Beyond a grassy ridge from a tree-covered bandshell, carnival rides twinkle and sparkle in the humid evening, calliope music tinkling softly.
It could be almost any year in the last century.
The louder music exploding from six Marshall amps and two stacks of Vox cabinets with Super Beatle heads is timeless, too, as Slinkenwolf blasts its hard-and-heavy riff rock that Slink Rand and Craig “Wolfman” Moore have been detonating for 50 years. It drowns out an approaching storm.
Now they’re reunited despite being at an age when some of their peers are checking early-bird supper specials instead of late-night rock ‘n’ roll.
“We have tried to get something together off and on for years,” Moore says. “We finally connected in real time. The stars aligned; it was just time.”
On Aug. 20, when Slinkenwolf plays at Catalpa Grove in Toulon, about 20 miles north of Peoria, it will continue to restart a sound that guitarist Rand and bassist Moore conjured with each other and apart, through bands playing Legion halls, Extension buildings and campuses to groups recording LPs, from Rand’s flirtation with jazz while living in Peoria in the ’80s to Moore’s old Peoria Record Company store on Main (and now Younger Than Yesterday, the shop he owns on University.)
Moore’s played with GONN around Keokuk, his hometown, and eventually with Peoria bands including Ready Steady Go and Speechless. Rand’s best known for the Slink Rand Group in the ’70s and ’80s (when he was recognized for his “Flying-V” Gibson guitar), and then the Dogs in the ’90s and even a praise band at the Methodist Church in Carthage. (Full disclosure: Slink was a high-school classmate, and I played in another band alongside them in the ’60s.)
A highlight of the pair’s career with the near-legendary band they played in, Ilmo Smokehouse, was opening for B.B. King at Peoria’s Expo Gardens in 1970. That show, produced by the late promoter Hank Skinner, also featured the One-Eyed Jacks, but after King finished, Skinner asked Smokehouse to play another set for the rowdy Youth Building crowd.
“We opened AND closed for B.B. King,” says the 69-year-old Moore, laughing.
Slink, 66, agrees, saying, “B.B. King was the biggest name we’d played with.
“After the Slink Rand Group, I lived in Peoria for a while playing jazz with Eddie Howard, John Miller, Dave Parkinson and other cats,” he says, “living on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches [until] Steve Dagenford [then with the band Actual Proof] told me, ‘If you think you’re going to get into a gold mine playing jazz, you’re fooling yourself,’ so I moved to Iowa City.”
Their roots go back to the mid-’60s, when Keith “Slink” Rand and his dad built his first electric guitar on the family farm west of Carthage, and Moore was permitted to spin 45-rpm singles over the Keokuk High School P.A. during lunch.
Their branches have stretched to some dangerous moments, too, moments that contributed to them deciding to resume playing together. During his 19 years working for Hancock County, Slink suffered a back injury and became addicted to painkillers, a crisis he calls “overpowering, devastating. My family stuck by me through it all, and I was concentrating on recovery, when I realized, ‘My lifestyle is changing here,’ and the other constant was the guitar, so Wolf and I started talking.”
Likewise, Moore also had a near-disaster, suffering a heart attack while practicing.
“It saved my life because I was rehearsing with Slink and Darin Bloomfield when I had sudden cardiac arrest, and they were there to call for help,” Moore says. “We have so much in common – Slink is even my daughter’s godfather – personally and musically. So the time seemed right.
Back at that bandshell – in Keokuk’s Rand Park, a gig sandwiched between a debut of sorts at Peoria Pizza Works June 29 and a Fort Madison, Iowa, festival July 4 – the music thunders like a squall line after a drought. Slink’s piercing, industrial-strength guitar conjures Cream, Johnny Winter, Mountain and more. Wolf’s bass throbs with a tempered fury and his vocals were that of a melodic banshee on PEDs.
They showcase some original tunes and creative takes on rock standards, such as Slink’s blistering instrumental version of Gene Pitney’s “Town without Pity,” noir excursion into the “Theme from Peter Gunn” during an original rendition of Credence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate One,” and a searing Jimi Hendrix medley.
Moore leads a buzzworthy blend of “Summertime” and “Summertime Blues,” mixing respect for pop standards with the irreverence that’s always been key to rock ‘n’ roll, and drummer Matthew Warren offers a soulful treatment of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s “Almost Cut My Hair.”
Starting, appropriately, with a blown fuse during “Highway Star,” the power-wire trio’s onslaught charges through familiar songs – Led Zeppelin’s “Dancing Days,” the Doors’ “Wild Child” and Montrose’s “Bad Motor Scooter – and occasional debuts new numbers, including “Fallen in Love (with Life Again),” “Saber Tooth Tiger” and “Save a Place.”
Though their performances feature an occasional “oldie,” there’s no nostalgia here; they’re far less a revival than a reboot (although they’ve recorded a new version of Ilmo Smokehouse’s iconic “Movement 1 & 13”). That project, which they hope to release this fall, was recorded at Rich Teegarden’s Crabshack Studios in nearby Eureka, and much of it’s completed: nine tracks down, with a few more possible, Moore says.
“We have a lot of work to do on it,” he says. “We’re really excited about the prospects.”
And besides the record, they’re planning live shows, Wolf says.
“We’re aiming primarily at special events, festivals – a ‘concert’ situation since we are not geared toward playing the hits or worrying about if the dancers are asking for ‘Mony Mony’ – not that there’s anything wrong with that,” he says, laughing.
Slink still has a Flying-V, but not his original – nor that first, homemade instrument.
He remembers his dad driving him to a Peoria music store to buy a Fender Mustang guitar and Fender Deluxe amp and trading in his rough-but-ready guitar.
“They gave us $15 on it as a trade-in,” he says, laughing and sighing some.
“It was time to get together,” Slink continues. “We’re long-time buds. At community college I remember cruising and listening to jams with Craig when we should’ve been in class,”
Good times; old times.
Slinkenwolf – Slink and Wolf – have been around all along, and now they’re current, too.