Back in my college days, I spent more time in bars than could be considered healthy. However, my friends and I weren’t a fan of the bars near campus, and their crowd of drunken people our age or younger. We craved a different environment, and many a night was spent getting sloshed downtown, at a place called Dirty Frank’s. Dirty Frank’s is a dive, home to cheap beer, a great jukebox, Ms. Pac-Man, nuts in twenty-five cent snack dispensers, and a rotating crowd of oddballs and weirdos. On the outside walls of the bar is a mural of famous Franks, ranging from Frank Zappa to former Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Frank “Tug” McGraw, to Frankenstein, Aretha Franklin, and a Frankfurter. Inside, a U-shaped bar covered in chipped linoleum, and several battered booths sit for your comfort.
It was a cold night, when they Stumblebums came in. A dapper pair, and a study in contrasts. One was small and carried a trumpet. The other was stout, and wore a tuba. The bartender understood what was going to happen from the outset, and turned off the jukebox. The two men began to hoot and honk on their brass instruments, a drunken, slurry, wonderful effluence of music filled the air. They played a couple songs, tromping around the crowded room as best as they could. Then, just as suddenly, they stopped. The short shoved a CD-R in my hand in a cheap plastic sleeve. I gave him five dollars, though it wasn’t required.
Next thing I knew, they were gone. They’d vanished into the night, leaving my friends and I with a fond memory that a few more pitchers of Yuengling Lager turned into a legend. It wasn’t the strangest thing to happen at Dirty Frank’s in my time as a regular barfly… that award would go to the impromptu 80s dance party outside the bar on a warmer night. But it’s the Stumblebums I have the fondest memories of, and documentation. The two track CD-R that has stayed in my music collection, and I share it below, for your pleasure.
The track titles are best guesses, and the music is clearly more than the two-piece that stumbled into the bar that night. There may be a connection between the pair of men who serenaded us that night and the New York City band who call themselves The Stumblebums, though they seem to be a long way from their days as buskers and actual Stumblebums. Like any good dive, Dirty Frank’s was too dark, and we were all too drunk to get a good look at the players, anyway. Truth is, the identity of the musicians is secondary to the story. Thankfully, the songs live up to the story of how I came across them. I’m happy to share them with you.