Rock ‘n’ roll is full of characters. One of them is Peter Holsapple, who ranks with rock’s finest journeymen and funniest wits. He’s toured with crit faves R.E.M. and crit targets Hootie & the Blowfish, playing stringed instruments for each with a sly precision that has enhances both bands.
As Holsapple said of his Hootie gig, “It was a great job for me. I’d rather do that than sit in a tuxedo somewhere playing lounge songs.” He added: “I’m their avuncular presence. They’ve learned a lot on their own, but I’ve tried to help with the arcane stuff.”
Holsapple’s heart, however, is with the Continental Drifters – a similarly rootsy, more garage-flavored band. The group opened Hootie & the Blowfish’s tour last year (with Holsapple playing in both acts) and knocked many folks out with their spirited songs and superlative harmonies. The group has been called “America’s best-kept secret” and is actually unsinged at the moment.
“We’re aiming for a record contract, but we’ve also been around,” said Holsapple. “We’re more interested in making sure that this is about the music than about the intricacies of the music business.”
“Really, it’s refreshing to find a group of middle-aged people who want to play music for themselves without falling over ear other for the brass ring,” added Holsapple, whose Drifters include such veterans as Susan Cowsill (once with the teeny-bop group the Cowsills and now also Holsapple’s wife) and Vicki Peterson, formerly with the Bangles.
It’s an indictment of today’s music biz that the Drifters are not signed. “We’re dealing with a youth-oriented culture,” says Holsapple. “When (record executives) see people on stage who aren’t 20 years old, they think, ‘What are we going to do with them? My, some of them are even losing their hair!’ “
Holsapple knows all about the youth culture, having once been a club favorite with the garage-rocking dBs. He’s since made his bread and butter with R.E.M. and Hootie & the Blowfish, but after a tour of Asia this spring with Hootie (who will not tour the Unites States this summer), he plans to leave them to focus on the Continental Drifters.