was a United States-based alternative rock
band, formed in 1981 and active with various line-ups through 2007. Their best-known member is Natalie Merchant
, who left the band in 1993 to pursue a solo career.
The band was formed as Still Life in 1981 in Jamestown, New York
, by Dennis Drew
(keyboards), Steve Gustafson
(bass), Chet Cardinale (drums), Robert Buck
(guitar), and Terry Newhouse (Buck's ex-wife and vocalist). Steve Gustafson invited Natalie Merchant, who was 17 at the time, to do some vocals. John Lombardo
who was in a band called The Mills (along with brother guitarist/vocalists Mark Liuzzo and Paul Liuzzo and drummer Mike Young) and used to play occasionally with Still Life, was invited to join permanently on guitar and vocals. Newhouse and Cardinale left the band in July, and Natalie Merchant became the main singer. Various drummers came and left. The band changed its name to Burn Victims and then to 10,000 Maniacs after the low-budget horror movie Two Thousand Maniacs!
They performed as 10,000 Maniacs for the first time on September 7, 1981 - Labor Day, with a line-up of Natalie Merchant, John Lombardo, Robert Buck, Dennis Drew, Steve Gustafson, and Tim Edborg on drums. Tim Edborg left and Bob "Bob O Matic" Wachter was on drums for most of the 1981 gigs. Tired of playing cover songs - though oddly enough their first notable American hit was found in covering Cat Stevens hit "Peace Train" - the band started to write their own music, usually with Natalie Merchant handling the lyrics and John Lombardo the music. In February-March 1982, with Jim Foti on drums, the band recorded an EP album called Human Conflict Number Five. More gigs followed in 1982. It was during this time that they lived in Atlanta, Georgia for a short while at the encouragement of friends who said that many gigs were available there. The band moved back to Jamestown in November 1982.
At the beginning of 1983, Jerry Augustyniak joined the band as their permanent drummer. The Maniacs met Augustyniak when they played in Buffalo, New York, where he was in a punk band called The Stains. Between March and July, the band recorded songs for a second record, Secrets of the I Ching - their debut full-length album, which was pressed by Mark Records for the band's own label Christian Burial Music. The record was well-received by critics and it caught the attention of John Peel - DJ at Radio BBC Radio 1 in London. One song, "My Mother the War" turned out to be a minor hit in United Kingdom, and it entered the independent singles chart. During 1983 and 1984, touring was a way of life for the band, which included gigs in the UK.
Peter Leak, an Englishman living in New York City, became interested in the band, made contact and was made their manager. With the help of Leak and Elektra Records A & R man Howard Thompson, 10,000 Maniacs signed to Elektra in November 1984. In the spring of 1985, they recorded their second full-length album, The Wishing Chair, in London at Livingston Studios, with Joe Boyd as producer. Though the album was not a blockbuster hit, its status the band's major label debut did win it some notice, and it received significant critical acclaim.
Co-founder John Lombardo left the band during a rehearsal on Monday, July 14, 1986. The remaining five members started the recordings of a new album in Los Angeles, with Peter Asher as the producer. In My Tribe, a more pop-rock oriented record, was released on Tuesday, July 7, 1987, hit the charts where it stayed 77 weeks, peaking at #37 and established a large US audience for the group and was also well received in the UK. The next album, 1989 Blind Man's Zoo hit #13 and went Gold further increased the group's following. In 1990, with the help of John Lombardo, they remastered their first two records Human Conflict Number Five and Secrets of the I Ching and released them as a compilation called Hope Chest: The Fredonia Recordings 1982-1983. John Lombardo and Mary Ramsey, who had formed a folk act called John & Mary, opened gigs for the Maniacs on the Hope Chest Tour in 1990. In 1991, during the recordings of a new album, Natalie Merchant revealed to the other members that she would be leaving for a solo career in two years' time. In 1992, Our Time in Eden was released. On Wednesday, April 21, 1993, 10,000 Maniacs recorded MTV Unplugged and Natalie Merchant announced her leaving the band on MTV on Thursday, August 5, 1993. The MTV Unplugged (10,000 Maniacs album) album was released in October 1993. The band also played President Clinton's Inaugural Ball in January 1993, with Merchant a vociferous supporter of the Democratic Party.
