Harvey Knuckles Scores a Knockout

This Fort Collins foursome’s new record nods to ZZ Top — literally.

In the late '70s, there was a power forward on the University of Toledo basketball team who was known more for the giant black growth on his shoulder than for his dominating ball-handling skills. That man's name? Harvey Knuckles.

As a kid growing up in Toledo, Ohio, Mike Wing was fascinated with Knuckles, who was drafted by the L.A. Lakers in 1981. Knuckles's unique affliction became an ongoing source of humor for Wing and his brother and their friends. Apparently, the joke stuck with him: About a year and a half ago, when it came time for Wing to come up with a moniker for his Fort Collins-based band, he thought back to the basketball player with the "chip" on his shoulder and dubbed the group Harvey Knuckles.

Harvey Knuckles makes an offer fat guys can't refuse.
Harvey Knuckles makes an offer fat guys can't refuse.

Armed with an affinity for ZZ Top, Thin Lizzy, the Meat Puppets and the Jesus Lizard, Wing and his bandmates — bassist Jason Cope, singer Michael "Stimy" Steinman and drummer Jon Motley — headed into Fort Collins's famed Blasting Room Studios to lay down tracks for their debut platter, Dinero. Recorded by Jason Livermore, the disc would make the bearded Gibbons brothers proud. It should: Terry Manning, the guy who engineered nearly every ZZ Top album, shared the band's trade secrets with Livermore, including such inside info as how he obtained the drum sounds on 1973's Tres Hombres.

"Jason was talking to Terry about mike placements," Wing recalls. "This guy gave him the lowdown. It was a standard '70s-type drum kit, like a Ludwig kit, in a dead room. He gave him all the specs about mike placements; that was awesome. I think drums are kind of the main thing. I think that alone gave us a little bit of an edge going into it. He just pushed it; he was into somebody having a different idea than making it sound like pop punk or something."

While the drum sound is killer throughout, the guitar tracks are equally impressive, particularly Wing's slide playing on muscular tracks like "I Come to Warn You," "Bullets" and "Health Insurance Blues."

That last song was based on personal experience, notes Wing: "When you're hanging around musicians a lot, pretty much everybody's in that same boat. It's like nobody really has the money to pay for health insurance or has a job that offers it half of the time. And even if you do pay for it, it's such a hassle to get anything that gets covered."

And from the sounds of it, a lack of health insurance isn't the only thing on Wing's mind. Dinero also sports tunes about a Mazatlan weed deal gone bad ("Let's Go, Amigo") and getting the runaround ("Dog Me Around"), as well as a time-tested ode to the guy who used to be something special ("Has Been"). Wing says the cut, which also features a Shakes the Clown impression courtesy of one of his buddies, made for the perfect closer.

"That is my be-all, end-all favorite movie of all time," says Wing. "I have never laughed as hard — like a deep-down laugh — for that long, and I've probably seen it twenty or thirty times now."

 
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