The Milkmen Bio, circa 1982
Milkmania began August 7, 1980, at 5:20 AM. Founding members Lory Kohn and Steven Solomon had just finished recording a three minute ditty entitled “You See You” at a suburban ranch home in Boulder, Colorado. They stumbled outside into the sunrise. When their eyes adjusted to the light, the first thing they saw was a Watts-Hardy milk truck making its morning rounds.
“Ah, The Milkmen!” Lory proclaimed, sensing that divine forces had placed this portent of success unavoidably in their path.
“Yes, there are several interesting possibilities,” Steven concurred, his nimble mind assessing the dual connotations of the noble milkman americanus – the wholesome and the perverse.
“The Milkmen – that’s great,” limey producer and drummer extraordinaire Rick Parnell later immortalized in This Is Spinal Tap agreed.
From that moment on, there was no doubt that The Milkmen had stumbled onto the perfect name and concept to focus their uncanny songwriting ability upon. Lory immediately penned “Late Night Delivery,” a theme song which declared their dedication to the milking milieu.
“Late Night Delivery” placed highly in the 1980 KBCO songwriting contest. The powerful station kept it in heavy rotation for months. Since The Milkmen still hadn’t played live, only a small circle of admirers knew of Kohn and Solomon’s buildup toward their self-declared “Yiddish Invasion.”
Anonyminity was not in their destiny. Emboldened by their showing in the 1980 contest, The Milkmen were determined to win the 1981 contest. So were 700 bands and solo acts who overwhelmed the station with over 3,000 submissions.
Although The Milkmen poured more energy into the recording process than anybody, surely the award would go to a prominent band that everyone was familiar with. Music fans filled the Boulder Theatre to witness KBCO’s live Top Twenty countdown. When the countdown reached the #4 song, it looked like all had been lost. Then the opening bars of “Desmond Grey Go Away” came on, and The Milkmen had wrested third place! Not bad for a virtually unknown band that had played 0 (zero) live gigs. Who were these guys?
There was another surprise for the faithful. Moments later a listening audience of 50,000 was jolted with the announcement that The Milkmen had also copped the #1 song award for “Lolita.” This naughty yet catchy condensation of the Nabokov novel had captured the judges’ hearts. Here was sweet victory for The Milkmen and proponents of new music, and a bitter pill for the Colorado music establishment to swallow. All their favorite sons had been eliminated by a grinning duo who triumphantly accepted a Teac Port-A-Studio wearing while space-milkman suits and moon boots.
The ensuing fusillades of publicity, and The Milkmen’s’ complete lack of humility in embracing it, propelled the Men of Milk into the spotlight. Lory and Steven had seen too many interviews on All-Star Wrestling to adopt an “aw, shucks” attitude toward their unprecedented ascendance.
Now the time had come to back up their boasts. Could they do it live? The notion that The Milkmen could come up with a live act big enough to exceed their own hype was dismissed by everyone except The Milkmen themselves. It was time for a swift, bold thrust.
Was there a rhythm unit out there capable of being the Saturn booster The Milkmen needed to launch their career off the ground and into the outer stratospheres of stardom? Through extensive scouting and research, The Milkmen were able to determine the unsuspected availability of Tim Pantea, the coxcomb-coiffed Nijinsky of the drums who labored for mighty Z-ROXX, Denver’s top copy act.
Pantea’s defection sent shock waves throughout the gossipy music community. People shook their heads sadly. “You’re making the biggest mistake of your life,” they told him. But Tim had conviction in the originality of The Milkmen concept and their distinctive material. Conversely, songs like “The Art of Beating On Things,” “Making the Rounds,” and “Chomp Chomp Chomp” seemed to have been conceived for Pantea’s stylish pounding.
To complete their lineup, The Milkmen enlisted bassist Kevin “Chocolate Milk” Jackson. C-Milk’s strong support vocals and potent bass lines anchored the Milkmen sound.
The Milkmen had one more inspiration on the eve of their debut at Boulder’s Blue Note. Always one for theatricks, Lory commissioned the construction of what would become the most famous cow since Elsie. Bessie the Cow would be a realistic beast that, after some modification, was able to function (i.e. give milk) as well as perform a first in the history of show biz, talk and sing and stage.
The Milkmen dazzled a SRO crowd from the opening chords of “Late Night Delivery” to the raveup at the end of “Disco Dairy.” Following her ritualized milking, Bessie stunned onlookers by crooning “That’s Amore” along with a Dean Martin record.
That performance, and the ones that followed it, silenced their jealous detractors and garnered critical and public acclaim. Not ones to rest on regional success, The Milkmen went into a writing phase and polished off several new gems, loading their “Silo of Hits” with at least three albums worth of tracks, with many potential hit singles, and not a dog among them
“Lolita” was pressed into a single on the prestigious Dairyland label. Copies were sent to radio stations on both coasts. Milkmania had taken hold.
“Our milky effluvium is coating the continent,” Lory was quoted in The Rocky Mountain News.
Today The Milkmen stand poised at the brink of major success. Everywhere they’re met with the longing looks of lusting milkmaids. They look cool. They’re a great interview. Their material speaks for itself. They’re also four of the outstanding young men in America today.
The hens are laying. The cows and pigs are rallying forth. MILKMEN MAN YOUR TRUCKS!
- Dudley Ravensworth