Toiling Midgets is a renowned rock band hailing from San Francisco, California. The band was originally formed in 1979 by members of San Francisco punk bands Sleepers and Negative Trend, namely drummer Tim Mooney and guitarist Craig Gray. Throughout its existence, Toiling Midgets has experienced periods of activity and hiatus, with its early 1990s lineup gaining significant attention due to the involvement of Mark Eitzel from American Music Club. The band reunited in 2007, showcasing their enduring passion for music.
The initial lineup of Toiling Midgets consisted of Tim Mooney, Craig Gray, guitarist Paul Hood from Seattle's punk bands Meyce and The Enemy, and bassist Nosmo King (aka Johnathan Henrickson). Initially an instrumental band, Toiling Midgets welcomed former Sleepers and Flipper singer Ricky Williams to their ranks in 1980.
In 1982, this lineup recorded their first album, "Sea of Unrest," produced by Tom Mallon and released by Rough Trade Records. The album garnered critical acclaim for its unique blend of music described by Jordan N. Mamone as a "junkie-rock monument." It was even recognized in Andrew Earles' book "Gimme Indie Rock: 500 Essential American Underground Rock Albums 1981-1996."
Following the departure of Williams and King, Toiling Midgets saw Aaron Gregory (bass, ex-Maggots) and Annie Ungar (guitar, ex-Gun Club) joining the band. This formation released the instrumental album "Dead Beats" on Joe Carducci's Thermidor label in 1985.
After a brief hiatus, the band reunited in 1989 with Hood, Gray, and Mooney at the helm, initially returning as an instrumental group. They were joined by bassist Joe Goldring but soon recruited Mark Eitzel, the influential vocalist of American Music Club, in 1990. Under this new lineup, Toiling Midgets released the album "SON" on Matador Records in 1991. However, Eitzel left the band by the time the album was released. Following the release, drummer Mooney and bassist Goldring departed, with Mooney joining American Music Club and Goldring forming Touched by a Janitor and Enablers.
The band underwent further lineup changes, with drummer and longtime producer Tom Mallon and bassist Erich Werner joining the group. Ricky Williams returned briefly to record six songs and perform live in the fall of 1992 but tragically passed away on November 21, 1992.
Mallon, Werner, Gray, and Hood continued their musical journey, with keyboard player Mark Sullivan and violist Joanna Hood (Paul Hood's sister) briefly joining the band. However, in 1997, Toiling Midgets went on an indefinite hiatus. They reunited in May 2007 to participate in Dirkfest, a festival honoring the late Dirk Dirksen, and performed at the Haight-Ashbury Street Fair. They also embarked on a short Northwest tour in November 2009. Although they recorded a new LP in 2011, it remains unreleased. Sadly, Tim Mooney passed away in June 2012.
In 2013, Ektro Records released a live album titled "Toiling Midgets Live at the Waldorf 1982." Tragically, Tom Mallon, after being diagnosed with a brain tumor, passed away in January 2014. In subsequent years, Ektro Records released the career retrospective double LP "A Smaller Life" in 2015 and an accompanying cassette titled "A Smaller Tape" in 2017.
This is not a complete history or discography of the group and some recorded songs mentioned here may subsequently have been released or re-released on digital platforms. How bands share music has been transformed since the early days of this group. Today, millions of people create music on digital audio workstations using digital sounds in place of real instruments. Bands whose members play traditional musical instruments are standouts in the era of digital production. Millions of releases happen every year on digital platforms like Spotify and Apple Music. The band posted information initially on “grifterrec.com” under Grifter Records.
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