Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Frenchmen by Chuck Eschweiler 1979

Chuck Eschweiler was a walking encyclopedia of rock music. I used to hang out and talk to him years ago when he worked at a record store at the Mall, back in the days when you could hang out with someone working retail, back in the days of record stores. I read his articles in the Erie Times-News Weekender and was forever picking his brain about how to get a foot in the door as a writer. His advice was something like "Stop talking about it and just do it." I also pestered his girlfriend Karen (later his wife and then ex-wife) who worked at Razzberry Records downtown. She was also very encouraging and didn't treat me like a thirteen year old kid. I took copies of articles that I wrote for our middle school newspaper for them to read and they would play the latest 45's by local bands for me.

Chuck had a real sarcastic sense of humor. You either got him or you didn't. He struck me as being a loner but he seemed to absorb what was happening around him.. Chuck was born January 21, 1951 in Erie, PA. He died February 4, 2008 in Erie. 

The following article by Chuck Eschweiler was published in the Erie Times-News Weekender on June 9, 1979. 

The Frenchmen: willing to take risks

I've been going to hear a lot of local bands lately, and am struck by the fact that most of them still think it's 1975. I know I'm not the only one, because I've heard a lot of people say that they wish this or that band would do some newer material. I don't know, buy maybe everyone's getting sick of hearing human jukeboxes playing something that sounds like it comes from some 'hip' FM station's playlist. Then again, there's the suburban cowboy brigade- most of whom have never lived closer to the Mason-Dixon line than Titusville, and yet posing as good ol' boys. Whatever it is, the success of the Frenchmen prove there is an audience for something new. As of this writing the Frenchmen have played out three times and already have a bigger following than several established area bands.

The Frenchmen are John Drumm (keyboards and vocals); Bradley Harrington (bass and vocals); Dennis Johnson (guitar); and Fran Piazza (AKA Peachbloom Velour, on drums). People have associated the Frenchmen with punk rock and new wave bands because of Drumm's previous band, Pistol Whip. "The Frenchmen are not a punk band," John told me, "but they lumped everything that's come out in the past two years as that, or new wave, and those are over-used and worn out labels."

"I don't know what we are," Bradley Harrington added, "but I know we're not punk rock, art rock, or country rock...Everybody says we are (new wave), but we don't have new wave pretensions and we're not out to impress any other musicians with any kind of musical direction."

John and Bradley started putting the Frenchmen together last July, with the idea of appealing to a wider audience that Pistol Whip, and getting a band in which to do their own material. Bradley got Dennis Johnson out of retirement to join the Frenchmen, and they went through a series of drummers until someone gave them Peachbloom's name.

"I had been in the Edinboro stage band," she said, "the George Fawcett trio, and an all-girl country band. I really wanted to play rock and roll, but I was apprehensive about it. Many girls can play as well as guys, but they're intimidated. I'd like to see any girl who can play drums, bass, or whatever be able to get out there and to it and not be self-conscious about it."

Peachbloom has gotten over any apprehension she may have had, and the few people who have said, 'A girl drummer!' shut up as soon as she starts playing. She smashes into the drums with an energy so intense it looks dangerous. She is a perfect counterpart to the notoriously calm Johnson, who tears off frantic guitar lines and hardly blinks.

The group's original "Cadillacette" is a crowd pleaser, as are most Frenchmen originals. The usual reaction to a band announcing they're going to do an original tune is for the ladies to go powder their noses and for guys to order from the bar. The Frenchmen are in the unique position of actually having people request originals. I've heard more than one person listen to an original and ask who did it, or what album it was from.
-Chuck Eschweiler

The Frenchmen released two singles on Endangered Species Records in Erie, Pennsylvania.


  1. This is pretty cool. I see a picture of my brother Pat with his band Xit then scroll up and see an article by my brother-in-law Chuck Eschweiler.

    Tim Monahan

    1. Hi Tim. Ask Pat to call me when he gets a chance. Still waiting for him to answer my questions. Thanks for writing! -Debbi

  2. I used to hang out with John Drumm when he was with Pistolwhip. I'd often see him at Earthworks, and I saw Pistolwhip in the mid 70s.

    Do you have any posts about Aura or Easy or the Snowmen?