Mooseboy and the Early TroubadoursMooseboy Alfonzo and His Prairie Troubadours


Mooseboy Alfonzo
and His
Prairie Troubadours

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The Bingers

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Impressions of Mooseboy
NOTE - The image above, based on Salvador Dali's Impressions of Africa,is titled Impressions ofMooseboy. Yes, that's Joey Heatherton's face instead of Gala's in the background (long story).

A Mooseboy Manifesto

(aka "At Long Last Love")

The Early Years

So, it all started for me way back in 1977.  I was a child of  (NOYDB) when I got my first guitar. Of course, I really wanted to play bass, but my parents said I needed to first show the discipline to learn on an acoustic guitar before they plunked down the money for an electric bass and amp. I did, a year later my black Fender Musicmaster was mine, and the world was never the same....
Fender Musicmaster Bass
Anyway, I want to ramble on here about my influences, why I make the sounds I make, and what I hope is understood by my art.

So in my high school years, while my contemporaries were either in marching band or just "in a band", or whatever, I was WORKING. I played with a group of guys who did standards, all the way from the 40's to the early 80's (seeing as it was the early 80's). We closed every gig with "After the Lovin' " WITH key change. Yeah, we were that kinda band, but we worked all the time. Originally we were the Tim Tew Three (named for the drummer), but we added keys and became the Tim Tew Four. For a kid who couldn't even drive yet, I made great money. No Atari 2600 game cartridge was beyond my means. I upgraded the Musicmaster to my darling solid Maple American-made Fender Precision Bass and upgraded amps. I started my love affair with technology with first the Commodore VIC-20, then the Atari 800 personal computers. Great money....

It was during this time that I came to appreciate the standards and the people who made them their own (even though 25 other artists likely recorded the exact same song). This was also the time I realized my biggest problem with music:  It's all the same. Really. The vast majority of music gets tied down into progressions and at the end ofthe day it's all I-IV-V or maybe I-VI-IV-V with slight variations.  When I figured this out, some of the magic music had for me left.

A Songwriter and Artist Emerges

Into my college days, I started playing with some guys who were not formally trained, but enjoyed playing rock and stuff. We had fun, and even wrote a few originals. This is where I started writing songs. We all worked at the same Publix Supermarket and the songs I wrote were mostly about other people that worked at Publix.  When asked for a name, I suggested Mooseboy Alfonzo and HisPrairie Troubadours, which we actually used for a gig or two. We eventually changed our name to The Bingers (which was appropos) and that was what we were known as.

Then my brother Mark (of the famed Circle Head Man Series) got the equipment to setup his own four-track studio.  We started collaborating as Duck Mangler and the Radioactive Nuns, yours truly filling in as Duck Mangler.
Mark is a natural musician, I'm more of an "artiste", the music just being means to arrive at the ends. We primarily ended up with me thinking of a song and writing lyrics, with Mark fleshing out the music and doing overall production. Our collaborations resulted in such immortal classics as "If I Could Find a Moosehead", "Sperm Bank ATM","Oh Baby, You're Gonna Get Yours", and a few others with titles that are not meant for a family audience.   Tracks we did of note, however, are "Bradley's Ramada",  "The Elks Lodge Dungeon Reunion Party", and a remake of the Lorne Greene classic "Ringo".

Bradley's and Elks Lodge were variations on the same theme, that it's all the same. We basically picked a progression of some kind and shoved as many songs as we could into it. Elks Lodge also introduced us to sampling keyboards which were just becoming Casio affordable. Ringo, on the other hand, was a straight remake, but done as a reggae number.  I remember it was pretty good, but the we didn't spend enough time on the horns for my liking, and it was long. A song with six very wordy verses slowed down to reggage tempo, you get the idea.  But the concept was good.

I also spent time with the Tilbrook to my Difford, the man currently known as duckmauler, which is in deference to my old stage name. We made another life-altering trip together during Spring Break 1986(7?)to Daytona Beach.  We saw James Brown
on stage and met Maceo Parker after the show. I remember we were talking, and he's very nice, and we're saying "Gad, you're Maceo Parker, you've worked with Bootsy Collins you are like a god to us.  When does James get on the bus? We'd like a picture." Maceo informed us that James don't ride the bus, he rides in a limo.  We then asked where they had been recently.Maceo said they had been on "a big ass tour of Europe. Helsinki. You wanna party, you go to Hell-Sinki."

It has been my fervent dream since, to party in Helsinki.

The Casio
                    SK-1 Sampling Keyboard
I then started sharing a house with a guy named Mike who made good money as a mechanic (opposed to me who made dirt).  He really wanted to be a musician, and he had this Casio keyboard with "Superdrums" PCM rhythm. I started using it with a Casio SK-1 I'd bought for $100 at Walmart, my bass, a guitar he bought, and two cassette decks with a Radio Shack mixer to help with some of the dropoffs you'd get going generation of tape to tape. I called it "No-Fi" recording. I dubbed us Mike and the Moosecanics as Mike and the Mechanics were actually popular then. Working with this equipment alone, I thus I give birth to the solo act I call Mooseboy Alfonzo and His Prairie Troubadours.  During this time, I write and record some memorable ditties, my favorite being the classic "Tire Iron Love". In those days, my writing style was primarily "think of a really good song title and then write a song that goes with it". This ties, again, with my "means to an end" approach to songwriting.  I also made another remake, this time a polka version of the Steppenwolf classic "Born to be Wild".

