The Four Quarter Bar is excited to be presenting The Squirrel Nut Zippers on Saturday, September 17. The ticketed show will run $35, a bargain for this exciting off-the-wall band’s appearance.
Describing the Squirrel Nut Zippers would be difficult, but to say ‘unique’ would be a true misnomer.
It was about 20 years ago when NPR’s Morning Edition said: “It’s not easy to categorize the music of the Squirrel Nut Zippers, except that it’s hot.”
The band was founded by James "Jimbo" Mathus and his then-wife Katharine Whalen in Carrboro, North Carolina along with Tom Maxwell, Chris Phillips, Don Raleigh and Ken Mosher. The group made its debut in Chapel Hill a few months later. Stacy Guess (formerly of Pressure Boys) joined shortly after.
The Zippers' sound incorporates a broad range of music, ranging in influence from Harlem Hot Music, Cab Calloway, Johnny Ace, Delta Blues, Raymond Scott, Fats Waller, Django Reinhardt, Tom Waits, and klezmer. The band's break-through single, "Hell", was distinguished by calypso rhythms, and helped push the band into further association with the "Neo Swing" movement.
Songs from the band's first album, The Inevitable were played on National Public Radio in the US. The band's next studio album, Perennial Favorites also received critical acclaim. Also released in 1998 was Christmas Caravan, a Christmas-themed album. The band then recorded Bedlam Ballroom in 1999, after touring. The band performed at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, on Prairie Home Companion, President Clinton's second inaugural ball, Comedy Central's Viva Variety, and major television shows including The Tonight Show, Late Show with David Letterman, Conan O'Brien and Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve. The band even was considered by Disney to do a song for The Little Mermaid, but sadly Disney passed.
For the next couple of years, the Zippers went largely inactive. Mathus and Whalen divorced, royalty issues split the band, and other projects got in the way. Despite the band's challenges, their music was kept in the public’s ear. Several of their songs were featured in the Tony Award winning Broadway play Contact. Their music was featured in several movies and TV shows, and the band performed on Sesame Street. Mathus toured with Buddy Guy, then formed a new band, Knocked Down Society. He also built a recording studio in Clarksdale, Mississippi’s Alcazar Hotel where he has recorded hundreds of artists, including Elvis Costello. He eventually moved the studio to Como, Mississippi. Chris Phillips spent two years playing with the Dickies, as well as William Reid from the Jesus and Mary Chain. Chris's side band, The Lamps, included members of the Bangles and The Connells. Chris also was the composer for the Comedy Central television show Lil' Bush.
In 2007 the band decided to give it another go, and did a tour of America and Canada through 2008. A recording of their December 2008 show was released as Lost At Sea in 2009. In 2010, they performed at NPR’s Mountain Stage, and announced a new studio album was in the works, but it evidently got shelved as one was never released. Jimbo continued doing solo projects, as well as producing and performing on recording sessions for other musicians. His collaborations with Luther Dickinson and Alvin Youngblood Hart lead to the South Memphis Sting Band. Mathus’ Tri-State Coalition recorded a couple of albums for Memphis International Records at Delta Recording Services prior to Mathus closing the studio in 2012. Mathus then recorded five albums for the venerable Fat Possum label as well as his own Big Legal Mess label. Mathus also joined British bluesman Ian Siegal on a tour, performing at clubs and festivals around the world.
The band recently announced that 2016 marks the 20th anniversary of the Squirrel Nut Zippers most celebrated and commercially successful album Hot. Originally released in the summer of 1996, Hot was the follow up to the band’s critically acclaimed debut The Inevitable. By this time the group had already established a substantial live following across the country thanks to early support from NPR, college radio and non-commercial stations. Hot wound up selling over 1.3 million copies.
A newly re-mastered version of the album along with a bonus track: “The Puffer” returned to stores Friday, July 29th, 2016 on Hollywood Records. Long out of print on vinyl, Hot will make its glorious return to wax on 180-gram vinyl.
The Squirrel Nut Zippers recently performed their first set of tour dates since 2009 which included a performance at the Montreal International Jazz Festival. The band has now added a fall tour to their upcoming 2016 touring plans including new stops in Chicago, Minneapolis, Atlanta, Nashville, Durham, Greensboro and many others.
“We are humbled and incredibly excited by the initial Zippers shows since the re-launch last month,” band leader Jimbo Mathus commented.
“The experience is not to be missed! The band includes cutting edge talent from New Orleans, the songs are brought to life in an exciting new way. But most things remain unchanged... An amazing experience for young and old.”
In honor of the 20th Anniversary of Hot, the band’s visionary creator Jimbo Mathus, along with founding member and partner Chris Phillips (Drums), have crafted a brand new stage show including singer Ingrid Lucia of Flying Neutrino’s fame. Several leading musicians from New Orleans have also been enlisted to serve up the bands unique musical flavor which owes its roots to that city.
In his review of Hot for AllMusic.com, Stephen Thomas Erlewine wrote “The commercialization of alternative music in the ‘90s resulted in many strange one-hit wonders, but few were quite as unpredictable as Squirrel Nut Zippers. During a time when hipsters were obsessed with swing music in its relation to Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin’s Rat Pack, the Zippers were fascinated with big-band swing and Harlem, creating a tongue-in-cheek salute to ‘20s and ‘30s jazz.”
Younger listeners loved the band’s campy presentation of classic hot jazz, and the band quickly “crossed over” to become one of the hottest bands around. They are hotter than ever today, and this show will easily sell out!
Get your tickets now if you even want to think about attending...
This show will happen at 10:30 p.m. on Saturday, September 17. I suggest you get there as early as possible to even be able to get in the club, let alone get a seat.
Tickets are only $35, and may be purchased at Four Quarter Bar (415 Main St., North Little Rock, 72114) or via phone (2pm-8pm) with credit card. Call (501) 313-4704. PLEASE NOTE THERE IS A LIMIT OF 4 TICKETS PER PERSON).
And by the way, if you were wondering about the name Squirrel Nut Zippers? It is the name of old fashioned candy bar… or the name of a particularly fine brand of moonshine, depending on which version you believe the most!
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