1977 was the year the public was first impregnated by Peter L. Baker. The Columbus School of Art and Design graduate returned to his Philadelphia home and unleashed his presence on the Philadelphia avant-art scene.
Baker’s reputation grew throughout Philadelphia. His extraordinary creativity opened many avenues for him to unleash his psyche and commitment to self-indulgence (which was his self-proclaimed .. key to art). With integrity in hand, Baker formed the Undertakers of Love while obtaining stance and prominence in the Philadelphia art community.
The Undertakers of Love were the mother seed of what was eventually to become Baker’s true proclamation, The Stick Men. A mysterious mix of synthesizer (Charles Cohen), keyboard (Jeff Cain), bass (Art Noel), and guitars (Baker and poet J.W. McCullough) provided the backdrop for Baker to spew his character views and visions. With uncommon beats and Baker’s flair for making everything living seem like it was out of Mad Magazine, the Undertakers of Love successfully performed the local Philadelphia bar scene.
1978 brought a revamping of Baker’s crew. The meeting of B.A.L Stack (nee) Lejman provided both a vehicle for Baker’s expression and a whole new vibe. The teenage girl from the suburbs meets the creative genius. Baker mentored Stack with the realization that expression was truly the kingpin and also enabled him to peruse her trained keyboard skills. A meeting of the souls erupted forming the bond that led to the pulse.
Baker and Stack immediately jelled the forces as Blu Beth and the Gentleman Caller, with Baker on hollow body Hagstrom guitar and Stack on hollow body Hagstrom bass, both playing through a Fender Twin, punctuating swamp-soaked lyrics with limited keyboards and virtually un-listenable beats. Art galleries posed as venues for the duo.
With acknowledgement and advancing public curiosity, Baker constructed a one-man show in a vacant loft, to view his latest endeavors. Proving that, not only were his sculpting and painting talents over the edge, so was his perception of music. The show was a great success, exhibiting his latest works of art along with the various incarnations of his musical ambition. The Undertakers of Love, now a scaled down version of players, re-named The Stick Men, performed, as well as Blu Beth and the Gentleman Caller, hoisting Baker into public recognition.
Blu Beth and the Gentleman Caller blended into Baker’s now newly formed Stick Men vision, the couple began siphoning rhythms and lyrics, trying to build an equation that wasn’t yet discovered by anyone, but held true to Baker’s belief. This ventured to the hiring of George Shirley on drums and Michael McGettigan on bass, with Charles Mattern Jr. accentuating on trumpet, sax, and homemade drum devices. Revisions were made, resulting to Baker on guitar, Stack on Farfisa organ/doubling on bass, Shirley on Fender Mustang bass, and McGettigan on drums, with Mattern continuing to punctuate.
This line up (1980) plotted the original format of what eventually became The Stick Men, as we know it now. With this formula of players Baker was able to begin to submerge into his whole realm, a “snake boat beat.” Baker, the rail-thin-redhead was able to bring his personal cartoon view of himself to life. Baker wrote.. “here’s the blue print, wire bones, day-glo fur, express yourself, I’m a pipe cleaner…” and wanted the masses to know “thin black lines, feet to hands, express yourself, we’re Stick Menwe had a vision.”
The band practiced relentlessly, sharpening their precision, adding more songs to The Stick Man monster. They merged onto the live music scene in Philadelphia’s notorious punk rock nightclubs, first David Carroll’s Artemis, and then, the Hot Club, impressively opening for such bands as the Contortions, Johnny Thunder’s Gang War, and the Model Citizens, amongst others.
With sudden notoriety, the band launched to a more sophisticated level. Shirley was replaced by Billy Bradfield. A bassist with a poppin’ funk technique (think Larry Graham, Bootsy Collins) that totally deranged the original Stick Man elementary sound, refining it to details and allowing the pureness to be layered with a funk that was undeniable. Stack added a Hohner Clavinet to the mix, to funk-a-fi, via her relentless adoration for Sly Stone. Mattern added more and more bizarre accents and Baker continued to cluck outrageously on chicken guitar. The Stick Men climbed the bottom rungs of the ladder that shot them to the galaxyby eventually replacing McGettigan with Jim Menesesa skilled precision, climatic, master drummer who magically melded with Bradfield to produce the claim on the mother..they made so viciously.
As originators of the rockin’ jam trance under the feet, The Stick Men created and demonstrated a gut-wrenching psycho-funk sound with timing, personality, charm, and humor. This presentation of funk domination was pre-Chili Peppers, before P-Funk was considered cool with white audiences, when anything with a dominating bottom-heavy-vibe was boo-hooed as “disco.”
The Stick Men ruled Philadelphia by releasing an LP in 1982 “This is the Master Brew” and an EP in 1983 “Get on Board The Stick Men.” They performed at a variety of venues on supporting tours for such bands as the Gang of Four, Was (Not) Was, the Slits, Lords of the New Church, Oingo Boingo, the Psychedelic Furs, Bush Tetras, the Pop Group, Nina Hagan, Wall of Voodoo, and Pig Bag, to name a few. The Stick Men magnetized and maintained a loyal fan base and were glorified by both live audiences and the press.
Peter L. Baker died in 1994. This CD, “Insatiable,” contains The Stick Men’s entire recorded output as well as rare tracks from live radio broadcasts. Also included is bonus CDRom material: a 20 minute Quick Time video of the band, playable on both PC and Mac computers, taken from some of the only live performance video in existence. Insatiable was produced as both tribute and recognition to Baker. The Stick Men are a phenomenon of a band that remains incomparable to this day.