In late 1993/early 1994, the remaining members of 10,000 Maniacs (Augustyniak, Buck, Drew, and Gustafson) asked John & Mary to join the band and continue on. The revamped band began performing new material almost immediately, initially calling themselves John & Mary, Rob, Steve, Dennis, & Jerry,
before they were to legally regain control of the name 10,000 Maniacs
10,000 Maniacs released two albums with Mary Ramsey on vocals. In 1997 they released Love Among the Ruins on Geffen Records and followed up in 1999 with The Earth Pressed Flat on Bar/None.
In December 1998, lead guitar player Rob Buck took some time off from the band, moving to Texas to focus on a new project called League of Blind Women. The band recruited Buffalo-based Michael Lee Jackson of the band Animal Planet to step into the lead guitar role. Buck returned to the band in the summer of 1999.
On Friday, November 3, 2000, 10,000 Maniacs played with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, in Buffalo, NY. It would be the last concert they would perform with Rob Buck.
On Tuesday, December 19, 2000, founder and lead guitarist Robert Buck died of liver failure at the age of 42. He was buried in Mission Cemetery in Sugar Grove, Pennsylvania.
The band took a break. Steve Gustafson and Dennis Drew, with Jeff Erickson - guitar started a band called The Mighty Wallop!. Jerry Augustyniak joined a band called Only Humen. On Wednesday, December 5, 2001, a 10,000 Maniacs line-up comprising Steve Gustafson, Dennis Drew, Jerry Augustyniak, John Lombardo, and Mary Ramsey played on a benefit concert in Toronto, with Rob Buck's former guitar technician Jeff Erickson on lead guitar.
In 2002, Steve Gustafson, Dennis Drew, and Jerry Augustyniak decided that they wished to continue on with a new lead singer. John Lombardo showed up at the first band practice, found out that the band had hired Jeff Erickson to play lead guitar and Oskar Saville
of the Chicago-based band Rubygrass to sing, and quit the band. This lineup toured sporadically between 2002 and 2006, playing a greatest hits
show at various festivals. Mary Ramsey rejoined the current edition of 10,000 Maniacs for several dates in 2006, playing viola and singing backing vocals.
In Summer 2006, John and Mary formed a folk-rock band called the Valkyries. John and Mary & the Valkyries are composed of several longtime Buffalo music scene stalwarts.
On Tuesday January 27, 2004, Elektra/Asylum/Rhino Records released Campfire Songs: The Popular, Obscure and Unknown Recordings, a two CD set compilation, with 31 digitally remastered songs, four of them demos and one unreleased. The second disc contained B-sides and outtakes throughout the band's up to that point career, including many covers. Jackson Browne's "These Days" and Tom Waits's "I Hope That I Don't Fall in Love with You" were among those included.
Oskar Saville left 10,000 Maniacs in late summer 2007 and the band has since been inactive.
10,000 Maniacs have gone through a variety of musicians throughout the history of the band. Here is a partial list of the past, present, and touring musicians:
- Jerry Augustyniak - Jerry has been the drummer of 10,000 Maniacs since 1983. He's also played with the bands The Stains, Only Humen, League of Blind Women, The Michael Lee Jackson Band, Buffalo Rising, The Damn Straights, etc. He has been the band's main backing vocalist since 1994.
- Rob Buck - Rob was the lead guitar player from 1981-1999. He co-wrote many of the band's most popular songs. Rob died December 19, 2000 of liver failure at the age of 42.
- Duane Calhoun - Duane played lead guitar for 10,000 Maniacs in 1981 while Rob Buck was officially in the band, but not performing with them.
- Chet Cardinale - Chet was an early drummer for the band. He left to pursue a career in acupuncture.
- Jim Colavito - Jim played saxophone with the band in 1981.
