1976

January – Skafish assembles the first incarnation of his band featuring Larry Mazalan on guitar, Greg Sarchet on bass,  and himself on vocals and keyboards.  Jazz-based drummer Roger Jones, and guest guitarist Dennis McCissick only perform the first Skafish show in February. 

February - While still a teenager, Skafish begins the performances that lay the foundation for Punk, New Wave, and Alternative in Chicago, and in the process, creates an unclassifiable wave of his own.  The initial sound of the band features manically fast, pounding tempos with at random jazz-based atonal improvisation in the vein of Ornette Coleman and Sun Ra interspersed with loud distorted rock guitar, while classic and hooky pop melodies are interlaced into the raucous mix. From the beginning, every Skafish band is militaristically disciplined and able to segue into surreal spontaneity at any time.  The integration of outrageous visuals conceptually and inextricably interwoven with the music stuns audiences.  Since Skafish compositions are largely based on real life experiences-- a lifetime of rejection, persecution and alienation, his performances project a real emotional intensity—one that audiences could feel, regardless of their reaction.

Jim Skafish in bathing suit and Babuska
Bathing Suit and Babuska

At his debut performance, wearing an old-fashioned old ladies one-piece bathing suit with a babushka, Skafish sprinkles the audience with authentic blessed Catholic holy water.  Shortly afterward, Skafish writes what may be the very first sacrilegious rock song ever, “Sign Of The Cross.”

April – Larry Mysliwiec replaces Roger Jones as the Skafish drummer.

June – Keyboardist David Prochazka becomes the fifth member of the Skafish band, freeing Skafish to focus more on theatricality and his visual presentation.  

August - 4 songs, “Knuckle Sandwich,” “Executive Exhibitionist,” “Maybe One Time,” and “They Give You Bad Feelings” are recorded in a 16-track studio.  The sound to “Knuckle Sandwich” and  “Executive Exhibitionist” is awash in atonal solos.  Although he has very little studio experience, Skafish acts as the sole producer on these recordings. The tape is heard by Scott Cameron, manager of blues legends Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon, and jazz great Stan Kenton.  Kenton, who also hears the tape, recognizes Skafish’s tremendous artistic innovation, calls him a genius and encourages Cameron to become his manager.  By the fall, Cameron agrees to manage Skafish.

Nov. - First cousin Bobby Skafish is hired as a DJ at Chicago station WXRT, going on to a successful radio career that still continues.

Nov. through Dec. - Skafish and his band tour the Chicago area.  At their first publicized show on November 7, the act opens with “Executive Exhibitionist.”  It is a blatant tale of a middle-aged man exposing himself to children at schoolyards, musically emphasized by its clashing polytonal group improvisation. The performance features Skafish flashing the crowd while wearing a businessman’s overcoat with peach gardening shorts and a tube top underneath.  At the completion of  this set opener, an audience member rushes to the bathroom and throws up.

Cheap Trick become early fans, and bring future Skafish drum roadie Tara to see her 1st Skafish show.  At a performance in Rockford, Illinois, Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen threatens audience members with a beer bottle as they rush the stage to attack Skafish.

The act receives immediate local press coverage, even though Skafish refuses to answer any questions from the media or grant any interviews.  The initial reaction to Skafish is quite favorable by the local press, who considers him to be indescribably unique and refreshing for then conservative Chicago rock scene. Audience reactions vary from shock, disbelief, indifference, occasional obsessive excitement, to hostile and violent, with audience members often screaming profanities while throwing things at the stage.

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