by A.J. Wachtel
Red Peters is a very funny man. He also has a bit of Eddie Haskell, from Leave It To Beaver, in him: his outward smile and comedic persona really camouflage a much darker, more complex and intellectual interior. While Eddie said in black and white, “My you look very nice today, Mrs. Cleaver,” and fooled nobody, Red croons “Blow Me (You Hardly Even Know Me)” behind an orchestra, and the world dances at his feet. Read on and find out why Red Peters should be a big part of your life:
Noise: You attended Mass Art from 1968-’71, majoring in film. When I used to visit the school in the mid-’70s. I remember that all the stairways were covered in great graffiti. I still remember my two favorites: “If PRO is the opposite of CON is Progress the opposite of Congress?” and Dr. Rene Richard’s new book,Tennis Without Balls. Do you remember this as well and what was your favorite wall comment? And is there anything bad you did while enrolled you never got caught for and can confess now; 40 years later?
Red Peters: When I left MassArt in 1971, I returned once for a 1975 concert. My favorite graffiti line was, “Give yourself a handy. You’ve earned it.” I agree with that sentiment, and it’s been my motto ever since. As far as doing anything bad? Everything I did there was bad. I got laid and blown in every room and in every nook and cranny of the old building on the corner of Longwood and Brookline Ave. My friends, classmates, and eventual band mates in GNP and I, took over a storage area that we named “The Room.” We used to smoke pot, drink, and bring girls there, as well as write songs, play music loud, and jam. It took the school administration many, many, many months to get us out of there. The whole school went on strike to protest the Vietnam War but we camped out there and raised hell.
Noise: You left school to go on the road with your first music group Gross National Productions (GNP) as lead vocalist under the name Matt Maverick. Given that Red Peters isn’t your real name either, can you explain your affinity to aliases and pseudonyms?
Red: For GNP, I thought Matt Maverick was a cool “show biz” name. I’d enter from the back of the club or auditorium with a beautiful chick on each arm in long gowns dressed in a custom made white Western themed tuxedo. The name Red Peters was given to me by my co-writer and producer, Ed Grenga and came as a result of exercising extreme caution after writing our first song, “Blow Me (You Hardly Even Know Me).” I owned a commercial music production company at the time and chose to remain anonymous to protect my true identity.
Noise: Will there ever be a GNP reunion?
Red: I’ve been listening to a bunch of the old songs recently and would definitely consider some sort of a reunion. The songs are stuck in my head. I’d at least like to record some of the songs not on the album using the knowledge and experience I’ve gained after so many years in the studio.
Noise: You’ve opened for Sha-Na-Na, Badfinger, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, The Mahavisnu Orchestra, and Frank Zappa and Mothers of Invention among many others. What’s the difference between going on the road back then and today? Any crazy adventures you had with any of these headliners?
Red: There’s not enough room in my head for all the memories, but back then we’d all crowd into the back of a shitbox van, drink cheap wine and beer, and eat baloney sandwiches. We’d crash wherever we could. Today the vehicles are much nicer, the food healthier, and the accommodations a lot better. I remember when we played with Zappa at the Fenway Theater (now the Berklee Performance Center), we stayed next door in the Bryant & Stratton dorms. After sound check, we were up on the sixth or seventh floor and our nutty drummer Joe threw a glass beer bottle out the window in the direction of Zappa and a few members of The Mothers including Artie our bass player as they were leaving rehearsal. Luckily, the bottle smashed about 20 feet from them. We killed that night on two shows. After the 1st show, we did an encore and their roadies threatened to push our equipment off the stage if we did one at the second show. Later that night, we smoked hash with Flo & Eddie of The Turtles who were vocalists in his band. Cool time. There were groupies everywhere and I remember seeing a Japanese photographer standing on a stack of amps taking pictures during the show and he had pissed his pants. Ridiculous memory! We did a few shows with Sha-Na-Na too and I can picture them getting into costume and using tubs of Vaseline.
Noise: In 1984, your Big Band arrangement of your “Blow Me (You Hardly Even Know Me),” recorded with an Orchestra; came out. Legend has it, that Gov. Dukakis and his wife Kitty, danced to “Blow Me” while attending a wedding reception at The Copley Plaza the year he was a Presidential candidate. Fact or fiction?
Red: True story. He was running for President of the United States at that point. My friend Ron Rudy was DJ at the function and would often use the instrumental as a slow dance at weddings. I’ve heard from many other DJs over the years who also used the instrumental as a first dance at weddings or at corporate functions. It’s heartwarming.
