10,000 Maniacs

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10,000 Maniacs
10,000 Maniacs.jpg
10,000 Maniacs original band (excluding original member John Lombardo): L to R: Rob Buck, Steve Gustafson, Natalie Merchant, Dennis Drew and Jerome Augustyniak
Background information
Origin Jamestown, New York, United States
Genres Alternative rock, college rock, post punk, jangle pop, folk rock, soft rock
Years active 1981–present
Labels Elektra, Bar/None
Website www.maniacs.com
Past members

10,000 Maniacs is a United States-based alternative rock band, which formed in 1981 and continues to be active with various line-ups.[1]



The period featuring vocalist Natalie Merchant was the most critically and commercially successful for 10,000 Maniacs. She is seen here performing with the band in 1984.

The band was formed as Still Life in 1981 in Jamestown, New York, by Dennis Drew (keyboards), Steven Gustafson (bass), Chet Cardinale (drums), Robert Buck (guitar), and Teri Newhouse (vocalist and Buck's ex-wife). Gustafson invited Natalie Merchant, who was 17 at the time, to do some vocals. John Lombardo, who was in a band called The Mills (along with brother guitarist/vocalists Mark Liuzzo and Paul Liuzzo and drummer Mike Young) and used to play occasionally with Still Life, was invited to join permanently on guitar and vocals. Newhouse and Cardinale left the band in July, and Merchant became the main singer. Various drummers came and left. The band changed its name to Burn Victims and then to 10,000 Maniacs after the low-budget horror movie Two Thousand Maniacs!.[2]

They performed as 10,000 Maniacs for the first time on Labor Day, September 7, 1981, with a line-up of Merchant, Lombardo, Buck, Drew, Gustafson, and Tim Edborg on drums. Edborg left and Bob "Bob O Matic" Wachter was on drums for most of the 1981 gigs. Tired of playing cover songs—though their first notable American hit was found in covering the Cat Stevens hit "Peace Train"—the band started to write their own music, usually with Merchant handling the lyrics and Lombardo the music. In March 1982, with Jim Foti on drums, the band recorded an EP album called Human Conflict Number Five. More gigs followed in 1982. During this time they lived in Atlanta, Georgia for a short while at the encouragement of friends who said that many gigs were available there. Discouraged by the actual lack of gigs, and by having to sell plasma and rake leaves to buy food, the band moved back to Jamestown in November 1982 to regroup.

At the beginning of 1983, Jerry Augustyniak joined the band as their permanent drummer. The Maniacs met Augustyniak when they played in Buffalo, New York, where he was in a punk band called The Stains. Between March and July, the band recorded songs for a second record, Secrets of the I Ching, their debut full-length album, which was pressed by Mark Records for the band's own label Christian Burial Music. The record was well received by critics and caught the attention of respected BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel in London. One song, "My Mother the War", turned out to be a minor hit in the United Kingdom, and entered the independent singles chart. The band toured extensively during 1983 and 1984, and played gigs in the UK.

Peter Leak, an Englishman living in New York City, became interested in the band, made contact and was made their manager. With the help of Leak and Elektra Records A & R man Howard Thompson, 10,000 Maniacs signed to Elektra in November 1984. In the spring of 1985, they recorded their second full-length album, The Wishing Chair, in London at Livingston Studios, with Joe Boyd as producer. Though the album was not a blockbuster hit, its status as the band's major label debut did win it some notice, and it received significant critical acclaim.

Co-founder Lombardo left the band during a rehearsal on July 14, 1986. The remaining five members started recording a new album in Los Angeles, with Peter Asher as the producer. In My Tribe, a more pop-rock oriented record, was released on Tuesday, July 7, 1987, hit the charts where it stayed 77 weeks, peaking at No. 37 and established a large US audience for the group and was also well received in the UK. The album originally contained "Peace Train." It was removed from subsequent pressings after Cat Stevens (now Yusef Islam) made comments implying he agreed with a death Fatwa against author Salman Rushdie. The next album, 1989 Blind Man's Zoo hit No. 13 and went gold, further increasing the group's following. In May 1989, the British music magazine, NME reported that 10,000 Maniacs had won the songwriter category prize at the New York Music Awards.[3] In 1990, with the help of Lombardo, they remastered their first two records Human Conflict Number Five and Secrets of the I Ching and released them as a compilation called Hope Chest: The Fredonia Recordings 1982-1983. Lombardo and Mary Ramsey, who had formed a folk act called John & Mary, opened gigs for the Maniacs on the Hope Chest Tour in 1990. In 1991, during the recordings of a new album, Merchant revealed to the other members that she would be leaving for a solo career in two years' time. The new album, Our Time in Eden, was released on September 29, 1992.[4] In 1993 the band performed at the MTV Inaugural Ball for President Clinton in January, and on MTV Unplugged on April 21. Merchant announced her leaving the band on MTV on August 5, 1993, saying she "didn't want art by committee anymore."[5] The MTV Unplugged album was released on October 26, 1993.[6] "The last 10,000 Maniacs gig was the first time I'd got drunk in nearly two years," Merchant later recalled. "I laughed a lot and threw lots of flowers out of the hotel window."[7]


