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Bun E. Carlos
Bun E. Carlos
Nielsen, Carlos and Zander, of the band Cheap Trick, on tour with Def Leppard and Poison in 2009 at the Sleep Train Amphitheater in Marysville, CA
|Birth name||Brad Carlson|
|Associated acts||Cheap Trick, Tinted Windows, The Bun E Carlos Experience, The Monday Night Band|
Brad M. Carlson, better known by the stage name Bun E. Carlos, is the original drummer for American rock band Cheap Trick. He was the band's chief setlister and archivist, and maintained recordings of all the band's shows, some of which have been released under the title Bun E's Bootlegs. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016 as a member of Cheap Trick.
Carlos was born in Rockford, Illinois, on June 12. The year of his birth is reportedly 1950, 1951, or 1953. His parents were Edwin and Violet (née Nelles) Carlson. His father, a World War II veteran, founded Carlson Roofing Co. His mother was active in her church and in community, working as an educational activist, helping to found or raise funds for a number of local museums, and playing the organ for two local baseball stadiums. Later in life, she founded an antique store. Brad was the third of six children. He has two older siblings, Kurt and Jan, and three younger ones, Mark, Gini, and Edwin.
His elder brother, Kurt, was a major in the United States Army Reserve when, on June 14, 1985, TWA Flight 847 was hijacked by terrorists belonging to Hezbollah. He was brutally beaten and believed to be dead, which led the terrorists to kill Navy diver Robert Stethem instead. Kurt Carlson was held for 17 days aboard the aircraft and on the ground in Beirut, Lebanon.
Brad Carlson attended Lincoln Junior High School and graduated from Guilford High School, where fellow students included Nielsen and Tom Petersson. He played football in the fall of 1966 in his sophomore year. He quit the team because he would rather play music (and be paid for it) than sitting on the bench for an entire game.
Emerging interest in music
Carlson came from a family with extensive musical interests. Carlson family oral history says that Carlson's great-grandfather was a drummer in the Union Army during the American Civil War.[a] Carlson's father played the accordion, his mother played keyboards and several other instruments, his brother Kurt was a drummer in the Guildford High School band, and his older sister Jan played music.
As a child, Carlson remembers listening to music frequently, but didn't start paying attention until about 1962 or 1963 when songs like The Twist, Return to Sender, and Sugar Shack became chart toppers. He initially taught himself to play piano, but when The Beatles saw their first single, "I Want to Hold Your Hand", get radio airplay in the United States in mid-December 1963, Carlson became a major fan and decided to switch to drums. His mother gave him a Sonor drum kit for his 14th birthday, purchasing the kit from Ralph Nielsen Music (which was owned by Rick Nielsen's father). He began taking formal lessons. Being left-handed, Carlson became frustrated by having to constantly change the sticking instructions[b] in his lesson book. He gave up formal lessons, and instead taught himself to play the drums by playing along with songs on the radio or jukebox. Seeing left-handed drummer Dennis Wilson play a right-hand drum kit at a Beach Boys concert inspired him to keep playing. He began attending live concerts just to watch the drummers, paying particular attention to Ringo Starr of The Beatles, Mitch Mitchell of The Jimi Hendrix Experience, and Charlie Watts of The Rolling Stones. He was particularly impressed by the drumming of Ginger Baker, co-founder of the British rock band Cream.
From 1966 to 1968, Carlson played in a band called The Pagans with several other high school friends. The band released a single: The A-side was a cover of The Beatles' 1966 hit "Good Day Sunshine", and B-side a cover of Them's "I Can Only Give You Everything." The single received local radio airplay on WCFL in Chicago and WROK in Rockford and the band sold about 1,500 copies at local record stores, making The Pagans hometown celebrities. The Pagans broke up, and in 1969 he played in another local band, Probe and the Lost Souls (which later changed its name to Albatross).
