The Wilmas were Dave Allman on drums, Jon Harrison on bass and vocals, and Mark Johnson on guitar and vocals. They had a self-deprecating stage presence, but their songs were genuinely great, if not always performed that way.
THE ORIGINS - Dave & Mark were roommates and had been playing house parties and open mics as a two-piece, with occasional vocals from another roommate, Joe McCauley. They met Jon at an eventful Anti-Valentines Day party at their house in East Lawrence in 1989. Jon played guitar in Everywhere, a great psychedelic band fronted by Kevin Hickel, that played the party. A very young Kill Creek also played that that night. The Wilmas were the first band to play, and at one point (before the cops arrived to move the band off the outdoor deck and into the house proper) Tom Frank - who would later write the best-seller What's the Matter With Kansas - sang lead vocals on a cover of Black Flag's Nervous Breakdown. A few weeks later at an open mic that Mark & Dave played, Jon expressed interest in joining up, and the Wilmas became a real band.
Over the next 3 years they played out as often as the could, which wasn't all that often since Dave & Jon lived and Lawrence and Mark was in Austin TX attending graduate school. During the summers, they played frequently at great clubs like the Bottleneck, the Crossing, Down & Under, and the Hideaway in Lawrence, the Hurricane in Wesport MO, and even played Gabe's Oasis in Iowa City a few times. Their last show was at the Hideaway on February 14, 1994, where they played with Danger Bob and Sunday Drive.
The Wilmas went into Big Bang recording studio each summer from 1989 to 1991. The results were Songs About Girls (1989), More Songs About Girls (1990), and Still More Songs About Girls (also known as Son of More Songs About Girls, 1991).
The Wilmas got to play with some great bands over the years, including The Wishniaks, The Dangtrippers, The Jayhawks, The Homestead Grays, Ricky Dean Sinatra, The Mahoots, Moving Van Goghs, Kill Creek, Danger Bob, and The Love Squad. They were a local touch point - Kurt Mangold once described the Green Day after seeing them at the Outhouse as "The Wilmas with balls" (no, we didn't care for that much at the time, either).
The band's You Wrecked the Party appeared on Fresh Sounds From Middle American Vol 5, from Fresh Sounds records, home of The Embarrassment and The Mortal Micronotz. Several of the band's songs received heavy airplay by KJHK, the student radio station at University of Kansas.
In Spring 1992, when The Wilmas practice sessions gradually shifted from playing music to watching Simpsons episodes, Mark went into Red House studio with Scott Gribble on bass and Ed Rose on drums to record some new songs. This studio project ended up winning a KJHK songwritting contest and earned a slot opening for Shudder To Think, and thus Sunday Drive was born.
Sunday Drive played around the Lawrence / Kansas City area over the next 2 years. In addition to Shudder To Think, the band played shows with Redd Kross, Kill Creek, Nic Cosmos, Frogpond, and many others. Sunday Drive recorded a number of tracks with Ed manning the boards at Red House, and also made a few home studio recordings by Scott. A semi-live version of "Queasy" appeared on the compilation Loaded in Lawrence 1994.
Sunday Drive released two demo cassettes, austensibly on the Leftover Records label (but these were strictly homemade affairs): Pop Psychology in 1993 and Fat Like Cupid in 1995.
It's hard to say when exactly the last Sunday Drive show was played, although it might have been at the Gee Coffee in Overland Park, KS. The last recording session occured in early 1996, just before Mark moved to Boston, in order to record "Half-Assed and Wholly Stupid" (done spur of the moment with Chris Wagner on bass).
The What Gives
Jon Harrison is a fantastic songwritter, and his best material has been recorded by The What Gives. In 1990, Jon went up to Champagne IL with Mike Horan and Pat Hawley and recorded the terrific Hail Storm seven inch ep on Brian Kirk's Bus Stop label. The following year, Jon stayed in Lawrence and recorded another single for Bus Stop, this time with Ed Rose at the boards. Jon then recorded another set of tunes with Bret Dillingham, Stephan Naron, Ed Rose, and Ron Hayes and in 1995 put out all of the above as the wonderful full length Up All Night With The What Gives on Bus Stop.
Up to this point, The What Gives had been a studio project. With this rich recorded legacy, Jon decided to put together a live act. The first two shows the band played were both at The Replay Lounge opening for Poole and The Apples in Stereo, respectively. The band went on to play around the Lawrence area.
One highlight was performing with Yo La Tengo and The Grays at The Bottleneck in Lawrence. All three bands that night played killer sets to a packed house. Mark's last show with The What Gives was at the Granada Theater on February 10, 1996, just a few days before he moved to Boston. Many different musicians have played with Jon in The What Gives, and each iteration has been special and a lot of fun to see and hear.