BYU Rock Star (sorta…)

July 11, 2005    By: Geoff J @ 10:33 pm   Category: Rock 'n' Roll

In the Fall of ’91 I was freshly home from my mission and a transfer student at BYU. I had a couple of items high on my list of priorities: One was to find a smart, funny, gorgeous girlfriend and the other was to start a rock band. (The latter presumably would add to the success of the former.) I succeeded at both by my first month. You know the hottie girlfriend I found as Kristen J and the band I started was called Sam I Am.

While I was a freshman at San Diego State, a close friend from high school had met a couple of really cool guys at BYU who had started a two-man comic-rock band called The Gnats that toured the dorms in the ’88-89 school year. Upon my arriving at BYU I hooked up these two — bass player Kent and keyboard player Keith — who were also fresh off missions. We found a freshman drummer named Jared in one of our jazz combos and after a few tryouts found a guitar player named Tony. With me as lead singer/sax player we were ready to rock!

We first learned few covers. If I remember correctly they included Lenny Kravits’ “Mama Said” and other odd and obscure songs that Kent picked out. We also started writing songs. Our first gig was at the pizza joint called “The Pie” over by Helaman Halls. In that Fall semester we played a gig in the basement parking of some condo complex and had gigs in various other obscure places. By the beginning of the winter semester we were ready to compete in the BYU battle of the bands. After a daytime quad preliminary gig we were invited to the Friday night finals to compete against lots of other bands including fairly established Provo acts Ali, Ali Oxen Free and Stretch Armstrong. Well, the stars aligned for us that night and the crowd of several thousand students decided they loved us. Since the crowd screams determined the winner, we were victorious. For one night, Sam I Am (of Provo) had thousands of screaming and adoring fans. It was great.

We didn’t realize it then, but that was the apex of our career as a band. We played other gigs and threw a couple of shows of our own but never really regained the heights of that fateful night in the winter of ’92. Jared went on his mission that summer. Kent got recruited to be the bass player for local heavyweights Swim Herschel Swim and moved on. We tried to carry on with replacements but the chemistry never quite returned and by ’94 I graduated and moved back to San Diego for grad school. Sam I Am (of Provo) was dead along with all of its songs.

But wait! This sad tale has an epilogue. The first thing I did in San Diego was start a new band. Among the songs we adopted were several of the old Sam I Am tunes. The difference was that this time we recorded them! So now, in a way, Sam I Am of early ’90s Provo lives on. I’ve attached, for your listening pleasure, MP3 links here to all the Sam I Am songs we resurrected in between ’95 and ’00 with Noisepie.

Ayayay -

This was a big hit for both bands. We wrote it after my shouting the name of former BYU running back Mark Atuaia in a fashion similar to the semi-psychotic “ayayay’s” I bust out in the song. Kent thought this shouting skill of mine was funny so he wrote a song for that noise alone. He came up with the chord progression then I wrote the sax riff and the lyrics and we had a ska-punk hit on our hands. Ironically, the RM-esque lyrics had my rebellious younger brother Wes as their inspiration and he ended up playing bass on this recording.

Funky Wanda -

This was another Sam I Am favorite. Keith wrote this one (I co-wrote the lyrics, I think). We were sort of in to the old band Blood Sweat and Tears at the time and this is an homage to them I think.

Mr. Bighead -

This is another Keith Song from the late Sam I Am period. I changed the lyrics to make it about a total jerk I had for a boss in the late 90s. (This is my current favorite recording from Noisepie despite the too-long intro)

Groovy Dude

This was a late period Sam I Am song with the chorus written by Keith. Noisepie completed the song by adding verses and made it our own. This is a live recording at the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach.

You Just Love Me for My Lips -

This was actually a Gnats song that Sam I Am borrowed and eventually Noisepie borrowed again. It is pure BYU slapstick with the accusation being that the carnal desire of the girl is to get some “lip” (aka smooching).

Anyway, Noisepie had lots of originals too, and I may post on them some time but you can check out all of the songs here.

I’m thrilled that I have decent recordings of several of these songs now. But I am disappointed we don’t have decent recordings of more Sam I Am songs. There were 8-10 other songs that are all but lost now.

