GREEN BAY – Chuck Shiner played a mean bass, had an impeccable ear for harmonies and loved “good old rock ‘n’ roll”, Frank Zappa, drag racing and dogs.
Shiner, who died on July 3 at the age of 65, was a staple of the Green Bay music scene for 40 years, playing in almost every local music club imaginable and a few long forgotten.
He grabbed her in the ’80s at Studio East and the Bluestone Club as a member of Stormbringer, the popular rock outfit that splashed over the pages of The Entertainer week after week and for Head East and Ozark Mountain Daredevils at the City Center Theater in. opened in 1991. So cool that they landed next to Adam Trask and High Flyer on the 1982 “Apple Cellar Tapes”, a vinyl compilation of the “most exciting bands in the WAPL-FM listening area”.
He wasn’t about to put it in a woman’s wig or silly skunk hat for entertainment when he sang “Crocodile Rock” or the “Oscar Mayer Weiner Polka” with the venerable variety band The Shy Guys in Brogan’s Lounge or Stardust II during the . played 90s.
He played punk shows with half-age bands at the Eagles Club and Crunchy Frog when he founded the Ramones tribute act Blitzkrieg Rok in his 50s with his son Matt on guitar and buddy Phil “Gus” Gospodarek on drums. play “Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue” really, really fast.
In recent years he has been one of those who gave voice to Neil Young’s music as a founding member of The Missiles, the local supergroup that brought the annual Neil Fest to the Riverside Ballroom.
“I think music was just in his soul,” says his wife Joyce Shiner, who met him when he played in the popular local band Neptune and was married to him for 40 years. “Since he was on his mother’s knee, he hopped off every time there was music.”
“He loved to rock,” said singer Zoomie Hardtke, who sang with him on The Missiles and admired not only his high tenor but also his ability to keep the group focused on the task at hand during rehearsals. “He was the band’s meat and potatoes.”
Music was both a love and a livelihood for the Escanaba, Michigan native, who started out as the first chair trumpet player in school, played in his first rock band in the early 1970s, and spent his final hours going out around his friends at Little Cisco at The Bar seen playing on Lime Kiln Road.
Band members Ginny Lee Siscoe, Randy Siscoe and Gospodarek had prematurely ended preparations for the July 3rd gig and spent time talking to Shiner about music before the show. Ginny Lee showed him her “brand new bass, no mark on it”. Shiner held it gingerly, looked at it, played with it a little, and then handed it back.
“Oooh, there’s some magic on my bass now,” Ginny Lee joked.
She was shocked to learn of his death the next morning. As friends of the bassists, whose bands occasionally shared gigs over the years, conversations with Shiner were a matter of course.
“He was always super kind, optimistic, positive, very generous with compliments, supportive,” she said. “No ego stuff.”
CONNECTED: “He was a treasure from Green Bay”: Singer-songwriter Dana Erlandson dead at 64
CONNECTED: ‘His heart was as big as he is’: Drummer Richie Plass leaves a legacy of music and activism
The loss hits Gospodarek particularly hard, who spent most of 30 years sharing a stage with Shiner in The Shy Guys, Gary White and the Rockets, Blitzkrieg Rok, and The Missiles. They were best friends. They went to drag races in Brainerd, Minnesota every year, hooted and yelled at all-star wrestling, laughed at the same boring comedies (“Repo Man,” “Shakes the Clown”), and sometimes just drank scotch and strummed guitars in his sun room.
“We were like bassists and drummers should be, we were really close,” said Gospodarek. “We had a lot in common. Did a lot together. Had a lot of fun. Played in many bands. Laughed a lot.
“The last thing I said to him was, ‘I’ll see you next Thursday,’ but fate intervened.”
“There was never a bull on him”
The missiles had scheduled a rehearsal that day in preparation for their first appearance in nearly two years. It would have been the first since she lost her colleague Dana Erlandson, who died in October at the age of 64.
It was Shiner who had meticulously figured out how the band would adapt to the void that Erlandson’s voice and multi-instrumentation had left. He had an uncanny ability to hear harmonies in his head and select multiple parts for the band.
