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Monday, March 2, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 15.0° F  Fair
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Crazy old coots
Jimmy Carl Black and Eugene Chadbourne don't act their age
Black and Chadbourne are as eccentric as countercultural youth.
Black and Chadbourne are as eccentric as countercultural youth.
Credit:Tim Bugbee

If money actually mattered to Eugene Chadbourne and Jimmy Carl Black, they might hire an agent and book a place like the Barrymore or the Majestic for their upcoming Madison appearance.

They've got the credentials to play big rooms.

Black drummed in Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention in the late '60s. Chadbourne fronted Shockabilly in the early '80s and has gained a reputation as an extraordinary experimental roots musician. He's collaborated with They Might Be Giants, Jello Biafra and Camper Van Beethoven.

But neither Black nor Chadbourne is known for being conventional, so the last stop of their five-week "Think 69" tour takes place at little Mother Fool's Coffeehouse on Williamson Street Sunday night.

"One of my favorite venues," Chadbourne declares of Mother Fool's on his website.

Despite a tour name that sounds as provocative as an underwear party, the "69" these musicians are thinking about is Jimmy's 69th birthday.

Chadbourne and Black have been performing together as "The Jack and Jim Show" show since they met in the early '90s at the Moers Jazz Festival in Germany. The duo's name is borrowed from the title of a Captain Beefheart painting. Black was one of the drummers in Beefheart's Magic Band. Like the Mothers of Invention, the Magic Band had a strong influence on Chadbourne.

Black's path to fame began in 1964, when he moved to California and started a band called the Soul Giants with Roy Estrada and Ray Collins. When their guitar player got drafted into the army, they auditioned a replacement - Frank Zappa. The Mothers of Invention were born.

Chadbourne says his relationship with Black began when he saw him on the cover of Freak Out! by the Mothers of Invention. As he stared at the cover in a record store, Chadbourne says a clerk warned him, "Don't look at that record - you're a nice boy."

Black is Cheyenne, and back when he played with Zappa he became known for his famous comment, "Hi boys and girls, I'm Jimmy Carl Black, and I'm the Indian of the group."

When he performs with Black, Chadbourne sometimes introduces himself as the "white man of the group." He plays guitar, banjo and sings, while Black plays drums and sings. Earlier this year, they released Hearing Is Believing on the independent Boxholder label out of Vermont.

The disc was recorded in Europe and typifies the eccentric Jack and Jim style. A cover of the Beatles "Eleanor Rigby" precedes a Chadbourne-penned satirical hymn called "Cheney's Hunting Ducks."

Chadbourne has gained a reputation for being a friend to local musicians in a lot of different towns. Madison is no exception. He recorded an album with NoahJohn and played with Stephanie Rearick, as well as members of the Gomers.

"Think 69" proves aging musicians can be just as eccentric as countercultural youth. Jack and Jim's "Girl from Al-Qaeda" is sure to make that point.

This show wasn't meant for a concert stage. It was made for a small room on Willy Street.

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