John Gorka – banjo
Russ Rentler – mandolin
Doug Anderson – rhythm guitar
Richard Shindell – lead guitar
Tim Germer – bass guitar
Razzy Dazzy Spasm Band was formed in 1976 at Moravian College
in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The band consisted initially of John
Gorka, Russ Rentler, and Doug Anderson. Later, Richard Shindell
joined the group on lead guitar. Tim Germer was also part of the
group, playing bass guitar. As
Gorka would later describe it, "It
was kind of a bluegrass band, but not a real formal, traditional
one." Although the band never recorded an album or even went on
a tour, three members (Gorka, Shindell, and Rentler) went on to
have significant careers in folk music. Doug Anderson, is now
a philosophy professor at Southern Illinois University, he lives
in Denton (Texas) and continues to play music locally and Tim
Germer is a software engineer in Northern Virginia.
Doug Anderson, John Gorka, Russ Rentler at the Floating Folk Festival
-1978 Bethlehem, PA
(click on the photo to enlarge)
original three members of the Razzy Dazzy Spasm Band met
as freshmen at Moravian
College at an open mic held as part of freshman orientation.
Gorka was performing on banjo and Rentler on mandolin. After meeting
guitarist Doug Anderson in the audience the three formed a band.
According to Rentler, "John played incredible 5-string banjo and
Doug Andersen provided the solid rock rhythm on his custom made
Froggy Bottom guitars." A year or two later the group was joined
by "Rich" Shindell on lead guitar.They were also joined by Tim Germer
on bass guitar.
1979 (or 1980) The Razzy Dazzy Spasm Band recorded a live session at
Godfrey Daniels Coffeehouse. Doug Anderson was the singer and played
guitar on most of the tracks Richard Shindell played lead guitar and
he did harmony vocals. Russ Rentler was the mandolin player and John
Gorka played 5 string banjo
and he also did the harmony vocals.
Fry recorded the songs and played bass from the recording
booth.. On the first track Dough Anderson is playing on his Froggy
webmaster of www.johngorka.nl
(the John Gorka videowebsite) I am glad I can present these 18
songs from the legendary Razzy Dazzy Spasm Band.
If you ever saw John Gorka live, you must remember
the funny stories about the Razzy Dazzy Spasm Band. We heard a
lot about the band but we did not hear a song from the RDSB.
In September 2016 I spoke with Richard Shindell in Leiden (NL)
about the Razzy Dazzy Spasm Band. I asked him if he ever wrote
a song together with John Gorka. He said there was one song "You
can Run" and Richard thought Dough Anderson still had a copy
of that song.
I wrote a letter to Dough and he wrote John Gorka was the singer
of that song. unfortunately Dough could not find a rough copy.
But Dough made me happy with other unique matarial played by the
would like to thank Dough Anderson for sending me the "Godfrey
Daniels recording tape"
Jos van Vliet
The band played at various venues in Pennsylvania's
Lehigh Valley, particularly Godfrey Daniels, throughout four years
of college. John Gorka, a history and philosophy major, shifted
his focus to music before the end of college and went on to become
a major figure in the contemporary folk of the 1980s till now.
here for the John Gorka Biograpy on this website
Doug Anderson followed a more academic
path completing a Ph.D. and later joining the Department of
Philosophy at Penn State University and the
of North Texas, as
well as becoming author of the children's book Too Big To
Dance. Doug Anderson continues to play music locally with
the alternative country bands Bone Dry River Band (in Illinois)
a variety of Ol'
Moose projects including
new on in Denton.
After 55 seconds
you can hear John's story about "The Razzy
Dazzy Spasm Band world tour".
John Gorka live at Wheeler Community Arts Center. Indpls
IN - April 26, 2014.
Russ Rentler went on to medical school and
continued to practice general internal medicine for several years.
During that time he continued to pursue music on the side. Sometime
around 2003 Rentler
left his medical practice to pursue music full-time.
His initial efforts have been well received in the press. In 2017
Russ made his first CD in eight years: Escaped
the Tide. Russ: "Some of the songs have been banging
around in my head for decades but were never put on tape including
3 that were written in my
early college years at Moravian College "
Gorka and Russ Rentler live at Godfrey Daniels Bethlehem PA with
"That's how legends are made" (April 7, 2017)
Shindell eventually left Moravian and pursued his musical interests
at Hobart College in Geneva, New York. Now
dividing his time between Buenos Aires, Argentina and New York's
Hudson Valley, Richard Shindell is a writer whose songs paint pictures,
tell stories, juxtapose ideas and images, inhabit characters, vividly
evoking entire worlds along the way and expanding our sense of just
what it is a song may be. From his first record, Sparrow's Point
(1992) to his current release, Careless
(September 2016), Richard Shindell has explored the possibilities
offered by this most elastic and variable of cultural confections:
John Gorka (2016)
is our Cross to Bear" was one of the four song John Gorka
recorded February 8, 2016 in the Hague, the Netherlands for the
"John Gorka video website".
Shindell Performs "Careless" and "Your Guitar" [Acoustic Guitar
Sessions, March 2017]
He stopped by the Acoustic Guitar Sessions to perform two songs
from his most recent album Careless: the heart-rending title track
and “Your Guitar,” in which the Argentina resident sings of his
travels from from California to Patagonia from the perspective
of his guitar.
Razzy Dazzy Spasm Band is a result of John Gorka's studying the
history of street bands in New Orleans
The Razzy Dazzy Spasm Band was
an early New Orleans band regarded by some as the first jazz band. A 1897
photograph of an early New Orleans band led by Emile “Stalebread
Charlie” Lacoume (second from the far left). Members of the group
were Harry Gregson, Emile “Whiskey” Benrod, Willie “Cajun” Bussey,
Frank “Monk” Bussey and a boy known only as “Warm Gravy.” Another
member who was known as “Chinee” and a singer known as “Family
Haircut.” This band performed in the streets of Storyville in
the 1890’s and early 1900’s. From a book “Storyville, New Orleans”
by Al Rose.
Rentler & Dough Anderson played together after 40 years (September
Rentler & Dough Anderson live - "One eyed grandma"
Rentler played on mandolin and dobro with Doug Anderson (on Harmonica)
live at Nod Hill Brewery in Ridgefield, in western CT. (March
with Alysia Love (Fiddle) David Anastasia on bass and Matt who
sat in on electric guitar. Russ about this performance: "A great
time was had by all. It’s an extra treat to play “one eyed grandma
“ with a fiddle player"
John Gorka with Russ Rentler live at New Hope Winery in New Hope
(Pennsylvania) on December 14th, 2019