Note: Please keep checking back as I will continue to add reaction from the local scene to the loss of guitarist Terry Tanger. Please add your thoughts and memories of Terry using the Talkback feature below.
A couple weeks ago I was at Hart Park for a Semi-Twang show. Afterward, a bunch of us were talking: Mike Benign, Joe Vent, Brian Wooldridge, Mike Sieger, John Carr, Louie Lucchesi and others, when Peter Jest came over and told us that Milwaukee music scene veteran Terry Tanger was very, very ill.
That Terry – a member of the X-Cleavers, King Solomon and other bands – was battling cancer was news to some of us there, but not to others. But what absolutely everyone did know about Terry is that he was a great guy. The kind of guy about whom no one ever had a bad word to say. The kind of guy that almost never had anything negative to say about anyone else, either.
When I got the message yesterday that Terry had passed away, I wish I could say I was surprised. But I can honestly say I immediately thought that Milwaukee lost a real stand-up guy.
Since then, I've been hearing from a lot of local musicians about Terry and I want to share their comments with you.
Jamaican singer David Robinson knew Tanger for a long time and they were bandmates in Road Damage here.
"Terry was a good guy to me," said Robinson. "We met in Jamaica. Never knew I'd trail him up here, but I ended up here and he helped me get into the music biz in Milwaukee. He was a good friend for years.
"I lost contact with Terry, but I've always thought of him as one of my musical mentors here in Milwaukee."
Nick Verban also felt compelled to share his thoughts on Tanger:
"He really was one of the few musicians in town who never talked sh*t about others and helped out when he could," remembered Verban.
Chris Tischler has a good Terry story, that he shared on Facebook, too...
"I remember (barely) a LONG ass time ago when my first 'real' band got to open for the X-Cleavers at Century Hall. We were first or second on a bill of about six or seven bands for some benefit or something. I don't even know if we were called Johnny And The Losers yet, but somehow we got on the bill. I was all of 15-ish.
"Around this time the X-Cleavers had a video on that local 'Video Music Machine' show on TV, which would show the occasional local music video – which was VERY cutting edge at the time ... Finding out that we'd be on a bill with a band who had a VIDEO and was TV, was huge for some little kids like us. They were bona fide rock stars to us.
"Cut to the gig ... we played our four-song set and, afterward, Terry Tanger was the first guy to come up to say we did great, even though I – and probably he, as well – knew we that we were terrible. Not like we ever even got to know each other at all – just the usual 'we both play music in town and recognize each other' thing – but over the many years since then, any time we'd see each other, he'd always give me the warm smile and the nod, which made me think he at least might've remembered that moment as much as I did-and still do. That nice gesture of his will stick with me until I'm gone."
Damian Strigens remembers the record-vending Terry:
"One of my fondest memories of Terry was when he was working at the record store on Murray Street on the east side (Mainstream). It's funny how musicians that worked at record stores carried a sense of clout and respect. You trusted their tastes and looked to get a bit of insight as to what inspires them. I think I was about 18 years old at the time and he turned me on to some classic reggae stuff that that I hadn't heard before. I remember buying REM's 'Reckoning' on cassette. He was always super friendly and humble. I loved Terry's tasteful guitar lines. Always super melodic and tuneful – 'Smooth Wild & Dirty' comes to mind. Thanks Terry."
Eric Blowtorch recalls:
"I knew Terry mostly from when he was a teller at the First Wisconsin Bank on Farwell, starting in the late 1980s. He was a serious reggae fan, and the friendliest, humblest person you could imagine, which is really unusual for guitar players, let alone one as adept as he was. When he would smile, his cheeks would shine and turn a little rosy. His departure so young feels very wrong. We really need Terry, now more than ever."
Tanger's Mainstream co-worker Jude Crowbridge DeMerit:
"Terry was a kind, honest friend, like a big brother to me. I was so saddened to hear of Terry's passing. I don't remember the first time we met. He and I worked at the Mainstream Records shop from around 1982-85. Spent long hours listening to music and sharing our lives stories. And I haven't forgotten, Terry, that I had to work every Sunday because Terry got off because he played out on Saturday nights. What a deal!! Sales were sliding at the East Side Mainstream so we both jumped ship and went over to work at the First Wisconsin National Bank on the corner of Farwell and North.
"We had the same cool rock 'n' roll customers at the bank, so it was an easy transition. Only we went from T-shirts and jeans to "Career Apparel"!! Sort of like flight attendant clothes. I also took a trip to Jamaica with the XCleavers. Listened to great music, found out Bob Marley was God there and discovered jerk chicken and Red Stripe beer. An experience I will NEVER forget. Terry you will be missed greatly."
Of course, I also asked Peter Jest about Terry:
"I have known Terry since the mid '80s when I started doing shows at UWM and around town at different clubs. We got along really well and even shared our passion for the Milwaukee Bucks by buying season tickets together in the late '80s – the Del Harris years! We bought the $6 season tickets so we were in the rafters but we had a good time. His then-girlfriend and since wife Jill went to the games. She is a very nice and beautiful lady. I was happy for Terry that he had found his soul mate in Jill as you could see how happy they were together.
"Terry was also working at the bank where I had my accounts back then. When I came upon hard times in the first few years of the club Terry was one of only three people that lent me money. He was a friend who believed in his friends and would help them out.
"With Those X Cleavers not playing out much and us not being Bucks season ticket holders anymore we were not always in constant contact the past decade but we did reconnect last year when Those X Cleavers did their, unfortunately now, last show at Shank hall on April 17, 2010. It was so fun to see the band live again! When we were planning the show and after the show a few of us had gotten together for lunches for a couple of months. I am glad we did have that time together.
"I did ring him a few months ago to reminisce about our time together. I knew he was going through a difficult period and wanted to let him know I was thinking about him. I am glad that the shows at the club were recorded and I have been listening to the 1996 Shank Hall show the last few days. It is good to not only hear him play and sing but to hear his voice when he is introducing songs. Terry Tanger was not only a great musician but a great guy and friend. He will be missed by many."
I didn't know Terry well, but, of course, our paths crossed occasionally, and like the others, I found him to be always smiling, always friendly, never snarky.
Whether he was coming offstage or taking deposits at the bank where he worked on Farwell and North, he was always upful and irie, two words I know he'd appreciate.
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 episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," 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 has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.