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The Buzz Killingtons

Updated on December 8, 2017
Jon Becker, Jeremy Snyder, Tom Cannon, Brian Barrett, Jim Naftel
Jon Becker, Jeremy Snyder, Tom Cannon, Brian Barrett, Jim Naftel

This article, written by Jim Naftel, was rejected by Wikipedia, failing to meet even a single criteria for musicians and ensembles to be considered "notable".

The Buzz Killingtons (2011-2014)

Overview

The Buzz Killingtons were an American rock band based in Birmingham, Alabama. With a core group of four members: founder and bassist Tom Cannon; lead guitarist and vocalist Jeremy Snyder; drummer/keyboardist/vocalist Jon Becker and rhythm guitarist/treasurer Jim Naftel, the band boasted a revolving cast of talented ex officio members, including: vocalist Ashley Self; sax and trombonist Jeff Koonce; vocalist Brandi Koonce; keyboardist Colin Newberry; drummer Brian Barrett (a founding member); vocalist Matt Terrell, and several others whose names escape the author at this juncture.

The Buzz Killingtons played their last-ever show (unless they play another one later; you can never really tell about these things) on June 12, 2014 at the Bottletree Cafe in the historic Avondale neighborhood of Birmingham. Following the show (literally after the show, sitting outside at the Bottletree, thereby, in a cruelly ironic fulfillment of the band name, killing the buzz), Jeremy Snyder announced his imminent departure to the Florida panhandle to search for the American dream. Jeremy is now married to an itinerant strawberry picker, has three children (that we know about) and lives in a green house by brackish water. When people say that the American dream is dead, the author of this article points to Jeremy Snyder as irrefutable proof that it is alive and well. The diaspora of the original members of the Buzz Killingtons continued in 2015 when founder/bassist Tom Cannon finally decamped to that vast land of opportunity known as "the greater Atlanta area." And thus, scattered across three states and two times zones, the Buzz Killingtons were no more.

Origins

The Buzz Killingtons are the brainchild and sole intellectual property of Tom Cannon, an itinerant Presbyterian minister. Cannon's spiritual and musical journey took him from the wealthy Philadelphia suburb of Lower Merion to Columbia, South Carolina, where he enjoyed his time as a stereotypical 1970's college student and also discovered Jesus. He then decamped to Clinton, Mississippi, a "suburb" of Jackson, where he peered into the mystery and was eventually awarded an advanced degree for his troubles. A journey into the dark heart of Australia followed, then the bright lights of New York City, and then lazy, mossy oak and ghost-tinged Savannah, Georgia. It was in Savannah that Tom founded the proto-dad band that would serve as blueprint for the Buzz Killingtons, namely, White Man's Overbite. While never enjoying the commercial or critical success of the Buzz Killingtons, White Man's Overbite is remembered fondly by those who remember them at all.

Cannon's wandering eventually led him to Birmingham, Alabama, where he assumed the pastorship of a small urban church located in the Lakeview District of Birmingham. Cannon promptly recruited and/or brainwashed several members of his flock to be his cohorts in a new band, the inartfully named Flaming Republican Warlovers Shoot Me I'm Dead, commonly referred to simply as "the Flamers." The Flamers consisted of Cannon on bass; Brian T. Murphy on drums; Evan Munger on lead vocals; Jeremy Snyder on lead Guitar; Jared Schull on keyboards; and Preston Sartelle on rhythm guitar. The idea behind the Flamers was to take very simple songs and play them almost competently. The Flamers performed one time in 2009, before a packed Red Cat Coffee House, and them almost immediately dissolved amid bitter personal disputes and artistic differences.

Despite the failure of the Flamers, Cannon was nevertheless determined not to let his rock and roll dream die. After a period of reflection, self-loathing, other-loathing, and, ultimately, healing, Cannon reached out to Snyder to see if he was interested in giving it another go, With Snyder on board, Cannon then recruited Brian Barrett to play drums and Jon Becker to play keyboards. Barrett and Becker were both talented musicians with extensive experience in other bands, but were eager to test their mettle in the new Cannon group. There was then one spot left to fill, the utterly nonessential role of rhythm guitar. Cannon first approached Preston Sartelle, who politely declined. Then, over drinks one night at the Oak Street Bar in Homewood, Cannon made the fateful decision to invite Jim Naftel to be a Buzz Killington. Naftel promised that he would never complain that a song was too easy, would never demand a solo, and would always turn down his amp if asked to do so. With that, the Buzz Killingtons rose from the ashes of the Flamers (pun intended).

Name

The name of the band was suggested by Noah Cannon, noted raconteur and gadlfy, frequent vocal contributor, and, not coincidentally, son of Tom Cannon. Noah's inspiration for the band name was the Family Guy character Buzz Killington. This name prevailed over Tom Cannon's original choice, Viagra Triangle. It is doubtful that there ever would have been a band if Noah's suggestion had not carried the day.

Members

The current lineup features a power quartet of Cannon, Snyder, Becker and Naftel handling instrumental duties and the vocal stylings of Ashley Self, who replaced Matt Terrell as lead singer in 2013. Prior to becoming the primary lead singer of the BK's, Self had appeared as a guest vocalist at a number of shows belting out the crowd-pleasing "Tiny Dancer." While there have been attempts to recruit another keyboard player to fill the shoes of the overcommitted Colin Newberry, no one has yet been discovered who possesses the unique combination of skill, insouciance and musical dynamism that is a must for membership in the legendary Buzz Killingtons.