Early musical career
Carlson enrolled at Rock Valley Junior College in 1969 to obtain an exemption to the draft. He and Robin Zander briefly were members of the same band at this time. Carlson also briefly toured in backup bands for Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, and The Shirelles.
Meanwhile, Rick Nielsen and Tom Petersson formed a band in 1969 and called it Fuse. Carlson dropped out of college and in 1971 moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with Nielsen and Petersson. Fuse's lineup included former Nazz vocalist/keyboardist Robert "Stewkey" Antoni and drummer Thom Mooney, and (according to Carlos) now changed its name to Sick Man of Europe.[c] Nielsen and Petersson took Sick Man of Europe (without Antoni or Mooney) on a tour of Europe in 1970. Returning to the United States, Carlson replaced Mooney as the band's drummer and Petersson left the group. Carlson toured Germany with the band, with Nielsen taking on the bassist's duties.
Carlson now adopted the stage name Bun E. Carlos.
By August 1971, Petersson was back with Sick Man of Europe as bassist.
Conscription ended in the United States in February 1973, and Carlos no longer had a reason to remain enrolled in college. Carlos decided that if a career as a drummer was not forthcoming after a few years, he would quit the music industry and go to work for his dad's roofing company.
Formation of Cheap Trick
About May of 1973,[d] the band members relocated to Rockford. According to Carlos, the day after returning to Illinois, Nielsen, Petersson, and the band's manager Ken Adamany fired Antoni and the band broke up. Antoni returned to Philadelphia, and a few days later Petersson decided to join him.
In June 1973, Carlos and Nielsen formed a new band to take over the gigs which Sick Man of Europe had booked. Randy "Xeno" Hogan was hired as lead vocalist and Rick Szeluga as bassist.[e] Carlos had originally suggested Robin Zander as lead singer, but Zander had a contract that required him to perform as a pop-folk singer in the duo Zander & Kent for three years at the Picadilly Pub in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin.[f] Zander suggested the band hire Hogan instead.
The band continued to use the name Sick Man of Europe, but nightclub owners didn't like the name. For about a month, the band used the name The Reapers.[g] In early August 1973, the group adopted the name Cheap Trick. According to Carlos, Szeluga began having interpersonal problems with Nielsen and left the band. Tom Petersson, then living in Europe, returned to the United States and joined Cheap Trick in November 1973.
Cheap Trick was being booked regularly at clubs in the Midwest for $100 a night ($1,000 in 2019 dollars) and was getting some repeat bookings. About late 1973 or early 1974, Carlos still sported hair down to his shoulders and a scraggly beard. He now cut his hair short, and began sporting a "bandit" mustache. The members of the Cheap Trick were also impressed with the appearance of David Bowie (then using his "Thin White Duke" persona on stage), Electric Light Orchestra, and Roxy Music, and made a conscious decision to begin dressing better on stage. Carlos visited a thrift store and purchased several comfortable suits and about 20 white cotton dress shirts. The new wardrobe was inexpensive, looked good, was comfortable, and allowed him to rapidly expand his on-stage wardrobe.
Interpersonal problems began to affect the band, as Hogan and Petersson did not get along. In the summer of 1974, Hogan left Cheap Trick to join The Litter, a Minneapolis-based band. A few days later, Carlos and Nielsen asked Zander to sing for Cheap Trick. Zander was able to get out of the last year of his contract and joined Cheap Trick in October 1974.[h]
About 1973 or 1974, Carlos gained a major insight into his drumming. He told interviewer Robin Tolleson in 1986 that, like most young drummers, he was mostly interested in making his drumming stand out ("Where can I get the most licks in, and how cool can I sound"). While listening to a tape of a Cheap Trick concert, he realized he was rushing the beat and interfering in the performance of the other band members. Afterward, he began taping every Cheap Trick show to study his own drumming much more objectively, focusing on keeping time and supporting his bandmates. The band also played several gigs alongside Mahavishnu Orchestra about this time. Carlson says he learned a great deal about ambidextrous drumming from drummer Billy Cobham.