In late 1993/early 1994, the remaining members of 10,000 Maniacs (Augustyniak, Buck, Drew, and Gustafson) asked John & Mary to join the band and continue. The revamped band began performing new material almost immediately, initially calling themselves "John & Mary, Rob, Steve, Dennis, & Jerry," before they were to legally regain control of the 10,000 Maniacs name.

10,000 Maniacs released two albums with Ramsey on vocals. In 1997 they released Love Among the Ruins on Geffen Records and followed up in 1999 with The Earth Pressed Flat on Bar/None.

In December 1998, Buck took some time off from the band, moving to Texas to focus on a new project called League of Blind Women. The band recruited Buffalo-based Michael Lee Jackson of the band Animal Planet to step into the lead guitar role. Buck returned to the band in the summer of 1999.

On November 3, 2000, 10,000 Maniacs played with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, in Buffalo, N.Y. It was the last concert they performed with Buck. On December 19, 2000, Buck died of liver failure at the age of 42.[8] He was buried in Mission Cemetery in Sugar Grove, Pennsylvania.

The band took a break. Gustafson and Drew, with Jeff Erickson started a band called The Mighty Wallop!. Augustyniak joined a band called Only Humen. On December 5, 2001, a 10,000 Maniacs line-up comprising Gustafson, Drew, Augustyniak, Lombardo, and Ramsey played on a benefit concert in Toronto, with Buck's former guitar technician, Erickson, on lead guitar.


In 2002, Gustafson, Drew, and Augustyniak decided that they wished to continue with a new lead singer. Lombardo showed up at the first band practice, found out that the band had hired Erickson to play lead guitar and Oskar Saville of the Chicago-based band Rubygrass to sing, and quit the band. This lineup toured sporadically between 2002 and 2006, playing at various festivals. Ramsey rejoined the current edition of 10,000 Maniacs for several dates in 2006, playing viola and singing backing vocals.

In 2006, John & Mary formed a folk-rock band called the Valkyries. John & Mary & the Valkyries are composed of several longtime Buffalo music scene stalwarts.

On January 27, 2004, Elektra/Asylum/Rhino Records released Campfire Songs: The Popular, Obscure and Unknown Recordings, a two-CD set compilation, with 31 digitally remastered songs, four of them demos and one unreleased. The second disc contained B-sides and outtakes throughout the band's career up to that point, including many covers. Jackson Browne's "These Days" and Tom Waits's "I Hope That I Don't Fall in Love with You" were among those included.

Saville left in 2007 and Mary Ramsey regained the lead vocalist spot.


10,000 Maniacs at Pittsford Park in Lake Forest in 2015

The current edition of the band (Augustyniak, Drew, Erickson, Gustafson and Ramsey) remains active. On October 24, 2009, they performed at a benefit in Buffalo for the Griffis Sculpture Park in Ashford Hollow, New York. The band recorded an "Unkempt" acoustic show in Jamestown on January 16, 2010. Other recent shows include concerts in Chicago, IL; Keystone, CO; Rochester, NY and Clarence, NY. They also played a powerful performance at the popular Mohegan Sun Wolf Den in Uncasville, CT on August 4, 2010. Then later in 2010 played at the famous Oyster Festival in Norwalk, Connecticut. A short tour down the East coast included two sold out shows at City Winery in NYC, Ram's Head Tavern in Annapolis, MD and The Birchmere in Alexandria, VA.

John Lombardo has joined his former band mates on numerous occasions. Buffalo-based singer/songwriter Maria Sebastian has also accompanied the band in 2011 and has been replaced in 2012 by Jamestown-based singer/songwriter Melanie Luciano on acoustic guitar and harmonies. In June 2011 the band released the EP Triangles on their own label, Ruby Wristwatch Records. The band celebrated its 30th anniversary in October 2011 with two sold out concerts at the Scharmann Theater on the campus of Jamestown Community College. The band spent most of 2012 on recording a new full-length album at their studio in Jamestown, New York. In February 2013, they released the album, entitled Music from the Motion Picture, with Ramsey and Erickson sharing lead vocals.