The moral of the story? Publish or perish. If it gets recorded it can live on. If not, it fades into memory and then into oblivion. That is why I like to write thoughts and ideas down at a blog now. That is why journals are such a good thing. That is why we have scriptures.

Just yesterday my dad told me of an old quote: “The dullest pencil has a better memory than the sharpest mind.” I suppose that applies to recordings and blogs too…

49 Comments »

  1. Your dad is a very smart man.

    Comment by don — July 11, 2005 @ 10:38 pm

  2. Man, I remember hearing Sam I Am at The Pie! Good times, man, you were great. Those were back in the pre-Swim Herschel Swim era!

    Comment by Steve Evans — July 12, 2005 @ 7:57 am

  3. Thanks for the tunes!

    Comment by J. Stapley — July 12, 2005 @ 10:44 am

  4. Allow me to revert to my college-girl self for a moment:

    I was one of the original Sam I Am groupies! I remember participating in at least one discussion about what to name the band! I was at The Pie, and I think the underground parking complex might have been under the condo I lived in (or am I just making that up, Geoff?). I was at lots of practices. I was half in love with Geoff and Keith. Alas, Geoff had Kristen, and Keith married one of my roommates. I went on a mission that winter, and while I was in the MTC, a friend sent me a recording of an interview of the members of Sam I Am on some local station. I still have it somewhere, Geoff. Do you want a copy?

    That might be my biggest brush with fame, that and knowing Kent, who had the double fame of later playing with Swim Herschel Swim. (I also knew the keyboard player for Swim, but I don’t know if he’d remember me).

    Thanks for the memories, Geoff. I think I missed the apex of Sam I Am’s career, but I was there at the beginning. (And that’s way cooler, isn’t it?)

    Comment by Erin — July 12, 2005 @ 6:36 pm

  5. Steve — Are you serious or just pulling my leg? I didn’t know you were at BYU when I was there. If you were I am not surprised to hear you were into the music scene in town though.

    J. — You’re very welcome. Thanks for noticing!

    Erin — You are the famous friend that hooked me up with Kent and Keith! Without you there would have never been a Sam I Am. Yes, being there in the beginning is certainly more cool than being there later on. If I knew then what I know now I would have recorded a lot more of our stuff so we would have more lasting memories of some great college times. (Don’t throw away that interview tape — I may find some use for it some day…)

    Comment by Geoff J — July 12, 2005 @ 9:47 pm

  6. i still listen to Swim Herschel. I wish they would have gone big. i’ll have to listen to your tracks latter. planning to put out a CD?

    Comment by lyle — July 13, 2005 @ 10:29 am

  7. Lyle,

    Sam I Am died off in ’94 with no completed studio recordings. Noisepie, the band that inherited these five songs from Sam I Am recorded and released 2 EPs, 2 Full length albums (CDs), and 1 greatest hits compilation. Noisepie died off a few years ago too, but the band had a great deal of success at MP3.com in its heyday with more than 300,000 songs downloaded from there. There is a link to the entire Noisepie catalog in the post.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 13, 2005 @ 10:45 am

  8. I remember playing at the Pie with Stretch Armstrong in fall of ’91. I was their first sax player until I left on my mission, when the girl who replaced me ended up with the guitar player (Gordy) and that was it for me.

    Provo had a great music scene. Maybe it still does, I don’t know…

    Do you remember “Jonesin’”? They were out about the same time.

    Comment by Robb — July 28, 2005 @ 1:23 pm

  9. I think I knew that sax player who replaced you. She was in the BYU jazz dept. with me. (Sort of short with light brown hair, right?) Stretch had a bunch of BYU jazzers at first — some of whom were incredible musicians if I remember correctly.

    I only vaguely rememeber the name Jonesin… I was only out there from Aug ’91 through Aug ’94 though.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 28, 2005 @ 1:31 pm

  10. That’s right. The original horn section consisted of Steve, (lead trombone for Synthesis) a great trumpet player from Idaho (also from Synthesis) and myself (also a Synthesis alumn). We had a lot of fun back then.

    Yeah, the girl who replaced me was short with light brown hair. I think she went to Orem HS.

    Comment by Robb — July 28, 2005 @ 10:15 pm

  11. I remember “SamIam” , the Drummer, from Concord California. Name: Mark Mortenson. I met him at BYU-hawaii 1987. Its all good…is that the same SamIam?

