The Colorblind James Experience were formed in 1980 but it took nearly a decade before they were ever heard of here in the UK.
The band centred, for the most part, around the talents of Chuck Cuminale whose stage name was Colorblind James, and the music they played was a mix of rock’n’ roll, country, polka, jazz, blues and rockabilly. They were renowned as an incredibly entertaining live act, first gaining success on the west coast of the States before Chuck moved back to his roots in Rochester, New Jersey in 1984. The stage successes however, did not transfer into them getting any meaningful record deal – the music was just too weird for American radio stations as it didn’t comfortably fit into a single genre and there was no real market for maverick talents such as Cuminale.
In 1987, the band scraped enough cash to record and print 1,000 copies of an LP, one of which was sent to the UK and into the hands of John Peel. Unsurprisingly, Peel fell for their talents and played the tracks again and again and again. They were picked up by Cooking Vinyl and for a few years were regulars on the UK and European touring circuits, but they never got beyond cult fame and placings on the Indie Charts.
I don’t own anything other than the self-titled debut LP from 1987. It has ten tracks, some of which are sung, some are spoken and some are a mix of singing/speaking. There’s a lot of self-deprecating humour on the record and while there’s a couple of tracks that are a bit hit’n’miss there are some well worth a listen:-
mp3 : The Colorblind James Experience – Fledgling Circus
mp3 : The Colorblind James Experience – A Different Bob
mp3 : The Colorblind James Experience – Considering A Move To Memphis
The last of these tracks is a genuine classic, much loved by Mr Peel.
Despite the lack of success, the band continued to record and perform, mostly in the States, throughout the 90s (with ever-changing line-ups) but it all came to a sad and sudden end in July 2001 when Chuck Cuminale died of heart failure at the age of 49.
If ‘Memphis’ had been released as a single, then I’m sure it would have featured in the Cults series. As it is, I’m more than happy to list CBJ as among my favourite American acts.