When the name Pat McCurdy is mentioned, for many what comes to mind is a song and a joke -- at the same time.
For the past 11 years, jokes and melodies have gone hand-in-hand for McCurdy, who's known in Milwaukee and across the Midwest for mixing self-penned songs and inspired send-ups with a steady stream of comedic and satirical between-song banter.
That formula continues on McCurdy's new album, "Pat in Person Vol. 2," which hit area record stores last month. The album is the first of McCurdy's to capture him in his truest of creative elements: a live setting.
"I knew there would be great crowds at Summerfest, and I wanted to record myself in a live performance," McCurdy said. "But what are the odds you're going to randomly record a show that you want to remember? So I recorded four Summerfest shows and one we did last summer in Madison, and from that, put together the album.
There were no post-production touches added to the final mixes -- no vocal touch-ups on the occasional flat note or missed harmony, no fade outs or remixes of that occasional out-of-tune guitar string. "I had 60 or 70 songs to choose from," added McCurdy. "There's a bunch of mistakes in there, but I left them in. They sound exciting to me."
McCurdy's been a professional musician since 1978, playing with his bands Yipes!, Pat McCurdy and the Men About Town and The Confidentials. He landed a record deal with RCA while in Yipes! and released two albums.
"The first one did all right," recalled McCurdy, "but the second one disappeared right away. It was that time in the early '80s when there was all this buzz over 'new wave,' even though none of the major labels thought it had any commercial potential. The people at RCA probably thought of our album as a tax write-off. "You have to remember," he added, "Christopher Cross was still the standard for mainstream success at the time."
McCurdy's been doing his comic-troubadour routine since 1988. Back then, he landed a steady weekend gig at The Celebrity Club (a now-defunct east side club) and slowly honed the blend of song and front-man patter that evolved into his current performing style.
These days McCurdy plays well over 300 nights a year -- "in '97, we counted up 342 shows, including all the two-a-days at Summerfest" -- with weekly or monthly gigs in Madison, Chicago, Appleton, Green Bay and Appleton.
Around town, he's a less frequent but still consistent act at clubs such as Shank Hall.
Almost all the material on "Vol. 2" was written since '97 and keeps in line with the singer's comically frank songs and live shows.
"Everyone's a Whore," was culled from a conversation McCurdy had with a friend of his who works for ESPN radio, after the friend received his own show. "He said to me: 'Yep, I'm going to have to sell out now,'" recalls McCurdy. "'But that's all right, because everyone's a whore.'"
"Paid for Nothing" is more autobiographical.
"I don't ever get sick of playing too much," said McCurdy. "But there are those nights where the audience wasn't with me, and I totally sucked, and one of the guys playing with me said, 'Why can't we get paid for doing nothing?'"
"Pat in Person Vol. 2" is available at local record stores.