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"Jim's death was one of the worst things that could have happened," Kesler says, "And then this beautiful little baby comes along, and it's such a roller coaster."
"When he passed on, it left us all —" Niewald searches for the right words.
"He played a ton of roles," Kesler says. "Jim called people on their own arrogance, and he did it with a smile. And he taught me all about guitars, about vintage guitars."
"He was a real musician," Niewald says. "He was a real guy. That's why he could relate to guys in other bands. That's why we became friends with so many musicians over the years. And they opened up that music store, and people loved Matt and Jim and the store and the vibe. And that became ground zero for a whole lot of interaction. The True Believers [featuring Alejandro Escovedo, Javier Escovedo and Jon Dee Graham] would be over for parties in the old days."
Alejandro Escovedo played Strahm's funeral, and the culture that Strahm (along with Kesler) had cultivated around Midwestern Musical Co. would become a part of the Doo-Dads' story. In addition to Escovedo's Doo-Dads contribution, Dave Gonzalez of the Paladins and Hacienda Brothers performs on both "Sweet Stuff" and "Brush Your Teeth" from the group's self-titled second album.
Niewald made one last Bindlestiffs record after that, and it included songs for two of his three children, "Emelia Mae" and "Eli's a Cowboy." The latter went on to win a competition in the children's category of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest. "I kind of thought I may be on to something," Niewald says. (He eventually completed the trilogy with the Doo-Dads' "Ethan B.")
"Yeah, Mike had written a couple of songs for his kids," Kesler says, "and it just kind of evolved that way. We talked about how, at the time, everybody who did kids' music was acoustic-based and participatory —"
"And we wanted to share something different with kids," Niewald finishes, "make it pretty much straight rock and roll. I just wanted to do a little studio record of some kids' songs, and Matt's the one who went, 'Maybe we should do this as a band, an official band.' And we knew Joe had kids."
"Actually," Kesler corrects, "I think we were trying to program a drum machine and having trouble, thinking, 'This is stupid. Let's call up Joe. Let's call up a drummer. He can do this in about two seconds.' And the same thing happened with the keyboard. We started to try to set up a keyboard, and we called a keyboard player."
"Matt and I were playing jazz gigs and casino gigs at the time that was all going down," Lovern says of the Doo-Dads' genesis, the days after Strahm's death. He's the band's second keyboard player, having joined in 2006. "I couldn't be in the band because I didn't have a kid," he recalls. "But by the time they got back from South by Southwest in 2006, I had a kid and I joined. The songwriting's a lot easier when you have kids."
We've all been friends forever," Lendy Kesler says, "and we were all having kids. And as most parents know, it's sometimes hard to see your friends as much as you used to. The Doo-Dads made that possible for us."