I Blame Katie

Hot Damn GroupThe existence of Hot Damn! is all Katie’s fault.

If you don’t know her, Katie Danner is the ultra-talented Box Office Supervisor and Marketing Director at Waukesha Civic Theater (WCT). She’s the mother to Byron; wife to Jonathan.

Most importantly (at least as far as this story goes), Katie was the author of an e-mail which went out in May of 2012, asking any local musicians if they wanted to help publicize WCT’s upcoming season by playing at the Waukesha Farmer’s Market.
That tiny bit of encouragement was all I needed. I am primarily a “pit” musician, playing for musical theater productions throughout Milwaukee. I’ve been meaning for a while to get back into a band, but my pit work keeps me pretty darn busy (and happy), so the “band” thing was pretty much always on hold.

Until Katie’s e-mail.

When I got the e-mail, I had just finished playing in a production of Aida. My friends Jay Kummer, Maddie Dietrich, and Brian Carter were in the Aida pit as well, and I had said some random thing about how much fun it would be to get together and jam. Which wouldn’t have happened, except that Katie’s e-mail gave us a reason to do it.
So I told Katie sure, I could pull something together.

“In a couple of weeks?” Katie asked sweetly.

Um… sure, okay, why not? So, with barely time for a rehearsal, and with about one hour of music, Jay, Maddie and I made our debut.
Katie liked us well enough, or was desperate enough, that she asked us to come back again, and we did, this time with Brian joining us on percussion.

We quickly settled on a few things – music pretty much from the jazz standards, but with some songs from western swing, gypsy jazz, and blues. Instruments would be guitar and uke (Jay); mandolin, bass, or fiddle (Maddie); mandolin, guitar, or bass (me); a whole bunch of percussion toys (Brian). Vocals would be – very few!

The name came around pretty quickly, too. There are several things about “Hot Damn” that I liked. First, even though it’s not exactly a common saying anymore, I used it a lot. Second, the “Hot” makes a bit of a link with the “Hot Club of France”, Django Reinhardt, and the whole gypsy jazz world. Third, “Hot Damn” was a popular American saying in the 20’s and 30’s, which is when much of the music we play was written. It just seemed like the obvious fit!

The band has gone through a few personnel changes, as Maddie finished her Master’s degree and planned for a move out of town. Early this summer we added Linda and Jeff Binder, who are cohorts of mine from the Milwaukee Mandolin Orchestra, and just recently we added Tim Dondlinger on bass.

I like to think of us as playing melodic and recognizable jazz standards. We have an easy-going style, with a lot of variety in the instrumentation and sound, and we have a lot of fun playing gorgeous songs. We even throw in a few vocals now.
We’ve played several venues, but we keep coming back to WCT in one form or another – at the Farmer’s Market several Saturdays during the summer, or at Friday Night Live three times this past summer. In all cases, we’re playing in front of either WCT’s front door or back door – and usually Katie is there to say hi and give us a big hug.

So, come on out to hear the band sometime, or check out our website . If you like our music, please tell your friends and help spread the word about us.

If you don’t, just blame Katie.

~Fred Pike


Posted on October 2, 2013, in Waukesha Farmer’s Market and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on I Blame Katie.

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