Lonesome Bert & the Skinny Lizards coalesced out of the musical mythosphere in August 2005 when Chris Clark, freshly relocated from south Florida, hauled his standup bass up to the St Augustine art gallery where Lonesome Bert Hodge was busking with his drummer friend Steve Mitherz, and suggested a sit-in set. The resulting fusion of Chris’ edgy high-temp fingerwork and Lonesome Bert’s bouncy folk-style lyrics, propelled by Steve’s djembe drum, convinced the three that the future looked good in conjunction, so conjoined they were. A few years into their venture of the gig circuit they met a old hippie sailor Mark Saunders from Key West who joined the band with his electric fiddle in tow.
Today, hundreds of gigs and 3 full length albums later, the group is picking up speed and honing its harmonies. Lonesome Bert writes much of the material himself, drawing on a widely traveled history of airlines, military service and urban living on top of a charmed childhood in small-town Florida. He sings songs with subject matter like Hastings, Florida’s downward spiral, Key West’s colorful character or a Lotto winner meeting his demise after meeting a pron star, and the way the music sounded on the car radio late at night all the way from Nashville. His lines are quirky and thought-provoking and sometimes poignant, but always lively, served up over what he calls “the bumptime boogie beat” that evolved from Tom Paxton and Merle Travis style finger picking. Some of the songs have a crypto-liberal political tinge to them, because Bert likes to skewer ”institutional answers to individual questions.” Chris also writes and sings songs characterized by high energy and humor, addressing topics like vanishing hippies, the tyranny of the electronic age and a mans realization that life could be much better when only relying on three hot meals and a cot to sleep on daily.
Bert Hodge: A ukelele from my Mom at age 8, Burl Ives, glee clubs galore, my Kingston Trio knockoff won the Palatka high school talent show in 1961, where I felt the roar of the greasepaint for the first time, college R&B bands for frat parties at FSU, a 7-piece horn band introduced me to the collective complaints of serious musicians. Navy flight school, traveling everywhere but Nam, guitar always in hand, gave up electric guitar music for Dylan acoustic music just as he went the other way, lived in Maine surveying woods for a few years, worked in the Virgin Islands testing weapons for the Navy, joined the commercial aviation community hauling pallets of roses and engine blocks around the country at night, always humming, always strumming, moved up to chartering people trips as a B727 captain, lived on Long Island for a while, quit traveling and moved to St Augustine about 1991, wrangled rental properties for a while, had enough, retired and noticed the guitar in my hands and the blank notepad in front of me, wrote a bunch of songs and started showing off in front of people. I became Lonesome Bert when I realized, at last, that we are what we are.
Chris Clark’s interest in the bass began in a small Ohio farm town, where he grew the first 18 years of his life.”(Ohio Black Swamp Blues” references this) Rather than taking to the fields, he took to Rock n Roll as a young lad. His understanding Father recognized his flare and purchased his first electric bass. Age 18, 1989 Chris left home to attend the Art Institute of Ft. Lauderdale. Studying graphic arts by day and playing bass for the 3-piece complex thrash metal band “Oddameatr” by night. Fate would have it that he never became the “Metal God” he expected. Through a fellow bass player Chris took interest in the stand up bass. Naturally, the mood of his music study’s change to a folk style as he delved into his new instrument. Playing the south Florida circuit, including the Florida Keys, Chris was invited to be the stand-up Bass player for the underground cult following band “Fish Butt”. After the band dispersed in 2004, Chris and artist girlfriend Karen Sheridan decided a relocation in St. Augustine, Florida. “Bert and Steve played in front of an art gallery and I joined in…for good.” Chris says. Now, probably the only folk band with a “metal” stand up bass player. The boys are doing it their own way. “I call it- Folk music with a machine gun! Dat, Dat, Dat!”
Steve Mitherz: Manhattan, high school drummer, potter artist, drywall artisan, met Bert through our wives economic connection(broker-client), St Augustine, joined Bert wrangling rental properties, garage jam band together, finally the Lonesome Bert duo at the Art walks.
Mark Saunders: a veteran of military and a veteran of Key West’s laid back ol’ hippie lifestyle of living on his self built catamaran. Fiddle has always been present in Mark’s life. Numerous bands and numerous sail trips around the globe, Saunders offers a unique and fitting layer to the Lonesome Skinny boys.
We try to write music that makes you say “Did he really say that? I gotta hear this again!” while your toes tap a hole in the carpet. -Bert