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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (Dec. 15, 1997)
Monday, December 15,1997_Page 7
Long history in music business
affords Shithook singer pizazz
By Bret Schulte
Phil Shoemaker spends his Thursday nights
playing people’s favorite rock songs from the past
But Shoemaker, the lead guitarist of Shithook,
has a rock ‘n’ roll story all his own. Prompted to
pick up the guitar by The Beatles’ appearance on
the “Ed Sullivan Show” in 1964, Shoemaker has
had a love/hate relationship with rock nearly as old
as the music itself.
Now 42, Shoemaker leads the local rock purist
and periodic karaoke group Shithook as vocalist
and guitarist after 30 years in the business.
Recently releasing its first album, “When a
Boyscout Gets the Blues,” Shithook is the most
recent project for a man who has spent the greater
part of his life on stage - a stage he has shared with
such classic and respected artists (most of whom
he hates) as REO Speedwagon, Rush and The
The kitchen manager at his family’s truck stop,
Shoemaker’s Restaurant and Truck Stop, 4800 W
O St., Shoemaker has lived in Lincoln most of his
life. He helped form his first band, Axis, as a ninth
Like most high school rock projects, Axis did
n’t last much longer than an average lunch period.
But the experience was invaluable, leading
Shoemaker to a Lincoln glitter band, The Boys,
which would prove to be one of his most memo
rable rock experiences.
Modeled after the androgyny of David Bowie,
the band found limited success in Minneapolis.
We were pretty outrageous for around here
and pretty controversial,” Shoemaker said of
Shoemaker joined the band as a drummer,
despite his guitar experience. Before long, the band
outgrew its hometown. They made the move to
Minneapolis at the urging of a management com
pany promising to get die group signed to a label.
Although that never happened, The Boys did
release three singles and the company managed to
land them opening concert slots for some ofthe
decade’s premiere rock bands.
“It was great,” he said. “But after a year, (man
agement representatives) realized they weren’t
going to get anywhere with us, so they sent us
It wasn’t a tremendous tragedy for Shoemaker
who essentially hated many bands for which he
Shoemaker’s experiences with ’70s rock led
mostly to frustration as The Boys opened time and
time again for art-rock concept bands.
“We just felt contempt for these bands because
they were like art-rock, and we thought we were so
much better than everybody else.”
Shoemaker laughed as he said this, noting the
irony of Rush’s success. But despite fads,
Shoemaker has remained true to his personal
vision of rock ‘n’ roll. After returning to Lincoln,
he was thrown out ofthe band after realizing it was
time for The Beys to grow up.
“I got kicked out of The Boys because I was
tired of plotting strategies at the Village Inn for
eight hours a day,” he said. “I was making fun of
their songs and stuff. I deserved to get kicked out”
Soon after, Shoemaker was recruited by
Charlie Burton and Rock Therapy, a successful
Lincoln rockabilly group. And Shoemaker could
now rock standing up: Charlie Burton needed a
“They were doing what The Cramps were
doing way before (The Cramps) existed,” he said.
The success of Burton and his band - ending as
Charlie Burton and the Hiccups - was immediate,
and the group frequently played with R.E.M. and
After playing with R.E.M. at Lincoln’s now
defiinctThe Drumstick in the early ’80s, the bands
developed a relationship - for a while. As RE.M.
grew increasingly popular, it would include Burton
band members on guest lists whenever in
Nebraska. But absence doesn’t always make the
heart grow fonder.
“One time we showed up at the box office to
get our backstage passes, and we got dumped,”
Shoemaker said. “I never talked to them again
But Shoemaker says the members of the band
were personable and likable guys, curious about
the local music scene.
The relationship with RE.M., though, wasn’t
nearly as significant as the one forged with The
Replacements, whom Shoemaker initially met
while with The Boys in Minneapolis.
“I watched them go from being normal to so
f**ked up it was alarming,” he said.
From ’81 to ’90, Charlie Burton and the
Hiccups played about eight shows with The
Replacements, one of the few bands Shoemaker
opened for whose music he enjoyed.
It seems the feelings were mutual. During the
Replacements’ last tour, they fired their opening
act to hire Charlie Burton and the Hiccups.
However, the tour marked the end of The
Replacements, and ultimately, Charlie Burton and
MiimooK rormea trom tne asnes oi Burtons
group, which moved to Austin, Texas. Phil
Shoemaker got the job as frontman.
From years of experience, band members
knew they would need a vast repertoire of classic
rock to make a living in Lincoln’s music scene.
“We just wanted to play for drunks,”
Hence, Duffy’s Tavern, 1412.0 St., where
Shithook has performed almost every Thursday
night as a karaoke group for nearly three years.
Now die musicians are local legends, particu
larly among college students packing the bar on
Thursday nights to offer their own slurred rendi
tions of rock ‘n’ roll favorites.
“This Duffy’s thing is really successful, and
peopl§ seem to enjoy it andenjcy watching people
sing,” Shoemaker said
But the night isn’t always as fun for the band
Repeat requests make for some repetitive
nights, Shoemaker says. And the more a song is
played, the more the band starts to dislike it
But Shoemaker likes what Shithook does for
people and generally doesn’t mind playing whatev
er people want to hear.
There are other benefits, as well.
“We get all the beer we can drink,” he said
Shoemaker and the other members of
Shithook aren’t settling for being known only as a
cover band, however.
“I started to write songs because we didn’t just
want to be a stupid cover band,” he said
Those songs culminated with the recent release
of an album. With the album and local success as
the city’s best party band, Shithook is catching
fans, Shoemaker said
“We love the audience. It always surprises me
that the place is full.”
From R.E.M. to REO Speedwagon, Phil
Shoemaker over the years has opened for
a variety of rock ‘n’ roll bands, many whose
E^owarehis grades and comments on a
few of the more well-known groups.
Tfenf remember seeing them. Probably
was backstage filling up our drum cases
but it was always surprising to me how
he was cool.”
“Billy Zoom and the band were just great.
“Dis^^iinted in the show. No steer. No
PHIL SHOEMAKER, in the company of a guest singer,
displays one of his more serious moments Thursday
night at Duffy’s Tavern, 1412 0 St.
WHEN NOT PLAYING rock ‘n’ roll, Phil Shoemaker works
as the kitchen manager of his family’s Shoemaker’s
Restaurant and Thick Stop, 4800 W. 0 St.
ONE OF SHITNOOK’S steady gigs is providing karaoke
fun at Duffy’s Tavern on Thursday nights.
Photos by Lane Hickenbottom
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