Episode 105: Jimmer Podrasky

Air date: 3.12.2014

Jimmer Podrasky Photo by City

More than once, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote “There are no second acts in American lives.”  Scholars have long debated what the author meant by that statement, but regardless of intent or implication, when taken literally it can be a stark reality for some people.  Jimmer Podrasky’s first act opened when he cast himself as the leader of the Pittsburg, Pennsylvania band, The Rave-Ups - a band that deftly mixed country, rock and other styles of music before doing so became an avocation for the bands who would be labeled as the progenitors of alternative country music.  The Rave-Ups had enough regional buzz to warrant a move to Los Angeles, but it didn’t last.  When the other three members opted to return to Pittsburgh, Podrasky stayed, assembled a new lineup and continued to record, play shows and court record labels.  At one point, all four members of the band worked in the mailroom at A&M records and they rehearsed in the basement afterhours.  When Podrasky began dating her sister, actress Molly Ringwald became a friend of the band and created a pop culture footnote when she inscribed The Rave-Ups’ name on her three-ring binder in the 1986 John Hughes movie, Pretty in Pink.  In a bewildering turn of fate, although The Rave-Ups had two songs featured in the movie as well as appearing in scene, neither cut made it onto the soundtrack of the coming of age classic.  The band garnered critical accolades but struggled to achieve mainstream success and they officially split up in 1992. The Rave-Ups played occasional shows in the ensuing years, but Podrasky took a two decade-plus break from recording to focus on being a father to Chance, the son he’d had with Beth Ringwald.  The near-collapse of the American economy in the autumn of 2008 found Podrasky being laid off from his job as a script reader and an incredible run of misfortune befell him.  As Podrasky struggled to find work, he lost his apartment, his dog died and Chance struggled with addiction.  At one point, the Podrasky’s were living in a car parked in a friend’s driveway and a phone call led to a three-day stint in a mental institution when a concerned relative mistook Podrasky’s depressed musings for suicidal intent.  A chance encounter with actor/musician Robbie Rist marked a turn in Podrasky’s fortunes.  Although he hadn’t been recording, Podrasky never stopped writing songs and there were now hundreds to choose from when producer and Dwight Yoakam drummer, Mitch Marine began sorting through them to find the ringers that would eventually comprise Podrasky’s long overdue new record, the aptly named The Would-Be Plans.  When listening to the ten songs on The Would-Be Plans, a case could be made that Podrasky was so far ahead of the curve that only by 2014 can listeners finally and fully appreciate his genius songcraft.  Podrasky’s confident and cocky vocals haven’t lost a step and the record simply crackles with pitch-perfect accompaniment by a band comprised of ace players.  It’s a hell of a second act, and one that might make Fitzgerald smile and shake his hips.

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