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
Rich Shindell, 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.
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. Click
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 University
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) and 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
(September 2016), Richard Shindell has explored the possibilities
offered by this most elastic and variable of cultural confections:
John Gorka (2016)
"Love 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
got to play a little music in China (May 2017) at a great little
open mic with a pick-up band that included my ol philosophy friend
Ahti Pietarinen playing djembe!! We're a little side-ways on Ophelia
and the E-string got caught on the fret board on Cripple Creek,
but the audience was very generous and enthusiastic"
Richard Shindell Performs
"Careless" and "Your Guitar" [Acoustic Guitar Sessions, March
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.