...straight out of vaudeville, with echoes of the British dance hall and Yiddish theater that fed into it. ...This is an act from America’s heartland of yore. ... The sights and the sounds of all this wacked retro-futurism reveal a heart beating with love and lunatic curiosity for where we come from. It’s alternative because it’s so rare, and you’d have to be dead not to feel its pulse.”
--Steven Leigh Morris, LA WEEKLY
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DAVID BARLIA -- UKULELE & VOCALS
Over the years, David had dabbled with various instruments, taking up the piano, clarinet, penny whistle, Erhu (Chinese cousin of the violin) ..but it wasn't until picking up the ukulele that he found his musical soul-mate. Largely self-taught, he found himself progressing at a startling pace. Of course, having the good fortune to share the company of musicians like John Reynolds doesn't hurt.
David first discovered the art of "Eefing" long before the ukulele, listening to the Mills Brothers, who used to imitate a full ensemble of instruments with their voices, he began to join in with his own vocal coronet. Taking up the uke, he discovered Cliff Edwards who used the word "Eefing" for his unique form of falsetto scat, which reintroduced David to this vocal instrument that now is a standard part of his musical arsenal. With Brad Kay he developed tight harmony singing in the style of the Vaudevillian duo Van & Schenck, performing in the critically acclaimed show, "Janet Klein and Her Borscht Belt Babies." In addition to his musical endeavors, David is also an award-winning filmmaker and actor, as well as an accomplished graphic designer. You can visit David's personal website at: www.barliesque.com
Claudia first got into Jazz at eight years old. Wandering through a record store in her hometown of Orlando, Florida, she was drawn to the mysterious antiquity of a stack of old 78's. She asked the manager if he would put some of them on instead of the rock music they were playing. The man shrugged and said, "If that's what you wanna hear, then I'll put it on." When the records played, she immediately fell in love with the music of the 1910's, 20's and 30's.
Al Jolson, Van & Schenck and other Vaudeville greats became instant favorites. At age 12, she was hanging out with the old-timers with whom she formed a band, with her as lead singer, performing at retirement homes, bars (with a fake ID, naturally) and coffee houses. She quickly developed her own unique old-fashioned style of singing, pursuing numerous music projects over the years. Now living in Los Angeles, she's become a welcome addition to the band as the official Bilgewater Brother-ette.
JOHN REYNOLDS -- PLECTRUM BANJO & GUITAR
Grandson of silent screen star Zazu Pitts, John started learning banjo at age 11, from string master David Linley, who worked with the likes of Jackson Brown and Ry Cooder. He picked up the guitar on his own, and later took instruction from George Smith, an orchestra guitarist who regularly filled in for Eddie Lang.
John really got his chops working at Disneyland, in an eight-piece band of giant Woozles (from Winnie the Pooh) and in the Golden Horseshoe--that was his first job out of high school. His musical heroes include Eddie Lang & Joe Venuti, Eddie Peabody, Allen Ruess and of course Django.
Through the years he and his brother, washboard virtuoso Ralf Reynolds, formed various Dixieland and jug bands, including the Titanic Jazz Band and The Rhythm Rascals. In 1985, John had the good fortune to back up Cab Calloway, playing with Don Wolf's Rhythm Kings. From 1980 to '84, he toured Australia and Japan with a trio called "Mood Indigo." Then, with yet another band "The Palm Springs Yacht Club" he really hit the big time, touring with The Smothers Brothers, Julie Andrews, Andy Williams and Bobby Shore. When Janet Klein recorded her first album in '98, John supplied accompaniment. John is also a veteran of Johnny Crawford and Dean Mora's bands.
