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By blending contemporary power pop with elements of the post-grunge era, Gin Blossoms briefly emerged as torchbearers of the lighter side of alternative rock. Bassist Bill Leen and guitarist Doug Hopkins formed the band in 1987 in Tempe, AZ, rounding out the initial lineup with vocalist Jesse Valenzuela, guitarist Richard Taylor, and drummer Chris McCann. The following year saw several personnel shifts as the band struggled to solidify -- McCann was replaced by Dan Henzerling (and, shortly thereafter, Phillip Rhodes), while Taylor was fired and replaced by guitarist Robin Wilson. Wilson and Valenzuela subsequently switched roles, and the band recorded a self-released album, Dusted, in 1989. A&M signed them the following year.
After an impressive debut EP, 1991's Up & Crumbling, the Gin Blossoms rocketed out of the college pop charts and into the mainstream with their 1993 hit single "Hey Jealousy." Combining the ringing guitar hooks of the Byrds and R.E.M. with a solid, rootsy drive, the band's breakthrough full-length album, New Miserable Experience (which had actually been released the previous year), was filled with songs equally as strong as "Hey Jealousy," including the second hit single, "Found Out About You." New Miserable Experience and its assorted singles dominated radio and MTV for the following year -- "Hey Jealousy" and "Found Out About You," both penned by Hopkins, remained in heavy radio rotation nearly a year after their initial release -- and such success pushed the sales of their debut album to over one million copies.
All was not well within the group's ranks, however. Hopkins' battle with alcoholism and depression had taken its toll on the band during the sessions for New Miserable Experience, and he was fired shortly after the record's release, with guitarist Scott Johnson taking his place. Speculation abounded as to whether the band would be able to maintain its success without Hopkins' melancholy songwriting voice. Tragically, on December 5, 1993, Hopkins shot and killed himself, even as the songs he had written were blanketing the airwaves.
In the summer of 1995, the Gin Blossoms contributed "'Till I Hear It from You," a song they co-wrote with Marshall Crenshaw, to the soundtrack of the film Empire Records. "'Till I Hear It from You" became a major radio hit, but was never released as an official single until it was featured as the B-side of "Follow You Down," the first single from the group's second album, Congratulations...I'm Sorry. Upon its release in February of 1996, Congratulations...I'm Sorry charted well, but within six months, it had disappeared from the charts. Following the supporting tour, the Gin Blossoms disbanded in 1997.
Strangely enough, the group reunited (sans Rhodes) for a 2001 New Year's Eve concert. The Gin Blossoms hit the road several months later for a summer tour, drumming up renewed interest with the release of Dusted -- originally issued in 1989 as the band's debut cassette tape -- as well as a live DVD, Just South of Nowhere. Four years later, the band unveiled its first batch of new material since the mid-'90s. Major Lodge Victory proved to be sonically similar to the band's earlier efforts, and the album earned warm critical reviews. Signing with 429 Records, the Blossoms released another collection of new material, No Chocolate Cake, in 2010.
Gin Blossoms are an American pop rock band formed in 1987 in Tempe, Arizona. They broke out with the song "Hey Jealousy" from their successful major label debut, New Miserable Experience (1992), but this achievement was coupled with the firing and eventual suicide of the song's author and band co-founder Doug Hopkins, prompting the title of their follow-up album, Congratulations I'm Sorry (1996). After a series of charting singles, the band broke up in 1997. After they reunited in 2002 they released a fourth album, Major Lodge Victory, in 2006, and their fifth, No Chocolate Cake, in 2010.
Members of the band's early years include guitarist and songwriter Doug Hopkins, bassist Bill Leen, vocalist Robin Wilson, guitarist Richard Taylor, Taylor's original replacement Steven Severson, drummer Chris McCann, McCann's replacement Dan Henzerling, and Taylor's later replacement Jesse Valenzuela. The band's name comes from a photo of W.C. Fields in Kenneth Anger's infamously erroneous book, Hollywood Babylon, which bore the caption "W.C. Fields with gin blossoms", referring to the actor's telangiectasia-ravaged face and rhinophymic nose by the slang term for the skin condition known as rosacea.
In their early years, the Gin Blossoms became well-known locally around their hometown of Tempe, Arizona. The band's frequent touring resulted in an increase in popularity; the Blossoms also independently recorded their first full-length album, Dusted, which was released in 1989. The group is known for its "Southwestern Sound," or "Mill Avenue Sound", similar to other bands hailing from Arizona such as The Sidewinders, The Refreshments, The Meat Puppets and Dead Hot Workshop.
By the early 1990s, the lineup had changed to Leen on bass, Hopkins on guitar, Valenzuela on guitar and vocals, Wilson on vocals and acoustic guitar, and Phillip Rhodes on drums. After being signed with A&M Records, the band began to work on their major-label debut. Initial attempts to create a major-label record faltered and the band released an EP, Up and Crumbling, instead.
