Tommy Cass II has been a part of the local music scene for a couple of decades, and he’s been in (or created) about a half-dozen bands.
“They’ve all been different,” he said. “With every project, I try to do something different.”
Dr. Shock & the GoGo Monsters, for example, featured guys in glam costumes and Cass in an Angus Young schoolboy getup he ordered from England.
His current band, The Jackies, has Doug Harold on vocals, Mike Harold on drums, Jody Park on guitar and Brian Hennen on bass. Cass does a lot of the writing and plays guitar. Longtime music fans will remember the Harold brothers from The Judybats.
Q: How would you describe The Jackies?
A: I’d say it’s a cross between Cheap Trick and a lot of indie music from the ’80s and ’90s.
Q: Are you doing covers or all originals?
A: All originals.
Q: How many bands have you been in?
A: Five or six, I guess. There was Twiggy, Dr. Shock & the GoGo Monsters, The Rayons, BH Four and now The Jackies.
Q: Have you always done just originals?
A: I’ve never done covers. I came up after the cover-band thing really. It was the last days of the original punk scene here. Covers were frowned upon, and I couldn’t get my head around doing somebody else’s music anyway. Plus, it’s easier to write my own stuff than to learn somebody else’s.
Q: You’ve been in some bands that weren’t afraid to dress up a little.
A: Yeah. I’ve kind of toned it down. The latest bands are focused more on the music. I’ve always like Halloween, so I do like dressing up. We did Dr. Shock at a time when the Seattle bands were wearing jeans and plaid, so we wanted to do something different. We dressed up a lot. Doug would wear dresses and makeup trying to be glam, but we also tried to keep our punk roots. We were into the whole Iggy Pop and the Stooges.
I was wearing the Angus Young thing, the school-boy uniform. I had to track it down and ordered it from England. You don’t just go out and find them around here.
We had a blast. I wish we could have kept it going, but things happen the longer you are in a band.
Q: What are the challenges in keeping a band together?
A: “People start off in a band, and they are single. (Then) they get a wife or girlfriend and they [the girls] like the whole band thing and have fun at first, but it takes a lot of time to invest in the band and pretty soon they don’t like you spending so much time away.
I don’t want to put it all on girls. People get tired of each other too, and they move on to new things.
Q: What are the goals in music for you and have they changed over the years?
A: It really hasn’t. When we first started, I guess it was all about some fantasy about making it big, but as you get older you get houses and children and the priorities change. I play just to have a good time and to write. It’s like therapy. If I wasn’t in a band I don’t know what I’d do.
Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...