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
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
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
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
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
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
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
changes over the years. Back then, the Mad Daddys frequented clubs
in New Brunswick, as well as the Brighton Bar in Long Branch,
in Passaic, Meadowbrook in Dover, and Johnny Dirt’s Dirt Club in
Buoni recalls the Mad Daddys’ first show was at the Dirt Club. Its
colorful owner, Johnny Dirt, would have himself lowered into the
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
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
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
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
a 1995 release on Flipside Records, and their most recent album,
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’
At the same time, the guitar playing, bass and drum parts get quite
Asked about the Mad Daddys keep-it-simple approach, Suono Buoni
"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
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
Suono Buoni read aloud one such bad review from a fanzine to the
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
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
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
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,
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
going to hate us."
— Richard J. Skelly
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
for the band’s next area show.
Corrections or additions?
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