Americana, blues-based originals
Guitar and banjo
Born on Long Island, NY, raised in Pennsylvania, frittered away a few decades in Chicago and currently hunkered down in Detroit, taking the least efficient way possible to disseminate his doctrine of laziness and cussedness to a slender segment of the listening audience
The music of Vernon Tonges presents a peculiar anomaly: Performing widely throughout the late 20th and early 21st centuries and plagued with frustration and bouts of depression, he has since become a willfully obscurantist figure. His penchant for childish aliases (i.e., Spoo Willoughby, Carlos Thrombosis, Melvin von Peephole, etc.) further thwarts the creation of a cogent analysis. Impatient with the costly and stultifying taxidermy of studio recording, his legend has been perpetuated through the media of low quality phone-recorded performances, YouTube clips and extremely rough home recordings; these rise occasionally like jetsam from an especially gruesome shipwreck and circulate widely among his tiny coterie of fans. However, his reputation rests mostly on the indelible ephemera of his live performances, in coffeehouses, taverns, church basements, art galleries, house parties, barbeque joints, parking lots and street corners throughout the Midwest Rust Belt, often unannounced and impromptu. In spite of these self-imposed limitations, he finds small enclaves of enthusiastic fans for his inchoate howlings. His repertoire mixes original material with gleanings from his haphazard researches into little-known artifacts from forgotten pop music and obscure folkways. He revels in the awkward and clumsy moments most performers shun and occasionally deploys spontaneity as an improvised audience assault weapon. His on-stage utterances simultaneously enlighten and baffle: He describes the anthemic “Thundergoose” as an “invocation of an atavistic totem god” and introduces a tune called “The Pudknocker’s Jubilee” as his tribute to the “therapeutic benefits of certain entheogenic elixirs.” All in all, it redounds to everyone’s benefit to keep Mr. Tonges on stage where he can be carefully watched since, left to his own devices, he is capable of much mayhem.