Photo illustration by Lizi Lively, used with permission.
As members of St. Augustine band The Wobbly Toms, Andy Calvert, Zach Lively and Richard Steinmeyer have been entertaining locals for years with their unique blend of folk, punk and rock.
The three men, all Flagler alumni, and all English majors, have been firm friends since their post-grad days. In fact, they spent much of their free time at Flagler at WFCF and playing in bands — a preview of things to come.
Calvert, in fact, was WFCF’s very first music director.
“Radio stations don’t come in a box,” said Dan McCook, the station manager since its inception in 1993. “I wasn’t well-versed in alternative [rock]. So, here we needed a music director, and we got Andy. And he did an outstanding job.”
The Wobbly Toms’ local pedigree is deep. The trio of Calvert (on bass), Steinmeyer (banjo) and Lively (guitar) were previously members of two of St. Augustine’s popular local bands of the early 1990s.
Lively and Steinmeyer were original members of a band called The Fruitless Lust Sox; Steinmeyer left, and formed the Misunderstood, which eventually Calvert joined until they broke up in 1994.
After graduation, the trio split. Lively moved to Seattle and Steinmeyer to Kentucky. Calvert stayed in St. Augustine and got married.
“In late 2002, I headed back to town and found refuge in the Calvert’s attic,” Lively said. “A few months later, Richard found a new home in the same attic.”
Calvert, ’95, Lively,’94, and Steinmeyer, ’94, spent their time brewing beer and playing music. An incident involving a friend and two bottles of strong mead would later play a role in the naming of the band.
“After a couple months of just jamming, we got to a point where we wanted to play a gig,” Lively said. “So we booked Christmas Eve, 2003 at Backstreets. Not having a name, we remembered our inebriated friend – and thus The Wobbly Toms now had a name.”
The band has now grown to seven members and made a name for itself as one of St. Augustine’s premier local groups, in a city with a burgeoning music scene.
It’s an unusual, but good, jumble of styles that has become the Wobbly Tom’s signature sound. Lively refers to it as “Appalachian Gypsy punk.” Steinmeyer, on the other hand, said despite the group’s many various influences, they don’t fit into any specific genre of music.
They’ve covered songs as varied as Gogol Bordello’s “Start Wearing Purple” and the Cure’s “Lullaby.” They’ve played traditional Irish songs like “Whiskey in the Jar,” and they’ve got a solid core of originals, the best of which reflect either their nearly two-decade-long friendship or the city of St. Augustine itself.
“There’s nowhere in the world that you’d rather be,” one goes. “We’ll toast your return to the city by the sea.”
“The band is part of our life,” Steinmeyer said. “The band keeps me sane. I have a job because I have to make money … but this is what I do.”
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