Corrections or additions?

This article by Richard J. Skelly was prepared for the December 5,

2001 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Mad Daddys: Pretty Good from the Get-Go

While Stinky Suono Buoni, lead singer and chief

songwriter

for the Mad Daddys, has had a few brushes with stardom over the years,

for the most part, he and his bandmates do rock ‘n’ roll for the fun

of it.

Suono Buoni (also known as Fred Kreiss) is lead singer and artistic

director for one of New Brunswick’s longest-running bands, the Mad

Daddys. Veterans who remember the early days of New Brunswick’s

still-thriving

club scene will know the scene in those days was largely centered

around the Court Tavern on Church Street and Patrix on Throop Avenue.

They may even have heard the Mad Daddys perform there in the 1980s.

And the Court Tavern remains one of the band’s stomping grounds.

The Mad Daddys’ music is elemental, visceral, and based in the blues

and rockabilly forms that inspired their own big influence, The

Cramps.

The Cramps were a band from Los Angeles that set the East Coast club

scene on fire in the late 1970s, fusing rockabilly elements into the

very basic punk rock sounds that were all the rage in those days.

With the support of Lux Interior and Poison Ivey from the Cramps,

the Mad Daddys had one of their early records produced by the couple.

The Mad Daddys subsequently made tours of southern California clubs,

including Club Lingerie in Los Angeles. More recently, in the 1990s,

the Mad Daddys toured in Spain and France, and the band may still

have a bigger following — in terms of record sales — in Europe

than it does in the U.S.

Buoni, now in his early 40s, was raised in Woodbridge

Township. He explains when the band first got together, they held

rehearsals in Perth Amboy. The gritty, urban industrial park landscape

of Perth Amboy, just across the Arthur Kill from Fresh Kills landfill

in Staten Island, proved the perfect backdrop for the band’s identity.

The band’s first bassist, Slim Chance, was born and raised in Perth

Amboy, and after he left the Mad Daddys in the late 1980s, he joined

the Cramps, who were still touring and promoting their own brand of

roots-inspired rock ‘n’ roll.

"We’ve always kept Perth Amboy as our hometown," Buoni

explains

from his home in Edison, "that’s what we were always trying to

capture, and we always felt that Perth Amboy is real and gritty and

true-to-life. That’s what we are as a band, true-to-life, promoters

of real show business," he argues.

Asked about his first awareness of rock ‘n’ roll and blues music,

Buoni says "It goes back to when I was a little kid in Red Bank,

before we’d moved to Woodbridge. My parents had a copy of an album

called `Chubby Checker at Your Twist Party.’ That was my first

experience

with rock ‘n’ roll on a personal level."

Buoni’s first gig as a singer was with Freddy and the Hubcaps. "We

were doing a rockabilly thing," he recalls. "There was a bar

on Route 35 in South Amboy called Close Encounters, and I remember

it was pretty scary, but by that point I had been around rock ‘n’

roll for a while as a roadie."

Freddy and the Hubcaps took their sound and their inspiration from

bands like the Stray Cats, Robert Gordon, the Rockats, and others

members of the ’70s rockabilly revival.

"We were pretty good right from the get-go," he says, "but

later on, we got tired of certain things, all these rules that seemed

to be around in the rockabilly world: like you had to dress a certain

way and look a certain way. After a while, this pretty boy thing came

along, you had to have a stand-up bass, and while we liked to look

outrageous and everything, we just didn’t like all the rules involved

in that particular scene."

So Freddy and the Hubcaps reformed as the Mad Daddys, taking their

name from the title of a song by The Cramps.

"We decided we were tired of all that and we decided to get a

little wilder. After seeing The Cramps and what they were doing with

the rockabilly thing, taking it in their own direction, we decided

we could do that, too," he recalls.

In 1982, the Mad Daddys formed. Next year, the band

will celebrate its 20th anniversary, albeit with more than a few

personnel

changes over the years. Back then, the Mad Daddys frequented clubs

in New Brunswick, as well as the Brighton Bar in Long Branch,

Hitsville

in Passaic, Meadowbrook in Dover, and Johnny Dirt’s Dirt Club in

Bloomfield.

Buoni recalls the Mad Daddys’ first show was at the Dirt Club. Its

colorful owner, Johnny Dirt, would have himself lowered into the

Passaic

River every year, as a publicity stunt, to raise awareness of the

need to clean up the river. The band’s first recordings were part

of a compilation album put together by the Dirt Club of a group of

bands that used to frequent the venue.

Buoni says he’s been influenced in his songwriting and his approach

to singing by everyone from Chubby Checker to bluesmen like Jimmy

Reed and Bo Didley, as well as Alice Cooper and the New York Dolls,

the latter a band led by singer David Johansen before he morphed into

Buster Poindexter. The band is known at their live shows for their

rocked-up, energized cover of old blues tunes, including Reed’s

"Aint’

That Lovin’ You Baby" and Didley’s "You Pretty Thing."

