Thee Katatonix, founded by just-out-of-high-school Adolf Kowalski, played its first gig for $35 in April 1979.
The band raised a ruckus for about a year after, but couldn’t play their instruments very well. Instead they relied on time-tested rock antics such as performing in underwear and throwing up on people.
The first show at the Marble Bar in Baltimore, Md., was with Da Moronics, who supported Thee Katatonix for playing worse than they did. So according to punk ethics Thee Katatonix was a better group, but no one came to the show.
This was a good thing because the rhythm section didn’t show up either. Adolf did the whole set impromptu, with future Moronic Don White on drums and Danimal from Scratch n Sniff (Gina “Go-Gos” Schock’s old band ) on bass.
That was apparently good enough because Adolf wangled a return slot on Saturday night, opening for the very popular Judies Fixation. For some reason, Judies played first and Thee Katatonix became instant headliners.
But minutes into their show, the PA system blew up and the capacity crowd turned ugly. Bar owner Roger Anderson promised the mob (and the band as well) that “Thee Katatonix will return!”
After their first triumphant fiasco, Thee Katz slogged many times through the Marble Bar, eventually to become a pseudo-alternate house band. They performed with bar owner Roger Anderson’s Alcoholics every week on what was dubbed “Weird Wednesday.”
The band created enough nonmusical havoc that rumors began to spread in polite society (Thee Katatonix were political and had a chick singer who performed naked, for example). By the end of 1980 they had enough clout to jump on the Marble’s New Year’s Eve bill alongside real bands with some talent.
This was to be the last show for their original lineup. Bassist Kate Katatonix and faux drummer Tommy Gunn were leaving to get married (she would later divorce him and marry their guitarist) . So in their honor, Adolf performed in a leather-and-chains jockstrap, wagging his bare ass at Tommy all through the set.
They played better than anyone had EVER seen them play before, prompting Roger to have Thee Katz repeat their set later in the evening. Naturally they were inebriated by then and played worse than anyone had EVER seen them play before.
A few months later the new and improved Katatonix reappeared at the Marble Bar, opening for Eddie and the Hot Rods.
The group at this point included Adolf K, Danimal from Scratch n Sniff, Da Moronics’ Jaime Wilson and Steve Scandal (who would later record the alterna-hit “I Wanna Kill James Taylor”).
Together they found themselves backing up underground movie star Edie “the Egg Lady” Massey (see music page) at one of her notorious birthday parties.
The show went so well that more jobs followed, most memorably a two-night stint at the Mudd Club in NYC on the bill with legendaries Joe Tex and Sam ‘n’ Dave.
Thee Katatonix played as Massey’s backup band for about a year.
Edith, however, changed bands like other people change socks — possibly due to the fact she couldn’t sing and had no rhythm.
So off went Danimal and Edie, while Andy, Adolf and Jack corralled a rockabilly-reggae rebel called Mr. Urbanity to play bass.
Instantly the band clicked again, and Thee Katatonix continued stomping all over the Balto-D.C. area.
During this period, thee katz formed alliances with the hottest acts around, like D.C.’s Slickee Boys, the Rooters from Philly and others too numerous to mention. The track “Dedicated to Fun” by Suburban Wives Club was inspired by Adolf’s hijinks on the new wave scene.
Adolf K, 1982 punk zine glamour shot
At one trendy disco gig, Saturday Night Live-“sprocket dancer” Bill Marx got kicked in the face by the band’s erstwhile manager and threatened to sue.
The same night, this “manager” pulled the ceiling light fixtures out of the men’s room.
So the band got a new manager.
Thee Katatonix’ main hangout in Bmore, the Marble Bar, was planning a full-scale battle of the bands at the time. It lasted three or four months, culminating in a final showdown with Thee Katz and two other boffo bands.
Midway through the Katz set, Heineken accidentally hit Urbanity in the face with his guitar, opening a large and bloody gash (Urbanity didn’t miss a beat).
Kowalski seized the moment and using his mike stand to pole vault, threw himself into the air upside down. He landed on his head to thunderous applause, and Thee Katz claimed victory before the last band even played.
The prize money sent our boys into the recording studio for the first time, where they cut a three-song single.
Foul-ups at the pressing plant caused the labels to come back blank, so all copies were designed by hand and to this day are regarded as collector’s items. The track “My Baby is a Basket Case” was included on the internationally known compilation series “Killed by Death.”