Gin Blossoms named their first full-length studio album New Miserable Experience. In February 1992, while still working to complete it, founding member and lead guitarist/songwriter Doug Hopkins drank heavily and grew increasingly stubborn and disillusioned with the process, especially after getting popped with a water balloon during their 1992 performance at The Boat House in Norfolk, VA. Faced with the prospect of being dropped by A&M, the band terminated Hopkins and replaced him with Scott Johnson. The album was completed and the first single released from it was Hopkins' song "Hey Jealousy". It would reach No. 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 4 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock Tracks, largely fueling the success of New Miserable Experience. However, the achievement would be overshadowed by Hopkins' suicide on December 4, 1993. The following year, another song penned by Hopkins, "Found Out About You", would also reach No. 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 and climb to No. 1 on Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks.
Between their debut and second albums, the Gin Blossoms provided the single "Til I Hear It from You" for the Empire Records soundtrack. It reached No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100. Their second major album, Congratulations I'm Sorry, was released in 1996. Yielding one top ten hit, "Follow You Down" - No. 9 Billboard Hot 100, the album met with mixed reviews.
"Without Doug and his songwriting, we never could have signed a record deal."Robin Wilson (People magazine, 1994)
The Blossoms broke up in the spring of 1997, and each band member moved on to his own project. Vocalist Wilson and drummer Rhodes launched the Gas Giants. Bassist Leen formed local band called Rai and then retired from music to operate a rare-book store. Guitarist Valenzuela fronted a short-lived outfit called the Low Watts, released a solo album, and kept busy writing and producing. Wilson ventured into producing as well, at his Mayberry Studios in Tempe, Arizona (the studio is now called Uranus Studios).
The Gas Giants announced an "indefinite hiatus" in June 2001. On December 4, 2001, it was announced that Scott would leave his current band, Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers, to rejoin the Gin Blossoms. The band regrouped and began playing together again in earnest (having done a couple of one-off shows in the interim) in 2002. In the words of frontman Robin Wilson at the time, "We always said our breakup wasn't forever and right now we're all feeling like we want to be Gin Blossoms again. We make a noise together that we can't make otherwise. We respect and appreciate that we need each other to create that sound. This time we hope to avoid being swallowed by the chaos."
In preparation to the band's official reunion show, Rhodes suffered a meltdown due to his ongoing battle with alcohol. Shortly after entering rehab, he was formally dismissed from the band. Phil Leavitt of Dada originally took Rhodes' place in the lineup, and then Gary Smith (of The Pistoleros, another Tempe band) stepped in. Scott Kusmirek took over drumming for the band from 2002 to 2004. In January 2005, it was announced that Rhodes, who had been sober for over two years, would rejoin the band. The re-entry of Rhodes was short-lived, however. Kusmirek returned to the band, taking Rhodes' place. "The Kooze", as he is affectionately known, served as drummer for the Gin Blossoms until September 30, 2008, when a press release issued by the band explained he and the group parted ways. The current drummer is John Richardson.
The band's fourth album, Major Lodge Victory, was originally recorded at Robin Wilson's Mayberry Studios in Tempe. However, the album was then re-recorded at Ardent Studios in Memphis, the same studio at which the band had recorded all of their previous albums, along with other notable groups such as Big Star and The Replacements. Major Lodge Victory was released by Hybrid Recordings on August 8, 2006, and "Learning the Hard Way" was the first single. Major Lodge Victory debuted at number 159 on the Billboard 200 album chart. This was the first time the Gin Blossoms had appeared on the Billboard 200 chart in 10 years, one month, and two weeks. Gin Blossoms had last appeared on the chart during the week of July 13, 1996, with their previous album, Congratulations… I'm Sorry. Since reuniting, the band has toured at numerous locations across the country, occasionally joined by Kirk "The Judge" Karman on harmonica.
Gin Blossoms released a live album, Live In Concert, on May 15, 2009. This album contains live recordings of the band's hits such as "Hey Jealousy" and "Follow You Down", as well as recent singles such as "Learning the Hard Way" and "Long Time Gone," and also a live cover of Elton John's "Rocket Man"
The band's fifth studio album, No Chocolate Cake, was released September 28, 2010. The first single, "Miss Disarray" was released to stations on August 2, 2010.
Over the 2010 Thanksgiving holiday the band traveled to Iraq and played a series of shows for American troops stationed there.
The band announced on its website on March 4, 2012, that John Richardson had left the band to pursue other recording and performing projects. The band stated in its news release, "John is a great drummer and all of us support his passion for recording. We all wish him the very best and thank him for all his hard work and dedication." The band also announced that Scott Hessel will be its road drummer. Hessel has been a member of the Tempe, Arizona, band called Let Go.
The Gin Blossoms joined Everclear, Sugar Ray, Lit, and Marcy Playground on the Summerland Tour 2012, a 31-date nationwide tour that began on June 28, 2012 in Saratoga, CA, and ended on August 11, 2012 in Laughlin, NV.