1993-1995: Landmark, Steve Gerlach, Kisses 50 Cents, origins of Birthday

Ralph and Jay Whitehouse were in Cannes, France for MIDEM, the international music license conference, looking for a new European deal for the band when they heard that, back in America, Waterdog's distributor, Landmark, became embroiled in an ownership battle between its two major partners. As a result of the ensuing squabble Landmark was bankrupted, and most of the records they were handling, including Eat At Godot's, were left helpless in the marketplace. Waterdog itself was almost bankrupted as well, and only the tireless work of Whitehouse, label manager Rob Gillis, and the Waterdog staff kept the doors open.

Steve Gerlach had agreed to replace John, and the band renewed its energy in the face of yet another setback and pushed forwards. It was a very rich time for the band creatively. The release of Cheap Beer Night had cemented what was at the time a deep relationship with the Beat Kitchen, and the band rehearsed there two to three times a week during the day, and played three to four gigs a week, touring in ten day bursts out of Chicago. It was out of this explosive period of growth that the Kisses 50 Cents album was born. The band was debuting new songs every week, just like the old days with Tommy, and just like the first few years with John when they were touring nationally all the time. One day the band set up at the Beat Kitchen and recorded all its new songs so they could look at arrangements and plan the new record.

While the album was a creative success, Waterdog was still too badly damaged from the Landmark disaster to effectively promote the album. In January of 1995, Ralph's daughter Fiona was born, and the band took several months to rest and re-group. Not long after, both Terry Wathen, original drummer, and Steve Gerlach asked to step down from the band. That spring, Ralph recorded the basic tracks for what became the Birthday album, joined by Pickles, John Zdon (on guitar, organ, and vocals), and by Craig Miller (on harmonica and vocals).

Click on any chapter heading below for a chronological history!

The early days & the MEAT album
The making of Bad Is Beautiful; AEMMP Records signs the band
Bad Is Beautiful released, Europe, West Coast touring
CNR ends, Eat At Godot's
Landmark falls, enter Steve Gerlach, the Kisses 50 Cents band, the origins of Birthday
The return of Tommy O'Brien, Ralph tours Europe with the Moondogs, 1996 European tour
Rob Newhouse, Ron Barnes join the band; Sawdust and Spangles, Birthday come to life
The 5000 Days Studio sessions, The Last Show
Stages, Kids, and a Smash Record!