The Buzz's Frank Blinkal, Chris Bernhardt, and Jay Moynihan with Jeff Healey (in front).
T h e B u z z P r e s s
"Live At Buddy Guy's Legends"
Buddy Guy's Legends Bluesletter Sep/Oct 2000
It was just past 2 a.m. when The Buzz's latest album, "Live at Buddy Guy's Legends!" found my car's cd player. Thankfully the
Eisenhower Expressway was wide open because moments after the first track, "Let's Buzz" started to spin, I could not keep my foot
from pounding down the accelerator.
Breaking the speed limit was inevitable as the song may suggest, "I like to jam it to the floor and make the big motor roar." Along
with the catchy melody of "Let's Buzz," a moderately-paced, lumpy Chicago shuffle, let's just say the trip home was achieved in
Jay Moynihan rips and roars his way through the song (as he does on all seven tracks) on his tenor saophone, giving The Buzz that
back-alley, ass-kickin' Chicago sound that just isn't around much anymore. The album's second track, "UGH!", is much like the first
but with more of a smoother rock flavor as Frank Blinkal tears through guitar licks with fury. The shuffle-styled verses are met up with
a chorus and solos that touch a bit on swing without losing its gutsy feel.
One of the most interesting songs on "Live at Buddy Guy's Legends!" the fifth track, "Jack & Jill," a Buzz original. It consists of an
Albert King style groove that forces you to move. Along with original lyrics that are refreshing from the ol' "Damn my woman, lost my
job and I'm red-beans-and-rice-poor" type of thing. No, "Jack & Jill" lends a nice look at where the young Chicago blues artists are
headed and it might not be a bad place to be if this song is an indication.
Up third is the funky "Big Leg Woman" which captures a tight groove feel without going overboard. It's an easy track to find
yourself nodding your head and swaying your shoulders back and forth to the beat. The Buzz then transition seamlessly into Otis
Rush's "Double Trouble," putting a soft touch on their otherwise butt rocking album.Perhaps the song went on a bit too long but
Blinkal does a sufficient job keeping your interest with smooth phrases. Moynihan's handy work on the piano fills in the cracks until
he picks up his horn and blows his heart out.
"Live at Buddy Guy's Legends!" is a great way to satisfy that hunger for the new sound of Chicago blues. Definitely a keeper.
This Chicago based band is super hot like a playboy centerfold. If you want
to know how to move the crowd and sell units just take notes from this
band. .....I can go on and on to the break of dawn about this band but I'll
let you check them out yourself. To all label representatives this is a
major retail "already" made package.We're going to hit The Buzz with 5 mics
basslinebuzz.com industry newsletter May, 2000
It's been three years since The Buzz released its debut record, and for a labell-less band, its doing quite well. According to bassist Chris Bernhardt, the band sold 5,000 units of its self-produced CD [Highway, sacr2071], and had 1200 hits on their MP3 the first six months it was available. More impressively, however is the fan they've found as the regular Monday night performer at Buddy Guy's Legends. "Buddy himself has come up and played with us three times now," says Bernhardt. And he's apparently more than just a casual fan: after Guy's traditional month-long run of concerts at Legends in January (The Buzz opens for him January 7), and after the Buzz returns from touring in February and March, Guy is taking Buzz guitarist Frank Blinkal on the road with him as a touring guitar player. The Buzz has kept plugging away, and it would appear that the band's patience is starting to pay off.
by Dave Chamberlain, New City (Chicago), 12/16/99
"The Buzz: All Highways Lead Back Home"
The roads of middle America seem to be less and less traveled by Chicago's
young bands these days. Years ago, Kerouac made being On The Road a rite
of passage for a generation of youth yearning to explore and search for
meaning. I had an opportunity to catch up with The Buzz' frontman, Frank
Blinkal for some low-down on the band's recent travels as a blues-rock
export from the local scene.
The band's Highway release was reviewed by yours truly earlier this year
and still remains one of this year's best local releases. The band,
including Blinkal, Chris Bernhardt (bass), Mike Rodbard (drums), and Jason
Moynihan (reeds/keyboards), blends multiple genres and has created an
evolved blues/rock hybrid that was ear catching enough to help them win
WCRX's Rock Off Competition and finish runner-up in Buddy Guy's Legends'
Blues Talent Search. And this is quite a surprise since The Buzz can
hardly be considered simply a blues act.
If you've caught them on their own or as opener for national heavies like
Jeff Healey, Chris Duarte, Storyville, or Chuck D, its obvious that this is
a band worthy of the hype they've earned.
