Robbie White is a disc jockey and music enthusiast who served as the fan club president and roadie for the Slickee Boys -- a band that was active from 1976 to 1991 and was one of the founding bands of the Washington, D.C. punk rock and new wave subculture. White collected numerous fliers, posters, and photographs related to the Slickee Boys, some of which are found in this collection. The collection consists of physical objects that White donated, as well as some digitized versions of physical objects from White's collection that were not a part of the gift to Special Collections in Performing Arts.
This collection is open for research. Materials from this collection must be used in the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library's Irving and Margery Morgan Lowens Special Collections Room, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday. Contact the curator for an appointment: http://www.lib.umd.edu/scpa/contact
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The Robbie White collection on the Slickee Boys covers the period from 1977 to 1988; the bulk of the materials date from 1984 to 1988. The collection consists of fanzines, photographs, recordings, and publicity materials including newspaper clippings, fliers, and fanclub materials.
The Slickee Boys were a Washington, D.C. area band, active from 1976 through 1991, whose self-described ‘slickee-delic’ blend of psychedelic rock, rockabilly, new wave, exotica, punk, and garage helped establish the framework upon which the nascent D.C. punk scene would develop. The founders and longest-serving members of the group, guitarists Kim Kane and Marshall Keith, met in 1975. The next year, the pair recruited vocalist Martha Hull, bassist Andy Von Brand, and drummer Chris Round for the first iteration of the Slickee Boys. The group’s name was inspired by time Kane spent in South Korea as a youth, his father an employee of the United States’ embassy there. A ‘slickee boy’ was an exonym American military personnel used in reference to young South Koreans they saw as street toughs or criminals.
The D.C. rock scene in the mid-1970s was dominated by cover acts performing popular hard rock and folk rock material. The Slickee Boys recorded Hot and Cool, their first 7-inch EP—consisting of four covers and one original—before ever playing a show. Hot and Cool and its follow-up, 1977’s Separated Vegetables LP, were issued on the band’s own record label in a do-it-yourself manner that foreshadowed the DIY movement to come. The label, Dacoit, was named after an English slang term for ‘bandit’ used in the Indian subcontinent and Myanmar. The naming of the band and label were elements of the Slickee Boys’ recurring pan-East and South Asian pastiche, seen further in their use of the Mandarin typeface (a stereotypical font meant to invoke Chinese calligraphy) and frequent invocation of manga and Japanese illustration in their album artwork and posters. Born out of Kane’s time spent in South Korea and his study of Zen, the Slickee Boys’ exoticism was an element of their grab-bag approach to psychedelia. This juxtaposition of imagery paired with surreal lyrics, involved staging, and ad-hoc thrift store costuming established the band’s unique identity.
The Slickee Boys played their first show in-between sets by Overkill at My Friend’s House in Langley Park, Maryland and soon performed alongside the Razz, another band laying the foundation for the nascent D.C. punk and new wave scenes. Venues such as the Keg and Psychedelly were originally hesitant to book punk-inspired acts like the Slickee Boys but, by the late 1970s, the band was established in these clubs and on local campuses like the University of Maryland, where they helped bring up the next generation of local acts. Concurrently, the Slickee Boys made inroads with releasing, distributing, and promoting their own recordings, helping forge an infrastructure for future D.C. punk bands to build off of. On January 27, 1978, the Slickee Boys—alongside fellow DC punk pioneers Urban Verbs and White Boy—performed the first punk show at the Atlantis, which would later evolve into the 9:30 Club, the still-extant flagship venue for the DC punk and alternative music communities.
By early 1978, bassist Von Brand and drummer Round had departed the band and were replaced by Howard Wuelfing (formerly of the Look, another band that broke ground for the DC punk scene) and Dan Palenski. That Spring, the band recorded the Mersey Mersey Me 7-inch EP with Don Zientara at Inner Ear Studio, where some of the most successful and influential D.C. punk records would be made. Led by the anti-disco polemic, “Put a Bullet Thru the Jukebox,” Mersey Mersey Me was the first release on Limp Records, a label started by Skip Groff. Groff’s store, Yesterday and Today Records, employed Kane and Wuelfing and became a hub for the burgeoning punk scene.
Turnover in the band’s lineup continued, with Hull and Wuelfing leaving the fold and bassist Emory Alexa and vocalist Mark Noone joining. This led to the band’s most enduring and commercially successful line-up. This iteration released the Third 7-inch EP in 1979 on Limp, receiving national college radio airplay and further establishing the band as a local bellwether.
The Slickee Boys also continued their role of mentoring other bands while pursuing their own success. Bad Brains—a band from the suburbs outside of Southeast D.C. that innovated hardcore punk with their breakneck tempos, positive lyrics, and dynamic performances—had one of their first performances as opening act for the Slickee Boys in 1979. Soon afterwards, Kane produced a session at Inner Ear for the group at Groff’s behest. The Teen Idles, part of a second wave of young punks populating the growing D.C. scene, played one of their first shows in 1980 opening for the Slickee Boys. “Kim Kane was great,” Teen Idles bassist Ian MacKaye observed in 2018, when discussing the older bands that provided guidance for the neophyte punks coming onto the scene then. MacKaye and Teen Idles drummer Jeff Nelson co-founded Dischord Records—D.C.’s flagship punk record label, still in business today— in 1980 and formed the band Minor Threat, which became one of the premier American hardcore punk bands.
In 1983, the Slickee Boys released what they considered their debut album, Cybernetic Dreams of Pi on the popular Minneapolis, Minnesota independent label, Twin/Tone Records—best known for launching the careers of bands like the Replacements and Soul Asylum). Cybernetic Dreams of Pi and the music video for “When I Go to The Beach” exposed the band to a wider audience with the video nearly winning an MTV independent video competition. Through the 1980s, the Slickee Boys remained a fixture in the larger D.C. music scene, recording three more albums and touring domestically and internationally. The band further explored their influences during this period, too, occasionally performing as a rockabilly act dubbed the Wanktones. Kane left the Slickee Boys in 1988, but the group continued before disbanding in 1991. The Slickee Boys have occasionally reunited since, participating in major anniversary celebrations for the 9:30 Club, including Noone’s appearance at the virtual 40th anniversary event in 2020. As of 2021, the Slickee Boys maintain nearly double the amount of live performances of any other act at the 9:30 Club with 81 shows in total, a testament to the indelible impact of a group fiercely dedicated to its local scene.
Robbie White is a disc jockey and music enthusiast who served, at times, as the fan club president and roadie for the Slickee Boys. White collected numerous fliers, posters, and photographs related to the Slickee Boys, some of which are found in this collection. White is currently a disc jockey on WOWD-LP FM, an independent radio station broadcasting from Takoma Park, Maryland. White’s show, “Forbidden Alliance,” is named after a song from the Slickee Boys’ Third EP.
This collection is arranged into seven series:
Gift of Robbie White, August 27, 2019.
Part of the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library