10,000 Maniacs

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An Alternative Rock band from the Hudson Valley in New York state, 10,000 Maniacs (a reference to the '60s horror film Two Thousand Maniacs!) began life as the cover band "Still Life", whose line-up included guitarist Rob Buck, keyboardist Dennis Drew and bassist Steve Gustafson, all of whom would go on to become life-long 'Maniacs' (Buck died in 1999). After a series of line-up changes, the newly-christened "10,000 Maniacs" played their debut gig on Labor Day, 1981, fronted by a 17-year-old Natalie Merchant. After a year of exhaustive gigging, a debut EP "Human Conflict Number Five", and various changes of drummer, 1983 saw the arrival of now-longstanding member Jerry Augustyniak, followed by the group's debut album "The Secrets of I-Ching", released on the Maniacs' own label, Christian Burial Music.

As with any burgeoning Alt. Rock group in the Eighties, touring became a way of life for the group until Elektra Records signed them in late '84, with their sophomore release "The Wishing Chair" following in the fall of '85. Shortly thereafter, John Lombardo, the band's rhythm guitarist and co-prinipical songwriter (alongside Merchant), quit the band, which in some ways proved a blessing in disguise when the group's third LP "In My Tribe", charted at #37 in the US, vastly outselling their previous releases. Their next three albums met with similar success, peaking in 1993 with an MTV Unplugged live release, whereupon Merchant publicly announced her decision to go solo.

Lombardo and his new musical partner, singer/violaist Mary Ramsey, were drafted in by the remaining the Maniacs, with whom they put out a further two albums until the sudden death of lead guitarist Robert Buck in late 2000. After a year out, the Maniacs reconvened with Jeff Erickson, an ex-roadie, as new lead guitarist and Oskar Saville (formerly of Rubygrass) as lead vocalist. These decisions prompted Lombardo to quit a second time, and Ramsey also left, but rejoined the band as lead singer upon Saville's departure in 2007. In 2011, the year of the group's 30th anniversary, the Maniacs put out the EP "Triangles", their first release in 10 years.

Once aptly described by rock critic Robert Christgau as R.E.M.'s (musical) "kissing cousins", the Maniacs were also proponents of the "jangle pop" style that dominated both bands' musical output in the mid-to-late-'80s.

The band:

  • Natalie Merchant: Vocals (1981-1993)
  • Rob Buck: Lead guitar (1981-2000)
  • John Lombardo: Rhythm guitar (1981-1986, 1994-2002)
  • Steve Gustafson: Bass (1981-present)
  • Dennis Drew: Keyboards (1981-present)
  • Jerry Augustyniak: Drums (1983-present)
  • Mary Ramsey: Vocals, viola (1994-2002, 2007-present)
  • Jeff Erickson: Lead guitar (2002-present)
  • Oskar Saville: Vocals (2002-2007)
  • Human Conflict Number Five EP (1982)
  • Secrets of the I Ching (1983)
  • The Wishing Chair (1985)
  • In My Tribe (1987)
  • Blind Man's Zoo (1989)
  • Our Time in Eden (1992)
  • Love Among the Ruins (1997)
  • The Earth Pressed Flat (1999)
  • Triangles EP (2011)
10,000 Maniacs provides examples of the following tropes: