It’s a Long and Winding Road With the Slambovians to Tuckerton’s Lizzie Rose

Band's Leader Has Local Roots, Fond Memories and Charisma Galore
By RICK MELLERUP | Apr 24, 2019
Husband and wife Joziah Longo and Tink Lloyd will be part of a Slambovian trio at Tuckerton’s Lizzie Rose Music Room on Saturday night, April 27.

Tuckerton —

I’ll never forget the first time I heard the band Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams, also known to their fans as the Slambovian Circus of Dreams, the Grand Slambovians or simply the Slambovians.

Actually I’ll never forget the first time I didn’t hear the Slambovians. Let me explain.

It was early August a decade ago and my girlfriend and I were checking out the annual three-day-long Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, held at the Dodds Farm in the upstate New York hamlet of Hillsdale, for the first time. We’d spent Friday afternoon taking in the yearly showcase of emerging artists and the evening watching headliner acts on the festival’s main stage. Then, musically satiated, we’d trudged to our tent, which we’d pitched at the far northwest corner (I think – don’t hold me to my geography) of the farm, 1½ miles, maybe 2, from the festival’s dance tent, which was set in the southeast corner of the grounds.

It was around midnight and we’d just settled in our sleeping bags – sans ’kerchief and cap – for a long summer’s nap. That’s when we heard enough yelps, yips, yells, cheers and roars coming from the other end of the farm to wake us. Should we go see what was up? Nah, we figured by the time we got there the show would be breaking up. Wrong – the cheering continued for hours. We couldn’t hear the music, just the crowd. What could we possibly be missing out on, because we’d observed the folks at Falcon Ridge to be pretty laid back – hey, it is a folk festival. This sounded more like a crowd of musical body surfers!

On Saturday night the Slambovians took the main stage and the group’s lead singer, Joziah Longo, told the crowd he was happy to see so many people had survived the late-night to early-morning tent show. Aha, it had been the Slambovians creating the ruckus in the wee hours the night before.

Luckily, the Slambovians typically play all three days/nights of Falcon Ridge, so we still got to enjoy them twice. We were hooked! Let’s put it this way, we made sure to be there when they repeated their dance tent performance the next year. We also followed them throughout New England for the next few years.

Then we broke up. No regrets, it had been wonderful a five-year magical mystery tour. The Slambovians, meanwhile, have mostly stayed together.

So when I heard the Slambovians – actually The Slambovian Underground, a smaller version of the band designed to play intimate venues – was going to play Tuckerton’s Lizzie Rose Music Room at 7:30 on Saturday evening, April 27, I couldn’t believe my luck. The Lizzie Rose is just a few blocks from my home and, Lordie, did I feel like a needed a Slambovian fix!

Part Folk, Part Rock,

All Charisma

Being a music writer can be a perplexing task. Translating sounds to words is somewhat akin to describing complex engineering. I know a Lockheed Martin C-5M Super Galaxy can carry two M1A2 Abrams tanks weighing 70 tons each, but there’s no way I could ever explain how anything that heavy can get into the air. Oftentimes I hear a band that I love but struggle to figure out how to best describe its sound.

One of the tricks of the music critic is to compare acts to other, more well-known, performers or bands. I don’t have to do that with the Slambovians because an early reviewer (I wish I could find out who it was so that proper credit could be given) did it for me, calling the band’s sound hillbilly Pink Floyd.

It is an apt description of the Slambovians, who mix folk, rock, psychedelia and spirituality in perfect proportions. Even their lyrics support that theory, as witnessed in their song “Flapjacks From the Sky:”

Look in the sky, over there, see that light? Oh it’s gone.

No over there. Look it’s moving our way. Oh it’s gone.

What could it be? Look it’s right overhead. Looks so odd

Bathed in blue light. Feel the warmth

Do you think it’s from God?

 

I used to see these things every night as a child

Back before logic trained minds that were free to run wild

Grownups said, “Saucers!” but they looked like pancakes to me

Hot off the griddle and floating in night’s endless sea

 

Silvery sometimes but mostly quite buttery blue

Heavenly Mother put love in the batter for you

Doo-bee do

 

Angels and aliens know the real way to get high

We knew it too before we ate that apple and died

Shoulda ate them flapjacks from the sky

The Slambovians are currently made up of the aforementioned frontman, guitarist and harmonica player Joziah Longo, Sharkey McEwen on lead guitar, mandolin and backing vocals, Tink Lloyd on accordion, cello, flute, piccolo, theremin and backing vocals, Felipe Torres on drums and percussion and Bob Torsello on bass. Just Joziah, Tink and Sharkey will be at the Lizzie Rose owing to its small size, but that’s just fine.

According to the band’s website, the trio “performs a full complement of Slambovian standards plus some special material rarely heard at full band shows. Longo’s original and compelling songwriting combine with McEwen’s engaging electric guitar work and Lloyd’s multi-instrumental touches in an intimate setting. These shows offer a rare opportunity to take a peek behind the “Slambovian Curtain,” to experience the inner workings and essential music-making of the original creative core of the band in a relaxed setting with artists and friends.”

