I was involved in a project talking about local music this week and while mentioning the many bands that the members of Sleeping Bag have been in, I suddenly remembered that one Lewis Rogers was once in a rap trio alongside brother Addison Rogers and ex-Bloomington now Chicago composer/musician Matt Nowlin called Rusty Zavitson.
Man, this group could really hit it. It’s not the first time Bloomington has produced an odd, cheesy-but-so-appealing white-rap group, but there was really something about this trio that just begged your attention. Here is one of their classics “Wal-Mart Hustle”:
Perhaps it was the coordinated apparel, or maybe it was the imaginative back-story of Rusty Shackleford (Addison), Fritz Kruhger (Lewis), and Fritz Kluegen (Matt) buying the first television set in their Appalachian village- on which they discovered hip-hop and decided to take to the stage. Maybe it was their coveted magic beat-maker, “Future Box”. I’ll tell you what I loved about this trio. First, it was fun. Second, it was three talented musicians, stepping out into a completely unexpected genre- just for a good time. And third, it was actually pretty good. On top of being pure entertainment and comedy, Rusty Zavitson was actually filled with precise, well-written raps that made sense. I’ve seen the Rogers-Nowlin clan at work in classical and jazz combos, rock groups, and their more notable pairing when Nowlin began writing the string arrangements for the Roger’s brothers’ Busman’s Holiday revamp. Seeing them shed their classical leanings to get in costume, get in the beat, and bust out raps was just another fine notch on their resumés of being adventurous and limitless musicians.
Rusty Zavitson performed shows around Bloomington for at least a year, playing campus concerts and festivals, opening for acts like MC Chris, and recording a Christmas album, A Wonderful Christmas, in 2008 (which you can still hear on the group’s MySpace!) before calling it quits by 2010.