"Rev." Ody: "I haven't rally heard from you since Highway came out. What
have you guy's been up to?"
Frank Blinkal: "The band's been busy since Highway came out this past
April. We had averaged 100-150 dates per year until that point, but at our
current pace, it looks like we'll hit 200 dates this year."
"How does and independent act like The Buzz manage to get booked with such
frequency? I know acts at the major label level who would be happy just
getting half as many gigs per year."
"We've been playing many of the same gigs 3-4 years now, and it's to the
point where the band is doing their fifteenth date at some of these venues.
So through persistence, enough of a following has been carved out.
Despite its size, Chicago's scene can only support a band playing a handful
of dates a year, unless you're a cover band. But this ain't "Murph and the
Magic-Tones" at the local Holiday Inn. The Buzz relies heavily on the
college market in towns like Des Moines, Iowa City, Madison,
Champaign-Urbana, and Bloomington. We developed this college support long
before we ever had a release out. It was the kids saying, 'Do you guys
have a CD that we can buy?' that made us commit to getting a disc out."
"Was your primary intent to be able to sell CDs from the bandstand?"
"The Buzz is to the point where we get a pretty decent guarantee fron the
clubs we play at, but merchandise and CD sales can greatly enhance our
take-home pay and get our message out to an expanding fan base. In the
process of returning for re-bookings, we were getting requests from many of
the college radio stations to have copies of Highway for regular rotation.
That really floored us because since I've started keeping track there have
been 200 college and commercial stations that include us in middle-heavy
rotation on their rock & blues shows with songs like 'Chickenhead', 'Never
Gonna Change', 'Long Way', 'Drunk in Iowa', and 'Texas Love Song'.
"So what are your guys? A blues, rock, or funk act?'
"We're all those things. Every member of the band has musical tastes
that cut across all of those categories. Why should we have to pick just
one genre when they're all so good? As a guitarist from Chicago, my first
love has always been the blues, and I've been influenced by all the greats:
Muddy (Waters), Buddy (Guy), and Otis (Rush). Their music gave me the
influence to get to this point in my career, but it would be a lie to say
that bands like Led Zeppelin and Parliament haven't been an equal influence
as well. On Highway, we cover 'Chickenhead' by Bobby Rush. Now he's a
blues singer straight off the chitlin' circuit. [the horn line is a miles
davis line]äMiles Davis remains a big influence on our horn player Jason
Moynihan. So you tell me, what kind of band are we supposed to be?"
"You used to manage Buddy Guy's Legends. Tell me about that."
"It was the best job in the world. Where else can you hear all the
stories about Chicago blues music other than from 'the man' (Buddy Guy) as
well as meet a who's who in the blues? It just got to a point where I
wanted to travel with my band and you can't manage a club like legends part
time. Buddy has always been real supportive and he's even let The Buzz
open for him out on the road. We'll be playing at Legends on the night
"Highway has been a disc that gets quite a bit of play on my stereo. What
was the recording process like"
"When we won the 103.5FM Rock Off, it came as a complete shock to us
because the stations tastes run more on the heavy side. The judges liked
the rawness and rock-edge of our sound and the station's fans were
obviously very supportive. As winners, we got studio time at 35th Street
Studios with Rick Barnes engineering. The band wanted to capture our live
sound and we kept things pretty simple with set up. With recording and
mixing, the project took less than a week."
"Not quite as glamorous as you thought it would be, huh?
"Not as glamorous, but this is real and it's happening on our own terms.
We didn't record an album, do two showcases and get signed to a
million-dollar record deal. This is reality and we're making it in a real
world. At this point in time, we may only be considered a bar band, but
this is how I want to make my living. You take small steps every day and
become a better businessman. You're in control of your career. Plus, it's
gotten us on The Jenny Jones Show (laughs).
"Is it difficult to primarily handle all of your duties as bandleader,
booking agent, and record promoter for the band?"
"Of course it is, but it's hard to find anyone that will be as passionate
about your work as yourself. We've been lucky in connecting with Baker and
Taylor Distribution who are working the record. Their subsidiary, V&R
Records, has gotten the release into all of the major record and internet
chains which takes a tremendous weight off our backs. These are avenues
that would have taken a long time to develop on our own. And with these
resources, we're hoping to double our current sales of about 4,000 copies
"Are you planning your next release already?"
