New York, NY (Top40 Charts)
The people of Hoboken, New Jersey know Gene D. Plumber as the "singing plumber." For more than three decades, Gene Turonis has lived a dual life as Gene D. Plumber, plumber by day and musician by night. Now the rest of the world can discover Gene - well, at least his musical side.
On May 11, 2018, Bar/None Records, another Hoboken institution, will release Gene D. Plumber's debut album All the Pretty Girls. Mixing Gene's originals with some choice covers of songs he cherishes, the 13-song set serves up a charming patchwork of Americana the performer quite accurately describes as "swinging honkytonk-a-billy."
Gene's voice has gravelly outer shell that sandpapers into a smooth sweet center for an authentic sound that really connects with listeners. His life-worn vocals also fit perfectly with the sense of dented romanticism that flows through his songs — from the wistful memories in "A Breeze Blows Through the Palm Trees" and "Round and Round
We Go" to the wry wit of "She Belongs to Someone" and "Diamond as Big as Potatoes." On the title track, which leads off All the Pretty Girls, you can hear traces of John Prine, Willie Nelson, and latter-day Dylan that surface throughout the record too. More than being influenced by these singer/songwriters, they actually share a lot of the same influences— at 72 years old these greats are his contemporaries.
He does tip his hat to Nelson
by doing a jaunting version of "I'd Have To Be Crazy," the Steve Fromholz song that Willie recorded in 1976. Gene pays tribute more prominently to one of his idols, George
Jones. Not only does he cover two Jones tunes, "I Always Get Lucky With You" (Gene's favorite cut) and the plumbing-referencing "Things Have Gone to Pieces," he closes the album with his ode to the Old Possum, "George Jones, George
Jones." Gene, who actually met Jones twice, recalls him as being "the scariest person I've ever come across," while adding "but what a voice!" Gene reveals his love for the sounds of Louisiana too on All the Pretty Girls by including a loose and rockin' rendition of Chris Kenner's "I Like It Like That," along with a jazzy blues-flavored take of Clarence Gatemouth Brown's "Going Back to Louisiana," the Bobby
Osborne song recorded by both Delbert McClinton and Clarence Gatemouth Brown.
Gene's long road to recording All the Pretty Girls is more than a tale of a moonlighting plumber. The story starts in Hoboken circa 1971, when a friend took him to a party in a cockroach-infested waterfront apartment where he met the communal psychedelic jug band (and legendary cult group) the Insect Trust. The band's multi-instrumentalist Luke Faust wound up becoming a mentor to the then-fledgling guitar player. Hoboken Historical Society founder Jim Hans furthered Gene's musical education by sharing his extensive collection of jazz records from the '20s and '30s. Gene's love for that music can be heard in the subtly fancy guitar chords he frequently slips into his songs. More musical inspiration during this era also came from his trips into the Village to see outsider folk singer Michael Hurley and the eclectic (and infamous) acid-folk group the Unholy Modal Rounders led by Peter
Stampfel (following his Holy Modal Rounders).
During the '70s, Gene began playing music around Hoboken, even though there wasn't really a typical scene in the city back then. It was just, as Gene remembers, "people playing music sitting around in kitchens." By the end of the decade, however, Hoboken's music world had evolved. The pivotal club Maxwell's opened in 1978 and Gene started a band, Gene and D Plumbers. Over the years, he continued to gig around the Hoboken area both with his band and on his own.
Bar/None Records owner Glenn
Morrow has been a fan of Gene's since seeing him perform back in Glenn's college days. Then last year when Gene brought him some recordings that he'd made in Austin, Morrow was impressed. He got Gene in the studio to fill out these guitar-and-vocal demos. The sessions were helmed by Marc Jonson, the producer/songwriter perhaps best known for penning the Roches' hit tune "Love Radiates Around." Key among the studio sidemen was keyboardist/accordionist Charles Giordano, who has played with Pat Benatar, David
Johansen, and currently Bruce Springsteen
in the E Street Band. Giordano's accordion work adds a terrific Cajun feel to several songs on All the Pretty Girls.
While he's put out a couple of self-released albums, this is the first to be internationally distributed. After years of juggling plumbing and music making, Gene is hanging up his wrenches, retiring from plumbing, and picking up his guitar full time. Last year, he traveled to Paris, where he played "basket houses" (a.k.a. coffeehouses) for a week. Now he plans to travel more, sharing his songs, and songs that he loves, with audiences beyond of the borders of New Jersey's Hudson County.