If it is true that one learns by example, many of the bands on the local scene could likely learn quite a bit from The Bad Examples.
The group will perform this Saturday, along with local favorites Betsy and the Boneshakers, at Shades, Milwaukee Avenue and Aptakisic Road, Prairie View. For information, call 634-BLUE.
After plugging away under the moniker the Bad Examples for several years, singer-songwriter Ralph Covert and company have begun to make more than a local or regional name for themselves with "Bad Is Beautiful," an album recorded at Zion's Short Order Recorder and featuring "Not Dead Yet," a raucous rocker recently covered by Styx that has gained relatively wide radio airplay for the group. A live album, "Cheap Beer Night," is expected soon.
The Waterdog Records band is about a lot more than covers by Styx and hard guitar licks. There is a pleasing pop sensibility about the sounds made by Covert and his mates, veteran guitar whiz John Duich and Terry Wathen and Pickles Piekarski, former members of John Prine's Famous Potatoes band. At times, in fact, comparisons to Squeeze and Crowded House are quite apt. And Covert has a gift for lyrics that will stay in your memory long after the cassette has stopped playing.
"Gratifyingly, it's really been received well," Covert says of "Bad Is Beautiful." "It's garnered us reviews in a lot of publications we didn't even expect to be reviewed in."
One of those, the Twin Cities Reader in Minneapolis, rated the album "The Musical Event of the Year."
"When you finish a record," Covert says, "you wonder how it's going to do. We must have done well, because a lot of people like it. A lot of people have taken the album to heart, made it a part of the fabric of their life, and there's no deeper compliment than that."
According to Covert, the Bad Examples really hit stride about the time Duich joined, in August of 1990.
"We headed out on the road shortly after that," Covert recalls, "and it became clear pretty quickly that there was something happening musically. It was a gut feeling that there was something happening with the four of us."
The group has covered more than 40,000 miles since then, playing some 300 shows from Albuquerque, whence Covert is calling for this interview, to Holland and Belgium, where the group played earlier this year. The band will be returning to Europe in May and will travel throughout the continent all summer.
The road goes on forever, seemingly, and that's just fine with Covert.
"Pickles is a gourmet cook, and that helps. Life on the road is very draining and it's very exciting. The rule of thumb I use is, one day of life on the road holds the amount of life and events of three days in the real world. I can see how a lot of people can get addicted to it. It's an intense rush of experience."
And, Covert adds, that rush of experience, and the playing that has accompanied it, has brought the band closer together. He cites a trip to Worthington, Minn., early on for the group.
"Worthington advertises itself as 'Turkey Capital of the U.S.,' and all the turkeys were there. We got done with our first song, and they just stared at us. We played our next song and our next song, and they just stared at us. Without even speaking about it, the reaction from the band was to dig down deeper and pump out even more energy. And by the end of the night, everybody was dancing, they were going off the walls, and they were all telling us that we were the greatest band they'd ever seen."
That kind of response, Covert hopes, will set a good example for future Bad Examples audiences.
"We're in the catbird seat, as far as we're concerned. We're doing what we wanted to do, and America's a big country. We just continue to do what we do. We really thrive on coming into towns where people don't know us, and having to prove ourselves again. That's exciting. Having a band in the real world, this stuff happens. We just keep plugging along."