Baltimore Sounds

Baltimore Sounds: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Baltimore Area Pop Musicians, Bands and Recordings 1950-2000
Compiled, written and edited by Joe Vaccarino
(642 pages, MJAM Press, Catonsville MD, 2012)

By Tom Warner (Accelerated Decrepitude, 10/15/2012)

When area musicians told me about this long-awaited update to Joe Vaccarino’s 2004 labor-of-love history of Baltimore’s music scene, Baltimore Sounds (the 368-page first edition – originally published in 2004 and covering the years 1950-1980 – is currently out of print, with used copies fetching up to $200 on, I knew it was an essential purchase. Not because it’s definitive; not because it’s exhaustively researched to be the “final word” on the subject matter; and not because it finally got my nome-de-plume right under the listing for Thee Katatonix (as original drummer “Tommy Gunn” – though Skizz Cyzyk pointed out that I was also erroneously listed as the Dark Carnival drummer instead of “Big” Andy Small!). (It’s funny, I actually met Joe Vaccarino – whose first album purchases were by the Beatles and Iron Butterfly – back in 2004 when he had a display promoting his book and celebrating local music down at the Enoch Pratt Central Library; when I told him I was in the book, he asked me to sign my autograph in his copy! “I’m really not worthy,” I told him, but the guy’s a musical history buff and would not be denied getting my worthless signature – which goes for considerably less than $200 on the open market!)

Rather, it was because it’s a really a Herculean undertaking that no one else would have the time, energy or passion to pursue (and you would need a whole separate research team just to document all the people who played in Thee Katatonix alone! Or to list all the bands Skizz Cyzyk and Mark Harp played in!). It’s a massive undertaking and, while it has it’s share of factual errors, what could anyone expect one man to do when faced with documenting over 60 years of music in the Baltimore-Washington area and surrounding counties all by himself, relying quite often on materials supplied by the musicians or related principals themselves? (As Vaccarino himself explained, “Information compiled in this book has been collected from the most reliable sources known…nevertheless, errors in a work of such immense scope are unavoidable. Readers are encouraged to write the author so that they may be corrected in the event of a future edition.”) It may not be the “final word” but, just by existing, it’s already the most comprehensive book ever written about the Baltimore music scene. Or, as Rafael Alvarez commented, “Joe Vaccarino has done Baltimore as valuable a service as the one Harry Smith provided America’s burgeoning folkie movement with his fabled anthology [The Anthology of American Folk Music]. This is history you can use and it’s Crabtown through and through.”

Continue reading “Baltimore Sounds” at Tom Warner’s Accelerated Decrepitude.

Buy “Baltimore Sounds” at Atomic Books.

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