"We've been working on new songs that we develop via our live show. It's
an evolutionary process that our music takes from being written to being
record-ready. We like to 'road test' our music in front of people to see
how they respond. It takes longer but you feel a whole lot more confident
when the tape starts rolling. We've got enough material for a new release,
but all of our goals for Highway have not been met. When that occurs,
we'll start pursuing interest by major labels.
by "Reverend" Odysseus Johnson, In The Mix (Chicago), November, 1998
WHAT JENNY JONES AND CHUCK D HAVE IN COMMON . . . Chicago group The Buzz to play
Hawkeye Music Festival
They've managed to impress everyone from Jenny Jones to Public Enemy, and
they've written a song about being drunk at Riverfest. The Buzz' roots,
however are in the blues.
"We really got our name from the old blues song 'Let's Buzz'," Frank
Blinkal, lead singer of the Chicago quartet The Buzz, said. "I was writing
songs with Chris Bernhardt and John Hanrahan while we were backing a blues
band led by JC Clemens. JC liked the Buzz name and it just kind of stuck
with us," Blinkal said.
The Buzz will perform Sunday at the Johnson County Fairgrounds as part of
the first-ever Hawkeye Music Festival. Other bands performing include Big
Bad Voodoo Daddy, Everclear, and MU330.
In 1995, Blinkal, Bernhardt (bass and vocals), Hanrahan (drums), and Jay
Moynihan (saxophone) fromed The Buzz in Chicago and have been touring and
recording ever since. "We're a rock band with a heavy blues influence,"
Blinkal said. "Our influences really go all over the place. We enjoy
blues artists, heavy rock, jazz, and R&B. A number of artists have
influenced our sound, from The Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen to
today's contemporaries, such as The Wallflowers."
The band's wide musical range has allowed them to open for everyone from
Buddy Guy and Jeff Healey to The Flaming Lips and Chuck D of Public Enemy.
Noted for their raw energy in concert, they play about 150 shows a pear,
ranging from the roadhouse to college and festival scenes. They've become
a staple at Buddy Guy's Legends and have played Chicago's House of Blues on
a number of occasions. Touring the country even allowed the band to appear
on the Jenny Jones show earlier this year.
"We were the house band on two shows of hers this year," Blinkal said.
"The first was a show entitled 'Women too Sexy to Date'. They liked us so
much that the producers of the show brought us back again on an episode
that was a take-off of the old 'Lets Make a Deal Show'. In all, it was
really a wild time."
The Buzz are touring behind their new release, Highway, which has gained
airplay on over 200 AAA and college radio stations. A victory last year in
a Chicago-area battle of the bands contest won The Buzz 40 hours of studio
time, which they used to record the album. Produced by Rick Barnes, who
has worked with such acts as Billy Idol and Liquid Soul, Highway
incorporates a full pantheon of musical styles-from rock to funk to
experimental blues- into 15 noteworthy tracks. "Drunk in Iowa", one of the
record's most lighthearted numbers, pretty much wrote itself, according to
Blinkal. "We were in Iowa City playing at Riverfest and the engineer we
had helping us with our show blew up something in our sound system and for
quite a while we had nothing else to do but relax and have a few beers,"
On top of "Drunk in Iowa", Highway also features the gorgeous "20/20",
The anthemic "Texas Love Song", and the sad and personal "It'll Be
Alright", written as a tribute to a friend of Blinkal's who died too young.
Covers of "Keep on Lovin' Me" by Otis Rush and "Chickenhead" by Buddy Guy
show the Buzz' mastery of fast vibrant shuffles. "With Highway, we set out
to make a record that was easy to listen to from tracks 1-15," Blinkal
said. "We like to incorporate a lot of heavy groove-oriented songs . . . we were
[also] very experimental musically while recording this record."
As for what can be expected when The Buzz appear at the Hawkeye Music
Festival this Sunday, Blinkal said that fans should expect plenty of
improvisation. "We like to mix our sets up every night," he said. "What
we really like to do is play songs that are unfamiliar to our audience. We
keep some of the original structure of the song and yet try to add our own
spin to it."
According to Blinkal, the band thrives on live shows. "What we enjoy
about touring is being able to interact with the fans," he said. "It is
something special to go into a venue and know someone on a first name
basis." The ongoing tour has allowed Blinkal and his band mates a chance
to reflect on their place in today's music scene. "We are a grass-rooted
band and we appreciate being in that position," Blinkal said. "We've rally
carved out our own niche in the marketplace."