- Dennis Drew - Dennis has been the keyboard player in the band since 1981. He's also played with The Mighty Wallop!, where he co-wrote much of the band's material, played keyboards, and had lead and harmony vocal duties.
- Jeff Erickson - Jeff took over lead guitar after his friend and guitar teacher Rob Buck died, beginning by playing a short set during the band's only 2001 appearance. The first time he played with the band was December 12, 1998 on the song "These Are Days", while Buck was away from the band. Jeff was a lead singer/guitar player in the short-lived band The Mighty Wallop!.
- Tim Edborg - Tim played drums with 10,000 Maniacs in 1981.
- Morgan Fichter - Morgan was a touring musician with the band in 1992-1993, playing violin and singing backing vocals. She's also played with Camper Van Beethoven and Phish among others.
- Jim Foti - Jim was the studio drummer for the band's 1982 EP Human Conflict Number Five.
- Steve Gustafson - Steve has been the band's bass player since 1981. He has also been one of the band's backing vocalists in their live performances since 1994. He was also the bass player in The Mighty Wallop!.
- Debbie Heverly - Debbie played piano with the band in 1981.
- Michael Lee Jackson - Michael replaced Rob Buck as the touring lead guitar player on December 11, 1998 and stayed in that spot until the summer of 1999, when Buck returned. Michael has played in Animal Planet and The Michael Lee Jackson Band.
- Amanda Kramer - Amanda was a touring musician with 10,000 Maniacs in 1992 and 1993 as a second keyboard player, also lending her harmony vocals to some of the songs. Occasionally, she'd back Rob up on guitar, picking up an acoustic on several songs.
- John Lombardo - John, the band's rhythm guitar player and occasional odd vocalist, co-wrote most of the early Maniacs songs, but left the band in 1986, right before the band "made it big." He returned in 1994 with his duo partner Mary Ramsey, and picked up right where he left off by writing and shaping the band's music. He left the band again in 2002 after the first rehearsal before the "hits" tour.
- Natalie Merchant - Natalie was the voice of 10,000 Maniacs from 1981 until she decided to embark on a solo career in 1993. In her later years with the band, she played piano as well.
- Terry Newhouse - Born February 19, 1957 in Corry, Pennsylvania, Terry was a keyboard player and vocalist in the band "Still Life", which was the band's name before they began calling themselves "10,000 Maniacs." At one time, she was married to Rob Buck. Newhouse died June 8, 2005 at WCA Hospital in Jamestown, New York at the age of 48.
- Mary Ramsey - Mary opened up shows with John Lombardo as John & Mary in 1990 and would play viola and sing backing vocals with the band on a few songs in 1990-1991. She a touring musician with the band in 1992-1993, playing viola and singing backing vocals. When Natalie Merchant left the band in 1993, Mary replaced her on lead vocals and added the viola as a main instrument of the band, starting with live shows in 1994 and continuing on until 2001. Oskar Saville replaced her as lead singer in 2002, but Mary agreed to become a touring musician with the band in 2006, singing backing vocals and playing viola on select songs. Mary agreed to be the lead singer for the band again for their final show of 2007 after Oskar Saville left the band.
- Oskar Saville - Oskar took over lead vocals from Mary Ramsey in 2002. She occasionally plays acoustic guitar during live performances. May 8, 2003 was her first live performance with the band. During the song "Stockton Gala Days", she pulled the band's webmaster (at the time) Adam Zeitz on stage to share lead vocals. Oskar was the former lead singer of Rubygrass and also has a solo career. She left the band in late Summer, 2007 and was replaced by the woman she replaced, Mary Ramsey.
- Bob "O'Matic" Wachter - An early drummer for 10,000 Maniacs, Bob never appeared on a Maniacs album, but was an official member from 1982-1983.
- Max Weinberg - Best known for his work as the drummer in The E Street Band as well as his drumming on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, Max stepped in and was the Maniacs' touring drummer for Fall 1992 shows, when Jerry Augustyniak was hit by a car and broke his collarbone.