A NIght With Thee Cellar Dwellers

Thee Cellar Dwellers performing in Mechanicsburg, PA. 1987.

Like I mentioned in the previous post, cross-pollination was one of the things that made the NYC scene thrive. Despite the limited exposure that all the bands received, a small network formed in the East Coast of those “in the know” who were only too happy to share info, tapes and the like with other like-minded souls.

Thee Cellar Dewellers were one of those bands. Located in the small town of Carlisle, PA way off in Central Pennsylvania, the band was certainly off the beaten track. However, their proximity to Harrisburg enabled them to form connections that eventually led to them playing in NYC as well as other larger cities like Washington D.C.

I spoke to founder Jim Baetz about the NYC connection and what led to them making their NYC debut.

SSA: Thanks for your time Jim. Can you tell us the progression of the group from a local PA band to a touring band?

Thee Cellar Dwellers on a bill with NYC’s Blacklight Chameleons October, 25, 1986. Courtesy of Jim Baetz.

Jim Baetz: Here is a bit of a timeline.  We somehow got in touch with Dino Sorbello from the Blacklight Chameleons in mid-1986.  He is a Central PA native.  I’m really not sure how, but he was the NYC person we were first in contact with, as far as I can remember.  Probably close to that time, we reached out to Larry Grogan and Bill Luther because they both had fanzines we had read.  We had put on a few shows here ourselves and had The Blacklight Chameleons play with us.  That was October of 86.  While The Headless Horsemen are listed on the flyer, they didn’t make the show.  I believe PA’s The Cool Italians performed in their place.

Cellar Dwellers, Strip 12-87
Thee Cellar Dwellers with Maine’s The Talismen at the Strip Dec 19, 1987.

Then, in March of ’87, NYC’s Secret Service, NJ’s Phantom V, along with The Cool Italians and Thee Cellar Dwellers played a local show here.  This was about a month before our first Mind’s Eye show in April of 87.  In total, I think we only played shows in NYC three times.  Once at the Strip with the Phantom V and I believe, two Mind’s Eye shows. There is actually some video of us playing the first show with the Blacklight Chameleons.  I will need to dig this up and have it transferred to DVD.  I believe I still have it. 

SSA: What were your impressions of playing NYC at the time? I’m sure the NYC bands were more than eager to have you come over and play.

Minds Eye Poster
Minds Eye Show at Tramps April 18 with the Cynics, The Blacklight Chameleons, and Thee Cellar Dwellers April 18, 1987. Art by Ivy Vale.

JB:  It was really exciting to do the shows there.  New York was where you wanted to play and doing a Mind’s Eye show was about as good as it could get.  Joey Ramone was at the show we did with The Cynics and The Blacklight Chameleons, but I believe he showed up after our set.  I said hello and he seemed like an amazingly nice guy.  As expected, he had plenty of people around him.  That show was a blast.  We were friends with both The Cynics and Chameleons—Ivy and Ann had set it up that way.  They figured the night would have a great vibe.  I feel they got that right.  We did have a really strong night and a lot of fun after the fact.

SSA: You also mentioned you played The Strip. Now that must have been quite a different experience! It was more of a CB’s, dive-ish sort of place.

Cellar Dwellers, Strip 01-87
Thee Cellar Dwellers with the Phantom V (the surprise band) at the Strip, Jan 23, 1988.

JB: The Strip was a little less fun.  But still a good time.  We played with the Phantom V.  Unfortunately, I don’t have many memories of playing that show.  Not sure how good we were or anything.  I do remember the place being very old.  But we did have fun because a bunch of friends showed up. We always ended up having a good time wherever and whenever we played out.  

SSA: Did you have a chance to catch any other NYC shows?

JB: We attended a few Mind’s Eye shows and very likely others.  Especially if the Cynics, Blacklight Chameleons or The Ravens from Philly were playing.   We loved playing in NYC, but we actually played more often in DC.

SSA: Thanks so much for your thoughts, Jim. There is so little information out about Thee Cellar Dwellers that any sort of info certainly puts the era into better focus.

JB: Thanks for being interested, I am still a bit surprised when people are interested in any of the bands I have been involved with! 

Despite the strong NYC reception, Thee Cellar Dwellers existed for only a short while longer. A single exists on Get Hip Records but is now out of print. In addition, songs were also compiled for a full-length release, however, the deal sadly fell through. Seeing this as an opportune time to move on, the members went their separate ways soon after. Jim into a power-pop band called Needle Jack, Mike Schultz to college and the remaining three (Mark Ebling, Susan Mackey, Eric Ebeling) forming The Omega Men.

However, back in 1987, you’d be hard-pressed to find any more deserving band to support the mighty Cynics. The proof is in the track below. Also, as an additional bonus, Jim graciously provided a demo that never made it to vinyl. Huge thanks to William Luther who graciously provided the amazing live shots from a February 1987 gig at an American Legion Hall in Mechanicsburg, PA. seen up top, and below.

Minds Eye, April 16, 1987. Full Set List: Try It (The Standells), Those Lies You Told, I Can Only Give You Everything (Them), Hang Up (The Wailers), Psycho (The Sonics), She’s Coming Home (The Blues Magoos), Five Years Ahead of My Time (The Third Bardo), Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White (The Standells), Can’t You See, Hey Little Bird (The Barbarians), Dwellin’, Around and Around (Chuck Berry), Doin’ Me In (Gonn), You’re Gonna Miss Me (The 13th Floor Elevators), You Got No Choice, ENCORE: I Can’t Control Myself (The Troggs).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.