The Jr. CHemists  

I first became aware of the Jr. Chemists during a modest outdoor performance at a gallery called Alwun House in downtown Phoenix. Back in 1980, it was one of the very few places that would take a chance on a “punk” group. Unlike any of the other Phoenix punk hangouts, however, Alwun House has remained in business.

At the time, any and all new punk bands were cause for celebration, and this group was no exception. But instead of the standard west-coast-rebel-heroin-chic rock vibe predominant among the local bands of the day, they offered something different. Informed by the pretension of a fine arts education, the Chemists mixed arch intelligence with a childlike devotion to play.

Their flyers were extra-nice and their musicianship was extra amateurish. But they took advantage of their lack of skill, concentrating on unique and clean arrangements. They were no slouches in the songwriting department either. Their material was as catchy as it was quirky. In fact, almost 30 year after the fact, their songs still stick in my head.

Mix equal parts Talking Heads, B-52s and Beat Happening and add the sense of humor only found in the Valley Of The Sun, and you get a pretty good on-paper approximation of the Chemists’ sound. Their songs – “Cool Reef,” “Spooky Cooties,” “I Don’t Want To Have Fun,” “Voodoo In My Pants” – packed epic party anthem into a light touch. The Meat Puppets even used to play the Chemists’ “90 Miles” in rehearsal. I don’t think we ever performed it in front of an audience though.

The Jr. Chemists started about the same time we did, and soon enough we had a gig together. It was a Christmas show at another Phoenix punk pit, The Hate House. I still have the flyer for it. But shortly afterward, the Meat Puppets began hitting the coast hard and often. By summer of 1981, we were deeply ensconced in the fog of our association with Monitor, the Van Nuys quartet who put out our first record and effectively discovered us. And somewhere around this time, the Chemists disbanded. A gander at Brendan’s resume suggests that he moved to the Windy City.

The last time I heard from Brendan was a couple of years later when I got this flyer in the mail. It featured a picture of a very self-possessed Brendan looking directly into the camera, while slightly off to the side was a rather fetching young woman, head askew, gazing intently at him. The flyer was emblazed with one word: “MARRIAGE.” It looked like a promising exhibit, but I never saw any reviews.

—Derrick Bostrom, supreme player of drums in the Meat Puppets

I met Dawn in Art Studio Class at Arizona State University in 1979. Ron Gasowski taught the class and he had a big influence on us. Dawn was a very ambitious girl with a lot of energy. I met Mike through Dawn and we were all hanging out and discovering the Punk Rock scene of Phoenix together. I had already started a band, Thuh Advo-cats, with my friend Bruce. Dawn wanted to get in on some of that band action. So Dawn, Michael and I started up the Jr. CHemists. Bruce and I had a dirt floor basement in our house off of 16th Street and a meger amount of equipment and that is where we rehearsed. Michael was a real musician compared to anyone I ever played with. He actually tuned the guitars! Radical. We practiced and got a bunch of songs together and started playing at Hate House. Dawn was a great schmoozer and were were soon playing in clubs as they would appear to present this Punk Rock music. We had a lot of fun, which was our objective. Michael went on to form JFA, skate boarding his way into punk rock musical history. Dawn clicked her heels and returned to Kansas.

—Brendan deVallance

An early band name choice was E. but V. which stood for efficient but vague a phrase we used all the time. I also remember the Skid Marks, but that might have been taken.

Formed September 13, 1980, ended in 1981.
Jr. CHemists: Michael Cornelius, Brendan deVallance, Dawn Kelly

  Posters and . . .
  Articles . . .
  Shows and other dates

1st rehearsal on September 13th, 1980
1st gig at Hate House, October 18th, 1980 with Advo-Cats, Deez
Sunset Blvd Anniversary, November 8th, 1980 We were on TV!
Hate House, November 14th, 1980 with Advo-Cats, Deez, Prefix
ASU Science Art Fair, November 19th, 1980
Hate House, December 19, 1980 with Advo-Cats, Meat Puppets
New Years Eve at the Barn December 31, 1980 with International Language, the Nervous,
    Meat Puppets, Killer Pussy, the Deez
Record 45 for Subteranian Records in San Francisco February 3rd, 1981
Sound of Music in San Francisco, February 3rd, 1981 with Fire
Fiesta Apts in Tempe February 22, 1881
Vita Dance, March 13th, 1981 with International Language
Industrial Dance #3 Knights of Pythias Hall, March 21, 1981 with International Language, the Nervous,
    Killer Pussy, der Viersen Stern, The Vains
Last show: Mason Jar, with Killer Pussy March 29/30th, 1981

  Music   (warning: this music may not be suitable for listining by anyone, very lo-fi)
   Jr. CHemists   All songs written by
  Michael Cornelius, Brendan deVallance,
  Dawn Kelly
Brendan deVallance.
  Except where noted.
   Customer Service
   90 Miles  Other Songs: Open Bowling, Barbie Dance,
 Giant Octopi, Cool Reef, Pork Party, Voodoo in
 my Pants, Music for Everyone, Darts and Eggs,
 Phx. AZ
   Monster Island
   Spookie Cooties  
   Bizzy Worms  
   Building a Fort  
   Run for Mayor  
   Jerk Me  
   Time Zero    
   Cowboys in Heat    
   Not a Grocery Cart    
   The Beat Goes On (Sonny Bono)    
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