Thirty years on, the Hooters are as crucial to native folklore as the location of the Tastykake factory. But, three decades after they first started playing together, they still manage to surprise audiences with new music (a live-to-tape EP Five by Five) and an archival local pop project (drummer David Uosikkinen's In the Pocket) celebrating the area's lesser-known musical greats.
They're observing those 30 great years with a concert/party at Electric Factory on Friday at 8:30 p.m.
That storied past? Start with the storied 1971 day when cofounders Eric Bazilian and Rob Hyman met.
"You're talking about how we met at University of Penn in an electronic music class that had the fourth Moog ever built - a monophonic monstrosity that took up the room," says Bazilian.
"When [Rob] walked into class I was sitting on the floor playing acoustic guitar," Bazilian continues. "We went upstairs to a piano and started playing. I think we both knew instantly that we had each met our match, that the bar had been raised and we'd be stuck with each other for a long time; musical love at first sight, as it were."
Bazilian and Hyman formed Baby Grand with Rick Chertoff (eventually to be the Hooters' producer) and released two albums of Steely-Dan-lite fare on Arista (1978's eponymous effort followed by 1979's Ancient Medicine). The duo busted up Baby Grand. But the basis of the Hooters had been laid.
The pair started auditioning drummers. "We were jamming with a mix of punky-reggae-party music meets Two Tone ska-rock," says Hyman, when they saw Uosikkinen playing with a band called Hot Property. At the time he was an underground drumming sensation who'd played with the Kooks and other local bands. "He looked 15 years old, but was banging the hell out of a bright yellow Gretsch kit. Eric and I knew on the spot he was our man. Still is. Nobody hits harder or better."
"I saw Baby Grand at the Bijou and was impressed," Uosikkinen remembers. "When we met, Rob and Eric gave me the option to be a part of this experience, and I always had the green light to be myself."
The original trio formed in 1980 and played their first gig on July Fourth that year. They hit high school gyms and children's parties. Although they opened for the Who and the Clash at JFK Stadium, they went on hiatus in 1982 to figure out their next move. By 1983, multi-instrumentalist John Lilley joined the band, and within two years they signed a contract with a major. They recorded a worldwide platinum-plus-selling album, Nervous Night, and by July 1985 were the opening act for Live Aid.
For the next 10 years, they continued with platinum albums and auspicious shows, such as their 1990 gig doing The Wall with Roger Waters in Berlin. When success began to wane in the States, the Hooters conquered Europe, wrote with and for others (Hyman penned "Time After Time" with Cyndi Lauper in 1984, and Bazilian wrote "One of Us" for Joan Osborne in 1995), and moved away from each other.
But, in the words of Bazilian, "we never busted apart. After three years of intensive touring in Europe and the left-field success of the Osborne record, other doors opened for us."
Bazilian wrote with Desmond Child and penned songs for Jon Bon Jovi and Ricky Martin. "Though it wasn't what I ultimately wanted to do, which was and remains getting on a stage with an electric guitar and playing loud music, writing was very gratifying for a while and still is, when I do it," Bazilian says, adding that he just copenned Martin's new single, "The Best Thing About Me Is You."
Between 1995 and 2001, Lilley started a landscaping biz (the Avant-Gardeners!) and did a solo album; Hyman had children, recorded a solo project with Chertoff called Largo, and opened a recording studio in Conshohocken.
"There may have been 15 minutes when I thought we'd moved on, but 2001's WMMR Pierre Robert 20th anniversary show at the Spectrum woke us all up from our coma and led to the past nine years of Hooters activity," says Hyman. He says his songwriting partnership with Bazilian is stronger than ever, what with new songs such as "Silver Lining," one of their rawest.
Uosikkinen has long been the most independent Hooter. When their touring slowed, he moved to L.A., started a label (Moskeeto), was an acquisition manager for MP3.com, and played sessions for Rod Stewart and Alice Cooper. ("Alice once babysat my son Sam when he was about 3 years old," Uosikkinen says, laughing. "I came back and they were eating, like, a five-pound bag of M&Ms.") He moved back to Philly last year for love (restaurant publicist Dallyn Pavey) and local sports teams.
Hyman's recording studio is the hub for Uosikkinen's In the Pocket. He's recording downloadable sessions with various Hooters and Philly band friends (e.g., Peace Creeps' Richard Bush, Beru Revue's Greg Davis) for the benefit of the Settlement Music School.
Uosikkinen is also making impressive use of local talent. He made a list of "essential" locals (e.g., Kenn Kweder, Alan Mann) whose powerful songwriting skills aren't as internationally renowned as those of other Philly artists.
"I wanted to record their songs and pay tribute to the guys that worked it like I did," Uosikkinen says. "I also wanted to revisit some of my fave songs that came out of Philly." This week, Uosikkinen records "Open My Eyes" from the Nazz, Upper Darby native Todd Rundgren's band. It's got Jeffrey Gaines on vocals and A's guitarist Rick DiFonzo. They'll cut it live and record a video documentary in one day, then put it up on www.songsinthepocket.org so people who want to contribute to Settlement can listen, watch, then download the song for 99 cents.
"David is family, and we support any and all side projects, especially one that's a cool idea for a good cause," says Hyman, who acts as one of ITP's rotating musicians.
Uosikkinen seconds the emotion of being a family - a vibe at the heart of the Hooters for 30 years. "They knew I liked to rock and always encouraged it," the drummer says. "I learned a lot about focus and integrity and being true to yourself as an artist from Rob and Eric."
Tickets for Friday night's show cost $39.50 and can be purchased at http://www.ticketmaster.com/Hooters-tickets/artist/932750