Originally, Solemn Oath was a barbershop quartet. Or barbtet, as we called them in the industry. Sure, John has told you about how he had an epiphany about opening the brewery while flying back from visiting Joe in SoCal. That’s all true, but what he didn’t mention was that Solemn Oath was already in existence, just in a more delicious, a capella form.
John had actually gone out to ask Joe for some more money. The quartet was not making any of us rich. On the contrary, our one-bedroom townhouse, that we all shared, was about to get foreclosed on. But we were starving artists chasing our harmonious dream, and Joe always supported that.
I’m the one that got the barbtet ball rolling. I was experimenting constantly with my muse, Jame “Buffalo Bill” Gumb from Silence of the Lambs. And I felt very strongly that his iconic character was just not being tapped into enough in the barbtet world, much less the music industry as a whole. Sure there were some ‘tets out there that would have Buffalo Bill style solos or lyrics, but they didn’t fully embrace his psyche. And I knew that I could bring out the full richness of Buffalo Bill’s world. Our first song, “Oh Yeah, Was She a Great Big Fat Person,” was going to help announce our presence and jettison us to the top.
Funnily enough, we were originally named “The Buffalo Bills.” Turns out though, this name was already claimed by another barbtet. Some group of hacks from the 60s. They had come to prominence on the that sci-fi western mini series, The Music Man.
The show revolved around Centauri, played by Robert Preston, and his search for the first starfighter. Side note; the first starfighter was portrayed by Backdraft director Richie Cunningham. Centauri can be seen here giving Cunningham his first trumpet. As we all know, spaceships in the early 60s were all navigated by using a three-valved brass instrument similar to a trumpet or flugelhorn. So if the kid could play a tune, then he could fight the Ko-Dan Armada. Anyway, those Buffalo Bills were stationed on the River City Space Station as protocol cyborgs. Blah blah blah, you get the picture….
Shit, where was I? Oh yeah, so anyway, then we became the Solemn Oath Baritones. We were really hitting our stride in early 2005, riding the post-Creed wave. We were playing all the big events. You know, all the store openings and car shows in The Tri-Counties. Our names were synonymous with Josh Pershey and famous yellow Mustang. We couldn’t even go out to karaoke anymore without getting pulled up to sing. Anyway, it was only a matter of time before we’d be getting the call to perform at the Grundy County Fair. As you know, once you sing there, you can write your own ticket.
Early 2007, the call came. It was only Grundy County Highway Commissioner Don Roberts on the phone, but I screamed my half of the conversation to the sky for I thought it was Gabriel from on high. Gabriel wasn’t the high one though. I was all Dewed up, high on the Mountain of Dew. We were living pretty fast and loose at that time on the Dew. Why not though, right? Things were going great for us. I could go to any bingo night at any VFW or church in the area and drink for free. If I wanted to head for the Mountain, I only had to put out my hand and it was Dewed. Maybe that was the problem. Maybe that’s why we started hitting the sauce so much. Good thing that energy drinks hadn’t hit rural Illinois yet, otherwise we’d probably all be dead.
But we had gotten The Call, and my, I mean, OUR dependence on delicious, neon-colored soft drinks wasn’t a problem. It wasn’t. I, uh I mean, WE could stop any time that we wanted to. And those were late nights, dude. Rehearsing for the big day. We just needed a little help to get through that schedule. We just had to keep it together until the fair. You kill at Grundy County, and then you’re singing at the god damned Sandwich Fair. Then boom, you’re singing the FUCKING SEVENTH INNING STRETCH at WRIGLEY FUCKING FIELD! Woah, sorry. Got excited there. Who gave me this Dew?
Anyway, we were on our way. The fair was coming up and our brilliant careers were just waiting for us. We hadn’t signed any contracts, but our futures were guaranteed. In hindsight, we were flying too close to the sun and our wings were starting to melt. We just didn’t find out until the fair. At least, I didn’t find out until then. Honestly, I can’t for the life of me remember much from that day, so I’ll have to rely on the trustworthy eyewitness account of Giddy Lee, lead singer of CRush, the world-famous Rush cover quartet.
“Oh man, I remember that day. I wish I couldn’t. I wish that day never happened, eh. We were all so excited to see SOB. They had only been around for a couple of years, but boy could they put on a show. It was like they were genetically created to be the perfect barbtet, eh.
“John Barley is like a natural born audience killer. That guys’s face lights up an audience like a teenage Traci Lords’ rear end, eh. His smile is contagious, eh. I can’t even picture him without a smile. Now, Tim Marshall is just a straight up rock star, eh, always puts on an amazing show. He’s the kind of performer that you take for granted, just like Whitney. I just can’t imagine anything disrupting that guy’s performance.
