Speed The Plough's story dates back to the early Eighties, when high-school friends Marc Francia, Toni Paruta, John Baumgartner, and Elbus Kelemet first formed the Trypes. With the Feelies largely on hiatus in those days, Speed The Plough's ranks grew to include Feelies Glenn Mercer, Bill Million, Stan Demeski, Dave Weckerman, and Brenda Sauter. When the Feelies started performing actively again in 1984, the Trypes morphed into Speed The Plough, with Marc, John, and Toni forming their own group. The name, from an old Scottish folk song, was plucked from a book of sheet music just days before their first gig, which was at Maxwell’s in Hoboken, NJ. STP has had numerous line-ups over the years, including former members Rich Barnes, Stanley Demeski, Jim DeRogatis, John Neilson, Chris O’Donovan, Frank O’Toole, and Pete Pedulla. John and Toni married, and after some quiet years spent raising families and pursuing careers, Speed The Plough found new life in 2009 with the children of the original members bringing fresh energy and ideas to the group's signature chamber-pop sound: Marc's sons Dan and Ian Francia took over bass and drums, while John and Toni's son Michael came aboard on guitar. The current lineup includes old family friends Cindi Merklee and Ed Seifert on bass and guitar, Michael Baumgartner on guitar, Stan Demeski's son John on drums, and multi-instrumentalist/vocalists John and Toni on accordion, keyboards, flute, and woodwinds.
Speed The Plough: Then And Now
The Plough & The Stars started to come together around 2010 when Marc's kids (Ian and Dan) kicked us in the ass. We had this huge catalog of material and they kept saying we should be playing it, and they really prompted us to get the band out of mothballs. And that directly led to the realization that we had put out a lot of albums and wouldn't it be nice to pick our favorite stuff and get it back in print? We had solicited some fan input over the years about what they wanted to hear again, so we included that. But the whole idea was really an outgrowth of getting the youngsters involved and realizing that maybe we had something worth sharing.
Once we had an idea for what we wanted to do, the next step was to ask, where we can do it? And Bar/None was an obvious choice. Our history really paralleled Bar/None's and how things had evolved in the Hoboken music scene over the years. Oddly, for all of the music we had released, the idea of working with Bar/None had never come up, so the first thing I did was call Glenn (Morrow) and ask if he would be interested in working with us on this retrospective project. I think we had the feeling that we were really pretty far under the radar compared to a lot of the stuff he had been putting out, so we had no idea if Bar/None would be interested, but it seemed like a logical fit. And I can't say enough about how accommodating Glenn was about understanding this strange vision we had of doing a "Best Of" chronicling the history of the band. And then we were sitting on top of half a dozen new songs that we had recorded, so we added an LP of new material to the whole caper. It might have been more than a lot of labels would have bitten off. We actually at one time had this crazy idea of doing this all on 10-inch LP's and Glenn talked us off the ledge of that, but in every other way, he came through and respected our vision. It was especially important for us to include the booklet, just because we've had this convoluted history going back to the earliest days of the Trypes/Willies/Feelies/Yung Wu, and all the flak we used to get from people asking, why does there have to be so many bands, all with the same people? It was hard to convince people that it was four or five different bands because it was four or five different kinds of music that were all individual visions unto themselves, and Speed The Plough obviously continued that.
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