Monday, December 6, 2010

The Moldy Dogs: St. Louis' Lost Punk Band

Posted By on Mon, Dec 6, 2010 at 11:00 AM

In 2010, local bands have their choice of venues, radio stations and blogs with which to promote themselves. This wasn't always the case in St. Louis: As labels such as BDR Records and blogs such as Tony Patti's Change Music Variety Show reveal, the city's small but spunky new-wave and punk scenes were squarely underground.

In fact, before punk, any hints of local counterculture were even more cultish. Thanks to the well-regarded online magazine Perfect Sound Forever, however, another facet of St. Louis music history is coming to light. In the latest issue of the 'zine, writer Jack Partain tells the fascinating hard-luck story of the Moldy Dogs, a local "pre-punk" band that formed at Webster University by Wolf Roxon and Paul Major. Its story is much like any other band that formed in college:

The Moldy Dogs were formed in the fall of 1972 when Roxon met Paul Major while attending Webster College in St Louis. Roxon was a St Louis native who had cut his teeth as one half of the basement freak out duo Wolfgang and the Noble Oval, the self described "First Punksters in St Louis." The band, which included Jon Ashline (who would become one half the notorious Screaming Mee Mees) didn't make it further than the stairway outside of Ashline's bedroom door (and then only to toss a drum set down the stairs as a drum solo), but it did reinforce Roxon with the drive to pursue music, and several of their songs he'd written would follow him into his work with The Moldy Dogs and later projects.

Paul Major was a loner from Louisville, KY who spent his teenage years messing around with the guitar and had come to Webster looking to start a band.

"I became passionate about music as soon as I heard fuzz psych guitars as a kid," says Major. "They took me beyond my head and I felt connected. I had heard some Top 40 Beatles and Stones songs but when guitars went Hendrix, I knew I had to be part of that and the cultural shift they represented to me changed my life. I had to get a guitar, I had to, and ever since, it's been central in my life in many ways."

Roxon's insights are a little more revealing.

"Paul did come to college armed with a few originals he wrote for his senior high school project the year before," says Roxon. "One, entitled 'The Moldy Dogs' obviously became our namesake. He had a couple others that were equally strange and provocative, so much that, after he performed these tunes at his high school assembly, the school principal apologized to the students for having to sit and listen to the songs!"

The Moldy Dogs was fond of acts such as David Bowie and the Stooges, as well as British rockers of the time. Partain's story is a fascinating account of what life was like for the band back then -- from the role of Wash U's radio station, KWUR, and the first St. Louis punk fest in 1977 to the Moldy Dogs' adventures after it decided to try for fame and fortune in LA and NYC. Read the entire two-part story here.

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