    Comment by BYUHSeasider — December 22, 2005 @ 10:43 pm

  12. I knew you guys through your working with your brother wes back in the day at the movie theater. I still listen to your cd all these years later, too bad you guys aint doin your thing anymore…tell wes bill from the grove said what up..still playin trumpet for the army..peace out

    Comment by Bill — January 30, 2006 @ 3:14 am

  13. OK, so I’m coming on this thread very, very, very late.

    I date back to Gnats days (“Go Gnats, go!”). I was there when half of the songs were written (Kent and Keith keeping me up half the night before an exam writing “The Diarrhea Song”). I think I even helped contribute lyrics. [I was even part of “BYU Issue”, which was a great pickup tool, in ’88-’89).

    Comment by queuno — September 8, 2006 @ 11:20 am

  14. Wow!! Have we met, queuno?

    Comment by Geoff J — September 8, 2006 @ 11:27 am

  15. Ran across this blog searching for some info on Ali Ali Oxen Free. I am embarrassed to say I can’t remember our first bass players last name as I was going to setup a website having just got http://www.alialioxenfree.com domain.
    Anyways, I remember Sam I Am and playing at the Pie and even the tune Funky Wanda! I kind of dropped out of the music scene in 92′ for reasons I won’t elaborate on. I have enjoyed getting back into it for myself and kids lately. Thanks for the memories!

    Comment by Delane — November 26, 2006 @ 9:02 am

  16. Hey Delane,

    I’m glad you found us. Thanks for stopping by. Those days in Provo bring back good memories for me.

    Comment by Geoff J — December 3, 2006 @ 6:09 pm

  17. I also stumbled by looking for Ali Ali Oxen Free – I was the original guitarist for The Sunmasons, and I remember playing The Pie up in SLC (and booking a bunch of the bands you mentioned at the U of U)… ahh, those were the days…

    And your dad is absolutely right: if you don’t publish it, it vanishes. My current bandmates are always surprised that I’m so nuts about recording all the time…

    Comment by David — December 26, 2006 @ 11:56 am

  18. Wow…those were the days. I was the guitarist for Ali Ali Oxen Free and was just fumbling around and landed on this blog. It’s fun to remember all of those little places we played and all the bands we shared stages with.
    Thanks for keeping those memories alive.
    Delane…if you see this send me an email. Stevelemmon@infowest.com. I would love to catch up with you.

    Comment by Steve — January 6, 2007 @ 2:10 pm

  19. I still kind of keep in touch with Ryan – the keyboard player from stretch. I played harmonica with wave o blues, the hinge, and who ever else would have me. I also wrote reviews of many of those bands and gigs for the student review. I remember going to the station and mama’s cafe to listen to Ali and Kim Simpson. I have a couple of live stretch shows on disc if anyone is interested. There were some very good bands. I still will play some of the old stuff once in a while.

    Comment by Hammond — February 1, 2007 @ 3:26 am

  20. I attended the Battle of the Bands at BYU in 92. I remember waiting in line in the Wilkinson Center. The line wrapped all the way down the halls. A huge turnout! I didn’t really like SKA music in general, but when “Sam I Am” played, I thought “This singer has some serious stage presence!” I remember being surprised that I had never heard of the band, because they seemed more experienced in the stage show; maybe it was just the singer. Then, the band just vanished. I don’t recall hearing about them again.

    I saw most of the other bands play in Provo during that time. Ali Ali Oxen Free, Stretsch Armstrong, My Man Friday, The Hinge, The Obvious, the list goes on and on.

    I remember going to so many shows there for years, and always trying to find that feeling that existed in the early 90′s. But, it was gone.

    I’m convinced it is not BYU, Provo, Utah, or a loss of interest in music. Bands bring the vibe and enthusiasm. If the “Band” is nonexistent, no other element can compensate for it.

    Comment by Josh — February 23, 2007 @ 3:33 am

  21. Niiiice!

    I’m a sucker for a compliment – I’m stoked to hear you were there and liked that show, Josh. I agree that the early 90s was a great time for bands in Provo. I only lived there for three years so I sort of assumed that great vibe was perpetual; it is interesting to hear that the music scene is not consistently that good up there.

