MOTHER MAY I: Great Band, Great People - by JCE
Mother May I was a band from Washington, D.C. that had one major label release on Columbia Records and a handful of other releases in the 1990’s. I first discovered Mother May I when I attended a “3 bands for 3 bucks” show at the old 9:30 Club in D.C. one night. I forget who the first band was. The second band was called Adam West and they were pretty good. Then came Mother May I. I was extremely impressed with their set and I became an instant fan. That night, they were selling a vinyl 45 that I bought, for only a dollar, I think. (Three bands and a vinyl 45 rpm for a total of 4 bucks, dang that’s good!). It is clear vinyl and it is one of my most prized records. One thing I loved about the record was that they self-released it on their own label which they dubbed “Dat-Kord Records.” This name is extremely clever, because D.C. was pretty famous for its hardcore punk label, Dischord Records. Get it, Dischord, Dat-Kord? I love bands that don’t take things too seriously.
My copy of the first Mother May I single on Dat-Kord Records
After that show, I kept an eye out for the band, and in 1994 they released a great EP called “Use Your Appetite For Spaghetti.” Again, an amusing and clever title poking some fun at all of Guns n Roses’ record titles (Use Your Illusion, Appetite for Destruction, The Spaghetti Incident).
Use Your Appetite for Spaghetti
Soon after that release, they were signed by Columbia Records and put out their major label debut, “Splitsville.” I thought it was an excellent record. I guess Columbia didn’t think so, because they were dropped the same year, 1995.
Around the time Splitsville came out, I was in a record store with a friend who came across a Mother May I CD single called “Breaking Up at X-mas.” It was a promo they had out just before Splitsville. He bought it, much to my dismay, because it was great, I had never seen it before, and I wanted it for myself. I decided to write a letter to the band. In it, I asked how I could get a copy of that promo Christmas song CD, and I tucked an old gig flyer into my letter and asked if they would sign it. I told them about the “3 bands for 3 bucks show” and how I’d been a fan from the start. I was shocked a couple of weeks later when Damon Hennessey, the vocalist, guitar player & songwriting force (with drummer Rob), sent me a package. In it was a short letter thanking me for the support, a signed poster to me and my wife Janet (rather than the crinkled flyer I sent), a bunch of stickers and a promise that the Breaking Up at X-mas CD was on its way from California. The CD showed up a few days later. How cool is that?
Signed poster to my wife Janet and I
letter and sticker
Breaking Up At X-mas promo cd
After hearing that Mother May I had been dropped by Columbia, I waited and hoped for another release on a new label. In 1999 my wish was granted with the release of “33 1/3.” This second full-length recording was loaded with more great songs.
I saw Mother May I play several times over the years, most notably opening a show in D.C. at a club called 15 Minutes with the headliner being The Neighborhoods. (side note about this show worth mentioning was that the ‘Hoods were calling this their final show ever. I’m not sure if they meant final show in D.C. or just final show, but either way it was a bummer. I got the Neighborhoods to sign a CD after the show, and they swore they were done. It was heartbreaking.) But getting back to Mother May I: after 33 1/3, I heard nothing from the band for a while. Somehow, I connected via email and heard back from the drummer, Rob LeBourdais. Rob told me Damon had moved to Chicago and was involved in film-making. Rob was still drumming, at that time for a D.C. band called the Timothy Bracken Complex, and he sent me a demo CD of that band, which is also really good. The “Use Your Appetite for Spaghetti” record had included an acoustic version of a song I had heard Mother May I play live many times, called “Sitting Pretty.” It’s my favorite song by Mother May I, so I asked Rob if they ever recorded an electric version. His reply was yes, they had a bunch of great demos they planned to release, but why wait? He sent me a demo CD that is just fantastic.
Advance copy demo CD from Rob
About six months later, when they released the demo CD more formally, Rob sent me a copy of that, just so I would have the proper artwork.
Demo CD, formal release
Unbelievable. At this point, Damon and Rob from Mother May I have sent me a signed poster, a promo Xmas CD, a demo CD from another project, a never-released demo CD and a copy of the now released demo CD. These are very nice guys, obviously.
Mother May I played a reunion gig in 2010 in Arlington, VA at Club Iota, but sadly I didn’t hear about it until it was past. I really hope they do another one someday. Other than that, the band remains inactive, but they have provided me with some great memories. If you never heard Mother May I, you may want to check them out. They do have a Facebook page and they did release an updated version of Splitsville. They recently posted a bunch of photos on their page from the 9:30 Club, The 15 Minutes Club, and the WHFS Festival – all shows I attended.
Mother May I is another in a long list of great bands that should have achieved much more. Clearly, their lack of big time success never stopped them from being great people though.
Breaking Up At Xmas
Ricki C. and JCE (John, to his friends & family) first bonded over their shared mutual love of Boston's Finest Sons - The Neighborhoods - and everything extended out from that rock & roll ripple. JCE lives in Culpeper, Virginia with his wife & daughter, and he & Ricki are STILL waiting for the long-rumored NEW Neighborhoods record to be released. Maybe in 2019.