But eventually, even that period of creativity died, and I didn't write music for a number of years. I did write a song or two as part of a country-rock outfit I was in, it wasn't until 2004 I came back to it in earnest.

Foundations of the Instant Classic Opus Series

I'd now like to talk about some of the musical influences in my life, specifically those that relate to the Instant Classic Opus series. I've already established where my love for the classics derives. When I first entered college, I found some comfort from my "it's all the same" blues in the form of the group Yello. Yello was decidedly different. Their use of heavy vocal processing, their often irreverent subject material, Yello was making a big impression on me around the time I lost my virginity... Most folks know them as the "Oh Yeah" guys.... You Gotta Say Yes to Another Excess
A few years later, the same thing happened to me when Big Audio Dynamite came onto the scene. I was always a huge Clash fan,but this was so different from The Clash. Don Letts was doing something I'd been kicking around for a little while - he was playing audio clips as an instrument. Samples, sampling keyboards, most people tend to think in terms of "record a sitar, then the keyboard can sound like a sitar", or "I'll rip off James Brown by sampling his groove for my rap single". But B.A.D. was taking clips from stuff like "My Favorite Year"or "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" and making them part of the song itself. In an era of dreck like Will toPower's "Freebaby", it was heady stuff indeed. This is B.A.D.
The final piece of the puzzle comes in (for me) around 1998. I'm in a used book/tape/cd store and I come across a cassette from Mel Tormé titled Right Now! (including exclamation point). Recorded in the Mid-Sixties, Right Now! was Mel's attempt to modernize, get back in the swing of things by recording popular tracks of the day. But with that special Mel Tormé touch.  Mel does versions of "If I Had a Hammer" (and it's the swingingest hammer you ever heard), Secret Agent Man (what I still base my SAM on whenever singing kareoke), and "Homeward Bound". At the time, I'm sure, no one cared at all.  Today, however, with a growing nation of "Lounge" music fans, you start to see the genius that was far ahead of its time.  His version of Donovan's "Sunshine Superman"(found on Rhino Records' Golden Throats Vol. II) put the final pieces in place for me. You can be lounge and hip and funny and cool and artistic at the same time. Right Now!

Birth of the Instant Classic Opus Series

So, one Saturday around the house, I decided to test out this theory I had. For some time I had been aware of this software called Band-in-a-Box that creates backing tracks in various styles, based on the chords a person types in. So you plug in your I-IV-V progression, tell it it's a Country Swing, and off it goes.  It also, I'd read, allows one to import MIDI files. So, I theorized, I should be able to find a MIDI file of a song on the Internet, plug it into this software, change the style to, say, a Jazz quartet, and it'll play my song in a Lounge-y style.  13 hours later, you have "Get the Party Started"

As I've continued to record and refine my technique, I find that my work really reflects the three influences cited above:  the playfulness and vocal stylings of Yello, the artistic use of sampling as an instrument of its own from Big Audio Dynamite,  and the one-nation-under-Lounge style of  Mel Tormé  during the Mid/Late Sixties.

My technique and gear

I started initially just recording vocals using a decent microphone into an IBM 300-GL computer I bought on Ebay for $50. It had a Pentium III 600MHz processor, buncha RAM and drive space shoved in, and a cheesy Crystal Semiconductor sound chipset on the motherboard....starting with cheesy MIDI files (here's the source MIDI file I started with to make Bootylicious), running it through cheesy software, playing it through cheesy hardware.

As my hobby continued, I found myself upgrading everything - software, hardware, everything but talent :-). Still, the more I've done, the better (I think) I've got. I now try to use soft synths to sound more semi-realistic, for example. My current gear includes a Dell Inspiron 530, Windows 7, an E-MU 0404 PCIe sound card, a Behringer mixer, and assorted microphones, keyboards, guitars, and basses. All so I can make a little bit of love, for kind folks such as yourself.....
Dell Inspiron 530

Yes, lovely, I understand there's an artistic statement here?

Oh yes, I'm sure there is. First, I'm following a long tradition of going back to the days of RightNow! and continued in recent years with the likes of Michael Bublé (don't kid yourself, he's totally stealing my bit), Richard Cheese (COMPLETELY stealing my bit) and Paul Anka's Rock Swings (I hate you, Paul Anka, for stealing my bit and stealing it so well). Secondly, I find that my renditions give one a new way to approach lyrics they may have heard for years.  In many cases, it may even be the first time one actually could understand those lyrics.... I asked myself at one point if this was all parody on my part. Am I just making fun of Billy Idol, Public Enemy, and the rest?  I truly believe not. I do find some of these song to be "guilty pleasures" (I wouldn't normally admit to liking a song like Bootylicious), but I genuinely like all of these songs.  And besides, I've been able to embed more subtle messages in there than you might think.... ;-)

It's great fun for me, and it doesn't seem to be hurting anyone. You rare individuals who come across and listen to my art, I thank you all.  Those that actually like it, I thank you more. Those that follow that up with praise in the form of financial compensation, I'm still waiting for you...

Your pal,
Mooseboy Alfonzo

January 2006, updated January 2012