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|Origin||San Francisco, California, United States|
|Genres||Post-punk, post-rock, instrumental rock|
|Years active||1979–1983, 1989–1997, 2007–present|
|Labels||Matador, Rough Trade, Fistpuppet, Thermidor, Toiling Midgets Media|
|Website||Official Website and Official Website|
|Past members||Former members, Tim Mooney|
Toiling Midgets is a rock band from San Francisco, California with "roots in seminal San Francisco punk acts the Sleepers and Negative Trend1." They were "one of the first West Coast punk bands to experiment with dub and post-punk elements1", and have been active on-and-off since 1979. They reunited in 2007 after a ten-year hiatus for Dirkfest, a June 7–June 8, 2007 festival taking place at Slim's and the Great American Music Hall, respectively, honoring the late Dirk Dirksen and to play the Haight-Ashbury Street Fair (June 10, 2007). They have continued to play shows to the present, including a tour of the Northwest in November, 2009. The current lineup does not feature a vocalist, and the Midgets' instrumental rock is almost always defined as "undefinable."
The Midgets were formed in 1979 by drummer Tim Mooney (Sleepers) and guitarist Craig Gray of the local San Francisco band Negative Trend, guitarist Paul Hood from Seattle's Punk bands Meyce and The Enemy, and bassist Nosmo King (aka Johnathan Henrickson). Paul Hood had previously been a bassist in Seattle but picked up the guitar in the hopes of playing in a rock band (like his hero, Mick Ronson). The band added singer Ricky Williams to its lineup in 1981. The Midgets released their first album, Sea of Unrest about this time, before Williams insisted that Nosmo King leave the band, leaving the band without a bass player. At the end of 1982 bassist Aaron Gregory (Maggots) joined the group, and Annie Ungar (Gun Club) joined as a third guitarist. The formation of the band released "Dead Beats" on Joe Carducci's Thermidor label, which represented a return to the all-instrumental approach with which the Toiling Midgets has initially been formed. Toward the end of 1983, the band broke up. Hood moved to Seattle, Washington and Gray moved to the United Kingdom.
In 1989, the band reunited just before the Loma-Prieta Earthquake. Returning to the instrumental format with which the band had begun, the band recruited singer Mark Eitzel of the American Music Club. The new group released a CD on Matador Records in June, 1992 (recorded in 1990) called Son and had embarked on a U.S. tour earlier in May. However, on the eve of the tour Eitzel quit the band.
Without a singer, the band toured instrumentally. (Williams did not reunite with the band in 1989, instead he moved into a Midget side project that included violinist Mary Redfield Wade and recorded an unreleased album in 1991). Shortly after rejoining the band, on November 21, 1992, Williams died due to respiratory complications and a mixture of drug and alcohol abuse). Shortly after the tour, drummer Tim Mooney and bassist Joe Goldring left the band (Mooney went on to join the American Music Club, which Eitzel was still fronting), and were replaced by drummer and long-time producer Tom Mallon and bassist Erich Werner, who had previously been in the Seattle bands Telepaths and The Blackouts.
Mallon and Werner are still part of the lineup today, along with Gray and Hood. Along the way, they picked up keyboardist Mark Sullivan (Lucky, Motorcade). For a brief time during this period the band was joined by Paul Hood's sister, violist Joanna Hood (who had performed with the Loma Mar Quartet and Paul McCartney). The group went on an indefinite hiatus in 1997, but reformed in May, 2007.
- Craig Gray - Guitar
- Paul Hood - Guitar
- Tom Mallon - Drums
- Erich Werner - Bass
- Mark Sullivan - Keyboard
- Nosmo King - Bass
- Tim Mooney - Drums (deceased)
- Ricky Williams - Vocals (deceased)
- Aaron Gregory - Bass (deceased)
- Annie Ungar - Guitar
- Mark Eitzel - Vocals
- Joe Goldring - Bass
- Joanna Hood - Viola
- David Ripley - Vocals
- Carla Fabrizio³ - Cello on "Son"
- Lisa Davis³ - Bass on "Son"
- "Do the Incendiary," initial demo tape, recorded by Tom Mallon (available here) and released by Toiling Midgets Media
- "4 TRK Mind," a four-track recording (available here) and released by Toiling Midgets Media
- "God's Man," a demo from 1989-90 also recorded by Tom Mallon (available here) and released by Toiling Midgets Media
- "Sea of Unrest," released in 1982 on Instant Records/Rough Trade U S A and re-released in 1994 on Fistpuppet Records
- "Dead Beats," released on Thermidor Records in 1983
- "Golden Frog," a 7" released on Matador Records on October 17, 1991
- "Son," the band's most recent studio album, released on Matador Records on July 14, 1992
- 1: ArtistDirect.com Biography
- 2: All information for history, line-up, and discog comes from current drummer Tom Mallon's website, the Midgets' MySpace, and TrouserPress.Com's website
- 3: ArtistDirect info for "Son" album
- 4: Tom Mallon Recording discography
- Official Website
- Midgets @ Tribe.net
- Midgets @ Trouser Press
- Midgets videos on YouTube
- Photos from the Haight-Ashbury Street Fair Concert @ Flickr