourself".

In January 1982 Craig Ryterski replaced Frank Trompeter on sax for the remaining months. They played their final show in Milwaukee at The Starship on May 16, 1982. In their three years together, the band had amassed an impressive repertoire of 112 songs, 24 of which were originals.

Origin of Name and Management

There is some dispute as to who came up with the name David and the Happenings but what is agreed upon is that the name was coined well in advance of the forming of the group. There had been a 60's band called The Happenings and it was originally bandied about somewhat as a joke or as the name of a fictitious group. . After the band began to have some success they enlisted the management services of friend and booking agent Peter Katsis who today is well-known in the industry in LA. The band is also closely associated with Metro owner Joe Shanahan due to the fact that Shanahan attended SIU around this time period and is friends with Siegfried.

Post-Happenings Careers

Scott Morrow went on to form The Fiends in LA, releasing two albums in association with L7 and John Doe of X. He wrote music reviews for the LA Weekly but moved back to Rockford in the mid-1990s due to drug-related health and financial problems; he died in 2005 due to a serious bone infection from an old dog bite. Joel Wells died in 1998 from complications due to diabetes and hepatitis. J.J. Jackson became a successful technical director in the television industry and today directs the Tavis Smiley show (as Jonathan X). Frank Trompeter has maintained a music career fronting the Frank Trompeter Jazz Quartet and several other music projects in Springfield, IL where he works for the State of Illinois. Dave Schultz has written and performed music in numerous bands over the years such as Bucktown and Yardsale, and currently fronts the alt-country band Purple Hank. Scott Nelson lives with his family in Elgin and is a professional electrician. David Siegfried formed the 60s soul/blues band David Tremor and the DTs in 1985, performing at the West End, The Smart Bar, and Metro, both with and without his brother James Chance. He formed another band, The Signifiers in 1999, toured with and produced a James Chance DVD in 2004, and performed with Chance and the original Contortions at the All Tomorrow's Parties festival in England in 2005. Once a microbiologist, he has been self-employed since 1989, doing mostly computer-related work.

The Reunion

On April 16, 2010, David and the Happenings got back together after 28 years to perform a single reunion show at The Smart Bar for SIU alumni, family and friends. Original members David Siegfried, Scott Nelson, Frank Trompeter and Dave Schultz were joined by members of Purple Hank and a full horn section. It was hosted by SIU alums Joe Shanahan and Jill Ralston. By all accounts the band played as well (or better) than ever.

The band played Fitzgerald's annual "Ghosts of Rock Stars Past" Halloween Party on October 30, 2010 along with Purple Hank and original Velveteen Jeri Lee Sparks, and have performed that venue again for the 2011 and 2012 Halloween shows.

Lineups

Original Lineup (Jan 1980 - May 1980)

Version 2 (Aug 1980 – May 1981)

Final Version 3 (July 1981 – May 1982)

April 2010 Reunion

Current Line-up

External Links