    Comment by Geoff J — February 23, 2007 @ 9:10 am

  22. Geoff–big thanks for posting these cool tunes. The early 90s in Provo were such a riot with bands in every corner. What was everyone drinking then? Hammond, hey I remember you–what’s up? Delane and Steve, I’d pay some real money to hear some of those songs off of that first Ali cassette EP y’all did again. Most of those songs are still entrenched in my brain but that’s all I’ve got.
    Kim Simpson
    kimsimpson@gmail.com
    http://www.kimsimpson.us

    Comment by Kim Simpson — April 3, 2007 @ 10:44 am

  23. hammond I would definetly be interested in those love stretch show if you still have ‘em
    Scott.livingston@qwest.com

    Comment by scott — May 21, 2007 @ 11:06 pm

  24. live stretch shows

    Comment by scott — May 21, 2007 @ 11:07 pm

  25. Hey Delane, I loved your music! Why did you get out of it in 92? Would love to hear more!!!

    Kelly

    Comment by Kelly — May 26, 2007 @ 11:08 pm

  26. I played bass for Ali Ali Oxen Free, the Hinge, Fear of the Dog and some other bands in Provo in the early 90s. Now I work at a software company in Scottsdale, Arizona. One of my co-workers surprised me with a CD today. He had copied Ali Ali Oxen Free’s Down the Primrose Path from tape to CD! (Want a copy, Kim?) Ah, the nostalgia! Good times.

    So I googled and found this blog. I remember those days fondly: Sam I Am, Stretch, Swim Herschel Swim, Jonesin’, The Station, both Pies, the Wilkinson center and and quad, Skip and Jam at Mama’s Café!

    Delane and Steve, you can reach me at sethmanwaring@gmail.com. I can’t wait to see what you have planned for http://www.alialioxenfree.com.

    Comment by Seth Manwaring — June 28, 2007 @ 3:15 pm

  27. Steve and Seth, this is like a reunion of sorts ;-) I just got an email from Seth that reminded me I posted here! I think both of think Steve probably has a keen understanding of why I left in ’92. It was either the band or my Wife. She was extremely jealous of the time, band members, and the time spent at practice and the occasional gig. She did however generate a lot of the angst that fueled the first Ali album (errrr, tapes). I envied some of the other players who’s spouse actually supported and enjoyed participating in their own way. Dave Tolk especially. Regardless, it was a troubled marriage and we had our first child on the way, so it was not that hard of a decision. It was tough watching Ali improve and go on to make an actual CD knowing how passionate I was about the music at one time (I had been writing since the age of 9 so this was kind of the culmination of all that). Unfortunately the marriage did not improve over time, it has been a really tough 17 years. I give us both credit for sticking it out but we could probably buy a nice car with all the money spent on counseling over the years. I have been separated for almost a year now and living in my own house in Highand Utah. The kids are doing pretty well as I only live about 5 minutes away and my Son who is 14 actually plays a little guitar and is going to be playing keyboard in a band with my neighbor here. Sheesh, did not mean for this to turn into my life story, but since you asked. I have been writing again. Have about 4 songs that I feel good about. Mostly therapy at this point. Cory Fox who manages the Velour keeps bugging me to come down on acoustic night. Steve, if you are ever up this way, we definitely need to get together! delane@gravitymedia.com

    Comment by Delane — June 28, 2007 @ 8:34 pm

  28. Sorry your marriage didn’t work out. But lets get real, Ali didn’t last too much longer after you left. It should never be a choice of family or a band. Hands down, the family should win cause bands come and go even with great spousal support.

    Comment by Matt — July 5, 2007 @ 11:08 pm

  29. I might have some of the old suff still around. I’ll be in touch with some of you who asked about shows.

    Comment by Hammond — July 7, 2007 @ 3:51 am

  30. Yes Matt, no argument there and I hope it is clear a short stint in an largely unknown Provo band was not the demise of my marriage 14 years later ;-)

    I think there was a Dave (singer, writer?) generally talented chap in Swim Hershel Swim, wonder what ever became of him? Figure he would have continued in the creative realm.

    Dave Tolk continues to write/play/record successful Piano instrumental CDs and play with Peter Breinholt. Any one know or hear of John Kavanaugh (sp?) Steve’s friend from Boise who stuck around the area, banjo and bass player extraordinaire?

