A brief explanation of the group’s name is probably the first order of business since the word “conscript” carries a number of meanings. We’ll start there and move on….
verb (used with object)
In the context of this group the second definition is accurate enough to suffice. Although the connotation may seem at odds with a group of musicians, the most independent people in my personal experience, the following explanation may prove enlightening.
My name is Andy Halvorson, also known as “Friedpiper” and I am the guitarist is this group. You’ll meet the rest of the band shortly but first the explanation promised previously.
Several years ago I became active again as a professional musician after having been on hiatus for a number of years while raising a family and tending a growing business. Part of my return to the music scene involved playing at various blues jams with other local musicians. In 2011, I was playing a local venue with the “Redneck Blues Brigade” headed up by Jimii Crawford. One of our “guest performers” that evening was an unassuming little cat named Joe Williams. The first thing that caught my attention was his name. Any fan of the swing era knows Joe Williams and Ella Fitzgerald were the singing duo with the Count Basie orchestra in the late ’30’s through the ’40’s. Aside from his famous name, I have to admit that I didn’t really expect much out of Joe’s 5 foot nothing, 120 pound frame. Joe got up and joined us on T-Bone Walker’s classic Stormy Monday. I was totally unprepared for the sound that issued from Joe’s mouth when he began singing. Suffice it to say that his voice made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. It was then and there that I decided my new best friend Joe was going to be the first “conscript” in what has evolved into the group as it is today.
The next of the “conscripts” was Dave “Bluesbear” Engle, who I have had the distinct pleasure of knowing and sharing 30 plus years of musical interaction with in the Camargo Road Band. Dave is a musician’s musician. Having played together off and on since 1983, Dave knows what I’m thinking usually before I have a chance to “think” it. That and his breadth of knowledge and ability to play anything on the fly made him the most natural choice for this group. Although Dave plays bass with the Conscripts, he is a most accomplished guitarist and shares singing duties with Joe, which he does beautifully.
So far, we were coming along pretty well but had difficulty finding a solid drummer who was also solid about showing up for rehearsals and gigs. After several attempts to find such a person, our drummer, Gus “G-Force” Thierry fell from the sky. More properly stated, I practically tripped over him at the Cincinnati Blues Fest in 2013. Gus and I go way back having grown up across the street from one another. I think we’ve known one another since we were 5 or 6 years old.
Gus was the “kid” in the neighborhood who started the whole music thing when he got a drum kit at 12 or 13 years old. It didn’t take long for other “kids” in the neighborhood, including yours truly, to take up an instrument of some type or another and begin a community of musicians that I’ve known and respected for years. Gus’s influences are quite varied, but his first love has always been jazz. His style and touch prove a perfect compliment to the style of the band. This and Gus’s ability to throw funky “grooves” and unexpected (but always perfectly executed) beats into the music make him indispensable to the group. Make no mistake, Gus can drive rock music, rock-a-billy and any other styles like a freight train.
We were, at that point in time playing as “the Usual Suspects” with keyboard- sax player Tim McCord. At some point during that time, we became pretty much dormant and Tim moved on to other things.
A few months ago, Joe and I began looking for a reliable keyboard player with a good groove and although we played with several, reliability again became the primary issue.
As the group “the Usual Suspects” we had played several benefit concerts for the Lindner House of Hope, a local mental health support organization along with other local groups. One of the musicians who was playing harmonica with another group sat in with us on several songs and thoroughly impressed everyone in the band and in the house that night. Enter our final conscript Larry “Bluesbent” Bloomfield.
After recently trying out keyboard players (none of which proved at all reliable), Gus suggested that we ask Larry to join us for a rehearsal. Having suffered the idiosyncrasies of several keyboard “artists”, we were all on board for a change.
Larry joined us at the next rehearsal and played like he had been in the group, rehearsing the same material with us for years. Larry is not only the best harmonica player that I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing with, he is among the best harp players I’ve ever heard. It may sound like pure boast to those of you who know the greats… Butterfield, Little Walter, Musselwhite, Norton Buffalo, James Cotton, Mark Ford and other greats, but I can assure you, Larry can hold his own in that rarefied company. Larry was quietly “conscripted” and the band name was changed to reflect the manner in which we all “joined” the group.