From San Francisco via Rochester

Chuck Cuminale aka Colorblind James Experience at Scorgies on March 8, 1985
Colorblind James Experience at Scorgies in 1985

I went to high school with Chuck Cuminale. He was best friends with my brother then and they were college roommates at Geneseo later on. They both moved to Oswego where Chuck put together an early version of his band called “Colorblind James and the White Caps.” Scott Regan from WRUR’s Open Tunings took my brother’s place in the cold water flat there. Scott and Chuck played in Jug bands in Oswego. We caught the White Caps performing at the Red Creek in 1980 and fell in love with the band. We played their “America, America” 7 inch nonstop.

Chuck moved to San Francisco for a while and and started playing with his brother-in-law, guitarist, Phil Marshall. They moved back to Rochester and Chuck immediately put a band together. I remember recommending Bernie Heveron as a bass player and that seemed to work out. Bernie played with us in Personal Effects for a few years. Bernie wrote “She’s A Witch” from Colorblind James’ first lp. We asked Colorblind to play with Personal Effects at Scorgies on March 8th, 1985 and these photos were taken that night by Gary Brandt. We played together again at Scorgies in August of that year.

Gary Meixner from the “White Caps” rejoined the band in Rochester. That’s him on the left. He later went on to form the infamous “Widerness Family.” Dreamland Faces do a beautiful version of Gary’s “Crossing Lake Rielly.” Bernie Heveron is on bass. Jimmy Mac settled into the drum chair and occupied it until Chuck’s death. Chuck is shown above playing guitar and Phil Marshall is on the end on lead guitar. Phil went on to form La La Land and the Hot Heads. You can see here there is a vocal mic on all four players in the front. Each of these guys put their own stamp on this band but in the end the band was all Chuck’s. I loved this band and I miss Chuck.

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  1. Martin Edic’s avatar

    I remember what an amazingly original sound they had back then compared to virtually everything else: humor, sadness, poignancy, fun and totally different than anything I’d heard. Chuck was a true original and the sweetest guy. And he surrounded himself with very talented musicians. I’ve played with Jimmie Mac (in the Bootlickers with former CBJE bassist and current Margaret Explosion bassist Ken Frank), produced Phil (AKA Rex Havoc) with LaLaLand and known the rest and they are exceptional. But Chuck was the standout.
    Different Bob was my favorite of the early stuff but there was so much. People singing along with Considering A Move To Memphis (the closest thing to a hit they had)…

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  2. Michael Baldwin’s avatar

    There was a time between when they first started playing out in Roch., to ’91 when I left for the West Coast that I saw the Colorblind James Experience almost every weekend. Ed T., also from WITR, estimated we saw them 60-70 times. There was an almost addictive quality to their music, to Chuck’s off-the-wall poetry, to their almost indescribable sound, and I loved how all the local guitarists would gather in front of Phil just to watch his solos.
    Chuck died the day before my birthday, so now I feel some sort of deep, semi-cosmic connection to him. (This coming from some almost completely devoid of anything remotely spiritual!) Most of the pain of his death has subsided, so whenever I feel sad about the loss of my friend, I listen to St. James Infirmary Blues, or fledgling Circus, or When Nobody Loves You in Heaven, and I feel comforted a little.

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