Cast of Many Colors
In the spring of 1975, a wacky band of musical gypsies formed Thermos Greenwood and the Colored People. "It was a loosey-goosey party," says Tommy Dean, bassist and lead singer. "It was all about not taking yourself seriously, letting go, and having some fun." The members of the group played characters: Dean was Thermos Greenwood, a side show geek; Steve Wofford was Romilar Wildwood, a funky blue(s)man; Steve Marsh was Ickirous Driftwood, "our token white guy" and the brunt of ridicule from the more colorful members; Charles Wolff was Creeton Crestwood, painted Silver, the color of money; Bruce Baxter was Elmo Boxwood, a man in a constant scarlet rage.
The group's name was a satirical slap at antiquated rednecks who referred to African-Americans as "colored." "We tried to point out how stupid racism really is by painting ourselves red, green, blue, silver and white," laughs Dean. "We wore ridiculous outfits to drive the point home." Zappa-esque satirical humor was the band's weapon of choice. With a set of tunes such as "I've Got Rubber Brain Cells In My Head," the band quickly found a fervent fanbase in the Southeast. Eventually, the shows evolved into larger productions. "We spent all our time trying to come up with things you couldn't see anywhere else," says Dean. At the Agora, they covered the stage with kudzu and had an old refrigerator and commode as props. Various extras would perform assorted performance-art antics as the band played.
Dean says the new show — the first in 27 years — will be one big Halloween orgy: "We will be crossing the threshold of embarrassment, going as far out as weak minds can carry and funky bones will allow!"
Thermos Greenwood and the Colored People play Jake's Toadhouse, Fri. Oct. 29. 9 p.m. $10-$12. Opening acts the Blue Velvets and the Dixie Mafia. www.jakesroadhouse.net.