Former drummer Robert Wachter died on March 26, 2013 at the age of 49 due to a long illness.[9][10]

It was announced on February 12, 2015[11] that the band has gone back into the studio to cut a new album, Twice Told Tales. The album was released on April 28, 2015 and celebrated by a performance at Buffalo Iron Works.[12]

Band members

  • Dennis Drew – keyboards, backing vocals (1981–present)
  • Steve Gustafson – bass guitar, backing vocals (1981–present)
  • Jerry Augustyniak – drums, backing vocals (1983–present)
  • Mary Ramsey – lead vocals, viola (1993–2001, 2007–present)
  • Jeff Erickson – guitar, vocals (2001–present)
  • Rob Buck – guitar (1981–1998, 1999–2000; died 2000)
  • John Lombardo – guitar, vocals (1981–1986, 1994–2002, touring member other years)
  • Chet Cardinale – drums (1981)
  • Teri Newhouse - vocals (1981)
  • Natalie Merchant – lead vocals, piano (1981–1993)
  • Tim Edborg – drums (1981)
  • Jim Colavito – saxophone (1981)
  • Debbie Heverly – piano (1981)
  • Duane Calhoun – lead guitar (1981)
  • Bob "O'Matic" Wachter – drums (1982; died 2013)
  • Jim Foti – drums (1982-1983)
  • Oskar Saville – lead vocals, acoustic guitar (2002–2007)
Touring Members
  • John Lombardo – guitar (1990, 2015-, various special guest appearances other years)
  • Mary Ramsey – viola, backing vocals (1990, 1992-1993, 2006-2007)
  • Max Weinberg – drums (1992)
  • Morgan Fichter – violin, backing vocals (1992-1993)
  • Amanda Kramer – piano, acoustic guitar, backing vocals (1992-1993)
  • Michael Lee Jackson – lead guitar (1998-1999)
  • Maria Sebastian – acoustic guitar, backing vocals (2010-2011)
  • Melanie Luciano – acoustic guitar, backing vocals (2012-2014, 2015)
  • Savannah King – acoustic guitar, backing vocals (2014-2015)
  • Amanda Barton – acoustic guitar, backing vocals, violin, tambourine (2015-)



Studio albums

Year Album details Peak chart positions Certifications
(sales thresholds)
1983 Secrets of the I Ching
1985 The Wishing Chair
1987 In My Tribe 37
1989 Blind Man's Zoo 13 18
1992 Our Time in Eden 28 33
  • US: 2× Platinum[16]
1997 Love Among the Ruins 104
1999 The Earth Pressed Flat
2013 Music from the Motion Picture
2015 Twice Told Tales

Extended plays


Year Album details Peak chart positions Certifications
(sales thresholds)
1993 MTV Unplugged 13 40
  • US: 3× Platinum[16]
2006 Live Twenty-Five
2009 Extended Versions



Year Single Peak chart positions Album
US Hot100 US Alt US Main US AC CAN UK[17]
1983 "My Mother the War" Secrets of the I Ching
1985 "Can't Ignore the Train" The Wishing Chair
"Scorpio Rising"
"Just as the Tide was a Flowing"
1987 "Don't Talk" In My Tribe
"Peace Train"
1988 "Like the Weather" 68 37
"What's the Matter Here?" 80 9
1989 "Trouble Me" 44 3 20 7 31 77 Blind Man's Zoo
"Eat for Two" 12 93
"You Happy Puppet"
"Poison in the Well"
1992 "These Are Days" 66 1 40 34 35 58 Our Time in Eden
"Candy Everybody Wants" 67 5 71 47
1993 "Few and Far Between" 95
"Everyday Is Like Sunday" 22 Candy Everybody Wants
"Because the Night" 11 7 9 10 65 MTV Unplugged
1997 "More Than This" 25 11 87 Love Among the Ruins
"Rainy Day"
1999 "Beyond the Blue" The Earth Pressed Flat
"—" denotes releases that did not chart



