The Villagers return to take care of businessWritten by Vicki L. Kroll | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Joe Moran was studying for a career in the medical field and dabbling in music and comedy during the 1960s when it happened: He couldn’t resist the allure of a dangerous fruit.
“In early 1969, we heard a club in Detroit was looking for an act, and we went up and auditioned at the Poison Apple,” he recalled. “They were drawing about 40 to 50 people per night, and on weekends it would go up to 400 to 450 in those days. And within a month, they hired us for a full, one-year engagement there.”
The Villagers — multi-instrumentalist Moran, his wife, Patty, on vocals, Mike Robarge on guitar and bass, and Steve Scharren on guitar and bass — took the stage for the first time at the Poison Apple on June 7, 1969.
“We were having hour to hour-and-half lines at the door,” Moran said. “The Toronto cast of ‘Hair’ used to fly in to see us, the Tigers, the Lions; we did all the television and radio shows in Detroit — J.P. McCarthy, Dick Purtan.”
“I was on my way to become a doctor and then decided to go into the music profession as we were making a lot of money at the Poison Apple.”
But he was still learning — on and off stage.
Moran studied the business side of club ownership with the manager. Meanwhile, under the bright lights, the group focused on four-part harmonies and diverse musical styles — and comedy.
“Music comes and goes; [the audience] remember[s] the funny things,” he said. “The key thing in human beings is laughter. That’s what connects everybody together.”
The quartet created routines and tested material.
“We have various things that we’ve created over the years that as we’d get on stage and tested them out, if they really connected with everyone, we’ve kept them,” Moran explained. “If they didn’t work with a lot of people, we’ve dropped them by the wayside.”
When The Villagers left the Poison Apple, they headed south and in 1973 opened their own place, Friar Tuck’s Cabaret Theatre, in Maumee. The musical comedians performed 50 weeks a year there until 1990 when the club closed. Along the way, drummer Larry Hays joined the group in 1980.
“We do 12 to 20 shows a year now is about our average. We used to run around 400 to 450 a year when we were in it full time,” said Moran, now a real estate agent in Naples, Fla.
The quintet will perform at the Better Business Bureau’s Torch Awards luncheon at 11:45 a.m. May 14 at Gladieux Meadows, 4480 Heatherdowns Blvd. Tickets are $48 per person or $370 for a table of eight. Call 419-578-6000.
Fans who want to see an old bit may be in luck.
“‘It’s Me Again, Margaret’ is one I get requests for all the time,” Moran said. “It’s a clean song about an obscene phone call back in the day of rotary dial phones.”
And The Villagers also have newer farcical fare.
“I have a couple of things I’m working on now,” he said. “As an example, I came up with this crazy idea and the three guys and I did a Gregorian chant about being a bald-headed man.”