9 Lives & 4 Decades of the Legendary HOUSE KATZ

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, Local Music, Artist Feature,   From Issue 659   By: Scott Baker

24th April, 2008     0

In the entertainment business, what goes around comes around and when it is good, nobody forgets.

Over the past four decades in the making, the House Katz were at the nucleus of the Tri-Cities music scene. From the early days in the '70s, right up until their hiatus last year in 2007, the Katz were formed as a stable, nourishing and vital unit of friends and family with a sound that marked their territory.
With over nine members in and out of the group, the engine continued to purr with a continuous streak of fine musicianship, quality cover choices and a house party atmosphere interplay that drew crowds from around the state.        

Crossing over from the late Shipwreck bar in the middle grounds of Bay City in the '80s to The Arlington just off Midland St. during its longest stint throughout the '90s, the band came to rest at BeMo's on Madison over the past five years.

That is where a reunion of all band members, past to present will take place next Friday and Saturday, May 2-3.        

 Shouting out to all their friends, family, and fans, the House Katz are reforming for this special two-night event that will bring together all the artists, some of which have gone scattered around the state for  many years.      

"The House Katz started out as the Katz n' Jammer Kidz, playing at the Shipwreck bar in the late '80s," said bassist and original member Rob Beaudoen, during an interview last week." But the story takes a step back even further, according to original lead guitarist Jerry Dietzel.       

 "Contrary to popular belief we were not always Katz," said Dietzel in an email interview last week. "Names such as Maplewood Spirit, Crystal Sea and Messenger would become well known groups throughout the state."

"The nucleus of the House Katz began in 1970. Henry Alvarez and I came to realize our shared love of music was also a marvelous tool for keeping out of the back seat of patrol cars. With (my) plastic guitar and Alvarez's beautiful voice and out of tune piano we set out on a journey to find other musicians that could fill the gap."

"After moving through several talented and some not-so-talented musicians we finally stumbled upon a Viet Nam-era veteran that would change the course of history for everyone, Rob Beaudoen. In those days finding a bass player would be the equivalent to finding $2.00 gas today, to say the least we were thrilled.      

Next came a drummer with a future polka pedigree. 

 "With Beaudoen and the great Steve Drzewucki on drums, the gigs began," said Dietzel. "Performing at High School's and parties, we sharpened our skills and became some of the best known musicians in the area. I remember being escorted to a club gigs by my parents because I wasn't old enough to be in there on my own."        

 Drzewucki would break off from the group and follow in the footsteps of his father, becoming the leader of the best-known Polka band in Michigan. Mike Pugh entered the scene as the group's new drummer and Beaudoen's friend, keyboard player and future wife Natalie also joined the group around that time.

The sparks turned to flames when Bill Link of Saginaw (eventually) took on the drum job. With Link's progressive and unorthodox drumming style coupled with his vocal work the stage was set. So began the long string of musicians and band names that would lead to what people know today as the House Katz.
Santana Rodriguez, Rodger Delgado, and the late-great Bryant Brewer are just a few of the amazing talents the group was blessed with throughout the years.      

With the '80s behind them, the band took on a Vegas-style role of performing exclusively for eight years.      

 "We then went to the Arlington in 1990," stated Beaudoen. "The owner of the Arlington Dick Busch wanted to call the bar The Arlington House and asked if we could change our name to the House Katz, which we did. We played there for eight years straight. After that we went to the Bayview bar for almost a year. We then went on the road and played for a couple of years. After that we started playing at BeMo's until last year when we went into hibernation."       

Having kicked off the group's most successful era in 1990, a new vocalist/guitarist was added to help kick the group into high gear.   

 "With his wide vocal range and superhuman ability to not take no for an answer, Jerry Eurich entered the group (then known as Trails)," said Dietzel. "Within a short period of time Eurich would insure the transforming band of Katz house gigs that would last for many, many years.

"The eight year stay at the Arlington Hotel was unquestionably the most successful time for the House Katz. The Arlington along with the ever thinking mind of Jerry Eurich is really what brought about the name House Katz."         

Musicians filling out the '90s included Dietzel's son on drums, Jerry Dietzel III (from 1999-2000), and Luann Ervin who joined as another lead vocalist in 1999 playing up through the past year. Lead guitarist/vocalist Steve Hornak was the final rookie in the group, taking over duties from 2005-2007.   

 "My history with the Katz started about eleven years ago," said Ervin, who was also interviewed last week.  "It all began when I lived in the Detroit area. I don't think I could have brought a friend down there, so I would come back home to Bay City on the weekends to be with my old friends. They told me of this great band called the House Katz that played every weekend at a place called the Arlington Hotel. It's etched in my memory of just how much fun it was."

 Ervin knew she was witnessing a great band.   

 "The Katz were better than great," she continued. "The people would fill the place just to hear them. I met the band and asked if I could do a song with them, and I would eventually find out they always let people join in and play.  I think that's why everyone loved the Katz so much - they made us all feel like we were part of the House Katz.  I did sit in a number of times and was eventually asked to join the band. My first thought was no way! These guys are way, way too good to have me sing with them. I thought about it, but not for too long and the rest is history."       

 For Ervin, the Katz help her reach her own musical goals.     

 "We've also played everywhere from Drummond Island to the Munger Potato Fest, Saginaw to Howell, Sebewing to St. Charles," stated Ervin. "Basically just being in a band had been something I always wanted to do and I finally got to do that."      

 "As far as the group members go we are more like family than band members," added Dietzel. "When something happens to one of us, it happens to all of us. We have spent uncounted hours cooped up together in small rooms and basements trying to perfect our craft and we managed to come out still loving each other. That's a great memory."       

As the show approaches, everyone has been looking forward to the family reunion all the way around.    

 "I would love to bring out the people that through years have been House Katz fans...I think there may be quite a few," said Ervin.

"I'm looking forward to seeing more friends than the place will hold," added Dietzel. "The shame is I know I will not have enough time to spend one on one with them, so please forgive me in advance."

" I'd like to see Larry McCray show up.  Larry and I tortured a lot of guitar strings together when we were younger and I'd love to have him join me on stage for a couple. Again, it's the friends that come to see us that make all the difference."         

With the hopes that everyone does show up as is planned, both nights at BeMo's should be at capacity between audience and band members alone.  

 "I believe the most important things the House Katz have done for the Tri-Cities music scene has little to do with music," stated Dietzel. "We have proved that persistence pays off and most importantly that respect and love for those you live and work with will insure long term success."

" I personally don't consider myself to have any fans. In my eyes they are all friends. I might not remember everybody's name, but I will surly remember their face. To me they are more important than the music itself."

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