Jeff Walls, Part 3

Jones: “I felt like he never got enough credit for his producing work. He produced the first [Woggles] EP, which was 1990. Then [our] second album, which was a collection of singles – he produced all the individual singles. And then there was Get Tough and Fractured, and this 10-inch, Wailin’ With the Woggles. And then there was Ragged But Right, and that’s when [previous guitarist] George [“Montague” Holton] passed away. And [Jeff] produced all the releases after joining, too, except for the last one, Tally Ho! – that was Jim Diamond. I was always amazed that [Jeff] would not get more work doing that.”

Buffi Aguero (Tiger! Tiger!, Subsonics): “He was like a duck in water, man. He was just so gracious, and so fun. He had a million great ideas [producing Tiger! Tiger!’s Backing the Wrong Horse album, 2018]. For us, it was great because he was an impartial coach. To me, ‘curious’ is the perfect adjective for him. Even songs for us that I thought he would be totally uninterested in, like, ‘There’s no instruments on this – it’s just vocals and drums,’ he was like, ‘Alright! Great!’ I envy that trait. I would like to have that.”

Patrick O’ Connor (The Woggles): “He loved doing that. When he put his producer hat on, he just got inside of the songs…”

Dan Eletxro (The Woggles): “And the producer boxer shorts! Silver lamé, tiger stripes…”

Jones: “So he had produced [The Woggles], and sat in on occasion. He had actually filled in for George for at least one full show. So… when George passed away…”

Walls (from a 2003 Creative Loafing interview): “Montague and I were sorta brothers in vinyl. There’s been a few times that we’d be making a record and Montague would have just gotten something to eat. I’d go ‘Hey, George, go play an A chord and D chord over this section.’ He’d go, ‘I’m eatin’ right now – you go do it.’ Hahaha! So I’d go pick up his guitar and play through his rig, usually where we doubled parts or something like that.”

O’Connor: “There was this interim [period] where [Jeff] was like, ‘I’m gonna help you guys.’ We had stuff coming up, and he was just gracious enough, and it all worked out. But I wasn’t sure if he was gonna be the new guitar player or… it was just kind of a natural progression.”

Jones: “He wanted to do it.”

O’Connor: “I only bring it up in the sense of, Jeff’s his own thing. Jeff’s his own universe. But it worked out.”

Phyllis Walls: “They thought that he would be too bossy – which he was – and they also knew that he played too well, that he really would have to dumb down his chops. And he did. Because you don’t want to play violin when fiddle is called for. The Woggles were good, and they were entertaining, before [Jeff] joined. Afterwards, they were great. All of a sudden they all became better musicians.”

Jeff Walls (2017 Stomp and Stammer interview outtake): “The Woggles are my dream rock ’n’ roll band. I’ve always envisioned myself in the Keith Richards/Pete Townshend/James Williamson role, backing up a wild man lead singer who looks cool and who isn’t afraid to get a little deranged and engage an audience. Manfred plays the frontman role as well as anyone I’ve ever seen. I remember going to see bands like The Who or The Stooges when I was a teenager; it was such a visceral experience that by the time the show was over you would be covered in sweat and your heart would be racing. That’s the kind of show we like to do. The style of music we like to play is like a jolt of adrenalin to the heart; it makes you feel ten feet tall and bulletproof. The synergy that The Woggles achieve onstage between the four of us is a powerfully seductive force that has proved impossible for me to resist.”

Hilton Valentine (The Animals): “I first met Jeff when he was playing with The Woggles, who were on a shared bill with several bands for The Underground Garage. I was guesting with a band called The Downbeat 5 at the show. Jeff approached me at some point saying he was a fan and that in an old band of his they used to cover an Animals song or two. We exchanged emails and kept in touch. A few times Jeff had asked me to sit in for a couple songs with The Woggles. We’d play a Woggles tune and then a couple Animals tunes. It was always a lot of fun. I remember when they first came out with ‘It’s Not About What I Want (It’s What You Got)’ and Jeff asked again if I’d sit in and play a solo on it. In soundcheck I stumbled through a solo and Manfred called me out on it. Jeff was quick to defend me. He let being a fan take over from being a musician for a moment. Although it made me feel good, Manfred was right; I could do better. I’d like to think I came through for them during the live show.”

Emery: “When Jeff joined The Woggles and toured with them the first time, I got excited enough to ask the clubs to let us open a couple Texas shows and had The Ugly Beats learn ‘Gilbert Takes the Wheel.’ Manfred was nice enough to make sure Jeff was there for our set, and we surprised him with it. He was stoked and even agreed to join us onstage the next night to lead us through it. Getting to play that tune with him onstage is probably my favorite memory ever playing music – I still get chills thinking about it. And my first time seeing him with The Woggles was great and nuts. Tiny Houston crowd but they didn’t care – they were airborne, standing on tables out in the middle of the room playing their asses off like they were at the Apollo. Just like they always do.”

Eletxro: “In the early days when Jeff joined the band, he was showing us a guitar riff, and at some point he said, ‘You guys’ boundaries of what it’s OK to do in this genre are a little bit more narrow than mine!’ To me, that was a life saver… He definitely uplifted the band with what he brought musically, and his knowledge of music…”

Jeff Walls (2017 Stomp and Stammer interview outtake): “It also doesn’t hurt that everyone in The Woggles likes to have fun and party. Our lifeblood is playing live, making cool new friends, and seeing the world as a traveling band. We work hard, and we play hard. The Woggles are rock ’n’ roll cyborgs; when we’re on the job we don’t sleep, we don’t whine, and we don’t fall down.”

