THE LITTLE WRETCHES and DEVILISH MERRY at MOONDOG’S.
378 Freeport Rd, Blawnox PA 15238
Date: Saturday, February 1, 2020
Doors Open: 7 PM
Showtime: 8 - 11:30 PM.
On the eve of the Super Bowl in 1979, the Steelers versus the Cowboys, I (Robert Andrew Wagner) made the life-changing decision to start a band with my friend and apartment mate, John Creighton. I was undergoing an experimental regimen of chemotherapy for a rare form of cancer, and given that all I’d ever really wanted to do was be in a band, it was the proverbial case of now-or-never.
The band we formed was NO SHELTER, and the indie-single we created, BROOKS ROBINSON’S CAMP b/w SOLDIER BOY, has aged well. In the wake of No Shelter, John helped me launch THE LITTLE WRETCHES, and John went on to form STICK AGAINST STONE.
When I have the means and opportunity, I try to schedule gigs on the eve of the Super Bowl to commemorate the anniversary and maybe refresh a few songs that John and I played together.
This year’s gig is at Moondog’s, a reunion of sorts of THE LITTLE WRETCHES, joined by co-headliners DEVILISH MERRY and maybe some special guests like Steve Sciulli.
The connection between THE LITTLE WRETCHES and DEVILISH MERRY goes way back. Before I was old enough to get into bars, I'd walk past Frankie Gustine's in Oakland and see the name, DEVILISH MERRY. Their name seemed to be everywhere, and I was jealous.
What's this? Why do people think THIS is cool? One day, my band’s name is going to be all over the place....if I ever have a band.
Of course, I thought like a kid. I assumed Devilish Merry had been around forever. It never occurred to me that they were just a few steps ahead of us, still new, still finding their way.
John and I were deeply involved in radical politics and saw our songs as part of “the revolution.” One of the culture centers for lefty musicians at that time was WOBBLIE JOE’S on the South Side. DEVILISH MERRY played there all the time. ANNE FEENEY hosted the open-stage.
A friend, neighbor and bartender at WOBBLIE JOE’S tried to persuade the owners that punk rock was the new music of the working class, and NO SHELTER was invited to audition for a gig at WOBBLIE JOE’s by playing a set at Anne Feeney’s open-stage.
Afterwards, Anne said she liked us, but the owners apparently did not. The sarcastic message that was relayed to us was, “How much would they pay us to let them play here?” Bluegrass was the true music of the working class, we were told.
When John Creighton passed away, a memorial show was held in the space that had been Wobblie Joe’s, it’s ownership having changed, it’s new name being WILD SISTERS COFFEEHOUSE.
Though DEVILISH MERRY and THE LITTLE WRETCHES worked in different genres, we eventually crossed paths in the late '90s by way of CALLIOPE, THE PITTSBURGH FOLK MUSIC SOCIETY.
DEVILISH MERRY is still going strong, and the labor-history songs Sue Powers has been working are an inspiration. I want to write songs that tell stories that need to be told, too. I, too, want to be surrounded by sympathetic warriors for peace and beauty.
So anyhow, on February 1 at Moondog’s, I hope we’ll have a good show.
I’ll open at 8 PM with a short set of tunes John Creighton and I played with NO SHELTER, then we’ll hand the stage over to DEVILISH MERRY and THE LITTLE WRETCHES.
If you can make it to the show, we hope to see you there. And we’d appreciate your sharing news of the event with anyone you know who loves music, Pittsburgh labor history, and the folk tradition.
Robert Andrew Wagner