For a regional act that plays for relatively paltry money in small

clubs around the Garden State and in Manhattan, the Mad Daddys

discography

is extensive. The band released its first album, produced by Interior

and Ivey of The Cramps, in 1985, called "Music For Men." It

was released on New Rose Records in France before finally being

released

in the U.S. Their other releases include "Apes Go Wild" in

1987, a single on Sub Pop Records in 1989, "Fifty Dollar Baby"

in 1993 on Sympathy for the Record Industry, "Get Yer Ta Tas

Out,"

a 1995 release on Flipside Records, and their most recent album,

"The

Age of Asparagus" on RAFR Records. In between, a whole bunch of

seven-inch singles were cut and released for other small labels, but

throughout their album discography, there is a very identifiable Mad

Daddys sound: the lyrics are simple in songs like "Blonde On A

Bum Trip," "I’m Mad," "Shake It Like Ya Mean It,"

"Daddy Needs A Mama," and "I’m Gonna Die of Rock ‘n’

Roll."

At the same time, the guitar playing, bass and drum parts get quite

intricate.

Asked about the Mad Daddys keep-it-simple approach, Suono Buoni

explains:

"The one thing that’s constant with us is that what we’re laying

down is real rock ‘n’ roll. No matter how you cut it, it’s going to

be simple and basic and three chord blues progressions with an upbeat

tempo. If you stick to that formula, it’s never going to be able to

get that far out, lyrically.

"I try to keep my lyrics to the lowest common denominator. What

some people don’t understand is that in most of the Mad Daddys’ songs,

we’re laughing at ourselves. I think a lot of people can identify

with that."

Because of some simple, basic lyrics, the Mad Daddys sometimes catch

bad reviews from critics who have never seen the energy the band puts

into their live shows, or Suono Buoni’s dynamic runs out into the

audience as lead singer, often stripping down to his underwear and

dancing on the bar. Several years ago, before a Court Tavern

performance,

Suono Buoni read aloud one such bad review from a fanzine to the

assembled

crowd to general amusement.

"If you’re gonna read reviews, you’re gonna have to deal with

them. With every CD we put out, there’s usually one bad review out

there, it seems," he says, "but most of the time when there’s

a bad review, it’s clear to me that the reviewer has never seen the

band live. For whatever reason, they just don’t get it.

"Most of the time when it’s a bad review, it’s someone who’s just

not a real rock ‘n’ roll fan. We come on strong and in your face.

We don’t pussyfoot around, and if they’re not used to music that

doesn’t

get in your face, they don’t understand us," he explains.

Through the years, Suono Buoni, who is married without

children, has supported himself through a procession of day jobs,

including delivery man, auto salesman, and a variety of other sales

jobs. Asked what his parents thought of his decision, back in 1980,

to pursue his music as an avocation with the potential for it to

become

his vocation, he says they weren’t exactly supportive of his idea.

"They’ve been to some Freddy and Hubcaps shows, but like a lot

of parents of rock ‘n’ rollers, they’re not thrilled about this at

all. And the Mad Daddys are not the kind of band you’re gonna show

your grandmother anyway, we just don’t do family-oriented material,

even for my family," he says.

The crowds that come out to see the Mad Daddys are diverse, though.

There’s always a crop of young women who are attracted to something

in the band’s throbbing bass riffs and sinewy guitar lines, but

there’s

also a crowd of blue collar older gents who like the band’s basic,

rootsy sound and risque image.

Zeus Simmons often accompanies Buoni on guitar these

days, with Pete Moss on bass, and Wrongo Starr on drums. Asked these

members’ real names and hometowns, Buoni is typically evasive,

admitting

only "they’re from here-abouts."

It’s all part of a Mad Daddys mystique that Buoni likes to keep alive.

When told this interview is for a Princeton-based newspaper, he says

Princeton desperately needs a good nightclub or two. "They’ve

got a good radio station and if they only had a club down there we

could play, we’d probably get paid pretty well, too."

Buoni says the audience that comes to see the Mad Daddys at the Court

Tavern "can expect the unexpected, because, they’ve probably never

seen anything like us on a small stage before. Eventually, the beat

is going to take you over, and you’re either going to love us or

you’re

going to hate us."

— Richard J. Skelly

The Mad Daddys, Court Tavern, 123 Church Street, New

Brunswick,

732-545-7265.

Previously announced as headliners for Saturday, December

8, with Sic Kidz and the Bomb Pops, the Mad Daddys have canceled their

Court Tavern appearance due to illness. Keep checking the U.S. 1

calendar

for the band’s next area show.


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