Ask Wonderboy's Robbie Rist how the band came together, and he'll tell you, "like all great things, Wonderboy happened by accident."
Of course, that's not entirely true. Robbie had been in a band with Paul Pope, released two albums and done some touring, when they lost their rhythm section. Robbie made some phone calls and held auditions, locating bass player Roger Smith and drummer Paul Presson. Over the next several months, the band evolved to its current lineup, with Robbie and Patrick McGrath on guitar, Paul Presson on drums, and David Brow on bass.
Robbie tends to set the tone for Wonderboy, and it is perhaps his vision that drives the band, but he actively encourages the others to write, sing lead vocals, and arrange. Several of the songs on the Racer Records release were cowritten with Robbie's longtime friend Jenni Rosen, but in the two years since that album was recorded, other band members have contributed heavily to a new crop of songs.
Seen onstage during one of their frequent Los Angeles performances, the chemistry is unmistakable. Wonderboy is just plain fun. They swap leads, recreate their famous power harmonies, and trade unrehearsed banter when Robbie isn't offering up one of his skewed, comical song introductions.
Offstage, they spend a lot of time in the studio and at rehearsal (more because they have such a good time than because they really need it, it seems). Like the Letterman band, they have a great fondness for the accumulated mass of rock history, and from time to time they'll pull out one of their wicked cover versions, whether it's the Kiss classic "Rock and Roll All Night" or the Foundations' 1969 hit "Build Me Up Buttercup."
Until recently, Robbie seemed resigned to what he called "commercial suicide," recognizing that Wonderboy's brand of smart lyrics and crafty arrangements were not much in demand among most record labels. But now, thousands of Racer fans get to hear Wonderboy's blend of cynicism, energy, and innocence. If it was an accident, it was a happy one.
Excerpted from The Racer Record, the Racer Records newsletter.