Each member of Cheap Trick took on tasks of managing the band which they felt comfortable with. Carlos began to oversee the band's expenditures and business activity. Carlos says that he largely picked the producers and recording studios for three of Cheap Trick's albums when other band members showed disinterest in such things. Rick Nielsen and, sometimes, other members of the band were writing original material for the band to perform.
Cheap Trick began to gel as a band in the spring of 1975. That year, Butch Stone, manager of the Southern rock band Black Oak Arkansas, arranged for Cheap Trick to cut a four-track demo at Ardent Studios in Memphis, Tennessee. The demo generated no record label interest, so the band relentlessly toured the Midwest club circuit. The band played the Starwood nightclub in West Hollywood, California, that year for free in an attempt to generate record label interest. Although several A&R representatives saw the band play, no recording contract was forthcoming.
On Sunday, April 25, 1976, Cheap Trick played the Sunset Bowl in Waukesha, Wisconsin. The venue was a bowling alley, but it had a lounge with high stage and excellent acoustics which booked bands. The band flew record producer Jack Douglas to Waukesha to hear them play.[i] Douglas was impressed by the band's music and performance, and Carlos gave him recordings of the band's performances. A few days later, Douglas agreed to produce Cheap Trick. Douglas then contacted Tom Werman, head of A&R at Epic Records (then owned by CBS). After Douglas threatened to sign the band to RCA Records, Werman flew to Wisconsin to see Cheap Trick perform.
A few days before Werman was due to fly to Wisconsin, Carlos tripped over equipment on stage and broke his arm. Believing the band was about to sign with another label, Werman offered them an additional $25,000 ($112,325 in 2019 dollars) to sign with Epic and said he was still coming. The band realized it had to perform, and auditioned several drummers to temporarily replace Carlos until his arm healed. None proved capable of keeping up with Cheap Trick's frenetic, high-energy style. The band finally turned to Hank Ransome, drummer with the defunct psychedelic rock/progressive rock Elizabeth. Carlos played alongside Ransome for several shows (including the one Werman saw), in case Ransome tired during a performance.
Cheap Trick signed a five-year contract with Epic on August 1, 1976, about a month after Werman saw the band. Cheap Trick played a last concert at the Second Chance club in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in October 1976, then headed for New York City to cut their album.
The band began work on its debut album at the Record Plant recording studio in New York City in November 1976. According to Robin Zander, I Want You to Want Me, Dream Police, and Surrender were written before the band signed with Epic, but didn't make it onto the first album. The record failed to chart. The album's liner notes and Epic's promotional advertising made the tongue-in-cheek claims that "Bunezuela E. Carlos" was from Venezuela, his parents helped build the Panama Canal, and that he abandoned his family to come play rock music in America.
According to Bun E. Carlos, shortly before the band made its appearance on the television program Austin City Limits, he and Robin Zander had a major falling out over the number of appearances the band would make playing at the Paris Las Vegas hotel and casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.[k] On March 19, 2010, Cheap Trick issued a statement that Carlos had stopped touring with Cheap Trick but that he still remained a band member. Rick Nielsen's son, Daxx, was named the band's touring drummer. According to Carlos, he, Nielsen, Petersson, and Zander; their two jointly-owned corporations; and the band's touring company signed an agreement in which Carlos retained a one-quarter share of the band's profits remain an equal partner in the corporations through which the band conducted business, and his vote as one of the four band members. Under a previous agreement, Carlos, Nielsen, Petersson, and Zander had agreed to unanimously approve any business decisions by Cheap Trick. (This effectively gave Carlos veto power over any band decision.)
