7 Questions with Mary Jennings


By Ryan Meehan

With an enormous singing voice that transcends her small frame, Mary has carved out her own unique niche in the industry by doing things her way. Born into a family with strong musical roots, she began playing piano at five and has fond memories of her grandparents teaching her vocal harmonies at a young age – a skill that is very evident in her work today. Mary’s adolescent and teenage years were marked by her development on piano and the cultivation of her vocal ability through many school plays and musicals, but it was the sudden death of her mother in 2001 that prompted a seismic surge in her musical expression. “When people ask me why I’m a musician, I tell them that it’s largely because music is my therapy,” she says. “I share these emotions with others because I know so many have felt the same things. If I can create melodies and deliver words that express their feelings, I’ve done my job.”  Mary’s strong work ethic and commitment to her craft has paid off handsomely in recent years. A Casio-sponsored artist, she was featured in an online advertising campaign for the company’s new line of keyboards in 2011 and her song “The Darkness” was placed in the Lionsgate motion picture The Devil’s Seed.   In 2014, her song “Move” was featured during a final dance on Lifetime’s TV show “Dance Moms.” Mary has organized a number of extensive tours as well, opening for artists such as Jeffrey Gaines, Mike Doughty, Teddy Geiger, Ryan Cabrera, and Rachel Yamagata, and she has appeared at several major festivals including CMJ and South by Southwest. She often treats fans to a unique stage set-up when performing on her own, prominently featuring a loop pedal that she uses to effortlessly layer rhythmic beats and beautiful background harmonies over her unmistakably unique piano playing and vocals. Continue reading

10 Questions with Tony Baker


By Ryan Meehan

Comedian Tony Baker has been featured on the second season of Comedy Central’s “Gabriel Iglesias Presents Stand-Up Revolution” as well as NBC’s “Last Comic Standing”.  He is the winner of the 37th Annual San Francisco International Comedy Competition in addition to being the winner of Uncle Clyde’s Comedy Competition at the Ice House and L.A.’s Funniest Comic. Tony was a semi-finalist in the Boston Comedy Festival, and has also showcased for the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival and NACA Nationals (NBC Diversity Stand Up Search). Tony is a paid regular at The Comedy Store, The Laugh Factory, The Comedy and Magic Club and the Comedy Union. He has also featured at Flappers, Pepper Belly’s, The Punch Line (Sacramento), The Ha Ha Cafe, The Ice House & The Improv Comedy clubs (Hollywood, Ontario, Brea & Irvine). Tony co-hosts “Crack’em Up Thursdays”- a weekly comedy show at the Comedy Store and is a crowd favorite on the college circuit nationwide. He is featured in as well as co-written numerous comedy sketches and drama/horror short films.  He was the winner of LA’s Funniest Comic in 2010 hosted by the Jon Lovitz Comedy Club, and did a ten day stint entertaining the troops in Okinawa, Japan that same year.  He’s featured for such industry heavy hitters as Jo Koy, Tom Rhodes, Lavell Crawford, Damon Wayans Jr., Marlon Wayans, Whitney Cummings, Owen Benjamin, and Joey Medina.  We are very lucky to have Tony Baker as our guest today in 10 Questions. Continue reading

Ragged Records Playlist #3:  Cover Songs Edition


by Ryan Meehan

In the first two editions of the Ragged Records Playlist submissions over here at FOH, my submissions were very scattered for lack of a better term.  I didn’t have any sort of theme or categorization for my playlists, effectively turning me into that guy who can’t wait to showcase his broad musical tastes.  But as I stated in the last piece, I never want to be that guy and my discriminatory ear is probably more intolerant than that which belongs to anyone reading this piece.  So for this month’s edition, I’ve decided to focus on a particular breed of recorded music:  Cover songs.  The musical landscape is full of performers who believe that their vision of an existing piece of music can enhance the whole experience of the initial idea, and the result can be a delightful display of beautiful melodies.

But not all covers are well-polished diamonds of the classic tunes we’ve come to know and love.  In fact, a huge majority of them have eaten a dick to an unimaginable level of sadness that suggests they should never be audible to the human ear.  This list of songs that make me want to utilize a loaded firearm as a tongue depressor includes but is not limited to the following cuts:

The Wallflowers = “Heroes” (Radio edit, David Bowie)

Madonna – “American Pie” (Don McLean)

Tori Amos – “’97 Bonnie and Clyde” (Eminem)

Metallica – “Turn the Page” (Bob Seger)

Annie Lennox – “A Whiter Shade of Pale” (Procol Horum)

Limp Bizkit – “Faith” (George Michael)

Slaughter – “Mad About You” (Paul Reiser & Helen Hunt)

Fuck you if you didn’t laugh at that last one

Counting Crows – “Big Yellow Taxi” (Joni Mitchell)

Tori Amos – “Raining Blood” (Slayer)

Celine Dion – “You Shook Me All Night Long” (AC/DC)

Sheryl Crow – “Sweet Child of Mine” (Guns N’ Roses)

Hollywood Undead – “Shout at the Devil” (Motley Crue)

Korn – “Word Up” (Cameo)

John Mayer – “Free Fallin'” (Tom Petty)

Pretty much any other song Tori Amos has ever covered

The Bangles – “Hazy Shade of Winter” (Simon & Garfunkel)

Rob Zombie – The Entire Ramones Tribute Album

Shinedown – “Simple Man” (Lynyrd Skynyrd)

I also want to take this space to mention a song that is such a repulsive silhouette of itself that it actually feels like a cover song.  Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” is responsible for a majority of the drunken frat-boy sing-along bullshit that happens at bars fifteen minutes before last call, and usually results in a roaring sea of not-so playful date rape that follows shortly thereafter.  While Billy is a legend and his greatest hits catalog reads like a how-to instructional booklet of how to write timeless music, this harmonica-driven pile of shit has been given a free pass for years and that gateway to mediocrity stops right here.

