A HISTORY OF THE KUSTARD KINGS

David Terhune formed The Kustard Kings in New York City in 1992 with the idea of combining the sounds of The Meters and Booker T. & the MGs into a tight, funky, pop instrumental band. David's first two compositions for the project, "Nina E." and "Elena Laura" (named after his twin daughters), formed the nucleus of a set of songs that grew to encompass dozens of original and cover instrumentals. The Kustard Kings would later evolve into the eclectic house band for the Loser's Lounge performances.

David first approached his friend, Joe Katz, bassist for the Mumps and The Swinging Madisons, and asked him to join the as yet unnamed band. Later, David attended a Fresh Kills show at McGoverns on Spring Street; Fresh Kills was fronted by Kris Woolsey, with whom David had played for three years in the band Leap of Faith. Playing with Kris that night was keyboard player Joe McGinty. David had never met Joe before, but when he heard his Farfisa playing with Kris's guitar work, he knew he'd found the perfect sound for the band. The drummer, Clem Waldmann, was introduced to David by his long-time friend, Patty Glynn Lenartz, now stage manager for the Loser's Lounge shows.

Patty suggested the name The Kustard Kings, and Rob Terhune, David's brother, designed the band's logo and artwork. On November 7, 1992, clad in their pajamas and bathrobes, the Kustard Kings debuted at a bar called Street Level. Sleepwear and cardboard crowns became a trademark as the band played their early shows at McGoverns, Brownies and the Levee. Besides their original songs, their sets included a funkier-than-thou version of "Jungle Boogie" and the theme to the "Spiderman" cartoon, played at breakneck speed after a dirge-like rendition of "The Itsy Bitsy Spider." Often their bills were with bands whose musicians would later join the Loser's Lounge pantheon – including Nick Danger, Ed Rogers, and Philip Shelley.

1994 brought a number of opportunities to The Kings. They performed at the Rhino Records' Rock Instrumentals record release party. They also played live on Michael Shelley's popular radio show on WFMU; their performance of "Nina E." was later included on the station's Upsalapalooza compilation CD. During this time, Joe M. and Nick Danger were presenting the first Loser's Lounge shows, and Joe suggested that The Kings be featured at the Henry Mancini performance. They played a set of Mancini instrumentals, and it became clear that The Kings and the Losers were a match made in lounge heaven. Their subsequent performances drew the attention of a number of newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, The Daily News, USA Today, New York Magazine, Time Out, and Pulse! magazine.

In 1995, the band was invited to perform on a cable television talk show, America After Hours. They also opened for Alex Chilton at their Loser's Lounge headquarters, Fez, on Lafayette Street. The Kings soon came to the attention of director Alain Cloarec, who asked the band to record the soundtrack to his movie, The Golden Ram. Original music by Joe M., Kris and David accompanied this detective spoof. 1995 also saw the departure of Joe Katz, who moved to Connecticut; he will always be remembered for his plaintive version of "I Am I Said" at the Neil Diamond Loser's Lounge, and his incomparable duet with Clem, "I'm A Little Bit Country, And I'm A Little Bit Rock And Roll." After an exhaustive search, George Rush joined the Kings on bass.

By 1996, Loser's Lounge performances dominated the Kings' activities, with sold-out shows at Fez and celebrity guest appearances, including Deborah Harry, Lenny Kaye, and J. Mascis. Of note was an impromptu performance by Cyndi Lauper at a My Favorite Loser show. Writing down the lyrics backstage, she sang the Goffin/King classic "Chains" with David, then her own She-Bop." One month later, Joe M. and David had the opportunity to meet Burt Bacharach while he was recording "God Give Me Strength" with Elvis Costello. Bacharach had learned of the Loser's Lounge tribute to his music through director and Loser fan, Alison Anders. About two years later, Bacharach released his own star-studded tribute record. Coincidence? The Kustard Kings also backed Richard Barone at a special performance of his music at Fez. The show included the "Baroverture," a medley of Richard's songs arranged by Joe M. “The Kustard Kings are a back-up band extraordinaire,” read a New York Times article promoting the band’s ‘96/’97 New Year’s Eve show.

