was (and is) one of the most famous underground cartoonists of all time, having nearly invented the genre.
was also active in the San Francisco Bay area underground comics scene, producing such comics as Mickey Rat and The Couch Potatoes. Finding that
pulled in old friend Al Dodge and the troika began playing for fun.
While on a combined busking/78-hunting trip across the United States, the group made the third comics connection. In Milwaukee, cartoonist/publisher Denis Kitchen offered the group a chance to make a record. They made the shrewd marketing move of cutting a 78 rpm record under the name R. Crumb and his Keep on Trucking Orchestra. Amazingly, this record must have hit its mark because they were offered the chance to make an LP for Blue Goose/Yazoo Records. In the meantime, they earned their distinctive name by hurriedly buying suits at the Salvation Army in order to meet the minimum dress code required of the band at a posh wedding.
Though the band started as a trio, it has at times consisted of as many as six or seven people. An early incarnation of the band included yet another underground cartoonist, Dan Wheetman
(later of Marley's Ghost
). The band added Terry Zwigoff
on cello. Tom Marion
joined on guitar and mandolin. Tony Marcus
took his place in 1978. Guitar dazzler Bob Brozman
came in on the third album (re-released as Singin' in the Bathtub
). By the mid-'80s, the group was making fewer public appearances as Armstrong
had moved inland and it was harder to corral the members. Crumb
now lives in France making a full muster nigh impossible.
The group makes at least a yearly appearance (usually without Crumb
) at the Freight and Salvage Coffee House in Berkeley, CA. They put on a humorous and engaging live show, where one can readily see the camaraderie as well as any frictions that have built up over 20-odd years. At the very least, one can see instruments one rarely sees in action such as a Stroh violin and the musical saw. Recent years have seen occasional appearances in Europe, riding the renewed interest in R. Crumb as a result of Zwigoff's award-winning film Crumb.