But this article isn’t about the bad covers, it’s about the great ones.  These are the “Goddamn it, why didn’t I think of that?” updates that anyone of us who has ever picked up an instrument is pissed that they didn’t get to first, but at least we have these new takes on classic tunes that can brighten a bland moment on a depressing day.  Or in some cases, add a little bit of realism to a day that is feeling like it’s too good to be true.  And it’s always worth noting that if for some odd reason you can’t find any of these cover versions or originals at Ragged Records (418 East 2nd Street Davenport, IA 52801) I’m sure Ben can find them and order them for you.  That’s just another reason why it’s the best record store in the Quad Cities and it’s not even close, and why myself and the rest of us here at First Order Historians are proud to present you with our third contribution to the record store’s playlist series.  This is the FOH Ragged Records Playlist #3:  Cover Songs Edition.  Continue reading

10 Questions with Jason Stuart


By Ryan Meehan

When you think one of the most prolific character actors, who’s also an outrageous openly gay stand-up comedian, one name comes to mind…. Jason Stuart.  Stuart has been making people laugh out loud with “Gay Don Rickles” performances all over the country since coming out in 1993. He has accomplished what few other gay comics have ever achieved:  Brutal honesty with humor in a world that’s not always kind.  Not only is Stuart an all-out crowd-pleaser, but he transcends the boundaries of race, gender and sexual orientation with his edgy comedic style.  Since Stuart makes such a strong connection with his audience, he is in high demand by corporate programs with his lecture, COMING OUT IN HOLLYWOOD, on being openly gay in the workplace.  He’s appeared on NIGHT STAND-UP, WISECRACK & CMOCIS UNLEASHED. In addition to his own hour stand up special MAKING IT TO THE MIDDLE and his comedy CD, Gay Comedy Without A Dress.  Although his semi-celebrity came via stand-up, Stuart is also well-known for his work as an actor playing gay & straight roles on over forty popular television shows as SLEEPY HOLLOW, ENTOURAGE, THE CLOSER, IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA, EVERYBODY HATES CHRIS, HOUSE, WILL & GRACE, GEORGE LOPEZ, MY WIFE AND KIDS, CHARMED and the LIFETIME’S HOME INVASION.  As a character actor, filmmakers say his talent is a cross between the depth of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, the comedy timing of the late John Ritter and the quirkiness of Steve Buscemi.  He has worked with heavy hitters George Clooney, Faye Dunaway, Angelina Jolie, Damon Wayans, Drew Carey, George Lopez, David Spade and even Arnold Schwarzenegger. Stuart was featured in the comedy hit A Day Without a Mexican, Puff Puff Pass, and the HBO award winning drama Gia.  Among the big studio pictures he appeared in KINDERGARTEN and VEGAS VACATION are favorites among TV fans.  Stuart has become a major player in the independent film world after being nominated for a Glitter Award for best supporting actor in COFFEE DATE. He was just seen in the drama LOVE IS STRANGE from Ira Sachs (Keep The the Lights On). He will act with the awarding winning cast, including Marisa Tomei, John Lithgow and Alfred Molina and the Sundance hit Tangerine from Sean Baker & The Dupluss Bros. He will play the man who marries the longtime couple of Lithgow & Molina’s characters.  Proving that he is more than just an actor and comedian, Stuart also produced and starred in his own totally improvised independent film 10 Attitudes. This award winning romantic comedy proved to be a huge success both in the U.S. and abroad.  He has acted in an array of roles in the last few years. POSEY starring Sally Kirkland & Ray Wise, The cop drama DIRTY as a dive bar manager, The comedy parody HUSH UP SWEET CHARLOTTE starring Varla Jean Merman, Mink Stole & David Millbern, from producer James Franco HOLY LAND, playing a “hoarder”, the romcom BIG GAY LOVE as Drew Droege’s husband, and BABY STEPS as the Jewish doctor!  Stuart uses his talents as an openly gay actor and comedian to support the community by performing at countless benefits for issues from AIDS to the homeless. After recognizing the lack of support in Hollywood for his LGBT brothers and sisters, Jason co-founded The SAG-AFTRA LGBT Committee. Since 2006, Jason has been its national co-chair. He says, ”When you’re out, it supports all gay actors”.  Currently he hosts a chat show on TradioV.com called ABSOLUTELY JASON STUART.  His groundbreaking stand-up comedy and his versatility as an actor have made his career an amazing ride, and we are proud to have him as our guest today in 10 questions. Continue reading

10 Questions with Jeff Bailey


by Ryan Meehan

Jeff Bailey is a stand-up comic from Metamora, IL  He’s been working clubs in the Midwest for the past four years and has featured for Ryan Singer, Henry Phillips, and Brett Erickson, as well as hosted a show headlined by the one and only Steve-O.  He was the 2013 winner of the 2013 Jukebox Comedy Competition (Steve Martin never won the Jukebox Comedy Competition) under suspicious and controversial circumstances which are still under investigation.  Fellow comedians describe his comedy as “The worst thing to happen since the last worst thing to happen to you”, and that’s why I am fucking delighted to have Jeff Bailey as my guest today in 10 questions.  Continue reading