Saturday, March 23, 2013

In this case, "overnight success" took only 40 years

Photo from Chicago Daily Law Bulletin (subscription required)
So I've been blogging my brains out for 7½ years and haven't gotten so much as a sniff from a book publisher.

So what?

That's nothing -- an eyeblink, really, compared to the experience of Greg Herriges and Rick Vittenson.

Like a lot of Baby Boomers, Herriges and Vittenson formed a band. In fact, according to Jerry Crimmins' story for the March 21 Chicago Daily Law Bulletin (subscription required), they formed a band twice, in 1964, when they were 14 (after seeing the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show), and then again in 1972, when they were 22. The second time around, the north suburban duo, now billing themselves as "Athanor," recorded a few songs in Herriges' home studio.

You can't fake that '70s "look"
They got a few gigs, had some publicity stills shot, even talked a couple of suburban stations into playing their songs -- they released three singles -- but, when they couldn't get that Big Break, they folded the band and went back to school. Herriges became an English professor (and published novelist) and Vittenson went to law school, eventually working 14 years for the American Bar Association.

Vittenson kept his hand in the arts, performing in and contributing lyrics to the Chicago Bar Association's annual "Christmas Spirits" reviews and, as noted by ABA Journal Law News Now writer Debra Cassens Weiss in this March 18 post, playing with a band called "Malpractice," a group that included a number of ABA Journal staffers, at office parties. At one such event, according to Weiss, a colleague kidded Vittenson by saying he was a lawyer masquerading as a rock star. But Vittenson said, "No you’ve got it entirely opposite, I’m a rock star pretending to be a lawyer."

Still... we all have the corpses of youthful dreams buried in us somewhere.

But the shared dream of Messrs. Vittenson and Herringes wasn't completely dead -- it was just long dormant.

Their dream came back to life in 2010, around the time Vittenson retired. An excerpt from Crimmins's Law Bulletin article:
Vittenson said "Greg got an e-mail from a fellow in France (in 2011) who said that he loved the Athanor song 'Graveyard.' He found it on a British compilation CD, a CD of different people's songs.

"Greg's reaction was, 'What compilation?'"

Among other bands on the compilation album were The Chartbusters, who had a hit in 1964, and The Rattles, who had a hit in 1970.

"Graveyard" was a 45 rpm demo that Athanor recorded in 1973 and sent to big labels to try to get a record contract.

"Somehow, one of them in pretty good condition must have made its way to this record company in England," Herriges said. Four decades later, "they snatched one of our songs" without asking.

That company has disappeared, Herriges said.

Yet "Somewhere There Is Music," a music blog out of France, cited "Graveyard" as the best song of 2011.

"The record companies came knocking," Vittenson said. "People in Europe were talking about Athanor."
And, now, just 40 years later than planned, Athanor is an overnight sensation in Europe. The duo found all their old tapes and picked out the best, compiling enough for an album, entitled (appropriately enough) "Flashback," released on vinyl by a Spanish label, Guerssen Records, earlier this month. It will be released in America on April 2. A CD release is also planned.

So what's next for the old/new group? A tour? Quoting Crimmins again:
"We're going to do one record release party … and that will be it," Vittenson said. "Unless somebody invites us to play in Japan."

But Herriges said the band is starting to rehearse.
You know, just in case....

To hear Athanor for yourself, click on the link to the ABA Journal Law News Now post; there's a YouTube video embedded.


Rick said...

Rick Vittenson here. Thanks for the great article about us. Who'd have thought this could happen?

We'd like your permission to post your article on our Facebook page. We'd be happy to give you any credit you want. You can send a private message to us at

Take good care, and keep on is incredibly unpredictable.


The Curmudgeon said...

Anonymous bloggers can't send Facebook messages, even private ones, but you have my permission -- and congratulations to you both.