- The Dictators
The Dictators Origin New York, United States Genres Punk rock, hard rock, proto-punk, garage rock Years active 1973–present Associated acts Blue Öyster Cult
Manitoba's Wild Kingdom
Website Dictators online Members Andy Shernoff
Ross "The Boss" Friedman
Scott "Top Ten" Kempner
Stu Boy King
The Dictators are an American punk rock band formed in New York City in 1973. Critic John Dougan said that they were "one of the finest and most influential proto-punk bands to walk the earth." The Dictators are represented in the "Punk Wing" of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in Cleveland, Ohio. Steven Van Zandt called them "The connective tissue between the eras of The MC5, Stooges, NY Dolls, and the punk explosion of the mid to late 1970s".
The original postbox recording line-up consisted of bassist/vocalist Andy "Adny" Shernoff, lead guitarist Ross "The Boss" Friedman (aka Ross Funicello), rhythm guitarist Scott "Top Ten" Kempner, and drummer Stu Boy King (who was, in fact, the band's fourth drummer since forming in 1973). It was this line-up - along with roadie/occasional vocalist and "Secret Weapon" Handsome Dick Manitoba - which recorded the band's 1975 debut album, The Dictators Go Girl Crazy! for Epic Records, produced by Sandy Pearlman and Murray Krugman (best known for their work with Blue Öyster Cult). The album sold poorly at the time.
Frustrated by the lack of sales, the band broke up for a few months in late 1975, but reconvened in early 1976, with bassist Mark "The Animal" Mendoza replacing Shernoff. After a few months Shernoff was persuaded to return to the group as the group's keyboardist. This line-up soon secured a contract with Asylum Records (at least partly due to the notoriety the group had developed following a well-publicized brawl between Manitoba and Wayne County) and released their second album, Manifest Destiny, in 1977. The album was produced by Pearlman and Krugman.
During this period the band was christened with their nickname, "The 'Taters". This culminated in an incident during a tour with Uriah Heep and Foreigner in which Foreigner's roadies strung a net filled with potatoes above the stage and released it during the Dictators' set.
By 1978 Mendoza had left the band (he soon joined Twisted Sister), and Shernoff had returned to his original position on bass guitar. It was this line-up of Manitoba, Shernoff, Friedman, Kempner, and Rich Teeter which recorded Bloodbrothers (yet again produced by Pearlman and Krugman). It was the first album to feature Manitoba as the group's vocalist on all the songs, though Bruce Springsteen - a big fan of the group to this day - can be heard counting "1-2-1-2-3-4" during the album's opening track, "Faster and Louder." The album's "Baby, Let's Twist" was a minor hit on a number of east-coast radio stations, but the lack of mainstream success caused the band to split the following year. Shortly before the split, drummer Mel Anderson had left Twisted Sister and joined The Dictators, replacing Teeter.
After the break-up, Manitoba drove a taxi cab, Shernoff worked as a producer, and Friedman became a guitarist-for-hire; working first with the French hard-rock band Shakin' Street, then becoming a founding member of Manowar in 1982 (with whom he recorded the band's first six albums, leaving the band after the 1988 album Kings of Metal.), and producing the first demo for Anthrax.
Although Friedman had spoken to the press with some bitterness about The Dictators during the early Manowar period, he and the other members of the band began reuniting occasionally in 1981, and later that year, ROIR released the cassette-only Fuck 'Em If They Can't Take a Joke, which featured numbers from all three of the group's studio albums, covers of the Velvet Underground's "What Goes On" and Mott the Hoople's "Moon Upstairs," and two new Shernoff numbers: "Loyola" and "New York New York".
Other than occasional reunion shows, little was heard from The Dictators during the next five years. However, in late 1986 Shernoff and Manitoba (along with guitarist Daniel Rey) formed Wild Kingdom, releasing a version of "New York New York" on the 1988 soundtrack to Mondo New York.