Noise: In 1990, you promoted your second single, “How’s Your Whole Family” which led to the full length release of “I Laughed… I Cried… I Fudged My Undies,” in 1995. A national tour followed leading to your first appearance on Howard Stern. You sang “A Ballad of A Dog Named Stains.” Currently, you are the host of The Red Peters Comedy Music Hour on Sirius XM and are a frequent guest on Stern’s show. Is it friendship or competition when you two get together and between the two of you, who really has the more extreme personality? Care to share a quick Stern-Peters story to prove your point?
Red: Stern loved “Dog Named Stains”! And I’ve premiered all my new songs on his show since. It’s difficult to say who has the more extreme personality. His on-air persona is reserved for the radio when the red light comes on. And he never speaks to his guests until they are on live. Off the air, he’s a perfect gentleman. If he’s pissed off, he can be a prick though. Between us, there is no competition (as far as I know). His professional friendships stay at work. His private life is very private. He respects what I do as a writer and recording artist and has always been very generous to me. Our relationship is purely professional. MY material speaks for itself when I’m on the radio or onstage and while offstage, I’m much more polite, mellow and low key especially these days – almost angelic.
Noise: In 2005, “I Can’t Say These Things” came out. Followed by 2006’s “When I Jerk Off, I Think Of You.” And in November, 2010 you and comedian Margaret Cho recorded a cover of Dick Shreve’s “The Christmas Gift (Just A Christmas Blowjob)”. I’m sensing a major drift in your material. What do you find so funny about sex? Is it fair to say that you are a tri-sexual – and
will try anything sexual?
Red: Haha. That’s a good one. Don’t forget about my duet with Todd Rundgren. He’s been singing “Blow Me” in his show for years and we recorded a new big band arrangement of the song that was released last year. You have to remember that I grew up during a time when you couldn’t say “pregnant” on TV and censorship was extremely strict. Plus I went to parochial school and was an alter boy. A lot of thoughts and feelings were repressed. I had to be a good boy at all times. My life of debauchery started with being a hippie at MassArt and then with GNP. Still, government censors ruled with an iron hand back then and you could get arrested for indecency. Look what happened to George Carlin. And then afterwards, when I started producing music for advertising and special events, I again had to act professionally and mind my p’s and q’s around the clients. But as soon as they left, we’d substitute filthy lyrics for theirs and carry on the craziness. I was always fascinated with what they called “party songs,” the stuff that was kept behind the counters at record stores reserved for adults only. Today, profanity in music, especially in hip-hop is everywhere. Even kids hear it. So it’s not that big of a deal anymore. I love superbly produced and arranged songs that co-exist with funny and sometimes filthy subject matter delivered with a straight face. The juxtaposition amuses me.
Noise: In Aug. 2011, while vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard, you are said to have farted in front of President Obama. “Mr. Obama was forced from the fiction aisle to the self-help section until the Secret Service deemed the area clear,” you told the Boston Herald. “They were polite but not amused. The young daughter (Sasha) was blocking her nose.” The President’s Secret Service detail then escorted you from the bookstore. Fact or fiction? Do you find it ironic that the Secret Service can miss a man in a small plane landing on the White House lawn but are immediately all over a citizen in close proximity; with bad gas? Does it bother you that in all probability you know have a CIA file? And are you upset that you didn’t claim you were just “expressing your first amendment rights” to the press, Secret Service, and the leader of the free world?
Red: Hahaha. Another good one. This was an embarrassing moment for me and I’m not really comfortable talking about it. But to make a long story short, I had just eaten a broccoli, cheddar, and onion omelet with a side of sausage next door and thought I’d browse the book store a couple doors up. I was checking out the titles when I heard a commotion and a half dozen beefy dudes with sunglasses and walkie-talkies burst in, frisked me, and told me to remain calm and carry on with my business. I almost shit when I saw Obama and the girls come in. Literally! The rest is history. When the “brown air” reached their row, the first family was not very happy. It was pretty warm in there and the Secret Service rather abruptly and roughly escorted me out the door. I laugh now, but I was mortified as they shoved me into the street where there was a huge crowd of curious vacationers and onlookers standing by. It reminded me of a saloon scene from the wild West!
Noise: What else are you planning to unleash on the world in the near future?
Red: I still scan the planet each week to find and showcase well crafted, funny and filthy adult comedy songs for my podcast, The Song Snatch atwww.redpeterssongsnatch.com. Plus, my producer Ed Grenga and I are gathering up and picking songs for a third Red Peters album that is due out Spring 2016.