The Pranksters

The Pranksters


The Pranksters have been rockin louisville in one form or fashion for 25 or more years, local….loud and one of the best live bands i personally have seen in my life.

The Sunday night show actually began in the late 1980s at Jockamo’s Pizza in the Highlands (in the spot that is now Za’s). In those days, what was originally known as the Silver Creek Band had turned into an acoustic trio called McHenry, Miller & Young (including original Silver Creek guitarist Chick McHenry).

As the show gained steam, more and more musicians began stopping by to jam with the boys, and the ensemble grew. A drummer was added, and Browning would show up, often after playing gigs of his own. He seemed like a fit for the group, so he officially joined. Sometime around 1989, the name Merry Pranksters was adopted

Thousands of shows and a number of other musicians came and went, but Miller, Browning, Snead and Young would persevere. It was just three years ago or so that Ramsey re-joined the group after a 16-year absence.

Ramsey, of course, plays the organ at Louisville Bats games, along with other gigs around town. He not only played in Leon Russell’s band, but he’s also backed up acts such as George Strait, Stevie Nicks and Kid Rock

And now, with Young doing his own thing, Ennis (who was Young’s protégé from the get-go) takes over on drums. Ennis moved to Louisville in 1997 to attend Spalding, and caught up with the Merry Pranksters at the dearly departed Maier’s Tavern in St. Matthews. Of course, he quickly caught on to the band’s following, particularly the Sunday night affair

“I started playing with Trustees of Modern Chemistry,” Ennis said. “All that time, I was just enjoying [the Pranksters]. After Trustees fell apart and the Internet bubble popped, I started sitting in at their gigs at Gerstle’s.”

It was 2006 when he was officially installed as percussionist of the band. “Dave was taking sabbatical, and they put me over on the drum set,” Ennis said. “Every day is like a lesson, but it makes it easy playing with these old vets. I’m lucky; I’m really lucky.”

He especially enjoys the Gerstle’s Sunday-nighters, which he says officially begin at 10 p.m. Sort of. “They’ll tell you 10 p.m. But it’s really more like 11:00. Or 12:00.”

But he loves the crowds: “It’s the fan base from the Jockamo’s days. It’s always a good reunion, like, ‘Oh, I haven’t seen you forever.’ Just good people and dancing. It’s guaranteed someone is going to dance early on. It’s got that cult following, that underground desire.”

And what it boils down to, after it’s all said and done, is indeed that desire. The Pranksters aren’t worried that they’re playing sometimes three and four gigs a week with various lineups in dank corner bars. It’s about the music and the friends. And there are those gigs that make for good memories as well

The band played an all-Beatles set at this year’s Abbey Road on the River festival, for instance, and were selected to play the main stage. “Gary (Jacob, the festival’s promoter) introduced us as ‘Louisville’s best band.’ He hadn’t heard us yet, but we’ll take the compliment

“And for a little bar band to be on the main stage, its something we didn’t expect.”

If those kinds of kudos and opportunities continue to materialize, so be it. But rest assured the Pranksters will be found at Gerstle’s every Sunday night, and also performing regularly at places like Captain’s Quarters or rocking at corner bars like Dark Star

“We just hope to keep doing what we’ve been doing,” Miller said. “At our age, we don’t have aspirations of getting famous and touring. We have mortgages and families.”

“We’re working musicians,” Browning added. “I was lucky in that I went to U of L and Bellarmine, and my professors there schooled me on how to be a working musician. They said, ‘It would be great if you get a hit record and sell a million copies or whatever, but in the meantime you’ve got to pay your bills. Get your money home and get it into the bank.'”

“The key for us,” Miller concluded, “is to keep enjoying what we’re doing. If a band goes into it and says, ‘If we don’t get famous, we’re not happy,'” they’re setting themselves up to fail

“Enjoying what you do is still half the battle. Even with all the thousands of gigs we’ve done, I still enjoy going out and playing.”