“He said he always thought of himself as a singer who played bass. He had a perfect pitch and could sing high voices, ”said Joyce. “He could hear part of everything. When they were practicing and someone couldn’t get their part, he said, ‘Well then take my part and I’ll find out what yours should be.’ He always had the harmony. He could hear everything. “
During Matt’s family car trips when Matt was little, she and Chuck sang “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” or “A Hole in the Bottom of the Sea” to him, and Chuck … harmonized.
Hardtke said she was initially intimidated by Shiner “because he’s an excellent musician and he knew what was right and what was wrong.
“I really respected him a lot and then when I found out that he was only there to help me, it was wonderful,” she said.
She learned the “goofy grin” that crossed his face as it growled during a missiles rehearsal. And if not, he just bowed his head and shook it a little.
“He was always honest and open. There was never a bull against him. He was honest. He would say things honestly, ”said Gospodarek. “He wouldn’t weave fantastic stories.”
“He was cool because he rocked in a Ramones tribute band”
Shiner was a huge fan of Frank Zappa and loved what Joyce called “normal, good old rock ‘n’ roll” – bands like KISS, Rush, Cheap Trick, Styx, early REO Speedwagon. He met one of his teenage heroes, bassist Fred Turner, when The Shy Guys opened Overdrive for Bachman-Turner at Celebrate Marinette in the 90s. Shiner told Turner he played a Rickenbacker bass because he did it at BTO.
His appreciation for the Ramones came later in life and inspired him to found Blitzkrieg Rok in 2005 just before he turned 50.
“It’s pretty simple: your music gives me energy. It makes me feel good,” Shiner told the Green Bay Press-Gazette in a 2006 interview. “I’ve played a lot of different things, even in an Elvis Presley tribute band … and while I still enjoy playing classic rock from the ’70s, the Ramones give me new energy.”
“We were old gaffers back then, but we were still younger than the really living Ramones,” said Gospodarek. “We liked 30 songs in 45 minutes or something ridiculous. It was an acid test for me. We played with a lot of young people. Many of them were kind of impressed. It was like, ‘What do you guys do when you play that kind of music?’ “
It was the band he cared about because he got to share it with his son and best friend, Joyce said.
They put in various weird songs at these shows to amuse themselves, sometimes playing Led Zeppelin’s “The Ocean” and then immediately afterwards “I Hate Led Zeppelin” by Screeching Weasel. Motörhead’s “Ace of Spades” was her traditional conclusion.
Gospodarek recalls that the band was booked for a gig in Oshkosh, which was in the basement of an apartment building, everything covered in foam rubber and half the crowd probably underage.
“We were just waiting to be searched by the police,” said Gospodarek. “It was crazy. Still a lot of fun. Not really legal and just off the hook.”
Blitzkrieg Rok often played gigs for all ages at the Eagles Club. Shiner would kindly bring the PA system with him and make it available to the other bands for free, knowing these little shows were just fine, said promoter Tom Smith.
“He has done such an invaluable service to the Green Bay punk scene for all ages. This guy who was way older than all these kids but he was cool because he rocked in a Ramones tribute band, ”said Smith. “He was just the nicest guy in the world.”
“People kept telling me (at the memorial), ‘He’s such a good guy. He’s such a good guy, ‘”said Joyce. “Everyone really liked Chuck. He was just happy the whole time. “
Her mother loved him, said Joyce, and she wasn’t a pushover. Dogs loved him as much as he loved her, even the meanest guys would snuggle up to him.
“It was like he had a magnet in his pocket,” Joyce
She will miss him in her gardens that they have enjoyed together since they both retired. She made the flowers. He tended the fruit trees and berry bushes. Some days he just liked to feel the breeze.
It is difficult for Gospodarek to imagine life without him, both on and off the stage. They had such a rhythm as a bassist and drummer, “it’s almost like your heartbeats are syncing,” he said.
On Thursday, members of The Missiles planned to gather at Dana Erlandson’s studio at his wife, Barb’s home, to remember the two men, try again to heal, and make some music.
“Because we do that,” said Gospodarek. “This helps.”
Contact Kendra Meinert at 920-431-8347 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @KendraMeinert.