The Kings were featured at the 1996 and 1997 Raymond Scott shows at the Bottom Line, produced by Irwin Chusid. These shows were distinguished by the presence of Raymond Scott's wife and family, and a presentation by Moog synthesizer creator, Robert Moog, who shared his memories of Raymond Scott and demonstrated Scott's own creation, the Mellotron (after the show, Wendy Carlos joined Moog on stage to examine and be photographed with the rare instrument). The 1997 Dusty Springfield show saw the transformation of The Kustard Kings into The Spice Kings for the number “Haunted.” Singing to Joe M.’s pre-recorded backing track, the band was made up to emulate their favorite Spice Girl, and Colleen Fitzpatrick (Vitamin C) choreographed their girl-group moves.

By the end of 1998, the NY Press raved, “The Kings are amazingly flexible… whenever they get their hands on something vaguely psychedelic, they really shine.” The following year, the Kings recorded what would become their first CD collection of Loser’s Lounge highlights – Simply Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad About The Loser’s Lounge. At the 1999 Lee Hazelwood show, the band was honored by the presence of the composer himself. Lee attended the first show and came up on stage after the performance to thank the band. During his rather lengthy soliloquy, he coined the Loser's Lounge unofficial motto, "Fuck the hits!" This classic monologue now appears at the end of the second Loser’s Lounge compilation – How Can A Loser Ever Win.

In 2000, the Loser’s Lounge moved to a new location, The Westbeth Theatre on Bank Street. With the show’s continuing popularity, a larger performance space was needed, and the Westbeth crew brought the show to a new level with its set designs, lighting, and customized tablecloths and napkins. The Kings’ first three shows at The Westbeth received enthusiastic reviews in The New York Times. The published photos included Nick Danger’s proud stomach shaking to Neil Diamond’s “America,” and Clem, equally proud in his tuxedo top and underwear, performing Nilsson’s “The Puppy Song.”

The Kings were again honored in 2001 when Paul Williams attended and performed at his tribute show. Paul even altered the lyrics to his Muppets classic “Rainbow Connection” by adding to the outro “the lovers, the dreamers, losers everywhere, and me…” During one particularly surreal evening, Paul’s guest, actor Richard Dreyfuss, took the stage for the audience participation number, “Rainy Days and Mondays.”

The Kustard Kings signed with Confidential Recordings in 2001, a new label fronted by Big Deal big wheel Dean Brownrout and songwriter/recording artist Michael Shelley. Their first release, Blam!, received enthusiastic reviews, including praise such as, “Few bands can pull off (eleven) engaging instrumentals… and manage to mesmerize the listener through them all…” The Kings website, www.kustardkings.com, offers a video of one of the songs from Blam! called “Hideko.” This collection was followed by the popular A Kustard Kristmas, which was highly recommended by The New York Times, USA Today, and National Public Radio. “If Santa listened to rockin’, funky lounge music, he’d have the Kings playing live in his workshop,” read one review. The Kustard Kings CDs are available at Tower Records and other fine record stores. Kris, who produced the Kristmas record, has also produced live CDs of Loser shows, including tributes to David Bowie, Rod Stewart, Brian Wilson and Elvis Costello.

The Kustard Kings as a band are best described in an on-line review of their Kristmas record: “There are no monster egos in this tight quintet… they are a true ensemble cast, and it shows in the musical variety where everyone gets their time in the limelight.” With bassist Jeremy Chatzky (Hedwig, Laura Cantrell), The Kings continue as the house band for the Loser's Lounge, their instrumentation rounded out by the talents of Eddy Zweiback, Julian Maile, and the Kustard Strings and Kustard Singers (STC). Many of the recordings mentioned here are available at www.loserslounge.com