to questions about people & bands in the Spin’s extended family
1. John Popper & Blues Traveler
John Popper and all of Blues Traveler went to high school with Chris and Chris was in an early incarnation of Blues Traveler with them. Before Spin Doctors started, Chris was the alternate front man for Popper in Trucking Company, which later became Spin Doctors. See “How did Spin Doctors form?” on the band FAQ page for more on the Trucking Company aspect and for more on the BT/SD high-school connection. Some interesting tidbits you won’t get there, though: Until around 1994 John Popper was a frequent guest on the stage with Spin Doctors, especially when they were in the New York area, and Chris and Eric are still frequent guests with Blues Traveler. And then there’s “the classic segue,” which occurred during many-a-show from ’89 through ’91ish. Spin Doctors would open up with one set and then in the middle of a jam the Blues Traveler guys would come on one by one and start playing, even setting up two drum kits if the stage was big enough, and then the SD guys would come off the stage one by one. Many times only Chris would be left and both bands would do Cleopatra’s Cat with Chris on vocals, or Hard To Exist (a song that Popper helped write; both songs have been performed by Blues Traveler without any Spin Doctors members present). Often the process would repeat for another SD set, or take on other forms because BT was opening up.
2. Other bands (and members of these bands) on “the scene”: God Street Wine, Joan Osborne, Rene Lopez and The Authority, and H.O.R.D.E.
Spin Doctors and Blues Traveler both got their starts in the Nightingale Bar, playing weekly gigs (the Doctors played every Monday night). Before Spin Doctors even existed, Chris would play short acoustic sets in between Blue Traveler sets at the ‘Gale. Another big band of this scene at the ‘Gale in the late ’80s and early ’90s was God Street Wine. They also got on the scene with the help of Blue Traveler. The years BT bassist Bobby Sheehan went to the prep school Princeton Day School (my high school!) instead of the school the rest of BT went to (Princeton High School), he was great friends with future God Street Wine (GSW) drummer Tomo (Tom O’sander). GSW front man Lo Faber also went to Princeton Day (side point, so did musicians Trey Anastasio and Mary Chapin Carpenter). So when BT made it into the NYC scene, they helped Chris and God Street Wine along. These bands played at Nightingales, and other NYC area bars (the big step up for any of these bands was the well known “Wetlands”). GSW opened up for BT and SD many times. Also in that whole scene was Joan Osborne in some of her earlier bands. Also, The Authority, a NYC based funk band was central to the scene. Rene Lopez of that band joined the Spin Doctors on percussion occasionally. All of these connections came together when John Popper started the first H.O.R.D.E. (Horizons of Rock Developing Everywhere) tour. The first tour, during the summer of 1992 was Blues Traveler, Spin Doctors, Phish, Widespread Panic and Aquarium Rescue Unit for the first half. Bela Fleck & the Flecktones replaced Phish on the second half. Together, these bands started a new trend of bands jamming for large audiences, which in the late ‘90s became known as the “jamband” scene.
3. Jono Manson And The Worms, The Mighty Sweetones & High Plains Drifter
Jono is seen as the father-figure in the scene described above. He took Blues Traveler, Spin Doctors and several other bands under his wing and taught them how to be a band outside of the classroom. Jono plays solo-acoustic, and has several bands and has had several bands over the years, all with himself as a frontman, and most with John Popper on harmonica, including the Worms, the Mighty Sweetones, and the High Plains Drifters. The High Plains Drifter features Eric Schenkman on guitar, as well as John Popper and Arnie Lawrence on the saxophone and a host of others. In the NYC HPD show in 1998, A Chris/Eric reunion accured. Chris Barron sang vocals as the band played Hard To Exist after Eric called him up unexpectedly out of the audience. Find out more about Jono and his bands at Jono Manson’s Home Page.
4. Arnie and Erik Lawrence
Arnie was a professor at the New School Jazz Program, which was attended by Spin Doctors (except Mark) and Blues Traveler for a while in the late ’80s. Arnie taught them a lot about playing, and especially about improvising and jamming, a key component to both bands’ music. He also helped Eric come up with the name for Spin Doctors. Throughout both bands’ careers they’ve jammed with Arnie and been in several jazzy side projects with him. According to Aaron, “In a lot of ways this band wouldn’t exist without Arnie. A true inspiration.” Arnie played sax on one song on the BT’s self titled debut album, and on SD’s album, You’ve Got To Believe In Something. Eric Lawrence is Arnie’s son, who has also jammed with both bands and been in several side projects with them and is quite good in his own way, too.
Arnie Lawrence died in 2005.
5. The Dreyer Brothers
Both, Matt and Craig Dreyer, have played horns with the Spin Doctors on occasion. Craig Dreyer has a homepage that can be found here.
6. Todd Horton
Todd, a trumpet player (a.k.a. “future boy”) has played with SD many times and was in a few side projects with the band, including D-Bop with Aaron and Chris’ Give Daddy Five. Nowadays, Todd runs the Soulsearch Music label that released a lot of Aaron Comess- and Chris Barron-related records. Check the solo discographies of Aaron and Chris to learn more about those recordings.
7. Biz Markie
Aaron was walking down the hall of the band’s management office and he ran into someone else who happened to be managed by the same people, the intentionally humorous rapper Biz Markie (famous for his hit song “Just A Friend”.) Biz said he like Aaron’s music and that the Spin Doctors and he should get together and jam sometimes. He talked of doing some covers, including The Steve Miller Band’s “The Joker”, and started singing it in his typically funny voice to Aaron right there in the hall of the management office! The band recorded that with Biz soon after (some of them loved the version, some didn’t) and then they searched for more songs to do, settling on the ’70s funk hit “That’s The Way (I like It)” by K.C. and The Sunshine Band. They liked it and were “afraid” it would end up on an album, which it did, as a “hidden” track on You’ve Got To Believe In Something.