In 2012, the band stopped contacting him about business decisions and stopped making payments. He filed suit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois seeking at least $600,000 ($700,000 in 2019 dollars) in back income and damages as well as restoration of his decision-making input and voting rights.[l]
Nielsen, Petersson, and Zander countersued in early September 2013, asking a Delaware Court of Chancery to dismiss the claims of breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, false advertising, false designation of origin, trademark infringement, and unfair competition in Carlos's lawsuit. Chancellor Leo E. Strine Jr. dismissed the countersuit in December 2013, ruling that Illinois was the proper venue for resolving the issues in both suits. In April 2014, Nielsen, Petersson, and Zander filed a motion in Illinois federal district court to have Carlos' lawsuit dismissed. The motion cited vagueness in Carlos's lawsuit and argued that signed agreements with Carlos did not bind the band as individuals. The district court dismissed the motion in September 2014.
On February 26, 2015, Zander announced that the lawsuit had been settled. "Bun E.'s a member of the band but he's not touring. We've had our differences but we're all settled up now and hopefully we can forget about that era. These decisions that Cheap Trick makes, Bun E. is part of." Carlos told Andy Greene of Rolling Stone that the settlement resolved issues with monetary payments, business participation, and voting rights. The lawsuit ended his personal relationship with Nielsen, Petersson, and Zander, however. He told Green, "[A]ny friendship we had went away when I had to file a federal lawsuit. ... Going after these guys wasn't pleasant. The friendship sort of frittered away there."
Since the band's beginning, Carlos maintained the set lists for every Cheap Trick concert. He also made or assisted in making recordings of all the band's concerts, and remained the band's archivist and setlister after the lawsuit. Between 2000 and 2002, Carlos released four volumes of Bun E.'s Basement Bootlegs. These live recordings of concerts, sound checks, covers, and acoustic and semi-acoustic versions of Cheap Trick songs were released via the band's web site. There were just 1,000 pressings of each release, issued in "bootleg" packing (e.g., simple white cardboard sleeve, little information about each song).
Carlos appeared with Cheap Trick on April 4, 2016, when the band was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Nielsen was reportedly excited to play alongside his original bandmate saying "they are inducting the people who made the records way back when and that's good. He deserves it." The Hall of Fame live setlist included: "I Want You To Want Me", "Dream Police", and "Surrender". In his induction speech, Carlos thanked his family, bandmates, CBS Records, his drum techs, his managers, and producers Tom Werman and Sir George Martin.
Tinted Windows, Candy Golde, and solo work
Carlos is a long-time member of the group First Airborne Rock 'n' Roll Division. The group includes members of The Doobie Brothers, Kansas, Little River Band, Pablo Cruise, and Toto. First Airborne performs at USO-sponsored concerts at U.S. armed forces bases overseas.
In 2009, Carlos, together with Hanson singer Taylor Hanson, current Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha, and Fountains of Wayne bassist Adam Schlesinger, formed a new band, Tinted Windows. This new project ran alongside each of the artists' main bands. Tinted Windows played its first publicized gig at SXSW in Austin, Texas on March 20, 2009, and appeared on late-night network TV shows. Their album was released on April 21, 2009.
In 2011, Carlos once again debuted a band at SXSW in the form of his new project Candy Golde. The other members of Candy Golde are Nicholas Tremulis, John Stirratt (Wilco, the Autumn Defense) and Rick Rizzo (Eleventh Dream Day). Mark Greenburg (The Coctails) was added to the band when they started to play live shows. Their 5-song EP was mastered by Ivan Julian of Richard Hell and the Voidoids. The EP contains four originals and a cover of Paul Simon's "Boy in the Bubble", issued for limited edition 10" vinyl and download on Ten O Nine Records.
On August 21, 2014, he filled in for drummer John Cowsill on a sold out Beach Boys concert in Princeton, Illinois.
Carlos has two side bands with former Cheap Trick bassist Jon Brant: The Bun E Carlos Experience, and the Monday Night Band.
On June 24, 2016, Carlos issued his first-ever solo album, Greetings From Bunezuela!, with Brant.
