Transcripts

Old Dogs, New Tricks: D.C.'s Cravin' Dogs

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

13:52:16
And finally today, we'll play a little music. Name a music venue in D.C., any venue, and chances are the Cravin' Dogs have probably played it. On April 2nd, the local band celebrates 25 years of gonzo folk and rock 'n' roll with a concert at Wolf Trap. Andrew Hiller sat in on a rehearsal.

MR. ANDREW HILLER

13:52:45
As the band members tuned their instruments and try out a few licks, I discover what drives the Cravin' Dogs and what their still craving after a quarter century in the music business.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE 1

13:52:56
Salt and vinegar. Can you give me a chip, ya'll?

HILLER

13:53:06
Food seems to be on their minds a lot lately. They titled their newest CD "Sounds Like A Wiener," and the first song up at today's rehearsal is "An Ode To A Takoma Park Pupusa Vendor."

HILLER

13:53:28
The band's always been hungry, though. Lead guitarist and songwriter Caldwell Gray says the group first came together in 1986 at a barbeque in Capitol Hill.

MR. CALDWELL GRAY

13:53:36
We were playing in the backyard with another friend of ours who had a, like, a Marshall stack and Lipan (sp?) He was just cranking and the neighbor two doors, after like a 20 minute "Wild Thing" or just some such nonsense, she yells out her back door, is that your finale? Because I'm going to ask you just to finish up.

HILLER

13:53:56
But of course they didn't. After they were chased out of the backyard they began playing at coffee shops and clubs around D.C., including a yearlong engagement at the Grog.

HILLER

13:54:10
Of course, it wasn't always food that brought the band members together. Sometimes it was natural selection. Bassist Barry Warsaw is joining in on today's rehearsal from Atlanta via Skype, is sort of the Ringo star of the Cravin' Dogs.

MR. BARRY WARSAW

13:54:24
Well, I mean, I knew John and I knew Wally, who was, you know, in the band at the time and I think you guys had gone through, like, 8,000 bass players. But I had just started a new job at the time. I was like, I can't really be in a band. If this guy in leaves in six months, come talk to me again and I think he did.

HILLER

13:54:45
Warsaw says the band had its ups and downs, sometimes they really worked themselves like dogs.

WARSAW

13:54:50
We would hit rush hour traffic going down to North Carolina for a Thursday night gig, play from like 10:00 to, I don't know, 2:00 in the morning, bicker with the guy for pay, leave at 3:30 in the morning, drive back to D.C. and hit rush hour traffic coming back into town. Sleep for an hour at Caldwell's house and then go to work.

HILLER

13:55:12
But John Penovich says there were also some pretty cool moments, such as opening for Dave Matthews, Chuck Barry.

MR. JOHN PENOVICH

13:55:18
Probably a highlight would be opening for Styx at Meriwether Post Pavilion in 1991.

HILLER

13:55:26
And drummer Tom Helf says most of the Dogs prefer the stage to the studio.

MR. TOM HELF

13:55:31
It's hard to play to machines. It's much easier to play to people.

HILLER

13:55:33
But after 25 years of writing tunes for the band, founding Dog Caldwell Gray says he's learned the importance of studio time and sticking to a schedule.

GRAY

13:55:42
I think you have to have a deadline. I don't think it's ever -- you never want to let go of it. You'll just keep holding onto it and polishing and polishing and crafting and crafting and never stop, never stop.

HILLER

13:55:53
That's not to say Gray's music and lyrics can't be complex. Sometimes they even require translation.

HILLER

13:56:05
The Dogs belt out their songs in five languages, English, French, Spanish, Latin and Croatian. Drummer Tom Helf says learning a foreign language isn't the hardest part.

HELF

13:56:14
It's tough to schedule, you know, five people's lives around band activities, but we keep coming back because he keeps coming up with the goods.

HILLER

13:56:22
And after 25 years, despite complaints from neighbors, day job dramas and all the ups and downs of the music biz, the Cravin' Dogs plan to do it again at the Barns of Wolf Trap.

HILLER

13:56:38
And this time when the audience on the lawn shouts, is that your finale? They may just be shouting for an encore. I'm Andrew Hiller.

SHEIR

13:57:02
For more information on the Cravin' Dogs upcoming concert at Wolf Trap, check out our website, metroconnection.org.

SHEIR

13:57:29
And that's "Metro Connection" for this week. We heard from WAMU's Kavitha Cardoza, David Schultz, Bryan Russo and Sabri Ben-Achour and Jared Walker and reporters Lauren Hodges and Andrew Hiller. Jim Asendio is our news director. Our ''Door to Door'' producers are Julia Edwards and Jonna McKone. No "Door to Door" this week, obviously, but don't worry, we'll back next time.

SHEIR

13:57:51
Thanks to Tobey Schreiner, Jonathon Charry, Andrew Chadwick, Margo Kelly, Timmy Olmstead, Kelin Quigley, and Greg Peppers for their production help. And special thanks to Dana Farrington and the WAMU digital media team for keeping our website up-to-date. Our theme song, ''Every Little Bit Hurts'' and our ''Door To Door'' theme "No Girl" are from the album "Title Tracks" by John Davis and used with permission of the Ernest Jennings Record Company. Visit our website, metroconnection.org, for a list of all the music we use.

SHEIR

13:58:16
You can also find links to our Twitter feed, our Facebook page and information about subscribing to the free "Metro Connection" podcast. We hope you can join us next time when we jump in headfirst. We'll explore all sorts of firsts from Arlington, Virginia's first opera company to why most trees in our region probably weren't the first ones here. I'm Rebecca Sheir and thanks for listening to "Metro Connection," a production of WAMU 88.5 news.
Transcripts of WAMU programs are available for personal use. Transcripts are provided "As Is" without warranties of any kind, either express or implied. WAMU does not warrant that the transcript is error-free. For all WAMU programs, the broadcast audio should be considered the authoritative version. Transcripts are owned by WAMU 88.5 FM American University Radio and are protected by laws in both the United States and international law. You may not sell or modify transcripts or reproduce, display, distribute, or otherwise use the transcript, in whole or in part, in any way for any public or commercial purpose without the express written permission of WAMU. All requests for uses beyond personal and noncommercial use should be referred to (202) 885-1200.