Former Members and Frequent Contributors

The Buzz Killingtons boast a formidable stable of past vocalists and vocal contributors, including Noah Cannon, the original primary lead vocalist for the band, who departed to Tuscaloosa to pursue an academic career and to escape the considerable shadow of his father, much like Luke Skywalker was forced to move to Tatooine to escape Darth Vader; Matt Terrell, the second primary lead vocalist for the band, whose talents were matched only by his intense ambivalence about being a member of the Buzz Killingtons; Claire Hovater, Daley Browning and Kristina Bren, each of whom brought much needed credibility as guest vocalists; and Brandi Koonce, whose chops lifted “Gee Whiz, It’s Christmas” into immortality as one of the all-time great BK numbers.

Of particular note is longtime, once and perhaps future member Brian Barrett, whose jazz-influenced drumming was a hallmark of the early BK sound. Barrett was forced into semi-retirement as a result of the BK’s grueling recording, rehearsal and touring schedule. When last seen on stage, Barrett stepped in to play drums and sing “Wild Thing” at the Buzz Killingtons Christmas 2013 show. Rumors are rampant that he has retired altogether from public life, content to raise his ever-growing brood of children and tend to his urban garden.

Style

The Buzz Killingtons sound as been described variously as “one chords and the truth,” “interesting,” and perhaps most accurately, as “proto-retro-dad-garage.” The Buzz Killingtons recovered the spirit of the early rock and rollers, whose disregard for the establishment was second only to their limited musical ability. As such, the BK’s proudly wear the mantle of the “last, best hope” of true rock and roll. This is the legacy they will leave their children and their children’s children.

With the ascension of Jon Becker to drums in the fall of 2013, the Buzz Killingtons sound took on a more propulsive, urgent tone, a notable departure from the laid-back groove of the Barrett years. Since then, other aspects of their sound have hardened and crystallized, including Cannon’s bass-playing, who finally turned his amp so that his rock-solid pocket playing would not be buried in the mix.

Influences

The early BK sound has heavily influenced by 1960’s rock and roll, with the Kingsmen, The Who, the Troggs, the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, and the seminal acts of that golden era all leaving their marks on the Buzz Killingtons. Additionally, the BK’s favored obscure late 1970’s and early 1980’s pop, including Reckless Eric and the Modern Lovers. The common denominator of all the BK influences is that the songs were very, very easy to play. No, seriously. Almost painful easy to play.

With the addition of the fabled West Homewood Horns to their live show, the BKs became more heavily influenced by Motown and Stax soul. Again, it must be stated that the songs were embarrassingly easy to learn, and all of the heavy lifting with respect to the sound being "polished" and/or "good" was done by the West Homewood Horns.

Late-era BK influences have veered more towards the rock and roll of the 1970s, with Pink Floyd, Thin Lizzie, Dr. Feelgood, late-Velvet Underground and Johnny Thunders all exerting their pull on the band. At the same time, the band has also experienced a return to its roots, very much like the Beatles in the Get Back era, but without the massive talent (and also, to the BK's credit, without the massive drug use and infighting).

"Influencers"

It is believed that the Buzz Killingtons June 2011 show was witnessed by only 147 people, but every one of those in attendance went out and started a band. No, wait. Scratch that. That was a whole different band and a whole different quote. It is believed that the BKs, through their sheer delusional exuberance in playing bad music loudly, and steadfast refusal to be embarrassed by their limited musical abilities, have inspired many of their fans publicly to try things that they are no good at doing.

Critical Acclaim

Almost from their first show, the Buzz Killingtons garnered a significant amount of, ummmm, buzz. Following the show, Bottletree's sound technician, the redoubtable Kyle, was asked if the Buzz Killingtons were the worst band ever to take the stage at the venerable venue. "Definitely not" he replied, words that reverberated through the Birmingham music scene, signaling that the Buzz Killingtons were a force with which to be reckoned.

Local music impresario Tom Howie, owner of Tom's Sound, once told Cannon that he had "heard that you guys were pretty good," which was probably a complete lie but is nonetheless high praise coming from a professional in the audio equipment rental industry.

The Bunker

The Buzz Killingtons are headquartered in a semi-secret warehouse known as the Bunker, located deep in the bowels of post-industrial Birmingham. The Bunker is poorly lit, has no climate control of any kind, and sometimes floods. The facilities are shared with another band whose members may or may not live in a loft space above the rehearsal stage, but whose sound could best be characterized as a less interesting Coldplay-meets-Keane-meets-yawn.

Post-BK Activities

With Snyder's departure in the summer of 2014, the remaining core of Cannon, Becker,Naftel and Self resolved to carry on together, albeit under a different name, out of respect for the legacy of the BuzzKillingtons. Industry observers likened the decision to New Order rising out of the tragic ashes of Joy Division, but without either the tragedy or, frankly, the ashes. After much internal debate and focus-group based research, the new venture was christened "Jonny B. and the Genesee Three," an homage to the famed Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Three, with special reference to the members' preferred brand of upstate New York swill beer. The number itself was accurate for only the briefest period, as the band soon expanded to include Paul Crawford, legendary Forestdale area metal-bass player. Crawford assumed the guitar 1 position formerly occupied by Snyder. Jonny B and the Genesee Three have been honing their craft in the Bunker since the fall of 2014, but have yet to play publicly. A planned Christmas extravaganza was canceled when Becker suffered a horrific, disfiguring motorcycle accident in late October 2014. With the departure of Cannon planned for the summer of 2015, it remains to be seen at this writing whether Jonny B and the Genesee Three will ever perform in front of an audience.

Cannon has already begun to develop his next project, tentatively titled "Rocket City Samurais," for reasons known only to Cannon. The remaining JB&G3ers will be left, once again, to carry on, not unlike how Poco had to keep carrying on every time the Eagles stole their bassist.


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