History of the White Ghost Shivers

"I fell in love with two songs by Bob Wills from 1935 and '36 and never thought I would get to hear that kind of music live in my lifetime- The White Ghost Shivers changed all that. There is no band more lively and fun than White Ghost Shivers and they should be recognized as a unique step in modern music history.

The music they play fits the times again, the times we live in, as much as the wild era of its origin. The days of speakeasies and juke-joints were not exactly "square"… in songs during the years of 1927-1937, echoes of what would become rock and roll are heard, as its elements were coming to life for the first time, a twinkle in the eye of the music of the day.

This band is a treasure."

-The Internet, 2007

The Mission

The above quote touches on nearly every level of what we find to be important: The idea that in order to do justice to this "old-timey" music today, it must be displayed in a fashion that just PEELS YOUR FACE OFF!- just as groups did during the first half of the last century. The ever-evolving inspiration behind White Ghost Shivers has always been to replicate our own favorite music and art by blending the near-forgotten past with the somewhat ridiculous, yet necessary formula of the present, and what will be the future.

Perhaps we have benefited by the fact that we were all rock-n-rollers as kids who later stumbled upon Wills, Django, Lang…  only to discover that it was these players that kicked ass harder than any of our still beloved rock idols. We, as did our internet blogger, saw this connection of fusing these two (plus) styles of music together; simultaneously kicking ass like our rock god idols and Jazz pioneering heroes, thus creating a force that somehow transcends all genres. We felt this correlation had not been fully explored and knew it was our duty to bridge the gap.

Demonstrating just how animated and wickedly entertaining this "old timey" music was and still is became the White Ghost Shivers’ mission!

Humble Beginnings

In 1999, the scheme of White Ghost Shivers emerged when Westen Borghesi met Jeremy Slemenda at a western swing show within weeks of arriving in Austin. We were both eager to start a new band and instantly became friends. Slemenda was working as a chef and Borghesi was selling CDs at local book store to supplement our meager musician wages. Providentially, Omar Leal was selling erotic literature at the same book store as Borghesi thus, a trio was born.

We had all been listening to music that was at least 50 years old before we ever met and were thrilled to find we also had a severe passion for the other end of the spectrum… Westen had his punk, Jeremy his Metal, and Omar his ‘YNGWIE’. We wholeheartedly agreed on Maiden and Slayer and thought it'd be funny to play "More Than Words" like Samhain, so we moved forward.

Thank goodness Omar could not hold a job and found his way to the same dotcom company as Curtis Thomas, child of the earth. Thomas had decided to stay at his job long enough to complete the final level of Starcraft and welcome the out of work Omar into the office. Omar soon learned that Thomas played fiddle… and then there were 4.

We would sit around at Wes' house learning songs and laughing our asses off. We would invite others to come and play, looking for more to join us and add to our completely absurd ways. Many came and went and when Mike Poppitt showed up with his big bass and a heart-of-Metallica… he fit the bill and we were 5.

We learned to play lots of old string-band tunes in our very particular way, started writing songs and booked some gigs. We played shows sitting down, but realized kicking ass was a lot easier said than done, especially when playing acoustic instruments while seated. We kept practicing and decided to stand up while playing- the rocking began. We would play the taco joint, the bakery, and pool parties. We landed the happy-hour slot every Thursday at Beerland and recorded a couple of records in 2002 as a string band (these recordings produced such favorites such "My Gal", "Delores", and our version of "Tell it to Me", not to mention dabbling with horns that Westen took upon himself to play, notably in "Big Horn Blues").

We found our saviors soon after in Chris "The Preacher" Clark, a sax player from Iowa, and Oliver "Doodles" Steck, a determined accordion, trumpet, and whole-hearted entertainer from the guts of all things. We continued to play Beerland and write new songs and finally we had the horn section we had always dreamed about- we were ready to record with players 6 and 7.

Missing Links

We pushed to record the next record in 2004, as ‘the Preacher’ had plans to move back to Iowa to start a proper life and we really wanted him on the record. He had devoted a couple of years to the band, but did make the move back to Iowa after the record was cut… back to 6.

There was one last song to record for the CD and in enters the newly relocated Cella Blue. Cella came to Austin from California looking for an outlet to mince all her varied loves of performance together. She found that with the Shivers in one fell swoop when she sat in on the recording of "Wrong Keyhole". Cella nailed the vocals in just one take and we realized we could not release the record with her on only 1 song... and we were 7 again.

We then decided to scrap the entire effort recorded in Curtis' garage and looked for a studio. We had been spoiled by the sound of two horns battling together, so with ‘the Preacher’ now gone we began looking for a new horn player. Fortunate for us, Jonathan Doyle, a man of great anticipation, few words and a capacity like no other we have know before or since, moved to town and secured the spot… 8 was now the number.

White Ghost Shivers was now set as a proper band, equipped to carry out our mission and re-record what would become "Everyone's Got 'em" in 2006.  In the subsequent years, we honed the 8-piece band, released a live-on-the radio record, a Rock EP, Hallowe’en Ball DVD, and figured out how we could get away with this wonderfully sublime endeavor we call "our band".

Most documented Shivers’ years are from 2005 to present.

Moving On

More Shivers have come and gone, most recently and notably Asheville, N.C.'s stride piano Maestro Reese Gray, and the band remains strong and is a force to be reckoned with now more than ever. Called by many "The most infectious band in the world", the Shivers have expanded their reach to Europe, national tours, and theatrical productions, as well as being continually noted for their notorious stage shows. December of 2011 brings the band’s newest and best studio release to date, “Nobody Loves You Like We Do”.

...and just for the record......it's "Percolatin', syncopatin', always outdatin', wonderin' why yer best girl always keeps ya waitin', White Ghost Shivers, Everyone's Got 'em Now!"

Thanks for reading,

Jeremy Slemenda and White Ghost Shivers

Spread the Shivers if you Dare 8~o

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Dirty Rumors

  • Aside from their festive showmanship, the band members where clearly skilled musicians and never skipped a beat in the fast paced world of swing.

    - The Badger Herald