In the late 1990s, Carlos introduced his own line of coffee. At one point, he offered a Special Limited Edition hand-signed numbered bags of coffee.
Carlos is left-handed and plays a right-handed drum kit, but he is also ambidextrous.
Ludwig Maple Classic Drums: 6.5" X 14" matching maple Snare (or a 5"X14" Black Beauty Snare), 9" X 13" Rack Tom, 16" X 16" Floor Tom, 16" X 26" Bass Drum
Zildjian Cymbals: 14" A New Beat Hi-Hats, 20" A Medium-Thin Crash, 20" K Medium Dry Ride, 18" A Medium-Thin Crash
- Carlson did not learn about his grandfather's drumming until after he began taking drum lessons. He says learning that someone in the family had once been a drummer helped to encourage him.
- Drumming textbooks contain notations which tell the drummer which hand to use, and on what instrument. These are known as sticking instructions or "stickings".
- Rolling Stone affirmed Carlos' recollection about the time of the name change. Other sources disagree. Cheap Trick biographer Robert Lawson says the name change occurred after the Germany tour.
- The date may be assumed from the breakup of Sick Man of Europe, which is documented to be in May 1973.
- Rick Nielsen knew both men.
- Pianist Brian Beebe was "Kent". Beebe's middle name is Kent.
- The name was derived from The Grim Reapers, the predecessor to Rick Nielsen's band Fuse.
- According to Carlos, Zander was about to join a country music band in Colorado when Cheap Trick made him the offer of lead singer.
- Douglas recalls the events differently. He says he was already in Waukesha to visit a relative, and someone told him to see Cheap Trick play.
- In an interview, Carlos said the surgery was in 2001.
- The production required the band to play The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album in a single performance from start to finish, backed by an orchestra and with a modern stage production. Carlos claimed to want to do 100 shows, and Zander only 50.
- Cheap Trick (Nielsen, Petersson, and Zander) were also sued in 2013 by long-term manager David Frey, whom the band fired in 2012. Frey claimed the band owed him money under his contract, as well as principal and interest on a loan he gave the band after a July 2011 stage collapse at the Ottawa Bluesfest destroyed most of the band's equipment and injured two band employees and a truck driver. Frey claimed at least $900,000 in his suit. Carlos initially named Frey as a respondent in his lawsuit, but later dropped him.
- Hayes, Mike (1998). Reputation Is A fragile Thing: The Story of Cheap Trick. With Ken Sharp. Willow Grove, Pa.: Poptastic!Books. p. 12. ISBN 9780966208108.
- Editors of Rolling Stone 1983, p. 167.
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- Lawson 2017, p. 3.
- Lawson 2017, p. 5.
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- Lawson 2017, p. 6.
- Coyne 2003, p. 186.
- Lawson 2017, p. 7.
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- Lawson 2017, pp. 178, 268.
- "Rick Nielsen Says Bun E. Carlos 'Deserves' to Play at Cheap Trick's Rock Hall Induction". Ultimate Classic Rock. March 28, 2016. Retrieved July 27, 2017.
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- Cohen, Jonathan (February 17, 2009). "Iha, Carlos, Hanson, Schlesinger Form Band". Billboard. Retrieved October 5, 2010.
- ""Greetings from Bunezuela!" by Bun E. Carlos on iTunes". Itunes.apple.com. Retrieved July 27, 2017.
- "The Bun E Carlos Blend Story" Archived 2018-05-21 at the Wayback Machine. Coffee-n-Caffeine. Retrieved October 5, 2010.
- Coyne, Robert (2003). "Cheap Trick". In Buckley, Peter (ed.). The Rough Guide to Rock. London: Rough Guides. ISBN 9781843531050.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
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- Lawson, Robert (2017). Still Competition: The Listener's Guide to Cheap Trick. Victoria, B.C.: Friesen Press. ISBN 9781525512254.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
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