Provocative Pig Fish History Lesson
by Aodh Óg
In the 12 year history of Four Shillings Short, many great musicians have contributed their talents to the cause. Many people have joined the audience in recent years, including the inevitable merging with the mailing list of Christy's former band Your Mother Should Know. This involuntary yanking happened because............................
On one feetful night in July of 1995, Christy and I met at a Four Shillings Short performance at St. Michael's Alley. She luckily knew Margaret & Kristoph so I really made sure to be introduced to this lovely musician. Fireworks ensued, and a month later there was a passionate romance and musical rumblings in both existing bands. After a week we knew that we would marry and the first musical collaborations were energetic and promising. We are now seriously launching Four Shillings Short as a business so it is time to weed out our mailing list and clear up some other things. With this in mind, I thought I?d give a little history about Four Shillings Short and add a little folklore to the brew.
....It was a dark and stormy night. Two figures peered suspiciously at one another over a moss covered log in the middle of The Olde Smelly Bog at the edge of the San Francisquito creek. Later to be identified at Aodh Óg Ó Tuama and Ernest Kinsolving...these two oddballs sang Medieval and Renaissance music and later combined their questionable talents with those of Karl Franzen and began performing obscure folk music from Ireland and the British Isles--with a little Medieval and Renaissance thrown in.
Establishing itself as one of Palo Alto's enduring musical traditions, Four Shillings Short began playing once or twice a month at the infamous St. Michael's Alley in 1985. Our first recording Four Shillings Short: Alive and Otherwise was released in 1989 after which, Elisa Welch joined in with her partner Paul Mulvaney. Ernest left the band sometime after that, and I stayed. The remaining quartet issued The Basket By the Door in 1990, to continue our philosophy of meaningful titles.... Both of these albums were recorded live at St. Michael's Alley in Palo Alto....Ochon, Ochon!!!!!
Then in 1991 or so, Paul left the band and I stayed, and a little later Ernest rejoined the group and I still stayed. We then issued forth in 1992 with Up From the Bog, an hopeful title. Ernest did the cover designs for the first and third album and Elisa designed the second.The PigFish Logo, designed by Ernest, was an amalgam of figures on Irish coinage. The group name comes from a short story by Irish writer, James Joyce in Dubliners, where yet another musician is shortchanged!
Sometime in 1992. Elisa left to work on her own music and still I stayed and then Ernest did likewise and myself and Karl battled bravely on, Quel Troopers?? (Ernest, thanks for staying so long) In late ?92 Margaret Davis (who performed Medieval music with me in the early music group Gai Saber) and her husband, Kristoph Klover, both of the group Avalon Rising, joined us. Yes, a quartet once more! By now I was pretty resigned to the fact that a permanent group of musicians could not be employed solely in one band. And that a roster of musicians was necessary to keep a group going.
Heather Alexander started playing with us and recorded the Now album in 1994 with my friend, the Mistress Cello herself, Kris Yenney. Margaret designed the cover. I thought, ?Wow, we have a sextet that wants to play music together.? I closed my eyes....AND............Then, EVERYBODY LEFT THE BAND!!!!
And I began to wonder....Should I stay, my laddie, stay???? Sensing a pattern here??? Record = Break up, Record = Break up Well,..................no, ..........not quite....but it felt like that. Not everyone left the band. After Now was recorded, Karl left the band as did Heather and I still stayed and fiddler Valerie Price joined the band. (Karl, thanks for staying so long.) All was quiet on the western front until 1995 when I met Christy who, vixen that she is, scared off everyone else for a while and I still stayed. She was later to become my partner in yet another direction for Four Shillings Short.
As myself and Christy began exploring our new musical relationship, Kristoph gamely stayed on whilst pursuing Avalon Rising with Margaret. In 1996 Jeff Buenz, guitarist for Viva Brazil, longtime friend and fan of Four Shillings Short, started jamming with us. I was looking for a new sound that combined all the musical influences I've had in my life as musician, sound designer and theater worker. I wanted a sound that was wild, punkish, rocky and yet rooted in tradition. The new quartet recorded the 5th album Kelptic OddYaSee in 1996. Kevin Carr, Tim Gutierrez, Andrew Buffington, Deidre McCarthy, Margaret Davis and Susannah Martin appeared on this recording as well.
I must also mention the stellar Irish musicians who have joined our performances in the past, musicians such as John Lavelle, Dave McCourt, Mike Grevina, Dick Nyquist, Michael Robinson, Jerry McMillan, Kevin Carr and all those who join in the ceili's. Thanks everybody. (Forgive me if I've excluded anyone.)
Four Shillings Short, in its current
formation, is basically a duo, joined by whomever is available,
depending on the gig & pay. My epitaph will read: BUT I STAYED