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Biography

Gin Blossoms are an American rock band formed in 1987 in Tempe, Arizona. They first came to notice with the song "Hey Jealousy" from their first major label album, New Miserable Experience (1992), but this achievement was coupled with the firing and eventual suicide of the song's author and band co-founder Doug Hopkins, prompting the title of their follow-up album, Congratulations I'm Sorry (1996). After a series of charting singles, the band broke up in 1997. They reunited in 2002 and released a fourth album, Major Lodge Victory, in 2006, and a fifth, No Chocolate Cake, in 2010.

History[edit]

Members of the band's early years include the guitarist and songwriter Doug Hopkins, the bass guitarist Bill Leen, the vocalist Jesse Valenzuela, the guitarist Richard Taylor, Taylor's original replacement Steven Severson, the drummer Chris McCann, McCann's replacement Dan Henzerling, and Taylor's later replacement Robin Wilson. The band's name comes from a photo of W.C. Fields in Kenneth Anger's infamously erroneous book, Hollywood Babylon, which bore the caption "W.C. Fields with gin blossoms", referring to the actor's telangiectasia-ravaged face and rhinophymic nose by the slang term for the skin condition known as rosacea.

In their early years, the Gin Blossoms became well-known around their hometown of Tempe, Arizona. The band's frequent touring resulted in an increase in popularity; the Blossoms also independently recorded their first full-length album, Dusted, which was released in 1989. The group is known for its "southwestern sound", or "Mill Avenue sound", similar to other bands from Arizona such as The Sidewinders, The Refreshments, The Meat Puppets, and Dead Hot Workshop.

By the early 1990s, the line up had changed to Leen on bass guitar, Hopkins on guitar, Valenzuela on guitar and vocals, Wilson on vocals and acoustic guitar, and Phillip Rhodes on drums. After being signed with A&M Records, the band began to work on their first major label album. Initial attempts faltered and the band released an EP, Up and Crumbling, instead.

Gin Blossoms named their first full-length studio album New Miserable Experience. In February 1992, while still working to complete it, the founding member and lead guitarist/songwriter Hopkins drank heavily and grew increasingly stubborn and disillusioned with the process, especially after being hit with a water balloon during their 1992 performance at The Boat House in Norfolk, Virginia. Faced with the prospect of being dropped by A&M, the band terminated Hopkins and replaced him with Scott Johnson. The album was completed and the first single released from it was Hopkins' song "Hey Jealousy". It reached No. 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 4 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock Tracks, largely fueling the success of New Miserable Experience. However, the achievement was overshadowed by Hopkins' suicide on December 4, 1993. The following year, another song by Hopkins, "Found Out About You", also reached No. 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 and climbed to No. 1 on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks.

Between their first and second albums, the Gin Blossoms provided the single "Til I Hear It from You" for the Empire Records soundtrack. It reached No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100. Their second major album, Congratulations I'm Sorry, was released in 1996. Yielding one top ten hit, "Follow You Down" - No. 9 Billboard Hot 100, the album met with mixed reviews.

The Gin Blossoms broke up in spring 1997 and each band member moved on to his own project. The vocalist Wilson and the drummer Rhodes launched the Gas Giants. The bass guitarist, Leen, formed a local band called Rai and then retired from music to operate a rare book store. The guitarist, Valenzuela, fronted a short-lived outfit called the Low Watts, released a solo album, and kept busy writing and producing. Wilson ventured into producing as well, at his Mayberry Studios in Tempe, Arizona. (The studio is now called Uranus Studios.)

The Gas Giants announced an "indefinite hiatus" in June 2001. On December 4, 2001, it was announced that Scott was leaving his current band, Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers, to rejoin the Gin Blossoms. The band regrouped and began playing together again in earnest in 2002, having done a couple of one-off shows in the interim. In the words of the front man Robin Wilson at the time, "We always said our breakup wasn't forever and right now we're all feeling like we want to be Gin Blossoms again. We make a noise together that we can't make otherwise. We respect and appreciate that we need each other to create that sound. This time we hope to avoid being swallowed by the chaos."

In preparation for the band's official reunion show, Rhodes suffered a breakdown due to his ongoing battle with alcohol. Shortly after entering rehab, he was formally dismissed from the band. Phil Leavitt of Dada originally took Rhodes' place in the line up, and then Gary Smith (of The Pistoleros, another Tempe band) stepped in. Scott Kusmirek took over drumming for the band from 2002 to 2004. In January 2005, it was announced that Rhodes, who had been sober for over two years, would rejoin the band. The re-entry of Rhodes was short-lived, however. Kusmirek returned to the band, taking Rhodes' place. "The Kooze", as he is affectionately known, was the drummer for the Gin Blossoms until September 30, 2008, when a press release issued by the band explained that he and the group had parted ways. The current drummer is John Richardson. The band's fourth album, Major Lodge Victory, was originally recorded at Wilson's Mayberry Studios in Tempe. However, the album was re-recorded at Ardent Studios in Memphis, where the band had recorded all of their previous albums, along with other notable groups such as Big Star and The Replacements. Major Lodge Victory was released by Hybrid Recordings on August 8, 2006, and "Learning the Hard Way" was the first single. Major Lodge Victory entered the Billboard 200 album chart at number 159. This was the first time the Gin Blossoms had appeared on the Billboard 200 chart in more than 10 years, since the week of July 13, 1996, with their previous album, Congratulations… I'm Sorry. Since reuniting, the band has performed at numerous locations across the USA, occasionally joined by Kirk "The Judge" Karman on harmonica.

Gin Blossoms released a live album, Live In Concert, on May 15, 2009. This album contains live recordings of the band's hits such as "Hey Jealousy" and "Follow You Down", as well as recent singles such as "Learning the Hard Way" and "Long Time Gone", and a live cover version of Elton John's "Rocket Man"

The band's fifth studio album, No Chocolate Cake, was released on September 28, 2010. The first single, "Miss Disarray" was released to radio stations on August 2, 2010.

Over the 2010 Thanksgiving holiday the band traveled to Iraq and played a series of shows for American troops stationed there.

The band announced on its website on March 4, 2012, that Richardson had left the band to pursue other recording and performing projects. The band stated in its news release, "John is a great drummer and all of us support his passion for recording. We all wish him the very best and thank him for all his hard work and dedication." The band also announced that Scott Hessel would be its road drummer. Hessel has been a member of another Tempe band, Let Go.

The Gin Blossoms joined Everclear, Sugar Ray, Lit and Marcy Playground on the Summerland Tour 2012, a 31-date nationwide tour that began on June 28, 2012, in Saratoga, California, and ended on August 11, 2012, in Laughlin, Nevada.

Discography[edit]

  • Dusted (1989)
  • New Miserable Experience (August 4, 1992) US No. 30; 4x Platinum
  • Congratulations I'm Sorry (February 13, 1996) US No. 10; Platinum
  • Major Lodge Victory (August 8, 2006) US No. 159
  • No Chocolate Cake (September 28, 2010) US No. 73

External links[edit]

  • Official website
  • Gin Blossoms on Myspace
  • Gin Blossoms collection at the Internet Archive's live music archive
  • Gin Blossoms at DMOZ

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