Archive for Thursday, October 15, 1998


October 15, 1998


The recently formed band is stealing the Thursday night show at A.B.'s Grille and Deli.

They don't play in the buff and none of them has ever stolen a car -- frozen burritos from 7-11 and a golf cart or two, sure -- but never a full-size automobile.

Nevertheless, Stark Naked and the Car Thieves have a colorful past, even though the four-member band has only been together for a few weeks.

Drummer John Cly lifted the name from a band he once played in when he lived in Los Angeles during the 1960s.

``I played in this group in 1967,'' he said. ``We were a blues funk group and there was this cat, a 357-pound Mexican, who was the lead singer. He dressed in bizarre outfits. He'd come out on stage in a pink bathrobe and frog fins and mask.''

That same band did have a car thief who had done time in prison, an unfortunate incident for an otherwise nice guy, Cly said.

It's a far cry from the current lineup. In addition to the senior Cly, his son, Jeff Cly, wails out lead vocals and is backed up by Bill Maxwell on guitar and the youthful Ben Singer on organ.

``We're a pretty conservative group, really,'' John Cly said. ``I figured with this name people will say, `Stark Naked and the Car Thieves? I gotta go see that!'''

The birth of the band came after Maxwell, Singer and the elder Cly lost their previous steady date at Teller's. They were playing as the Bill Maxwell Trio, but seized on the opportunity to add vocals via the younger Cly and dive into a new project.

After a whopping three rehearsals, the band started playing on Thursday nights at A.B.'s Grille and Deli, 129 E. 10th.

The group's self-described ``jazzier side of the blues'' and 1960s soul tunes borrow from notables such as Jimmy Smith, Duke Robillard, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Wilson Pickett and, for the nimble-fingered Singer, the wayward Spice Girl Geri Halliwell, better known as Ginger Spice.

``We do fun songs,'' Maxwell said. ``When I used to do this stuff, everyone gave me hell because everything was a medium shuffle. Now, there's not one medium shuffle in the bunch.''

``You can't get a slow shuffle confused with a fast scoot,'' Jeff Cly added. ``Maybe I don't know what I'm talking about.''

Cly sings with all the enthusiasm of a kid at a carnival and the deep sounds belie his youthful appearance. He sings from intuition and converts the sounds of the greats into his own.

``Bill goes, `What key do you want to sing in?''' he said. ``I don't know. I just sing.''

They're not out to make it big, though the elder Cly once had an opportunity to open for Sly and the Family Stone, but turned it down to return to his family in Missouri (but that's another story ...). They're out to have a good time.

``I just want to make enough money to support my pinball habit,'' Jeff Cly said.

They want the same good humor to infect their audience.

``You should come to see the next James Brown,'' Singer said, referring to Jeff Cly.

``No, come because you're bored and lonely,'' John Cly said. ``We're just here to have some fun.''

-- JL Watson's phone message number is 832-7145. Her e-mail address is

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