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Suzanne Smithline and Glenn Manion started their band SQUEAKY CLEAN in 1983, but their musical collaboration goes all the way back to “The Ford Administration” (1974, to be exact). They met at NYU and performed as folksingers in nearby Greenwich Village clubs. After graduation, their ambition to be full-time musicians led to a management contract and five years of national touring as a cocktail lounge act. It was the first of many career transformations.
While performing in Minneapolis in 1982, they heard a recording of Wanda Jackson’s “Mean Mean Man” on the radio and were soon exploring the music of rockabilly pioneers like Janis Martin and the Collins Kids. They strongly identified with the uncluttered instrumentation and the less threatening image of these performers even as greasier rockabilly revival acts were becoming popular back home in New York. Thus was born SQUEAKY CLEAN, which played many celebrated NYC music venues and released a 6-song EP record produced by Billy Joel’s saxophonist Ritchie Cannata.
But the rockabilly revival was short-lived. Suzanne and Glenn had a great look and sound but nowhere to play. In 1984, a friend suggested they perform for children at a summer program at the Parrish Arts Museum in Southampton. “And why not share a few stories about the performers while you’re at it?” Around the same time, the band was invited to appear at a Labor Day Festival sponsored by the Nassau County Office of Cultural Development where they performed for seniors and familles with great success
Suzanne and Glenn reached the conclusion that it was easier to find an audience if they went where the people are, rather than expecting the audience to come to you. So SQUEAKY CLEAN moved out of the clubs and into venues like schools, libraries, and senior centers.
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Meanwhile, they continued to appear in clubs and pursue a record deal with a new name and more contemporary image, working with a drummer and a keyboard player. Performing as COMBO LIMBO, they released a full-length LP in 1987, followed up by several 45 rpm single releases. Original songs by each band member formed the core of the band’s repertoire. In 1990, COMBO LIMBO was cited as New York’s “Best Unsigned Band” at the SKC/New York Music Awards, held at the Beacon Theater. Lou Gramm of the band Foreigner presented the award to the band. Read more.