The Knights of the Auto Order Proudly Present: The Auto Body Estimate: Vol. II, #97, April 2010

Shortly after bassist Tom Larson played his first Auto Body Experience gig on Nov 6, 1995, I began to hear glowing reports of his trumpet playing pal Tom Twiss, who'd been a fellow music student at St. Olaf. It seemed this guy was a confident player, an able sight-reader, astute listener, enthusiastic singer, and a blast to hang out with. Most relevantly, as it turned out, he might be willing to play for free.

I first met Mr. Twiss in person at a party at the home of another of their fellow Oles. At the end of the night our host, Twiss, and I were the last three left standing. When our host asked Twiss to remind her when his birthday was, he replied that he wasn't much into birthdays.

Making wild assumptions not uncharacteristic of the alcohol-enhanced, I deduced that his reticence might be the result of having had to share his birthday with a popular holiday. Bypassing the obvious first choice, I made a wild guess at one of the second-tier alternatives, and said; "It's October 31st."

Twiss gave me a strange, puzzled look, pulled out his wallet, and threw his driver's license at me, confirming my guess. Perhaps as a result he's continued to suspect, against overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that I might have something going on upstairs. This confusion may account for his willingness to play my music.

Sometime between the end of 1995 and the beginning of 1996 Mr. Twiss officially joined the Auto Body Experience. Since that first time he joined us on stage, the Auto Body Experience has never performed without him.

Together we've played great gigs, washouts, and everything in between. We warmed up Brave Combo at First Avenue, and played a Fargo club (also called First Avenue) at the peak of the 1997 flood. We've seen keyboard players come and go like Spinal Tap drummers: One frigid night in St. Cloud, we lost one before his gigantic keyboard rig was torn down, forcing Tom to haul it home. We've played the beautiful Fitzgerald Theater and a less opulent coffee shop parking lot in River Falls, Wisconsin.

With Tom along, even the fiascos were fun.

Along with a dynamic cast of band mates, we have shared the stage with leagues of fellow performers including Adrian Belew, Brave Combo, Moxy Fruvous, and Dread Zeppelin. In 2007 Twiss, Kent Peterson, and I even played as an acoustic trio version of the Auto Body Experience at the MPR State Fair booth.

From his trumpet playing, to his singing, his flash card handling to his lyric prompting, (not to mention his salary requirements) Twiss has become irreplaceable in our group to the extent that when he couldn't make a few gigs last year, reputedly because of "international travel," we cancelled them.

I'd be remiss in my duties if I suggested that our merriment and camaraderie have been limited to music. Tom and his lovely wife Gretchen are warm and generous hosts and many times we've been well fed at their tres chic digs. Tom and I have enjoyed snowboard and bicycle adventures together as well, and in every endeavor he's always willing to shoulder more than his share of the effort and find the humor in doing it.

Tom is capable of spontaneously conjuring up a host of characters. One of my favorites is the Austrian-sounding guy who, whenever someone complains about the cold on the chairlift, will pipe up; "Oh, if I vas only back in my cubicle, with my beloved spread sheets and data bases, then I vould be trooly haapy...."

Forced to find any fault in Twiss, I can name just one: His snoring redefines the title "God of Thunder." Once, fellow snowboarder Bill Seamons and I dragged Tom, and his mattress, into a bathroom so we could close the door to his unbridled roars. I can't imagine how Gretchen puts up with it. Wait: She likes our band and frequently comes to our shows. Come to think of it, I think she does watch your lips when you talk. Hmm. That could explain a lot...

Anyway, after reading all this praise, you may be suspecting the worst. No, Tom isn't dead, dying, or leaving the band. But for the first time since 1995, we're going to try to play a few gigs without him. Like the aforementioned "international travel," Tom has some unexcused absences planned for this summer, which seem as suspicious as a back-story provided to participants of the witness relocation program or members of "the agency." (The more I think of it, Twiss has always been very clean-cut ... hmmm. That too could explain a lot...)

But I digress. Before Twiss departs - temporarily - for parts unknown, and we attempt to brave a few gigs without him, I thought we should have a special night where we celebrate all that is Twiss.

We'll feature his harmony vocalizations and trumpet playing. We'll revel in tales of his spit valve repair prowess. We'll marvel at his adroit handling of flash cards. And sadly, at least one of us (ahem) will likely make good use of his deft lyric-prompting.

So please join guest saxophonist Mike Anderson and the rest of us, on Friday, April 9, when we celebrate "Tom Twiss Night" at the Minneapolis Eagles Club #34 (2507 E 25th St, Minneapolis, MN. 612-729-4469). Parking's free, drinks are cheap, and let me know if you don't get a free drink for your $5 cover. The fun starts at 8:00 PM sharp, even if we do fiddle with the PA until 8:15 PM, and then begin setting up Kent's massive tambourine rack.

I'm hoping that we might encourage some of you to share impromptu "Twiss Tales," and other tawdry shenanigans. In any event, you'll get a chance to praise Tom in person, see him do his best shtick, share a beer, and wish him well on his upcoming adventures; because we'll want him back in one piece.

Love, Scott Yoho, Grand Pooh Bah, The Knights of the Auto Order

PS: Check out some vintage Auto Body video at our YouTube Channel

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