John is also an accomplished illustrator and painter. He worked many years at Klasky Czupo animation studio, on projects for Nickelodeon, including Duck Man, The Rugrats, Wild Thornberries, Rocket Power, as well as Stressed Eric for the BBC. John continues to be passionate about his work as a painter. See a collection of John's paintings HERE
Walking on Bilgewater
Eefing, bilabial fricatation, and the "strum" and "twang" of the Bilgewater Brothers
By Joel Okida
The act of grinning comes naturally when you hear the very tongue-in-cheek tune, Give It to Mary with Love. And when David Barlia resurrects the lost art known as "eefing," the grin becomes a chuckle. For those not in the know, eefing is the vocal ability to nasally impersonate a coronet, oddly named by uke old timer, Cliff "Ukulele Ike" Edwards. John chirps in with a melodic whistling solo and you know there's a spectacle of rare entertainment to be had. Over the course of an evening with the Bilgewater Brothers, you get a very lively variety show without having to change channels. Mostly you get uke strummer, David and plectrum banjo and National guitar wiz, John Reynolds, having a good time for your listening and viewing pleasure. They are often supported by other local musicians and surrounded by makeshift props which give a wink and an elbow of embellishment to whatever theme they are imbedded in. No matter how ragged the production may get, the music stays up front and engaging. It's an excuse to have a good time for what is really a madcap romp through vaudeville, burlesque, a backroom speakeasy, a squat in the parlor room and always a Keystone-Kop-run down tin pan alley.
Occasionally seen with another local perpetrator of retro romance, Janet Klein, both David and John change hats and ply their passion and partake in a plethora of other plucky performing posses. David is involved with the Barleycorns, duets with Parlor Boy, Brad Kay and may sit in with the California Navels. John, in addition to his long resume with many famous bands and Hollywood performers, also joins up with his brother, Ralf, in the Rhythm Rascals, and sits in with the Colonels of Corn.
Before interviewing David Barlia, I got the lowdown on John Reynolds and the rich musical history he carries with him. As the grandson of silent film star, ZaSu Pitts, there is old fashioned show biz blood that runs through John's veins. John calls the music he plays, "old pop music" or early "Betty Boop." John admits, "I inherited my grandmother's taste for old things." Add to this the family musical heritage (a father and grandfather who both played the "bones") and the time spent in his grandmother's historic 1920s Paul Williams designed house, and what else would a young kid do back in 1964 but pick up the 5-string banjo and get lessons from local stringed instrument guru, David Lindley? In the following years, he switched over to the 4-string version, eventually doing a 5-year stint playing banjo at Disneyland during his college years. Picking up the guitar, he took lessons from the great George M. Smith, guitarist for the Paramount Studio Orchestra. Later, he wound up playing with the local Mood Indigo trio for several years. Along the way, he opened for the Smothers Brothers, learning the ropes of the music and show biz world. Other gigs have been with Dean Mora's Modern Rhythmists dance orchestra at the Oviatt Building and a stint with Johnny Crawford's Dance Orchestra, where his expert whistling also got the spotlight. Look further and you'll see John has performed with such legends as Cab Calloway and Julie Andrews. In addition to his expert banjo and guitar work, and the aforementioned canary-like whistling, you may catch him displaying his talent with "bilabial fricatation." It's your basic fart sound generated by hand suction, but brought to new "heights" when the technique is flaunted in the Ellington standard, Caravan.
In between all the multiple group sit-ins and session, with his plectrum banjo and National steel guitar in tow, he joins David Barlia to make musical mayhem as the Bilgewater Brothers. They met a few years ago when John saw David in performance with Parlor Boy pianist, Brad Kay, in a local coffee house and thus began the musical partnership. David, the man of many hats, as he proudly calls himself, took some time to let out some serious bilgewater for Folkworks.
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GET IN TOUCH! david @barliesque.com
LISTEN TO OUR DEMO!
A demo of collected recordings, live and in-studio is now available by clicking HERE. You'll notice a change of band title to...
"The Bilgewater Rats"
...which soon will also be reflected throughout the site!
...Let's be friends!
PHOTOS & VIDEOS
And they're coming sooooon.