Written by: Alex Green
I’m devastated by the news that Charlie Chesterman, the lanky lead singer of the Boston outfit Scruffy The Cat, has died at 53.
A native of Des Moines, Chesterman was perhaps one of the most charismatic and electrifying frontmen of his era. Scruffy The Cat put out two of the best albums of the ’80s (Tiny Days, Moons Of Jupiter) and were widely regarded as one of the best live bands on the planet. Equal parts Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran and Joe Strummer, Chesterman had an almost preternatural sense of melody and his compositions were timeless blasts of rock and roll that were as much informed by country music as they were by punk rock. There were quirky stalker shuffles (“Shadow Boy”) rueful rave-ups (“You Dirty Rat”) and big, crunchy rockers (“Tiny Days”) that blasted out of the speakers and became instant anthems.
For my money, Scruffy’s reading of “Runaway” outdoes the original, “When Your Ship Comes In” does post-punk rockabilly better than anyone else and “Mybabyshe’sallright” should be Track One on any mix if you’re trying to tell a girl you’re in love with her.
It won’t let you down. Promise.
Chesterman went on to have a quiet and prolific solo career and those excellent records (Dynamite Music Machine, Studebakersfield) contain some of his finest work.
I spoke to him by phone ten years ago and a bulk of the personable and amusing hour long conversation we spent talking about The Ramones. I’m not sure why. But what I am sure of is that Charlie Chesterman is one of the finest singer/songwriters America has ever produced and he should be spoken of in the same sentences as Dylan, Ochs, Reed, Prine, Westerberg, Holly and Simon. He understood that rock and roll is all about spirt and as a result, every entry in his songbook is bursting with life humor and vitality.
He will be missed.
Chesterman leaves behind a wife and two children–Clemetine and Woolsey.
For more information: http://www.gofundme.com/552yw8
Some Scruffy The Cat gems to help you get through the day.