A short biography
Thomas Erlewine of the All Music Guide
known as the leader of Brownsville Station and composer of their hit "Smokin'
in the Boys Room,"Cub Koda proved that his roots went far deeper, both
before the band's formation, during its days in the sun, and long after its
demise. His high-school band, the Del-Tinos, was dipping into blues and rockabilly
as far back as 1963 -- not only pre-Butterfield, but pre-Beatles. Similarly,
he recorded legendary home tapes during his off-hours from Brownsville, before
the rockabilly revival had uttered its first hiccup, and later teamed with
Hound Dog Taylor's former rhythm section, the Houserockers, to play the blues
in the '80s. Along the way he cranked out a monthly column ("The Vinyl
Junkie") and recorded a series of albums that kept roots music of all
kinds alive without ever treating it like a museum piece.
Originally a drummer
at age five, Koda switched over to guitar when he formed his first band,
the Del-Tinos, a teenage garage combo equally
rock & roll, blues, and rockabilly. The group cut its first single --
Roy Orbison's "Go Go Go" -- in the fall of 1963, and released two
more 45s independently before it disbanded in 1966. By this time, Koda had
so immersed in the blues that the last Del-Tinos single had the trio doing
Muddy Waters' "I Got My Mojo Workin'" on one side and Robert Johnson's "Ramblin'
on My Mind" on the other.
After a couple of
bands in the late '60s that largely went unrecorded, Koda formed Brownsville
Station in early 1969. After playing local
and releasing a handful of singles, the band released its first album in
1970. But it wasn't until "Smokin' in the Boys Room" that Brownsville
had a genuine hit. Released as a single in the fall of 1973, "Smokin'" climbed
all the way to number three, eventually selling over two million copies.
But Koda began to
back away from the group's loud, overdriven rock sound -- at least in private.
He purchased a multi-track tape recorder and
one-man-band tapes, where he overdubbed all the instruments and vocals.
For the next several years, Koda made home recordings of rockabilly,
country, jazz, and early rock & roll -- the exact opposite of Brownsville's
heavy rock stance; the rockabilly tapes were eventually released as That's
What I Like About the South in the early '80s, with other tracks showing
up on compilations as late as 1993.
When Brownsville disbanded
in 1979, Cub began writing a column called "The
Vinyl Junkie" for Goldmine magazine, later published in DISCoveries.
Through the column's success, Koda established himself as an expert
and critic -- eventually, Cub would compile and write liner notes for
a number of projects, including three volumes in Rhino's acclaimed
Blues Masters series. In 1980, Koda worked with Hound Dog Taylor's backing band, the Houserockers.
Over the next 15 years, Koda, guitarist Brewer Phillips, and drummer
Ted Harvey performed and recorded together, with their first album,
in 1981 and the latest, The Joint Was Rockin', being released in
Throughout the '80s
and '90s, Koda continued to divide his time equally between touring,
recording, and writing. 1993 saw the
twin release of
Smokin' in the Boy's Room: The Best of Brownsville Station on
Rhino and Welcome
to My Job, a retrospective of his non-Brownsville material on
Blue Wave, followed
a year later by Abba Dabba Dabba: A Bananza of Hits on Schoolkids
Records. During the second half of the '90s, Koda increased his
presence as a writer, in addition to staying musically active. In addition
editing The All
Music Guide to Blues, he wrote and edited Blues for Dummies.
He also continued writing liner notes, contributing work to retrospectives
JB Hutto, the Kingsmen, and the Miller Sisters, among others.
also supervised the 1996 release of The Joint Was Rockin', a
of Cub with the
in the early '80s, plus a 1998 Norton reissue of recordings he
made with the Del-Tinos.
Cub wasn't just an
archivist during this time. In 1997, he released Box Lunch on J-Bird Records,
his first collection of new material
Dabba. Box Lunch was a solo, all-acoustic album unlike anything
he had recorded in
the past. Koda returned to hard-driving, loud rock & roll
with 2000's Noise Monkeys, an album he recorded live with a
reunited Points in 1999. Released
in the spring, Noise Monkeys was receiving strong reviews,
including a positive notice by Robert Christgau in The Village
Voice, when tragedy struck. Koda
had been sick for a while, but he was slowly recovering. In
the spring, he was put on kidney dialysis, and he was recovering,
but then he suddenly took
sick during the evening of June 30, 2000. He died early in
the morning on July 1, 2000 at the age of 51. Considering that
he was sick, perhaps it shouldn't
have been a surprise that he succumbed to his illness, but
Cub kept working and rocking until the end -- he was writing
and recording music in the last
week of his life. He never lost his love for music and he always
shared that love anyway he could, whether it was as a musician,
journalist, DJ, or friend.
As he said, he was "somewhere between a cult figure and
rock & roll
legend," and to anyone that knew him, that was the gospel truth.
Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide.
(If you have a story about Cub, something funny, how you met, etc., please
email them to: firstname.lastname@example.org
so that they can be added for others to enjoy!)