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Railroad Jerk's lineup changed frequently, but the stalwart members were Minnesota native Marcellus Hall (vocals, guitar) and North Carolina-born and Trenton, N.J.-bred Tony Lee (bass). The two met in Trenton, New Jersey in the spring of 1989 and quickly formed the band with drummer Jez Aspinall and second guitarist Chris Mueller rounding out the quartet. Hall chose the band's name because he "liked the clack and clang of the two words together."
The band gained a loyal following on the Manhattan club scene and were signed to the prominent indie label Matador Records, for whom they recorded four albums—all well received critically—before breaking up in the late 90s .
Beginning with Railroad Jerk (1990) and Raise the Plow (1993), the quartet defined the punk blues sound of the era. Although never achieving the kind of mainstream recognition enjoyed by other bands of the time, Railroad Jerk was an influential force in alternative rock. With its legendary line-up in place, Railroad Jerk reached its biggest success with One Track Mind (1995). The band made two music videos for the record. "Rollerkoaster" and "Bang the Drum", both directed by Jim Spring and Jens Jurgensen.
Drummer Dave Varenka, guitarist Alec Stephen, bassist Tony Lee, and guitarist/vocalist Marcellus Hall brought the RRJ sound across America and to Europe and Japan. The "Rollerkoaster" video was shown on MTV's Beavis & Butthead. The band shared bills with bands including Guided by Voices, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Cibo Matto, Girls Against Boys, and Cat Power. "The Ballad of Railroad Jerk" became a college radio hit.
When The Third Rail (1996) was released, the nonstop touring and whirlwind media circus had begun to take its toll on the boys and they took refuge in the studio, recording demos for the fifth Railroad Jerk LP which was to be entitled Masterpiecemeal. This final LP was never released but a bootleg cassette version is coveted in underground circles as a record of the what many believe was the band's most productive period. Dave Varenka and Marcellus Hall went on to form the band White Hassle.
- Railroad Jerk (1990), Matador
- Raise the Plow (1992), Matador
- One Track Mind (1995), Matador
- The Third Rail (1996), Matador
- "Younger Than You" - 7" (1991), Matador
- "Milk the Cow" - 2x7" (1992), PCP Entertainment
- 02.20.93 - 7" EP (1993), Walt Records
- "We Understand" - CDEP/2x7" (1993), Matador
- "Bang the Drum" - CDS/7" (1995), Matador
- Sauberes Hemd - CDEP (1996), Matador
- Railroad Jerk 2001 - 7" (2000), Sub Pop
- Strong, Martin C. (2003) The Great Indie Discography, Canongate, ISBN 1-84195-335-0, p. 935
- Ali, Lorraine (7 March 1995). "Railroad Jerk on Track to Move Beyond Indie Circles". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 15 May 2014.
- Railroad Jerk