One of the most critically acclaimed bands of the last three decades, 10,000 Maniacs were founded by Robert Buck, Dennis Drew, Steven Gustafson, John Lombardo and Natalie Merchant in the fall of 1981. Jerry Augustyniak joined in 1983. Together with artists like R.E.M. they defined college rock and created the first wave of alternative rock bands and what became known as the alternative rock format on FM radio.
Writing and performing powerful, danceable and socially conscious original material in and around their hometown of Jamestown, New York the group toured extensively and produced two independently released records on their own Christian Burial Music label.
In 1987 the Maniacs recorded and released In My Tribe. Produced by Peter Asher (James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt) this album broke into the charts, where it stayed 77 weeks, peaking at #37 and selling over two million copies. It was voted one of the 100 most important releases of the decade by Rolling Stone Magazine. 1988 saw the band debut on national television with appearances on The Tonight Show, Late Night with David Letterman and Saturday Night Live. Blind Man’s Zoo, the 1989 follow-up, hit #13 on the Billboard charts and went platinum. The following world tour featured several European festivals, a string of US amphitheaters and the renowned Fourth of July concert with the Grateful Dead in front of 80,000 in Buffalo NY.
A second Saturday Night Live appearance on Halloween 1992, preceded the Maniacs memorable performance at Bill Clinton’s MTV Inaugural Ball where host Dennis Miller famously referred to them as “Chelsea Clinton’s favorite band”. After the release of Our Time in Eden, Natalie Merchant announced that she was leaving for a solo career. MTV Unplugged was released a few months after her departure, featuring a remake of the classic, “Because the Night.”
The band continued without Merchant, bringing back John Lombardo and adding Mary Ramsey in 1994. In December of 2000 founding member Robert Buck died at the age of 42. After a three-year hiatus the Maniacs returned in 2003 with long time friend and former guitar tech Jeff Erickson on lead guitar. In 2004, Elektra/Asylum/Rhino Records released Campfire Songs: The Popular, Obscure and Unknown Recordings, a two CD set compilation featuring a broad array of their groundbreaking music including several unreleased tracks.