History of The (Fabulous) Peptones
(Excerpt from a 2000 Cover Story from Rolling Stone)

The Peptones' story began in 1996 when the group was formed to support the soulful, smoke and whiskey flavored vocals of Pepi Plowman. The singer needed a backup band to record the music that told the story of her life. The ups and the downs, the rythmns and the blues, the highs and the lows, the loves and the losses – a rich and varied story it is. Those first 13 songs captured Pepiís love of the blues, rock and roll, and some soul ballads of the 50's and 60's. They are available on CD.

Early practice sessions were held at Pepi's home on 48th Street in West Philadelphia, or at Philadelphia's fabled Sound Under Studios in Drexel Hill, where a man named Jimmy heard the band and loved the old school simplicity of the music, the humanity in Pepi's voice, and the incredible plaintive back up vocals of Anna Krain and Toni King (now Van Rissjan). Jimmy became a fan of the band and set them up with their first live shows. The record was produced and engineered in the recording studio of Philadelphia legend, John Wicks, who is recognized for introducing several acid-jazz and neo-punk acts at Silk City and other local venues.

With the first recording in the can, the group began performing in Manayunk's Grape Street Pub and The Overpass which was four flights up with a great balcony for grabbing some "fresh air" between sets. A notorious fist fight broke out at the end of one of their performances at The Overpass, started by a bunch of rowdy fans from the Shamokin area. It ended with a single right hand punch from guitarist George Nagle. A former tight end from Shamokin's own Central High, George knows how to throw down and it came in handy on that cold winter night. (Ok, maybe that's not how it really happened, but it sounds pretty cool, doesn't it?)

The original lineup also included: Paul Congdon (saxophone), Paul Connors (guitar), Doug Humes (keyboard), John Wicks (drums), and Terry Bortman (bass). Gotta give some serious musical props to Terry Bortman. Terry won't tell you himself, but the fact is Terry was the one and only bass man for a Philadelphia band that kicked the living crap out of the 1980's. That band was The A's, and "Woman's Got The Power" sounds as clean, and rings as true today as it did over shots of Jaegermeister, lemon balls and kamakazis at The Empire Rock Room in 1987. Terry has also gained fame more recently as the bass player in Philadelphia's own Charlie Gracie rock n' roll outfit.


When Pepi moved to Austin in 1995 the band searched for a new female vocalist to follow in Pepi’s footsteps…impossible…but, like finding a different variety of Merlot from the same bluesey vineyard, Trudy (Gretz) Manion arrived on the scene in early 1996. The basement in Trudy’s home now served as practice central for The Peptones as they added dance tunes and party anthems to their set list. Trudy’s hell-bent version of Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart” stopped people in their tracks. One guy started crying. Well, maybe he had something in his eye, but he was rubbing his eyes pretty hard!

The band soon became known for parties that didn’t seem to have any rules. For years, a group of Center City lawyers rented out The Boat House in Great Valley for what was known as "The Black and White Party". The place filled up with beautiful party people from five counties, dressed either in tuxes and evening gowns, or striped prison suits, or even full-on skeleton costumes. As long as you were wearing black and white, it was alright. The night was capped off by a contest for Best Costume, Best Dressed and, invariably, Best Undressed (as the Best Bra and Sexiest Underwear contest came to be known). Some people will do anything to win, no matter what the contest is. I saw one guy start crying. He won the best boxers contest, and shared the stage proudly with Best Panties and Best Bra.

Sherman Ward (vocals) and Johnny Seibert (drums) made those B&W parties jump with their own nasty brand of driving rock ‘n soul imported from “Lower Slower” Delaware and laid right on top of a bubbling stew of Peptone’s brew. A couple of Black and White parties convinced Sherman and Johnny “Snare” to sign on and The Peptones started calling themselves The Fabulous Peptones – just because it sounds good!

Mike Eben (saxophone) and Bobby Stoyko (trumpet) showed up from Reading one night unannounced, and blew the doors right off the Boat House. The ‘Tones had previously run with a single saxophone and now with a sax and a trumpet, the sound got richer, bitchier, and really RIFFED!

Today, The Peptones' sound is better than ever with new songs always being added to their expansive song list!
Still playing with the soul and energy of their early days, this is just one band that loves to play and their audiences feel that enthusiasm every time.

 

 
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