In Music Commentary

You know the Violent Femmes, of course ...

In Music Commentary

... but do you know jazz bassist Gerald Cannon?

In Music Commentary

... or now-New York-based drummer Gintas Janusonis?

100 Great Milwaukee music makers, part 1

100 Great Milwaukee music makers: the headline says it all.

As we enter not only a new year, but also a new decade, it seemed like a good time to reflect on Milwaukee's musical past.

So, here is a list of 100 great bands and musicians who have created Milwaukee's musical landscape and -- in many cases -- helped the world at large appreciate the cream of the Cream City crop.

Any discussion of great music is a subjective one. Who I like isn't necessary who you like and we might both disagree with Drew Olson, for example. So, I fully expect that you will have something to say about this list of musicians and bands who are from Milwaukee and / or work (or have worked) in Brew City's clubs and concert halls. And I encourage you to say it, using the Talkback feature at the bottom.

Let me say up front that I have included a few of whom I'm not necessarily a big fan, but whose contribution to Milwaukee music earns them the right of inclusion. I'll let you figure out who they are. Also, you'll notice that the list is in alphabetical order. I have not made any judgments about any one entry being better or more important than any other.

Stay tuned and you'll see a second list in coming weeks, too.

  1. .357 String Band, raucous bluegrass-infused rock and roll
  2. A-G-2-A-Ke, an early Brew City hip-hop group
  3. Ernie Adams, jazz drummer
  4. Adekola Adedapo, jazz singer
  5. Bad Boy, '70s rockers
  6. The Barnburners, Richard LaValliere's short-lived, post-Haskels band
  7. The Baroques, psychedelic group signed to Chess Records
  8. Black Elephant, defunkt (de-trunked?) hip-hop group
  9. The Blackholes, Mark Shurilla's punk-era combo
  10. Eric Blowtorch, long-time punk, reggae rocker
  11. Blue in the Face, Mike Benign's best band
  12. Bodeans, you know them
  13. The Bonnevilles, Milwaukee's first rock band and Buddy Holly labelmates
  14. Junior Brantley, keyboard player with The Fabulous Thunderbirds
  15. John Calarco, session drummer
  16. Gerald Cannon, jazz bassist, bandleader and member of McCoy Tyner's group
  17. The Carnival Strippers, all-star Milwaukee band fronted by Loey Nelson (aka John Norquist's sister), had a song in the film "Speed"
  18. Paul Cebar, perhaps Milwaukee's most recognizable voice
  19. James Chance/James White, New York no wave saxman and singer
  20. La Chazz, Latin jazz combo
  21. Cherry Cake, hard rockin' '80s outfit
  22. Cincere, modern R&B star in the making
  23. Citizen King, late, lamented funk rock band
  24. Compound Red, early '90s punks
  25. Codebreaker, Milwaukee's gift to dance music
  26. Couch Flambeau, one of the punk era's funniest and most endearing bands
  27. The Danglers, experimental rock and roll
  28. De La Buena, Afro-Cuban jazz
  29. Decibully, modern rock in every good sense of that phrase
  30. Die Kreuzen, punk gone metal, perhaps one of Milwaukee's most internationally respected bands
  31. Claude Dorsey, jazz pianist
  32. E*I*E*I*O, band
  33. Einstein's Riceboys, post-punk art rock
  34. Element, the queen of Milwaukee hip-hop
  35. Manty Ellis, jazz guitarist
  36. Howie Epstein, member of Tom Petty's Heartbreakers
  37. The Esquires
  38. Berkeley Fudge, jazz saxophonist
  39. Jack Grassel, jazz guitarist
  40. Jerry Harrison, member of Talking Heads and The Modern Lovers
  41. The Haskels, THE Milwaukee punk band
  42. The Honest Disgrace, post-punk outfit featuring Ray Krahn and Anne Hetzel, to name a few
  43. International Jet Set, ska and soul -- fronted by Kings Go Forth's Dan Fernandez
  44. Gintas Janusonis, jazz and R&B session drummer now in New York
  45. Al Jarreau, well, sure, you know him
  46. Mark Johnson, jazz drummer with a long list of credits. Son of ...
  47. Scat Johnson, jazz guitarist
  48. Reed Kailing, member of The Grass Roots, Badfinger, Player and others
  49. Pee Wee King, country music star
  50. Kings Go Forth, one of the latest signings from Milwaukee
  51. Greg Koch, blues guitarist and teacher
  52. John Kruth, back in New York but for a time Milwaukee's punk troubadour
  53. The Legends, 1960s Milwaukee "Mersey Beat" band with great harmonies, signed to Capitol
  54. Jim Liban, blues harmonica player
  55. Liberace, if I have to tell you ...
  56. Little Artie & the Pharaohs, says Bruce Cole, "introduced Milwaukee kids to James Brown and Bobby Bland"
  57. The Lovelies, fronted by Liv Mueller with Damian Strigens on the drums ... 'nuff said
  58. Brian Lynch, jazz trumpeter
  59. The Masonic Wonders, Milwaukee gospel band
  60. Sam McCue, erstwhile Legends frontman and later played with The Everly Brothers
  61. Verne Meisner, polka's own...
  62. Steve Miller, The Joker, the midnight toker
  63. Milwaukee Slim, blues guitarist
  64. Modern Values, fronted by Dean Schlabowske (Waco Brothers, Wreck) and Jim Warchol (Sometime Sweet Susan, Loam) ... definitely one of Milwaukee's best post-punk bands
  65. Andy Noble, bassist, DJ and record store owner
  66. The Oil Tasters, Richard LaValliere, Guy Hoffman on drums and Caleb Alexander's sax made the Oil Tasters a blueprint for Morphine
  67. Old Man Malcolm, if you think the turntable isn't an instrument, you haven't heard Malcolm
  68. Les Paul, he has a guitar named after him, you know ...
  69. Larry Penn, folk singer
  70. Plasticland, psychedelic revivalists, still going after all these years
  71. Robin Pluer, R&B Cadets songbird, now an interpreter of Piaf's work
  72. Willy Porter, singer/songwriter of national note
  73. George Pritchett, jazz guitarist
  74. The Promise Ring, emo pioneers who crashed and burned on the heels of its best record
  75. The R&B Cadets, one of the city's best-loved party, club and festival bands
  76. Mel Rhyne, jazz organist who worked with no less than Wes Montgomery
  77. The Ricochettes, first generation Brit Pop
  78. The Robbs, a '60s band born in Oconomowoc, house band on Dick Clark's "Where The Action Is"
  79. Sonia Robinson, jazz violinist
  80. The Rusty Ps, hip-hop stalwarts
  81. Harvey Scales, R&B singer
  82. Semi-Twang, John Sieger's songs took them to California and Warner Brothers Records
  83. The Shags, 1960s band sometimes credited as the city's psychedelic pioneers
  84. John Sieger, see Semi Twang and R&B Cadets, Sieger is a respected songwriter and temporary Nashvillian
  85. Leland Sklar, session bassist (Jackson Browne, Crosby, Stills & Nash, and many others)
  86. Sigmund Snopek, multi-instrumentalist prog rocker, member of The Bloomsbury People and long-time Violent Femmes collaborator
  87. Sometime Sweet Susan, noisy but still song-driven early '90s rock and roll
  88. Squares, 1980s Indiana transplants inspired by Costello, Morrison, Dylan, Squeeze
  89. Daryl Stuermer, of Sweetbottom and, oh yes, some group called Genesis
  90. The Thousandaires, featuring Sage Schwarm, the Nobles, etc. Fine short-lived band
  91. Jason Todd, saxman and hip-hopper
  92. Chris Twining, he of the Straight Edge Feminists and the quirkiest singer/songwriter of the Cream City '80s
  93. Al Vance, bassist and founding member -- with Harvey Scales -- of the Seven Sounds
  94. The Velvet Whip, known as much for its stage presence as its sometimes wandering psychelic, hippy-hippy shake
  95. Violent Femmes, if you have to ask ...
  96. Mark Waldoch, of The Celebrated Workingman, The Mustn'ts and others. A voice and a personality like no other
  97. Wild Kingdom, the best ska funk band Milwaukee ever did see. Matched Fishbone at its own game
  98. Babyface Willette, jazz organist
  99. Juli Wood, saxophonist
  100. The Wooldridge Brothers, Squares offshoot featuring duo of fine roots rock songwriters


