Gin Blossoms is an alternative rock band formed in 1987, in Tempe, Arizona. They took their name from a photo of W.C. Fields which bore the caption "W.C. Fields with gin blossoms," referring to the actor's gin-ravaged nose. The band released three albums and had several hits in the mid 1990s, before breaking up in 1997. Five years later in 2002, the band reunited, released a DVD, resumed touring, and promised a fourth album. Major Lodge Victory, the Gin Blossoms' first album in ten years, was released on August 8, 2006 on the Hybrid Recordings label. According to rock critic Jet Knowles, the band today is considered to have a wide influence on modern rock, due to its consolidation of melodic rock, folk, and country elements.
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Members during the band's early years included guitarist and songwriter Doug Hopkins, bassist Bill Leen, vocalist Robin Wilson, guitarist Richard Taylor, drummer Chris McCann, McCann's replacement Dan Henzerling, and Taylor's replacement Jesse Valenzuela. During their early years, the Gin Blossoms became well-known locally around their hometown of Tempe, Arizona. With the band's frequent touring and resulting increase in popularity, the Blossoms also independently recorded their first full-length album, Dusted.
By the early 1990s, the lineup had changed to Leen on bass, Hopkins on guitar, Valenzuela on guitar and vocals, Wilson on vocals and acoustic guitar, and Phillip Rhodes on drums. After being signed with A&M Records, the band began to work on their debut album. Initial attempts to create a major-label record faltered and the band released an EP, Up and Crumbling, instead.
"Hey Jealousy" (1993)
Written by Hopkins before his dismissal from the band, "Hey Jealousy" was a huge success for the band. The song is a man's plea for his former girlfriend to let him in. It reached #25 on the US Billboard chart.
"Found Out About You" (1994)
The second hit by Hopkins (and the second to reach #25 on the Billboard chart) the song is the bands only #1 hit, topping the Modern Rock Tracks chart in the US. The song's theme focuses on rumors following a couple's breakup.
"Without Doug and his songwriting, we never could have signed a record deal."
?Robin Wilson (People magazine, 1994)
Reflecting on the unpleasant new experience of life in a band under a major record label, Gin Blossoms named their first full-length studio album New Miserable Experience. In February 1992, while still working to complete it, founding member and lead guitarist/songwriter Doug Hopkins drank heavily and grew increasingly stubborn and disillusioned with the process. Faced with the prospect of being dropped by A&M, the band terminated Hopkins and replaced him with Scott Johnson. The album was completed and the first single released from it was Hopkins' song "Hey Jealousy". It would reach #25 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #4 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock Tracks, largely fuelling the success of New Miserable Experience. However, the achievement would be overshadowed by Hopkin's suicide on , 1993. The following year, another song penned by Hopkin's, "Found Out About You", would also reach #25 on the Billboard Hot 100 and climb to #1 on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks.
Between their debut and sophomore albums, the Gin Blossoms provided the single "Til I Hear It From You" for the Empire Records soundtrack. It reached #9 on the Billboard Hot 100. Their second major album, Congratulations I'm Sorry, was released in 1996. Yielding one top ten hit, "Follow You Down" - #9 Billboard Hot 100, the album met with mixed reviews.
The Blossoms broke up in the spring of 1997, and each band member moved on to his own project. Vocalist Wilson and drummer Rhodes launched the Gas Giants. Bassist Leen retired from music to operate a rare-book store. Guitarist Valenzuela fronted a short-lived outfit called the Low Watts, released a solo album, and kept busy writing and producing. Wilson ventured into producing as well, at his Mayberry Studios in Tempe, Arizona.
The Gas Giants announced an "indefinite hiatus" in June 2001. On December 4, 2001, it was announced that Scott would leave his current band, Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers, to rejoin the Gin Blossoms. The band regrouped and began playing together again in earnest (having done a couple of one-off shows in the interim) in 2002. In the words of frontman Robin Wilson at the time, "We always said our breakup wasn't forever and right now we're all feeling like we want to be Gin Blossoms again. We make a noise together that we can't make otherwise. We respect and appreciate that we need each other to create that sound. This time we hope to avoid being swallowed by the chaos."
In preparation to the band's official reunion show, Rhodes suffered a meltdown due to his ongoing battle with alcohol. Shortly after entering rehab, he was formally dismissed from the band. Phil Leavitt of dada originally took Rhodes' place in the lineup, and then Gary Smith (of The Pistoleros, another Tempe band) stepped in. Scott Kusmirek took over drumming for the band from 2002 to 2004. In January 2005, it was announced that Rhodes, who had been sober for over two years, would rejoin the band. The re-entry of Rhodes was short-lived, however. The torrent of acrimony that swelled on the band's bulletin board subsequent to Rhodes' termination illustrates the intensity of the conflict. Kusmirek returned to the band, taking Rhodes' place. "The Kooze," as he is affectionately known, served as drummer for the Gin Blossoms until , 2008, when a press release issued by the band explained he and the group parted ways. The current drummer is John Richardson.
The band's latest album, Major Lodge Victory, was originally recorded at Robin Wilson's Mayberry Studios in Tempe. However, the album was then re-recorded at Ardent Studios in Memphis, the same studio at which the band had recorded all of their previous albums, along with other notable groups such as Big Star and The Replacements. Major Lodge Victory was released by Hybrid Recordings on , 2006, and "Learning the Hard Way" was the first single. Major Lodge Victory debuted at number 159 on the Billboard 200 album chart. This was the first time the Gin Blossoms had appeared on the Billboard 200 chart in 10 years, one month, and two weeks.. Gin Blossoms had last appeared on the chart during the week of July 13, 1996, with their previous album, Congratulations? I'm Sorry. Since reuniting, the band has toured at various locations across the United States.
Frontman Robin Wilson is best known for his interaction with the crowd. He often hands off a tamborine to a lucky fan in the front row to strike in sync with the drum beat. He's also been known to sing directly into fans' cell phones during some of their more established hits such as "Follow You Down" and "'Til I Hear It From You". Often during live performances, Wilson will also introduce the band to the audience. He typically calls himself "Bif Del Monte," and introduces Jesse Valenzuela as his brother, "Pablo Del Monte." Former member and co-founder of the band, Doug Hopkins (deceased), was known as "Otis Del Monte," while bass player Bill Leen is known as "Soup-bone Del Monte," and drummer Phillip Rhodes as "Guido Del Monte." These nicknames came from the band's early days playing at local bars around their hometown of Tempe, Arizona. As the story goes, one night the band was set to perform a gig at Long Wong's, a local bar. However, the members were forced to change their names, in order to avoid trouble with the law. The band went on the bill as the Del Montes, and the name stuck.
Gin Blossoms released a live album, Live In Concert, on May 15, 2009. This album contains live recordings of the band's hits such as "Hey Jealousy" and "Follow You Down," as well as recent singles such as "Learning The Hard Way" and "Long Time Gone," and also a live cover of Elton John's "Rocket Man."
Gin Blossoms is currently writing new material, and expects to release a new studio album by mid-2009. The band recently signed a two-album deal with 429 Records, a label under the Savoy Jazz group.