MEET ON EASY STREET
In 2014 a group of people got together in a barn loft in Purcellville, Virginia with their instruments for a jazz meet-up. It was just a jam (a clam-bake, really!), just for fun, and just for themselves - until they were asked to play at the Purcellville Music and Arts Festival!
The “band” needed a name, and the drummer, Chip, suggested “Felonious Monk,” a spoof on the famous bop pianist Thelonious Monk, with the tag line, “The way we play jazz is a crime.” At that first gig the band had a singer, two wind players, an accordion, a guitar, a bass, drums, and a hand-percussionist! Later a second guitar was added for a total of nine.
The name morphed into “The Felonious Monks,” and for three years the band played under that name. The problem was that few people “got it.” People not familiar with Thelonious Monk were confused by the name. “I didn’t know whether to expect a bunch of guys in robes, or a bunch of guys in prison stripes.” “The Felonious Monks – what does that even MEAN?” At every gig the band had to explain its name to at least one person. Sometimes the confusion was great enough that it had to be explained from the stage!
A lot has changed since the beginning. In the early days the name reflected the joke that the band never intended to play in front of people and were only playing for themselves while inviting people to watch and listen if they wanted to. As time went by they became more serious about playing for the benefit of the audience. The band is gratified and blessed to have gotten such a great reception and have such a loyal group of followers.
There’s also been personnel changes over the years: a different singer, a different bass player, and through various life circumstances there’s no longer winds, accordion, or hand-percussion.
As things were heading in a different direction than the lark the band originally began as, a name change was floated at various times. After having to explain the name to an audience from the stage at a gig in early June of 2018 the members decided to begin in earnest to look for another name.
After considering several, they settled on the name “On Easy Street,” after the title of a song written by Alan Jones and recorded for the first time in 1941 by Martha Tilton. The name captures the spirit and mood of the band. Audiences regularly say “The band is smooth, and really easy to listen to.”
And in a nod to tradition, the song Easy Street was recorded by Thelonious Monk in 1968.
Thank you for being with us on our journey as The Monks. We hope you’ll stay with us and enjoy the ride On Easy Street.