Year Title Performer Notes
1985 The Tube 10,000 Maniacs Performed Can't Ignore the Train and My Mother the War
1985 Music Convoy 10,000 Maniacs Mimed Grey Victory
1987 The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson 10,000 Maniacs Performed Peace Train and Don't Talk
1987 Late Night with David Letterman Natalie Merchant and Rob Buck Performed Don't Talk (Natalie and Rob performed with the house band); this version of the song has some alternate lyrics at the end
1988 Saturday Night Live 10,000 Maniacs (NBC) Aired 27 February 1988; Performed Peace Train and Like The Weather
1988 Wired 10,000 Maniacs
1988 The White Room 10,000 Maniacs Performed Don't Talk and Like the Weather
1989 MTV Unplugged 10,000 Maniacs First appearance
1989 The Big Al Show 10,000 Maniacs Performed Headstrong
1989 The Arsenio Hall Show 10,000 Maniacs Performed Eat For Two and Poison in the Well
1989 Late Night with David Letterman Natalie Merchant and Rob Buck Performed Trouble Me (Natalie and Rob performed with the house band)
1989 The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson 10,000 Maniacs Guest Host: Jay Leno. Performed Trouble Me and Eat For Two
1989 One Hour With Jonathan Ross Natalie Merchant Performed Verdi Cries
1990 The Word 10,000 Maniacs Performed The Latin One
1990 Earth Day Rally 10,000 Maniacs (minus Dennis Drew) Performed What's the Matter Here?, Dust Bowl, and A Campfire Song (with Michael Stipe); Natalie later performed Get Together with The Indigo Girls, Michael Stipe, and Woody Harrelson
1992 Saturday Night Live 10,000 Maniacs (NBC) Aired October 31, 1992; Performed These Are Days and Candy Everybody Wants
1992 Late Night with David Letterman 10,000 Maniacs performed Few & Far Between
1992 The Tonight Show with Jay Leno 10,000 Maniacs performed These Are Days
1992 Live with Regis and Kathie Lee 10,000 Maniacs Performed How You've Grown
1992/1993 MTV Drops the Ball 10,000 Maniacs Performed These Are Days and Candy Everybody Wants
1993 MTV Unplugged 10,000 Maniacs First artist to make second appearance
1993 The Arsenio Hall Show 10,000 Maniacs
1993 The Tonight Show with Jay Leno 10,000 Maniacs Performed Candy Everybody Wants and How You've Grown
1993 Late Night with David Letterman 10,000 Maniacs Performed Stockton Gala Days
1993 Rock and Roll Inaugural Ball 10,000 Maniacs Performed These Are Days, Candy Everybody Wants (with Michael Stipe, and To Sir With Love (with Michael Stipe
1993 The Today Show 10,000 Maniacs
1993 Late Show with David Letterman Natalie Merchant and Rob Buck Performed Because the Night (introduced as Natalie Merchant as she'd already left the band)
1997 Showbiz Today 10,000 Maniacs Performed Rainy Day, Even With My Eyes Closed, Big Star, and More Than This
1997 Live with Regis and Kathie Lee 10,000 Maniacs Performed More Than This
1997 Sabrina, the Teenage Witch (TV series) 10,000 Maniacs Mimed Rainy Day on the episode "A River of Candy Corn Runs Through it"
1997 The RuPaul Show 10,000 Maniacs Performed Rainy Day
2014 Indy Style TV[18] 10,000 Maniacs Performed More Than This and These Are Days
2015 WGN 9 News [19] 10,000 Maniacs Performed Canadee-I-O, Lady Mary Ramsey, and More Than This
2015 Talk of the Town Mary Ramsey, Savannah King, and Joey Molland Performed Sweet Tuesday Morning
2015 Talk of the Town 10,000 Maniacs May 7
2015 AM Buffalo[20] John Lombardo and Mary Ramsey Performed Canadee-I-O


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  9. Robert J. Wachter (1963 - 2013) Obituary, Legacy.com, Retrieved 2015-06-25
  10. 10000 Maniacs Biography, Billboard.com, Retrieved 2015-06-25
  11. 10,000 Maniacs Announce Official Release Date Of Their New Album And Offer A Sneak Peek!, Cleopatra Records, Retrieved 2015-06-25
  12. 10,000 Maniacs pay tribute to British folk influences on new disc, Buffalo.com, Retrieved 2015-06-25
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  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 "Gold & Platinum Search". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved on 2013-1-25.
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  18. http://wishtv.com/2014/07/31/10000-maniacs-perform/
  19. http://wgntv.com/2015/02/13/music-lounge-10000-maniacs-perform-live/
  20. http://www.wkbw.com/am-buffalo/10000-maniacs

External links