By the time of Wild Kingdom's 1990 MCA Records debut, ...And You? (by which time they were now billed as Manitoba's Wild Kingdom), Rey had left the group and had been replaced by Friedman, making it - for all practical purposes - the fourth Dictators album (the group was rounded out by drummer J.P. Patterson). ...And You? - a brief 25 minutes in length - received excellent reviews, with Rolling Stone calling it "the first great punk rock album of the '90s." Following a club tour that year, Kempner (who had been previously occupied by his work with the Del Lords during much of the 1980s) joined the group and the Manitoba's Wild Kingdom name was replaced by The Dictators.
The ...And You? album cover was a source of some controversy, since it was lifted from a World War II Nazi recruiting poster. It was not the first time members of the band (most of whom, ironically, were Jewish) had been associated with charges of this sort since Go Girl Crazy had featured the songs "Master Race Rock" and "Back to Africa."
By the 1990s, much about the lives of the band's members had changed markedly.
Manitoba opened a successful East-Village bar called Manitoba's in 1999.
Kempner had developed a certain degree of respect from roots-rock audiences due to his 1980s work with The Del-Lords. In 1992 he released his highly acclaimed solo album Tenement Angels and joined The Brandos in 1993.
Friedman's work with Manowar and Brain Surgeons had given him a certain cachet with heavy metal audiences.
However, the group - first with Frank Funaro on drums, then again with Patterson - began recording a new Dictators album in the late 1990s, which was eventually released as D.F.F.D. in 2001. The album was well-received; however, Shernoff has remarked that it will probably be the group's final studio album of new material since he finds writing rock songs to be more difficult as time goes on.
Manitoba currently sings lead vocals with the surviving members of the MC5, and is a Sirius XM Satellite Radio DJ on Little Steven's Underground Garage channel. Following Kempner's move to California in 2002 and his departure from the group, The Dictators continue to perform to a devoted audience, and released a new live album, VIVA Dictators (with Kempner on rhythm guitar) in 2005. The Dictators compiled an album of demos, rarities, and unreleased songs recorded at various times over their thirty-plus year career, released by Norton Records in 2007 as Every Day Is Saturday.
In November 2007, Manitoba, along with author Amy Wallace, put out The Official Punk Rock Book of Lists on BackBeat Books, a small book company owned by Hal Leonard Publishing.
Manitoba's Wild Kingdom reunited in May 2008 to play at the Joey Ramone Birthday Bash at The Fillmore New York at Irving Plaza, with a lineup featuring Manitoba, Shernoff, Friedman & Patterson.
In July 2008, Kempner released his well-received 2nd solo album Saving Grace . He is in the process of assembling a band for some summer dates. In October 2008, The Dictators reunited for a series of four concerts in Spain.
Ross The Boss released his debut solo album, New Metal Leader, in August 2008. He and his band are putting the finishing touches on their 2nd album, due for release later in 2010.
Patterson released his 2nd album, entitled The LP Is Dead, in November 2009 via No Fun Records.
Kempner and the rest of The Del-Lords re-united in early 2010 for a successful tour of Spain. They are currently working on an album of all new material. Kempner's first solo album, Tenement Angels, was released on March 1, 2011 on GB Music. The release is on CD (remastered with a bonus track) and on vinyl. The LP is a limited edition on 500, and comes with a digital download and a hand signed poster by Kempner.
- The Dictators Go Girl Crazy! (1975)
- Manifest Destiny (1977)
- Bloodbrothers (1978)
- Fuck 'Em If They Can't Take a Joke (ROIR, 1981)
- The Dictators Live, New York, New York (ROIR, 1998)
- D.F.F.D. (2001)
- Viva Dictators (2005)
- Every Day Is Saturday (2007)
as Manitoba's Wild Kingdom
- Mondo New York soundtrack (1988)
- ...And You? (1990)
- At CBGB
- Interview with The Dictators by TruePunk.com
- Ross The Boss' Official Web Site
- Scott Kempner's MySpace Page
- Interview with Andy Shernoff on Food Is Not Love
- Kempner 7/08 Variety interview
Studio albumsThe Dictators Go Girl Crazy! · Manifest Destiny · Bloodbrothers · Fuck 'Em If They Can't Take A Joke · D.F.F.D. Live albumsThe Dictators Live, New York, New York · VIVA Dictators Compilation albumsEvery Day Is Saturday
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