The Slambovians are skilled musicians. But they have that added element that puts bands over the top, one that can’t be taught or rehearsed – charisma. Taking your eyes off of the behatted Joziah is almost impossible and when Tink or Sharkey draw close to him the interaction is sincere.

So, as I said, I was super psyched to see the Slambovians again. Little did I know my connection to the band would soon be reinforced.

Is It Serendipity

Or Even Kismet?

Whenever I took in a Slambovians show I would return to work at The SandPaper raving about the band to my coworkers. Well, just a couple of weeks ago I found out one of my coworkers has known the Longo family for quite a few years.

What a small world, huh? I had known Joziah grew up in Philadelphia but had no idea his parents had moved to Beach Haven West some 30-plus years ago and his mother, siblings and nieces and nephews still live in the area.

“Beach Haven West and the Island were like the Promised Land to me as a kid,” he told me, “I started writing down there. That’s a sacred place to me.”

Six degrees of separation halved!

Coincidences – or perhaps serendipity or even kismet – have played a large part in Joziah’s life.

He learned to cherish music and play guitar at the feet of his father and grandfather. They gave him a good background in musical styles including folk, country and, gulp, even Mummers music.

“My grandfather knew everything from the ’20s, the ’30s. My father knew the songs from the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s.”

Then along came the Beatles! His dad would take an old-fashioned recorder and tape the Fab Four’s songs from the radio. Soon Joziah knew them all.

He’d always been involved with music, singing with doo-wop groups because, before his voice changed, he could hit very high notes. After hearing the Beatles he started a band at the age of his own at 12 or 13. His next, and perhaps greatest influence, was Bob Dylan.

A cousin, he said, gave him his first Dylan album, basically because everybody else thought Dylan was weird so they said “give it to Joey,” the musical equivalent of giving Life cereal to “Mikey.” As Joziah says on the band’s 2010 CD The Circus Does Dylan, he didn’t try to be Bob Dylan, he thought he was Bob Dylan as a young teen.

Joziah eventually moved to New York City and his career – and life – took off. He met Tink, his future wife, and Sharkey and they were all members of a progressive rock band called The Ancestors that released three albums between 1988 and 1994 and was good enough to attract the attention of major record companies.

Now, it is one thing to attract record companies. But in the early 1990s a band attracting the interest of China’s Communist government was almost impossible. That government, you see, had banned western music for a decade.

Yet the band was invited to play China in the early 1990s. How did that happen? To paraphrase Rick in “Casablanca,” “Of all the bands in all the towns in all the world, China invited The Ancestors?”

“There was a Japanese band that were major freaks for The Ancestors,” explained Joziah. “They were always there when we played CBGB’s or Carnegie Hall. They played China, and they were asked if there was another band like them. They blurted out our name.”

And Then,

And Then

He, Tink and Sharkey eschewed the interest of large record companies, wishing to remain independent so The Ancestors broke up in 1995. Joziah and Tink were starting a family and they decided to get out of the Big Apple. They traveled north and discovered the town of Sleepy Hollow, the first town they stopped in.

Interestingly, one of the things the Slambovians are known for is their Grand Slambovian Hillbilly Pirate Balls, annual costumed events held during the run-up to Halloween. You have to wonder, did coming from the land of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman point them in that direction? Serendipity?

Joziah and Tink took some time off from music, taking classes in computer graphic design and video production (Joziah said the only reason to sign with a big record label at that time was for video production so they decided to learn how to do that themselves) at the Westchester Arts Workshop.

One of their instructors was Tony Zuzulo, who had been a bar band drummer. When they formed the Slambovians in 1998 they added Zuzulo to their lineup. He remained with the band until January 2012. Serendipity?

Joziah said his life has often been tinged by amazing musical connections. A cousin, he said (his family, both immediate and extended, plays a huge part in his life – his and Tink’s twin sons, Chen and Orien, used to play with the band and sometimes still perform at special events) ran away to New York’s East Village at the age of 16.

“She ran away with Patti Smith! I only found that out last month.”

The Slambovians have developed an extremely loyal following thanks to being a very hard-working band, playing a heavy schedule of concerts in clubs and folk festivals. They tend to stick to the Northeast and the mid-Atlantic – the Hudson Valley, New York City, New England, Virginia, Maryland and Philadelphia and eastern Pennsylvania. But they’ve visited California and Florida and frequently tour England, where they’ve developed fans as dedicated as their American cousins.

Joziah is thrilled to be returning to his summer roots in Southern Ocean County. He and Tink are already talking excitedly about finding the proper venue for a full-band show in the area later this year.

As we concluded the interview Joziah stressed that he wanted me to make sure to write about how much LBI meant to him.

“It was my land of hope,” he said. “The ’60s happened to me on LBI.”

So if there are any tickets left to this Saturday’s Lizzie Rose show, get them ASAP – remember, it is a small venue. But if you snooze you may lose because Slambovian fans in eastern Pennsylvania or northern New Jersey might decide a road trip is in order to see Joziah, Tink and Sharkey up close and personal.

And spread the word to all you know and let’s see if we can get the Slambovians back again and again. Let’s make Southern Ocean County residents dual citizens of Slambovia, a fictional musical land like no other.

rickmellerup@thesandpaper.net

 

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