100 Great Milwaukee music makers: the headline says it all.
As we enter not only a new year, but also a new decade, it seemed like a good time to reflect on Milwaukee's musical past.
So, here is a list of 100 great bands and musicians who have created Milwaukee's musical landscape and -- in many cases -- helped the world at large appreciate the cream of the Cream City crop.
Any discussion of great music is a subjective one. Who I like isn't necessary who you like and we might both disagree with Drew Olson, for example. So, I fully expect that you will have something to say about this list of musicians and bands who are from Milwaukee and / or work (or have worked) in Brew City's clubs and concert halls. And I encourage you to say it, using the Talkback feature at the bottom.
Let me say up front that I have included a few of whom I'm not necessarily a big fan, but whose contribution to Milwaukee music earns them the right of inclusion. I'll let you figure out who they are. Also, you'll notice that the list is in alphabetical order. I have not made any judgments about any one entry being better or more important than any other.
Stay tuned and you'll see a second list in coming weeks, too.
- .357 String Band, raucous bluegrass-infused rock and roll
- A-G-2-A-Ke, an early Brew City hip-hop group
- Ernie Adams, jazz drummer
- Adekola Adedapo, jazz singer
- Bad Boy, '70s rockers
- The Barnburners, Richard LaValliere's short-lived, post-Haskels band
- The Baroques, psychedelic group signed to Chess Records
- Black Elephant, defunkt (de-trunked?) hip-hop group
- The Blackholes, Mark Shurilla's punk-era combo
- Eric Blowtorch, long-time punk, reggae rocker
- Blue in the Face, Mike Benign's best band
- Bodeans, you know them
- The Bonnevilles, Milwaukee's first rock band and Buddy Holly labelmates
- Junior Brantley, keyboard player with The Fabulous Thunderbirds
- John Calarco, session drummer
- Gerald Cannon, jazz bassist, bandleader and member of McCoy Tyner's group
- The Carnival Strippers, all-star Milwaukee band fronted by Loey Nelson (aka John Norquist's sister), had a song in the film "Speed"
- Paul Cebar, perhaps Milwaukee's most recognizable voice
- James Chance/James White, New York no wave saxman and singer
- La Chazz, Latin jazz combo
- Cherry Cake, hard rockin' '80s outfit
- Cincere, modern R&B star in the making
- Citizen King, late, lamented funk rock band
- Compound Red, early '90s punks
- Codebreaker, Milwaukee's gift to dance music
- Couch Flambeau, one of the punk era's funniest and most endearing bands
- The Danglers, experimental rock and roll
- De La Buena, Afro-Cuban jazz
- Decibully, modern rock in every good sense of that phrase
- Die Kreuzen, punk gone metal, perhaps one of Milwaukee's most internationally respected bands
- Claude Dorsey, jazz pianist
- E*I*E*I*O, proto-alt.country band
- Einstein's Riceboys, post-punk art rock
- Element, the queen of Milwaukee hip-hop
- Manty Ellis, jazz guitarist
- Howie Epstein, member of Tom Petty's Heartbreakers
- The Esquires
- Berkeley Fudge, jazz saxophonist
- Jack Grassel, jazz guitarist
- Jerry Harrison, member of Talking Heads and The Modern Lovers
- The Haskels, THE Milwaukee punk band
- The Honest Disgrace, post-punk outfit featuring Ray Krahn and Anne Hetzel, to name a few
- International Jet Set, ska and soul -- fronted by Kings Go Forth's Dan Fernandez
- Gintas Janusonis, jazz and R&B session drummer now in New York
- Al Jarreau, well, sure, you know him
- Mark Johnson, jazz drummer with a long list of credits. Son of ...
