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The Something Brothers Reunite

Scott Harrison

I could have opened with "which Something Brothers members will play the reunion show?" Or "why now?" Former manager Denny De Bourbon would have been an appropriate opening salvo, as the April 8 show at The Castle Theater will also serve as a benefit for the man who guided the Bloomington-Normal sextet into a regional powerhouse in the mid 1980's and early 90's. And they got sooooo close to making the big time.

Instead, "so how many 'hauser's' did you tip back ... back in the day?" popped out of my mouth.

"Ohhh," sang founding members Tommy O'Donnell and Ed Pierce in tandem as they exchanged a knowing glance. "Hausers," smiled Pierce. "They were cheap, so we tipped a lot of them."

As much as the announcement of a reunion show had me flashing back to band staples including "If Not, Why Not," "1-2-3 In The Morning" and "Grain Elevator," images of the band's collective ability to down massive quantities of beer during shows at the Gallery nightclub in what was then "downtown" Normal also flickered in my brain.

"We need to define hausers," said O'Donnell. "It started with the word 'beer.' That become 'brew,' and then 'brewhaus,' and 'brewhauser,' then just 'hauser.' Schaefer beer was our gasoline (read: 'hauser') back in the day."

"It was cheap and you could buy it by the case, and we could power down a few" said Pierce as the two finished with a loud laugh.

From the mid 1980's through the early 90's, The Something Brothers band with its "crop rock" or "farm rock" sound was a central Illinois tour de force. With De Bourbon's connections and tenacity, they gradually expanded their touring orbit to the Midwest and gained a foothold in Chicago. De Bourbon also secured auditions with record companies, and booked them a few times at the legendary CBGB's nightclub in New York City. 

"Denny grounded us as well as we could be grounded," added Pierce.

"When we heard that Denny needed help with medical bills, that was the imputes of 'let's try a little harder to make this one (reunion), rather than just blowing it off," said O'Donnell. "He helped us so much."

The Something Brothers were D.I.Y. when a land-line phone, posters, and word of mouth were what passed for the social media of the day. Though band members knew they "had game," they also knew they were undisciplined. Enter De Bourbon.

"I think Denny saw potential in us, and we had like a million original songs," said O'Donnell. "We could play a three-set night and do all our own material, and I think he saw something there."

"He had good fortune, as he was managing 'Kool Ray & the Polaroidz,' added Pierce referring to the Peoria based rock quartet. "And they were very successful. We needed that next step up. We ran across Denny and asked him to come listen to us. I think at first he was probably going 'oh my god,' because compared to Kool Ray, we were a pretty motley crew."

The duo agreed De Bourbon took them places they would never have obtained by themselves. Though CBGB's was probably the bands apex, they recalled with a hint of pride that cracking the Chicago market was no small feat either. Even today, a central Illinois based band playing The Metro on a regular basis is quite an achievement.

"That's when we started churning pretty hard and getting notoriety," said Pierce. "I think we did Tuesday night's at 1:00 o'clock and worked our way up to Friday and Saturday nights during prime-time."

Fond memories for both the band and its fans are flooding back in anticipation of the reunion. It's been nearly two decades since The Something Brothers reunited at the old Lizard's Lounge in Bloomington for a one-off. Many now 40, 50, and 60 something's who didn't see that show or have been clamoring for another will get their chance to flash back to a special time in a venue now widely considered Bloomington-Normal's new music Mecca. For Pierce, the show is also a chance to get his Something Brothers guitar chops back and talk to the guys about the old days.

"You can imagine the nostalgia," said Pierce. "You don't want to live there totally, but we get together and we have a good time. I think there's a maturity in our playing where it was kind of messy before. Now it's kind of focused, and it's a lot of fun."

Five of the six original members of The Something Brothers will play April 8. Co-lead vocalist/songwriter Dean Carlson is not scheduled to appear, but O'Donnell and Pierce said they hope he will join them in future endeavors. Occasional Something Brother Clay Thompson will also play.

The Something Brothers is one of three bands reuniting April 8 at The Castle Theater in Bloomington for a show that's also a benefit for Denny De Bourbon. Fellow central Illinois 80's stalwarts Mojo Stew and The Mechanics will also play. Doors open at 7:00 p.m., with music scheduled to start at 8:00 p.m. You can hear the entire interview with Ed Pierce and Tommy O'Donnell by clicking the "Listen" button below.

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Jon Norton is the program director at WGLT and WCBU. He also is host of All Things Considered every weekday.