    Comment by Delane — July 17, 2007 @ 5:54 am

  31. I have (somewhere) his solo CD- It was really good. we’re getting ready to move so I’ll have to look for all this stuff and give it a listen.

    Seth- do I know you? I played harmonica with the hinge for about 6 months.

    Comment by Hammond — July 18, 2007 @ 3:36 am

  32. Alright, I too stumbled on this site looking for Ali Ali Oxen Free. I grew up in Provo Utah and remember in my early teens seeing some of their local gigs. I actually had an album and absolutely loved it, that is until it got stolen a few years back. I’ve been researching trying to find the rare album, but it’s impossible to come across! Does anyone know how I might go about getting a copy of that album?

    Comment by Jacob Brewster — July 20, 2007 @ 12:48 pm

  33. By the way, feel free to email me at jbrew13@cwpage.net

    Comment by Jacob Brewster — July 20, 2007 @ 12:49 pm

  34. Scott- Sorry- We have had some rushed times with selling and moving – I have not forgotten about you

    Comment by Hammond — July 25, 2007 @ 1:55 am

  35. Jacob, do you remember the title? I can hook you up with a copy of the first one on CD format. That was called “Down the Primrose Path” but that was only tape format until a few years ago. You can contact Steve Lemmon who runs Spiral Studios for subsequent albums (or that one as well).

    By the way, a great band called “Atherton”, with Rory (the drummer from Ali Ali Oxen Free in the later years) is playing at the Velour on August 11th for a album release. I was just introduced to them by Amy here at work. Listen to “Sing you a Song” or “Penny Wants to Dance” by following Rorydrums link at http://www.myspace.com/athertonmusic
    These guys are really accomplished musicians.

    Comment by Delane — July 31, 2007 @ 11:13 am

  36. I would love to get my hands on ali CD’s. I have The Garden. love the Garden, really would like to get the rest.

    I have the full Stretch discography. I would kill for the Ali Aliography.

    Comment by Hammond — August 2, 2007 @ 2:25 am

  37. Delane, you have always had a big fat ego!!

    Comment by Scott — August 16, 2007 @ 11:21 am

  38. Wow, I just stumbled across this site and the memories it has invoked!

    I remember the first jam sessions with Keith and Kent in the common room at V hall 6th floor! before they started playing ska they played a little of everything! I remeber playing some keys for some depech mode covers one afternoon, before any real band had formed it was just a bunch of people into music from V hall jamming!

    I was in the bay aria on business about a year ago and had lunch at a new Indian place in Sunnyvale with Kent! He is still doing the music thing and seems to be successful!

    I haven’t had much time for music since the mid 90′s, but I remember playing the battle of the bands, in the early 90′s 91 92 or 93 I can’t remember the year! I had 2 bands durring that time both were more of the techno pop genre.

    I still have my flyer for skalapoloosa! do any of you remember that one! I have lost track of most of the people I knew from the ska scene.

    Comment by Justin — August 19, 2007 @ 6:03 pm

  39. Scott, you are not the same Scott who posted previously, so do I know you? Sorry if I came across that way. Maybe you can email me at delane@gravitymedia.com if you want to satisfy my curiosity, or maybe you’re just goofing! :-), I obviously have nothing to have an ego over…chock-full of faults and failings. but since we are talking 90′s Provo Music scene, the other Scott (Livingston) said the live Stretch shows he got from Hammond were very cool, especially for a live album!

    Comment by Delane — August 29, 2007 @ 9:10 am

  40. i remember driving up to provo and seeing stretch armstrong play back in 97-98 i think. i bought a cd and still have it. only problem is that is was just a burned copy and i don’t have any song names or know even the name of the album. the first song on the album is “that is a soliloquie” i think. any ideas on this one? 12 songs total.

    Comment by patrick — September 3, 2007 @ 1:39 pm

  41. thanks- :)

    Comment by Hammond — September 3, 2007 @ 11:00 pm

  42. I worked with a couple of guys, that played for Stretch Armstrong, at Little Caesars Pizza, 9th East. They were cool. They didn’t really seem like musicians to me, but I will say, they were able to do some remarkable things for the local music scene. I remember one night when Gordon was telling me he didn’t play guitar all that well, but then started talking about the things he “could” in the context of a band. Definately had bigger ideas, and actually lived some of them, than positioning to play in a bedroom the rest of his life.

