As strange as it may seem, I have never chatted with Maine’s own Wicked Good Band before. They have been around a lot longer than most other local acts, have released albums and 45s, had many shows all over the state (as well as some recent ads for a popular department store based here), and yet, I’ve never interviewed a member. Well, that’s all about to change as this eclectic, comedic group will perform at Slates in Hallowell on Monday, Dec. 28. To that end, a conversation with founding member Stephen Bither was arranged. I caught up with him via the telephone at his home in Portland to find out more about his band.

Q: Well, this is neat! I’ve seen your Renys ads on TV recently and back in the day I even picked up your 45. I’ve been doing this music journalism gig since 1969.

Bither: Yeah, well some of us have been playing that long (laughter). We started in high school. I was playing in a jug band in the mid-1960s. We were doing some of the things, but not the Wicked Good stuff that we still do. We’ve been playing a long time.

Q: There are three of you, right?

Bither: Well, there’s a core of four. There are three of us who are the oldtimeys, and then there’s a fourth, and very often we’ll have two or three other players with us.

Q: This is a Slates gig I’m interviewing you for. Have you ever played there before?

Bither: Oh yes, we have. Long ago — it was in the early ’80s — we didn’t have a name for this band yet, but we went up there and it was probably our first gig as the Wicked Good Band, or as what evolved into that. We used to play frequently there, and we’d try out new stuff there. That was for several years, and the audiences were so good that we got spoiled. I mean, they loved everything. Who’s going to complain about that? We certainly didn’t, so yeah, we’ve played there before, but we haven’t played there for quite a while though, and I know that it’s a different set-up.

Q: That’s pretty much what I hear from everybody who performs there. They love that they don’t have to compete with loud crowds at a bar or folks more interested in socialization than in listening.

Bither: Yeah, and that does make a difference because we don’t play very much in bars. We play for concerts and parties and stuff. When we played up there before, we were only two feet away from the nearest table and that intimacy was terrific. That was really enjoyable. We certainly weren’t at a distance.

Q: Do you have anything out on CD?

Bither: Yeah. We have a total of four albums. The first two were vinyl — that included the 45 that you have — and people were buying 45s and LPs back in the 1980s when we came out with those. And we’re just in the process now of putting those first two albums onto CDs. The second two that we did were on CD. I guess the technology is firm now to have CDs.

Q: About the music you guys do — old time?

Bither: Yeah.

Q: Jug band influences?

Bither: Jug band influences for sure. When we got started — back in high school — our big heroes were Jim Kweskin and his Jug Band, if you remember them.

Q: Oh, I most certainly do.

Bither: So the little band that I was in, we used to go and try to imitate them almost word for word. Then we evolved after high school to doing other stuff but using that jug-band style. When in high school, I used to say that we were a non-garage band garage band because we never had drums, although once in a while we have some drums. But it’s all funky rhythm stuff that we do. Mostly we try to have fun.

Q: Do you still write new songs?

Bither: We’re going to try some new material at this thing at Slates. We’ll test them out.

Q: Oh, before we end our chat, could you run through the members of your band that will be there in Hallowell?

Bither: Well, there’s myself. I’m on keyboards and vocals. Bill Schulz, he’s on the washtub bass; Jere DeWaters, he plays harmonica, washboard and vocals; and Robbie Coffin on guitar. We may have another fellow playing the jug, too. I can’t remember if he can make it or not. If so, it’ll be Steve Purington … we can say he’s part of the band.

Q: Is there anything you’d like to pass on to the folks reading this article?

Bither: That we look forward to playing. We hope that they’ll come out to hear us because we have a good time, and we hope that they’ll have a good time, too. And what I told the folks at Slates was we’re too old to have New Year’s Eve on New Year’s Eve, so we’re having it early so people can get home early.

Lucky Clark has spent more than 45 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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