Eletxro: “A lot of times, in the later years, last five or so, Jeff was driving the van and the gear, and the rest of us are flying [to shows]. He rents the van, he takes the seats out, loads the gear, drives to DC. We fly in, and then we get done [with the tour] in New York City, we say goodbye, we go to the airport, and he drives home. Unloads the gear, puts the seats back in – and these are heavy seats – and takes the thing back. But, he loved doing that. Never once did I hear him say, ‘You know, you guys flying all the time and me driving is a bunch of bullshit.’ Because with Jeff, he’s in control. He’s on the road, he knows where he’s gonna pick up some barbecue, and sleep at [Southern Culture on the Skids drummer] Dave Hartman’s house in Chapel Hill, and then he’s gonna go to his sister’s place, and he’s gonna eat at this seafood place in old town Alexandria, Virginia, right on the water, and then he’s gonna meet us at the club. He had his thing.”

Aguero: “There’d always be a ‘food destination.’ In each city, there’s a very special place – whether it’s barbecue, chili, po boys…”

Eletxro: “Skyline Chile [in Cincinnati] – he brought gallons of that home. Frank Pepe’s Pizza in New Haven – he’d get three or four pies, drove ’em all the way to Athens. Dreamland ribs [in Alabama]– ‘Gotta get a rack!’”

O’Connor: “Yeah, he did his research. He had a list of all these places, and it was incredibly important – even if it was something new like Skip’s Chipped Beef in Philly, or some mom-and-pop seafood place, you’d pull off to some crazy exit…”

Jones: “There was a special cocktail glass that traveled with him. And if that glass is misplaced, then all hell is breakin’ loose! It wasn’t just a cocktail, it was the routine, the art of it all. There was also a special ice bucket, so ice had to be gathered and put in this particular bucket.”

Eletxro: “I don’t think he ever did anything half-assed in his life.”

Jones: “You know, he was a man of taste and flair. He loved Nehru collars, and so he saw this Japanese schoolboy outfit once [on tour in Japan], with a cool Nehru collar, white piping. He was like, ‘Manfred, what is this jacket?’ I was like, ‘Every schoolboy has a jacket like that.’ ‘Oh, really? This is really cool. Think I can find one?’ I was like, ‘They’re for kids, man!’ So we passed by a shop that sold them, on the way to the club, and he was like, ‘We gotta go in there!’ I walk in with him, and Jeff’s trying to communicate with the guy, trying to explain that he wants one, and it was sort of like a stereotype of a tailor – he’s Japanese, he has the measuring thing hanging over his neck, and he’s got the cigarette hanging out. And he’s like, ‘What? You?’ And so Jeff tries on one, tries on another, and gets to the one he eventually buys. He’s like, ‘Maybe if we can ask him if he has one more one size bigger…’ The guy’s like, [vigorously shakes head ‘NO’].”

 O’Connor: “What’s amazing is that they had one in his size! Imagine that Japanese schoolkid!”

Jones: “The posters for the ‘See My Friends’ benefit shows, that is him in that jacket.”

Scott Sugiuchi (graphic designer/photographer): “Back in 2006 when I was putting together the art for their Rock and Roll Backlash LP – their first with Jeff and first on [Little Steven’s label] Wicked Cool – Manfred and I decided that we would get some pix done while they were staying at my house. I figured the guys would just pop into their stage uniforms or wear their usual everyday cool looks. So the morning of the shoot, Jeff shows up in this impeccable Kinks-esque velvet jacket, scarf…and carrying a friggin’ CANE. He not only was the first to be ready but brought his A-Game. And I think for Jeff, this was his only game.”

Hartman: “He was a gentleman, a gourmand, a style icon, a collector, a connoisseur, a comedian, a mentor, a storyteller, a musician and songwriter, and found fun in everything he did.”

Phyllis Walls: “Any of our friends’ bands that came through town, they would stay here. So we had parties, and usually one band or another would be playing in the basement. And we would serve alcohol, and people of several generations would attend, and it was always loud as hell, and it wasn’t a good party if the cops didn’t get called. Yeah, we had some good ones, and I actually remember some of them… “One of my faves was, Manfred from The Woggles’ former girlfriend wanted to get married and have The Woggles play somewhere, and they kept looking at all these venues, and finally we were like, ‘What the hell, let’s just have it at our place!’ That was a great party. We were finding all kinds of weird crap all over the house for weeks after that. Stuff up the chimney, beer cans hidden in drawers…”

Attaway: “His whole house looks like a museum. Like what we used to call an ‘atomic age’ house of the ’50s and ’60s. I mean, he had all that… he was way into all of the furniture, and glassware, and dishes and stuff, before anybody else that I knew. He was a mid-century modern guy before it was even quite done.”

Jones: “Their basement is a finished basement, and this one particular room there’s like an old zebra print backdrop from Hillbilly Frankenstein…and then there’s an area where the band sets up, and a PA, and stage – with stage lighting! And so, that’s where we would go to rehearse.”

O’Connor: “It was our band camp, and it was a lot of fun. It’s just like a little creative reprieve, and it’s just his personality, ’cause it’s his décor.”

Eletxro: “It was so easy. We had our routine down. We show up, go to Taco Stand, go to Jeff’s house, practice, and then beer call! Up to the Manhattan Café! And sometimes Jeff would go, ‘I think I’m gonna pick up some Thai food, I’ll drop you guys off.’ And he’d put us in the GTO convertible, and we’d roll up in front of the Manhattan, and the young kids would go, (whispering) ‘…Who’s that?’”

Jones: “Just some old guys!”

Continue to Part 4
Go Back to Part 2
Go Back to Part 1

Woggles photo by John Boydston.