    My favorite band was The Hinge. I first saw them play at the Armory off 200 West at a Battle of the Bands. Huge crowd. The Obvious won the contest, but I really thought The Hinge was a great band. That was the first time I heard a guitarist utilize a “delay” live. They may have been playing “Where the streets have no name.” Not sure. But the guitar sounded great! And their singer had a huge stage presence. Of course, my roomate Gabe, who played for Sofa and Headrush, really liked The Obvious, so who’s to say which band was better. Just personal preference. Interestingly enough, I think a couple of The Hinge band members worked at the other Little Caesars in Provo across from DI.

    Does anyone remember a band called Chromed? (I think?) Saw them play at Momma’s Cafe and BYU. Girl singer. Don’t think they had a big following. But they had a great song! I don’t think it was a cover tune, or if it was, I had never heard it. Anyone know where I could find some info on them.

    Also looking for a bio on Stretch Armstrong, any ideas?

    Comment by Josh — September 8, 2007 @ 6:54 pm

  43. I found this while looking around for stuff:

    http://isittoolatenow.blogspot.com/

    Comment by Hammond — October 6, 2007 @ 2:14 am

  44. I saw John Kavanaugh play around 94-95 at a pizza joint on S Univ Ave in Provo (Pier something?) I remember Rory was the drummer, but they were not going by Ali Ali Oxen Free. In fact I bought Johns solo CD, which I still have, but always wanted to get some of the other Ali albums. I remember seeing The Garden at Media Play in Orem for sale once, mad that I never bought it.
    Also have Swim Herschel Swim album, but was too young to really be around when they were playing live. I remember my sister telling me she went to a show in Provo where both Swim Herschel Swim and No Doubt played sometime early 90′s.

    Comment by Tim — May 19, 2008 @ 9:56 pm

  45. Has anyone heard about the Stretch Armstrong & My Man Friday reunion show??? Should be a fun blast from the past…

    http://www.myspace.com/theupbeatmovie

    Bobby

    Comment by Bobby Taylor — October 30, 2008 @ 2:36 pm

  46. I just found this post in the midst of a swell of nostalgia about my own BYU rock star days. Since

    I missed the early 90s scene in Provo since I moved there in 1994. But I recognize some of the names here. I never saw Stretch Armstrong, but I remember seeing Sofa play, and liking them.

    Some other bands I remember from the mid 1990s: Black-Eyed Susan, Adam, Thee Martinis, 40 Days/Entropy, Randall Blithers, Ace Is Wired, and Honeytree. I had the great pleasure of opening for Entropy at Mama’s Cafe; and Ace Is Wired and Honeytree at Meridian School – I was the drummer for a short-lived band called Mallory Holland.

    After my mission I played drums for a band called Pilot, 1998-2000. Our first gig was opening for My Man Friday. We also opened for Insatiable once, even though we didn’t play ska. We got a hugely enthusiastic crowd response at the 1999 Battle of the Bands but we were disqualified from placing because our singer crowd-surfed.

    Thanks for the fun read – it brought back some lovely memories.

    Comment by CStanford — January 9, 2009 @ 9:22 am

  47. Hey there! I know this is somewhat off topic but I was wondering which blog platform are you using for this website?
    I’m getting fed up of WordPress because I’ve had problems with hackers and I’m looking at alternatives for another platform. I would be awesome if you could point me in the direction of a good platform.

    Comment by Scott Tucker — July 19, 2012 @ 1:36 am

  48. Some of you may remember Clover, Insipid Brown, and Uncle Wiggleys Radiator Band. Also the lead singer of thee martinis was in another great band called Solar Nine. Her name was Jessica Fox I believe.

    90′s Provo bands were pretty awesome

    Comment by Old man — October 24, 2012 @ 7:24 pm

  49. Also the guy from Sofa put some of his songs up on YouTube in the last couple of years. “Wings” was a pretty good tune.

    Comment by Old man — October 24, 2012 @ 7:27 pm

Leave a comment

RSS feed for comments on this post.