- Scat Johnson, jazz guitarist
- Reed Kailing, member of The Grass Roots, Badfinger, Player and others
- Pee Wee King, country music star
- Kings Go Forth, one of the latest signings from Milwaukee
- Greg Koch, blues guitarist and teacher
- John Kruth, back in New York but for a time Milwaukee's punk troubadour
- The Legends, 1960s Milwaukee "Mersey Beat" band with great harmonies, signed to Capitol
- Jim Liban, blues harmonica player
- Liberace, if I have to tell you ...
- Little Artie & the Pharaohs, says Bruce Cole, "introduced Milwaukee kids to James Brown and Bobby Bland"
- The Lovelies, fronted by Liv Mueller with Damian Strigens on the drums ... 'nuff said
- Brian Lynch, jazz trumpeter
- The Masonic Wonders, Milwaukee gospel band
- Sam McCue, erstwhile Legends frontman and later played with The Everly Brothers
- Verne Meisner, polka's own...
- Steve Miller, The Joker, the midnight toker
- Milwaukee Slim, blues guitarist
- Modern Values, fronted by Dean Schlabowske (Waco Brothers, Wreck) and Jim Warchol (Sometime Sweet Susan, Loam) ... definitely one of Milwaukee's best post-punk bands
- Andy Noble, bassist, DJ and record store owner
- The Oil Tasters, Richard LaValliere, Guy Hoffman on drums and Caleb Alexander's sax made the Oil Tasters a blueprint for Morphine
- Old Man Malcolm, if you think the turntable isn't an instrument, you haven't heard Malcolm
- Les Paul, he has a guitar named after him, you know ...
- Larry Penn, folk singer
- Plasticland, psychedelic revivalists, still going after all these years
- Robin Pluer, R&B Cadets songbird, now an interpreter of Piaf's work
- Willy Porter, singer/songwriter of national note
- George Pritchett, jazz guitarist
- The Promise Ring, emo pioneers who crashed and burned on the heels of its best record
- The R&B Cadets, one of the city's best-loved party, club and festival bands
- Mel Rhyne, jazz organist who worked with no less than Wes Montgomery
- The Ricochettes, first generation Brit Pop
- The Robbs, a '60s band born in Oconomowoc, house band on Dick Clark's "Where The Action Is"
- Sonia Robinson, jazz violinist
- The Rusty Ps, hip-hop stalwarts
- Harvey Scales, R&B singer
- Semi-Twang, John Sieger's songs took them to California and Warner Brothers Records
- The Shags, 1960s band sometimes credited as the city's psychedelic pioneers
- John Sieger, see Semi Twang and R&B Cadets, Sieger is a respected songwriter and temporary Nashvillian
- Leland Sklar, session bassist (Jackson Browne, Crosby, Stills & Nash, and many others)
- Sigmund Snopek, multi-instrumentalist prog rocker, member of The Bloomsbury People and long-time Violent Femmes collaborator
- Sometime Sweet Susan, noisy but still song-driven early '90s rock and roll
- Squares, 1980s Indiana transplants inspired by Costello, Morrison, Dylan, Squeeze
- Daryl Stuermer, of Sweetbottom and, oh yes, some group called Genesis
- The Thousandaires, featuring Sage Schwarm, the Nobles, etc. Fine short-lived band
- Jason Todd, saxman and hip-hopper
- Chris Twining, he of the Straight Edge Feminists and the quirkiest singer/songwriter of the Cream City '80s
- Al Vance, bassist and founding member -- with Harvey Scales -- of the Seven Sounds
- The Velvet Whip, known as much for its stage presence as its sometimes wandering psychelic, hippy-hippy shake
- Violent Femmes, if you have to ask ...
- Mark Waldoch, of The Celebrated Workingman, The Mustn'ts and others. A voice and a personality like no other
- Wild Kingdom, the best ska funk band Milwaukee ever did see. Matched Fishbone at its own game
- Babyface Willette, jazz organist
- Juli Wood, saxophonist
- The Wooldridge Brothers, Squares offshoot featuring duo of fine roots rock songwriters
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in an episode of TV's "Party of Five," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.