Heroes of the modern garage revival, the Wombats were born sometime in the late 70s, somewhere in the leafy lanes of Maple Heights, Ohio.
Teenage guitar strangler John Zinrich, a.k.a. Johnny Fettish (so called because he had a thing for biting women's knees under tables, hence "John Knee Fetish"), had previously lived out the punk ideal by dropping out of high school at age 15 to join Public Enemy, noted in Cle 3.0 for doing "the fastest version ever attempted of 'I Wanna Be Your Dog'."
Striving for a poppier sound, Fettish and his suburban neighbor Vic Halm penned a series of power-punk pop gems and entered the first national "Battle of the Garages" competition run by Bomp/Voxx honcho Greg Shaw. The 'Bats contributed a track, "The Reason Why" to the first "Battle" compilation and played on the national "Battle" tour in 1981.
Positive public reaction won them a recording contract, and between 1981 and 1984 the 'Bats released two singles and an album, "Zontar Must Die!" on Bomp/Voxx. They also played various notable East Coast and local venues, including the first WRUW Studio Arama show and the opening night of the Lakefront (which displayed "Wombats" on its curb sign for several years as a result).
Their energetic live show was notable for speedy fuzzy guitars pumped through Marshall stacks, unintelligible vocals, and the sight of 5'4" Fettish leaping two feet in the air, against a backdrop of six-foot-tall John Lennon-lookalike Halm and equally towering bassist Tim Ratley.
In 1984 the Wombats played a show with the seminal Columbus band Great Plains, who brought them to the attention of Gerard Cosloy at Homestead Records. The Wombats subsequently recorded one EP for Homestead, "Mudpuddles", which came out in 1985. Unfortunately, the band had a falling out with Cosloy over their inability to tour, since drummer Tommy Edwards was busy studying to be a refrigerator repairman. As a result, promotion for "Mudpuddles" was almost nil and the 'Bats found themselves once again without a label.
In 1986, Fettish and Halm wrote and recorded some excellent demos for a third album which they hoped to place on a major label, but due to lack of interest this project never saw the light of day. Since then, the 'Bats have played sporadically around Cleveland with various lineups.