Western Kentucky University alumni Chris Rutledge and Ramona Sudbeck relocated to Berkely, Calif. The Cartoons’ full band appearances in their hometown with other founding members are few but the group is to make an animated return to Bowling Green for Halloween festivities with sets that will make any nostalgic music scene lover’s heart go pitter-patter.
In grand tradition, one of those stops will be a semi-private house show venue, Sinkhole Sanctuary, so you'll need a twenty to mid-thirty something party hopper in the scene to text you the address. The second is Friday at Tidball’s, 522 Morris Aly, with The Black Shades and Jeremi Duran Simon from Schools.
“The first time I ever played onstage was open mic at Tidball’s. Luckily, there was nobody there, I don’t know, 10 people there. Matt Martin, but we got up there and I remember feeling like I can do this because Tiger (Merritt) is next to me,” The Cartoons frontman Chris Rutledge said. “And no one ‘s going to look at me and no one’s going to give a ---- what I’m playing because they’re just going to be like ----, Tiger’s playing the guitar...And they were like ‘let’s play in a band together', I mean it changed my life."
Merritt’s memory lives on in multiple ways, including with The Cartoons. Merritt, Rutledge’s best friend he met at 24, was a founding member. The two would jam songs from industry legends, Neil Young and John Prine. Rutledge shared memories for attendees of a private memorial event in April honoring the lives of musically influential people -- Billy Swayze, Dylan Graves and Merritt who all died separately in early 2019.
“It’s so tough for people that knew any one of those people, especially for those that were close with all three of them....Tiger, I immediately started hanging out with him and he started sleeping on my couch a lot,” Rutledge, 31, said.
Rutledge started playing guitar at 16, jammed around with bass, but had never been in a band before. “I never felt the courage to get up on stage. I’m not that great of a musician but I started writing songs and Tiger and Jeremi were the first people to say, ‘yep, those are good songs.’ I was like ‘uhh, thanks.’ They were like ‘no, let’s do this song. Let’s play this song…’ That was how the band started.”
The Black Shades, built of Chck (pronounced chick) Falcon, Michael Dean, Jerry Kessinger and Michael Thomas, blinded their “shadies” fanbase with their talent.
Their resume includes: first set in Revolution 91.7’s spring music event, Mayhem, in April 2010 at Circus Square Park, local appearances with Swayze--founder of Thunder Sound Studios, Buffalo Rodeo, Schools and 2009 tune, “Rock Stance,” featured on MTV’s Real World: San Diego, the 26th season. National appearances include festivals like New York City’s CMJ and SXSW in Austin for ATX agency showcase.
The anticipated Tidball’s event, costumes encouraged, will have doors to open 9:30, with a $5 cover fee.
“I’m so happy for the time that I had with all of them...” Rutledge said of Swayze, Graves and Merritt. “We wouldn’t have any of our music if it wasn’t for Tiger. His friendship changed my life. And at the funeral, I can see on everyone’s face when they were standing in a circle, how much he changed their lives too.”