Sometime in ’82, Heineken split to form his own group and was replaced by Urbanity’s friend, BeriBeri.
The new guitarist wasn’t much on power chords, but he played lead like Jimmy Page and was given a wide swath during performances.
It was not uncommon for Adolf to leave the stage during Beri’s solos and do bong hits in the dressing room.
* constantly gigging
* high on whatever, and
* part of a psychedelic revival going on in the international music scene.
It also allowed them more musical freedom, and keyboards (which had been a large part of the Edith Massey group) crept back in.
By 1983 Beri had retired from music to pursue a career in something.
Adolf knew Urbanity was not just a bassist, but also a fine guitar player. So Mr. U picked up on guitar, and a new bassist was sought.
By now the ex-member roster probably was at 400 or so, but the band kept going because business was better then ever.
The Marble Bar had banned the group for excessive roughness, but they found new gigs elsewhere almost immediately.
Money was tight , the engineer was stupid and the finished product was poorly mixed. Yet the disc received rave reviews.
This was 1984 or so and Thee Katz played/traveled constantly. They showed up where you would expect them to play (CBGBs) and where you wouldn’t (Club Razzmatazz, the hangout of Oriole Iron Man Cal Ripken).
Three more releases followed, and the pressure proved too much for Saint Anthony, who left the group .
He was replaced by Beautiful Tony Belle, an actual musician.
One of Tony’s first shows was a sold-out gig with the Ramones, which led to another sold-out gig with the Ramones … you get the idea.
Thee Katatonix had come a long way since their humble beginnings as punk rockers.
The next vinyl release (“Daisy Chain” 45) showcased the maturity of their songwriting and musicianship.
Adolf at The Bayou, Georgetown, 1986
A tour of the United States in 1985 and the UK in 1986, along with numerous media interviews and appearances on radio and TV, kept Thee Katz occupied — and at each other’s throats.
In 1987 Adolf replaced the entire group with whoever he could find — friends, session players, it didn’t matter.
The 1988 release “All Sold Out” would be the last of Thee Katatonix.
Or would it?
All Sold Out band, 1988 (Mad Max, Adolf, Eddie)
As Adolf became a widely read music critic, he formed the aptly named Adolf Kowalski Band.
You could see his writings in publications such as Tone Scale, Rox, City Paper and Maryland Musician/Music Monthly.
The Kowalski band was popular with club owners for playing in tune.
After a while Adolf formed Blunt Force Trauma and after that, All About Susie.
Tour manager Uzi with Adolf at Hammerjacks, 1988
Each group played many gigs, recorded and had popularity, but didn’t have the same zing as Thee Katz. Meanwhile, Urbanity and Small formed the instantly pop Dark Carnival and put out a hot single, “Book of Love” (see videos).
The years passed, and talk circulated about Thee Katatonix getting back together. It took until 2005 for them to actually practice again and — with the help of this Web site — to have it together once more.
Special thanks to Mr. Urbanity (bass, guitar, vocals) and King Ken (drums, vocals) for keeping Adolf’s dream alive.
OK, it was 2005 and Thee Katatonix ( Adolf , Urbanity, Honest Ed, King Ken ) played in some echoey pisshole as part of a Marble Bar reunion. Lots of people were making lotsa noise about the old days, and Adolf figured he wanted his piece of that pie. So, it was decided to keep at it.
Strangely enough, the next show was under the guise of an Americana mashup called BIG BALTIMORE HILLBILLY. BBH was created out of necessity, as Thee Katz had a gig in a church for a Hurricane Katrina benefit, and knew for a fact that they couldn’t play Katatonix songs in front of regular folk. Hillbilly was very well received, but temporarily.
Thee Katatonix reared their ugly heads a few months later at the Club Mojo. Adolf was quoted as saying, ” We like playing here because there’s no audience,” Fate stepped in and the next Mojo show featured Katz pals the Slickee Boys, with Adolf announcing his candidacy for Governor of Maryland. ( He lost, but that didn’t stop him from running again ).
Adolf caught the anniversary bug and trucked the boys into Basement Floor Studios one more time to dust off some ole tracks.
The result was ‘ THANKS HON’ (2009) a sort of ’80s retrospective CD.
A handful of wild shows followed, including an unforgettable stint with Glen ‘Sex Pistols’ Matlock. Eventually however, King Ken abdicated the drum throne and was replaced by original Kat Big Andy Small.
Thanks to everyone from the old days, and everyone from the new daze…keep you posted …