Dead, neon green eyes. It was so sad, eh. Matt was in the midst of a Dew binge. We could all tell that the show was over. But those SOB’s wouldn’t quit.
“Then if that’s not enough, you have Paul Schneider. What a talent, eh? He has a voice from heaven. Innocent and beautiful. I have openly wept on several occasions from the majestic music that comes out of his throat pipes. It’s as if Freddy Mercury somehow left a part of himself in Paul’s mouth, eh. Finally, you have Matt Offerman, the bad-ass bass, with his rugged good looks and inspired lyrics. He obviously has the soul of a mass-murdering psychopath in him. You can hear it in every note he sings, and it’s all that he’s aboot, eh.
“Put that all together and you have a powerhouse of male harmony, eh. If you could soak up the juices from the floor of a men’s locker room and turn it into audio waves, then maybe you could come close to matching their masculine brilliance. Maybe.
“Anyway, I just want to let you know what the pulse of the audience was like that day, eh. We were all out of our minds excited to see them thrash that show, eh. This wasn’t just going to be an amazing show, it was going to be the dawn of the Golden Age of Barbershop. We were going to finally get some regional recognition, maybe even break onto the Midwestern Billboard Charts, eh.
“The crowd went silent as the lights dimmed and then their four microphones were spotlit. I heard that they had been up all night rehearsing, eh, but you couldn’t tell by the electric smile on John’s face. He got the crowd going with first few bars of their hit, “Upper Lip Surprise.” Tim and Paul joined him and the momentum built. We were all in a frenzy waiting for Matt to finish the harmony. After a bit with no sign of Matt, eh, Tim started the refrain over. I couldn’t believe it, there was even more energy the second time around, eh. We were going crazy! Again, the spotlight shone down on an empty microphone, but they held their notes. It was so intense, eh! Then there was a scuffle backstage. The curtain jerked, and Matt stumbled forward like a moose coming outta the brush. He grabbed his mike and stared dead eyes out into the audience. Dead, neon green eyes. It was so sad, eh. Matt was in the midst of a Dew binge. We could all tell that the show was over. But those SOB’s wouldn’t quit. They should have.
Tim tried to go the sexy boy band route, and formed the Testoster-Tones. They were known more for their mesh t-shirts than their music, unfortunately.
“Matt opened his mouth to sing, and a neon green froth started to bubble out. The crowd gasped. Matt turned to the guys, confused. Bewildered, even. Paul broke out in a sweat, still holding that angelic note. Tim nodded in assurance, and kept belting out with vibrato. John’s wink was so powerful it seemed to wake Matt up. Matt’s eyes cleared. He smiled weakly and turned to the crowd, eh. They were going to get through it! These sumbitchs were gonna do it! The guys voices rose again in crescendo. Matt took a deep breath and opened his mouth and exorcisted about 30 gallons of green soda all over the front row. He collapsed on the stage and twitched as green foam oozed out of every one of his orifices. It was really gross, eh.
“Paul’s angelic voice turned into a scream, that rose and rose until it wasn’t possible for human ears to register. John’s smile broke. Audibly. No matter what he did, he could not restart it. His spirit visibliy crumbled, eh. Tim continued on with the song. He just couldn’t not sing, eh. He stared ahead and sang, manically. Maniacally, but the show was over. They pulled the sound, and turned off the spotlights. Even without the PA system, you could still hear Tim singing over the whimpers of the crowd and the sounds of the paramedics pumping Matt’s stomach. It was just, so…Soo-rry. It was heartbreaking, eh. I can’t…That’s all.”
Wow, I don’t really remember it like that. Pretty sure I just had the flu. Pretty sure. Anyway, people like to blame the Dew for that horrible day, but I know in my heart that it was our futile chase for the perfect Buffalo Bill barbtet performance. It just was not attainable.
After that, the group splintered. Paul’s voice was gone forever, but he didn’t want to stop performing. He put together the Ministers of Hubris, a juggalo barbtet. That way he wouldn’t be required to sing well. Tim tried to go the sexy boy band route, and formed the Testoster-Tones. They were known more for their mesh t-shirts than their music, unfortunately. After a stint in rehab, I went back to the drawing board and chose another muse to follow: Don Knotts’ Mr. Furley. You can still book Four’s Company for bat mitzvahs and quinceañeras. John decided to turn that million dollar smile to another endeavor and that’s when Solemn Oath Brewery was born. Now you know where SOB really came from, and you might recognize some of our song names, like; Snaggletooth Bandana, Whisper Kisses, or TickleFight.
This is the eighth in a series of posts exploring the origins of SOBs. Read John Barley (+1), Tim Marshall, Joe Barley, Paul Schneider, Honda, and MOfferman‘s posts to get caught up. Even if you choose not to look back, where you come from is important. How you got here is important. These are our origins.