enidons | Feb. 20, 2013 at 10:55 a.m. (report)

Dark Facade? How can they be missing fer cryin out loud!!!!

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gkosmede | Feb. 5, 2012 at 12:03 p.m. (report)

Great listing. The second edition could even be better. Hope to see the WAMI nominated band SURGE who played the clubs in the 80's and had their infamous song about Duct Tape added.

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Locrian | Feb. 4, 2010 at 9:55 a.m. (report)

Sadly I know that the best bands in Milwaukee will never make this list for various reasons, but I would like to submit a few that I feel were erroneously omitted: Jeff Loomis (Nevermore) True Heart Susie Kopecky Morta Skuld The Gufs

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drummer42 | Feb. 3, 2010 at 9:15 p.m. (report)

Loved this 100 Great Milwaukee music makers' list--and loved even more that I played bass guitar with the ROBBS-- with my brother Craig Krampf on drums-- which made this list!! FYI: I was leader and bass guitarist of the DEL REYS--an early to mid sixties Milwaukee based rock group which played gigs at George Devine's/Eagles and Muskego Beach ballrooms featuring alternating sets with two groups which also made this list: the LEGENDS/Sam McCue and LITTLE ARTIE AND THE PHARAOHS. This included a 21 consecutive Sundays matinee with the DEL REYS and PHARAOHS at the Eagles' Ballroom. ~~Carl Raven

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boogaloodude | Jan. 30, 2010 at 9:59 a.m. (report)

Schmenzer, MKE WAS a Great Music town, back in the 70's, and 80's, now you'd have to look long and hard to even find a decent venue like the Palms, TA Verns, Fantasy's, Beneath the Street, or Stoned Toad. Without the support, the bands don't have a chance to survive, whatever happened to the Battle of the Bands, or the Hometown Album projects, sponsored by a local Radio Station?

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