A History of the Meatball Band
Indianapolis advertising executives Jim England, Dan Roman and Jack O'Hara formed the Meatball Band in January of 1980. The original band performed at the annual agency/client party for the advertising agency then known as McQuade Bloomhorst. The intent was humor rather than musical prowess, which the band was frequently forced to point out. Agency broadcast producer (and jazz pianist) Nick Schneider was recruited to perform with band, as he was the only one with any real musical talent. He soon tired of struggling with the amateurs and left the group. Roman and England put the squeeze on jingle producer Rich Airis of ASA Productions to labor as keyboardist for the band's next gig.
During the infamous McQuade Bloomhorst/Ruben Montgomery merger (which spawned mega-agency MZB, now MZD, and otherwise known as "where egos dare") the band went through a transition. Airis escaped from the group and two new players were added from the ranks of MZB; Brian Ritter on keyboard and lead vocals and David Seiferth on guitar. When MZB de-merged, submerged, ran aground and split into two agencies due to "philosophical differences", the band members had the presence of mind to hang together…and the even greater wisdom to find better jobs with better companies. Popular commercial voice talent Mike Matheson joined the band as bassist
During the mid-eighties, Roman lived in Chicago and started his own in-agency at ad agency J. Walter Thompson. England kept the Meatball Band alive, without O'Hara, Ritter and Seiferth, by recruiting successful jingle writer/producer Skeet Bushor (former member of popular Indy band "The Boys Next Door") on keyboards. Bushor brought in TRC recording studios owner Gary Schatzlein on guitar. Ad agency veteran Jim Newell joined the band as the new bass player. The group performed at a variety of advertising-related events including venues such as Monument Circle, The IUPUI Track & Field Stadium and more.
In the fall of 1987, the band consisted of Roman, England, Ritter, Seiferth, Bushor and Newell. Since all were active members of the Indianapolis advertising community, the band was asked to play for the annual Addy Awards Banquet (this was the ad community's version of the Academy Awards). The February '88 performance at the Indiana Roof Ballroom, which included a guest appearance by O'Hara, was a huge success. And, playing a venue such as the Roof provided just a dangerous enough taste of "real show business" to rekindle the rock & roll spirit and the band got sort of serious about playing a lot. Bushor took that opportunity to bow out and the band added broadcast producer Rob Westerman, media director Marina Angelo and Cystic Fibrosis Foundation director Anne Wessel to the group. This configuration of the band performed together for the next four years and the number of "real gigs" increased. The band performed at such popular venues as The Indiana Roof Ballroom, Deer Creek and The Vogue Nightclub.
Work schedules and changing priorities saw the departure of Angelo, Wessel, Westerman and Newell in the mid-90's. Concepts Marketing Group president Larry Aull took over on bass guitar and Grammy-winning video editor John Scofield (from Scofield Editorial) joined the group as guitarist/saxophonist. Advertising community member female vocalists Richelle Toombs and Lisa Baldwin took over the duties of adding a little "sauce" to the Meatball Band. Schedules and lifestyles changed as rapidly as the stock market in the late 90's - Toombs, Baldwin and Aull left. Angelo returned as the sole female singer. IBJ Corporation president Chris Katterjohn took over on bass. The band lineup now consists of: Jim England (drums) - president of JD Byrider Advertising Group, Inc. Chris Katterjohn (bass) - president of IBJ Corporation Brian Ritter (lead vocals & keyboard) - sr.vp of Bates USA/Midwest Dan Roman (guitar & keyboard) - chairman of Bates USA/Midwest John Scofield (guitar & sax) - president of Scofield Editorial David Seiferth (guitar) - president of Strategic Marketing & Research Anne Wessel (vocals & percussion) - fundraiser & former media tycoon
In 1999, the band appeared at the Vogue nightclub in Broad Ripple for a benefit entitled "Kidstock." Three Indianapolis area bands performed, each raising money for a designated children's charity. A high point of the evening included Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay performing an acoustic set that included a performance by famous rocker Stephen Stills. The Meatball Band followed and, of course, the highlight of the night was "having Stephen Stills open for us. It was better than us opening for Ringo Starr."
In 2001, Angelo left the band again, this time to devote more time to her new marriage and old career. Former band mate, Anne Wessel, replaced her. Over the years, the band has become quite a draw at Mickey's Irish Pub, a great little music hall in Carmel, and in 2001 performed there three times. 2001 also saw the band perform at the Rathskeller Bier Garten in downtown Indy and then embark on yet another fashionable north side tour, performing at such elite establishment Highland Golf & Country Club, The Hawthornes Golf & Country Club and Woodland Country Club.
The best part of the year (and, probably, our lives) took place in June, 2001, when the band entered a contest to determine the best advertising/marketing band in America. The contest, hosted by the American Advertising Federation (AAF), consisted of three parts: first, interested bands submitted recordings of their best work for judging at the regional level (the AAF has 14 across the country - the Meatball Band competed against bands from Chicago and Detroit, as well as Indy, and won); second, the regional winners were narrowed down to a "final four" (although, somehow there were five finalist bands): third, the finalist bands participated in a live Battle of the Bands at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Cleveland, Ohio. The Meatball Band won. The reward: performing at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Museum for the AAF party the following night. Needless to say, we rocked the place!