Backdoor Men

The Band

 

Dan Cook - Vocal (lead), Guitar

 

Terry Hartman - Guitar, Vocals

 

Chris Cook - Guitar, Vocals

 

Al Johnston - Bass, Vocals

 

Karl Cecil "Casey" Meers - Drums, Vocals

 

 

 

Wild Bill Hagan - Guitar, Vocals

 

Byron Hahn - Bass, Vocals

 

Paul Nikels - Drums, Vocals

The Backdoor Men: They came, they played, they drank, they went home to bed.

The Backdoor Men were first envisioned in the mid-1960s by the childhood friends Dan & Chris Cook (yes, brothers) and Terry Hartman, all of Fairview Park and all in the throes of an obsession kicked off first by the British Invasion and later fueled by the Byrds, Bob Dylan, and both urban and country blues. By the time the boys launched themselves onto Cleveland's original music scene in 1977, they had twisted these influences into a repertoire of a couple dozen originals in the "nuggets" psycho-garage mode to go along with their selection of British Invasion, American Psychedelic, and New York/Detroit "underground" covers.

Initially, the boys in BDM found it difficult to crack the Pirate's Cove, which was the center of a scene that included contemporaries such as Pere Ubu, the Dead Boys, and others. Their solution was to start their own alternative showcase just down the street in a dingy bar called Fitzpatrick's Rainbow. Soon the lads were booking a slew of acts to accompany them in their weekly appearances in the small but perfectly-vibed venue.

Bands like the Kneecappers, Lepers, x-blank-x, Heironymous Bosch, Public Enemy and more suddenly had a new place to play, albeit mostly to friends and fellow musicians, and to develop their material in a friendly setting.

The boys were also among the inhabitants of cheap rehearsal space in Cleveland's then-moribund Warehouse District. First they shared space with associates of the Dead Boys on West Sixth St.; later, after suffering through numerous break-ins, they took over a huge loft on West Ninth St., which they sublet to several other bands and was the site of much drunken revelry. (It also featured on its first floor a small tavern called the Lakefront, where they would play a few years later.)

Soon Dan Cook, a journalist by the harsh light of day, had launched a publishing venue with the notorious VELAND magazine, his answer to the sporadically published (though informative) CLE. VELAND took the piss out of virtually EVERYONE, from the rotund David Thomas to the geeky Andrew Klimek, and fueled a good battle between Fitzpatrick's and the Cove, which eventually relented and began to book the Backdoor Men.

The Backdoor Men played virtually every venue available between Youngstown and Toledo and all points in between in 1978 and 1980. Never particularly sophisticated as musicians, they compensated with tons of material. Cook and Hartman were extraordinarily prolific. From the neo-psychedelia of Hartman's "Bomber's Moon" and Cook's "Neutralizer," the boys progressed through offbeat pop takes like Hartman's "Handicapped Kids" and Cook's "Bad Girl" to such timeless gems as Hartman's "Life" and "Literary Tradition," and Cook's "Ain't No Magic" and "Club Madrid."

In all, Cook and Hartman, occasionally aided by Chris Cook, generated more than 100 originals, a number of which were covered by other area bands in need of material.

As 1980 drew to a close, Terry Hartman - a man who took songwriting VERY seriously - was chafing to take full control, and parted amicably with the Cooks to form Terry & The Tornadoes. The Tornadoes were short-lived but critically acclaimed, and were indeed the Cadillac Fleetwood that finally realized fully the extent of Hartman's songwriting abilities. During this period, Hartman teamed with Jimmy Zero and Johnny Blitz of the Dead Boys to record two of his originals for a single on Bomp Records, "Man with the X-Ray Eyes" b/w "Down with the Lonely Boys," but Bomp foundered and the single was never released.

The Backdoor Men soldiered on, working under a variety of names, self-releasing a 45 under the moniker of "Bomber's Moon," and generating even more material. Hartman eventually did return, and with the Cook Brothers and BDM drummer Paul Nickels, formed the band that was to be their swan song, Napoleon in Rags. Cook and Hartman put together a fresh batch of material, honed it to perfection, played out for a year, and then, like so many others of the era, appeared to disappear into the mists of time.

What's left - for better or worse - is the music. The boys in BDM were fortunate to have a great soundman in Dave Lach, who recorded virtually everything they and the bands they played with on reel-to-reel tape. BDM have been hawking three cd's - "Ride the Cerebral Surf," "One Two Ready Go (Time Space Electric Beer)", and "Laughner's Jukebox" - on their website, and are currently putting the finishing touches on a new record that will be issued sometime in 2003.

Paul Nickels

No bands ever made any money on the Cleveland punk circuit, of course. Backdoor Men, who probably played out as much or more than anyone, kept financial records, and $1,000 was a good year, much less a good gig. But one summer night in 1980, they really hit gold.

Joe Charboneau was busy burning up the American League, soon to be rookie of the year. Dan Cook, the boys' resident promotional genius, got the brilliant idea to call Super Joe's agent and see if HE WOULD APPEAR WITH THE BAND. Unbelievably, the answer was YES. And the fee? A grand total of $100!

The lads got a nice picture of Joe made up by an artist, holding a guitar instead of a bat. Charboneau winds up hitting a home run to beat the yankees, and damn if he doesn't show up half an hour later with his wife at Fitzpatrick's. The line is out the door and around the block. Backdoor Men, playing with Heironymous Bosch, rake in a grand. Charboneau clowns around on stage with the boys, signs a few autographs, and splits. Might've even drank some beer through his nose; can't remember.

 

Of course the windfall was not used to get some decent equipment; instead, it was quickly spent on the finest alcohol money could buy, of course.