David Small, Iowa City ICON, September 10, 1998
The Buzz Is On The "Highway"
After spending three years touring the country on their own and winning a
contest sponsored by ROCK 103.5 , Chicago's very own The Buzz is making
headway. The four piece band has opened for acts like Flaming Lips, Liquid
Soul, Government Mule, and Buddy Guy, and have just completed their third
studio album Highway.
The album opens with a funky cover of Otis Rush's "Chickenhead" and is
highlighted by guitar driven numbers such as "20/20" and "Never Gonna
Change". If you are looking for a mellow tune, look no further than "Drunk
in Iowa", a soft look at trying times. "Like I'm running down a hill at
full speed/never knowing what's ahead of me/ and I feel like part of
Custer's last stand/ a foolish man with a foolish plan/ Lord I'm drunk
again," sings guitarist/singer Frank Blinkal.
The Buzz captures their audience with a heavy guitar sound backed by a
solid rhythm section. However, saxophonist Jay Moynihan is the true star,
letting it rip throughout the CD with impressive solos and killer fills.
The saxophone is a perfect touch for this roots rock combo that provides a
touch of funk and soul to their music.
The most impressive thing about The Buzz is their ability to appeal to
many different audiences. Their music can work in a rock or alternative
setting as well as carry over to a blues club. It is nice to hear a band
that sounds as unique as The Buzz as opposed to hearing the same old
screaming idiots that the radio delivers us.
The Buzz are living proof that a band can have a successful music career
without a major label behind them. The combination of hard work and good
music makes The Buzz a great band that is worth an honest listen.
Dave Dixon, staff writer, The Leader, Elmhurst College, April 27, 1998
"Friday, May 1, RIBCO will be buzzing with a new Chicago-based rock and
blues band known as The Buzz. The Buzz has been together for around three
years and has recently released their first full length album, Highway.
The four man band is composed of Frank Blinkal, vocals and guitar;
Chris Bernhardt, bass and vocals; Jay Moynihan, saxophone and keyboards;
and Mike Rodbard, drums. Despite the seeming run-of-the-mill set-up, the
band's instrumentation is put together in a wildly innovative and energetic
format that has earned them acceptance in blues, rock, and alternative
Blinkal's raspy voice contrasted by Moynihan's smooth sax riffs and
Bernhardt's powerful bass lines creates a sound which captures the energy
of a live concert within their 15 track album. Opening with a homemade
radio buzz, the band moves into the jazzy, funk-blues of 'Chickenhead'.
With a rhythmic bass line and full horn sound, this opening song
illustrates the band's potential to enliven whatever venue they might play.
'Long Way' and '20/20' continue the power of the opening songs and
present forceful guitar riffs that can only be qualified as hard rock.
However, The Buzz throws in a few classic-rock style keyboard lines along
with various saxophone solos, which propels the band's talent into an area
all its own. Unable to be limited by boundaries of blues or rock, Highway
demonstrates the band's ability to play diverse styles of music while still
maintaining the integrity of their original blues based beginnings.
In quite a different arena though are 'Story of Bill' and 'Keep On
Lovin' Me' whose horn arrangements and up-beat tempo creates a hard rock
version of swing. At times it seems almost jazzy, but a short guitar
explosion with wild and powerful keyboarding in the background give a
constant reminder that this band cannot be contained within a single
musical category, even for one song.
In contrast to the buzzing 35 second introduction, Highway's last
track 'Drunk Acoustic' presents a slower, more contemporary version of
blues that closes out the album quite well. It tells the sad and familiar
tale of a sorrowful singer who has once again been sobered up by his own
alcohol related experiences, nevertheless making clear that his journey on
the great highway of life will keep on rolling.
The Buzz has opened for various acts ranging from Liquid Soul to The
Flaming Lips, to Buddy Guy, and even rap artist Chuck D. This range is
testimony to the band's ability to capture the attention of different
audiences while still playing the type of music that has made them a
success. Highway was released in early March and has been so successful
thus far that the band hopes to play around 180 shows this following year.
The name is certainly appropriate due to the fuzzy and heavy guitar
music that is characteristic of the band, but it also illustrates the very
distinctive hum that lurks about the air. The Buzz is certainly creating a
static of their own and May 1 at RIBCO, they will bring their powerful
sound to the Quad Cities. There are many stops along the highway of life
and this may be just another one, but it is certain to be the type of stop
that leaves you on the road you travel with a little more bounce in your
step and a buzzing blues singing in your soul."
Adam Malak, The Observer, Augustana College, Rock Island, IL, April 24, 1998
"This local Band has a keen bluesy funk-rock sound that enhances an interesting repertoire. The tempos and rhythms of the recent release 'Highway' tell and intriguing musical story."
Mary Houlihan-Skilton, Chicago Sun Times, April 10, 1998
"It probably isn't a bad idea to catch The Buzz at your local watering hole. Their new CD Highway features 15 cuts that are surprisingly funky and fail-safe, with songs like 'Pablo Cassal' and 'The Lovin' You Need' spotlighting skillful sax solos that are sure to please even the most finicky fan . . . this capable quartet could easily mature into one of the hottest bar bands around town."
Jeff Berkwits, Illinois Entertainer, April, 1998
"It should come as no surprise that Highway, the impressive debut release from Chicago blues/rock quartet The Buzz, is a musical testament to Americana. After all, bandleader Frank Blinkal helped put Buddy Guy's Legends on the map. As manager, he brought an impressive array of blues, rock, and heritage acts to the venue. Undoubtedly, he was doing some serious note-taking in the process. Starting with its cover photo of a '51 Chevy Powerglide, Highway oozes roots and pedigree while taking you on a musical journey through America's heartland.
The CD opens with a tribute to the king of late night blues radio, the wizard of overnight blues grease himself, 'Mr A.' of WNIB/97.1 fm. Starting with the opening wah-wah riffs on Bobby Rush's 'Chickenhead', I cranked the stereo to 11 and proclaimed 'Goddamn!' I have seen the band in a variety of venues and remain particularly impressed with the performance of horn player Jay Moynihan. His thoughtful arrangements remind this listener of influences ranging from Miles Davis to Johnny Reno & The Sax Maniacs. But the center-stage belongs to Frank 'Bang' Blinkal whose whiskey-wine-and-women vocals and six-string slinging courtesy of Leo Fender are particularly impressive on this release. Original compositions like 'Never Gonna Change', 'It'll Be Alright', 'The Lovin' You Need', and 'Texas Love Song' seem like old friends, even at first listen. They hint elements of Stevie Ray Vaughn, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, and even Buddy Guy, but never distract the listener from the band's individuality. While maintaining a diverse repertoire, The Buzz' strong versions of the Otis Rush live staple 'Keep on Lovin' Me', and the Eddie Boyd standard 'Five Long Years' underscore the band's obvious links to the blues.
The Buzz are a particularly impressive band that have always delivered the goods live, playing 150+ gigs a year on the roadhouse, college, and festival scene. They are so impressive that Rock 103.5 and Guitar Center selected them as Chicago's top band, and provided the studio time and CD mastering that helped bring this release to fruition. It should come as no surprise that top Chicago bandleaders have come knocking, cash in hand, seeking Blinkal and Moynihan's services. Turning down potentially lucrative offers to join Otis Rush, Buddy Guy, and even The Big Swing has only solidified the band's determination to stay together and maintain its vision. If Highway is any indication, don't be surprised to see their next release at the major label level."
Odysseus Johnson, In the Mix, March, 1998
"For anyone who knows The Buzz as a live band, there is a moment of curiosity before listening to its debut CD Highway for the first time: Have they managed to bottle the improvisational fury of its live shows into studio material?
The Buzz seem to answer the question right from the very first single 'Chickenhead'. Immediately following the subtle marijuana reference in the intro, this song cuts into context with its killer wah-wah guitar riff and predisposes the listener's ear to an hour of funky and dark R&B hooks straight out of Chicago.
These gentlemen are, for starters, excellent musicians. Frank Blinkal, guitar and vocals, is the punk-rock consciousness of the band and the man behind The Buzz's distinctive riff hooks. Chris Bernhardt is a virtuoso bass player and the glue that keeps the live sound together. Jay Moynihan's zebra-patterned saxophone takes its turn ad-libbing in the purest sstyle of Chicago Blues, while the relatively unobtrusive but punctual rock drumming of John Hanrahan sets the environment for the other three to invent.
Though songs like 'Drunk in Iowa', 'The Lovin You Need', 'Pablo Cassal', and 'Texas Love Song' are especially noteworthy, Highway is one of those CDs that needs to be left on for its entire length in order for the listener to fully absorb its smoky and fascinating atmospheres. Strongly recommended to those who love the big bad R&B style: No one locally does it as well as The Buzz."
Bruno Basile, The Daily Cardinal, March 4, 1998