The Menus Story
The Menus were formed in 1983 in a small basement of a small house on the west side of Cincinnati, OH. The very young and green lineup consisted of Brandon Ryan on the drums, Mark Wills on the bass and vocals, and Steve Perrman on guitar and vocals. With limited rehearsals and lack of connections, this trio never actually performed a paying job. But optimism and naïveté gave the hope that bigger and better things were certainly ahead. Without any better ideas, "The Menus" name developed due to the hundreds of collected local take out menus from restaurants frequented by the band, which now were plastered all over their P.A equipment.
At this point, the band was in search of a lead singer. In 1978, during eighth grade, Brandon met a spunky little fellow named Tim Goldrainer. A great friendship was formed, the plus side being Tim was a young but charismatic singer, and he quickly joined the group. This foursome played its first official gig on June 3 1983 at Midnight Express, a small west side bar. They were officially professional.
A few months later, Steve decided to get married and moved to St. Louis, while almost simultaneously Mark chose to head west and join The United States Air Force Academy, leaving a two member void. What happens now? Well, along comes Barry Taylor, a high school friend, on bass. In search of a guitar player, Tim and Brandon put out a local ad and not long after hooked up with Jim Doyle. After a few months of rehearsal and a big push by Brandon's father Steve (mainly to get the guys out of his basement and give his ears a rest), the band began to play low paying clubs in the Cincinnati area This was early 1984.
After a few months of getting their feet wet, the band was hungry for more work. Another player was hired, Gary Saulsbury, or “Steak” as most people called him. An excellent vocalist and fine keyboard player, Steak brought to the band something very important it was lacking--experience. After several months it was decided a new bass player was necessary. Barry’s real talent hid in art and sound engineering. Hence, Mr. Taylor moved on, no longer a Menu. His shoes were filled with one of Steak's old buddies, Kenny Farmer. Kenny was an incredible bassist with a voice to match. Soon afterwards The Menus were playing in much more exotic places, such as Norwood, Beechmont, and Clifton. Thus began their legendary six year stint at Hot Shotz in Clifton. On the road to fame and fortune....
Not long after, Steak was becoming too much to handle. After several bouts of tension and a few rounds of fisticuffs, the band decided that some "corporate downsizing" was necessary, so the keyboard player was given his walking papers. He was not immediately replaced, as the band decided to continue playing as a 4-piece. This worked fine for a while, but change was in the air again. In June of 1989, Jimi Orwig was hired for his keyboard and vocal ability. In the midst of bringing him into the band, Kenny decided he had had enough and put in his "2-minute's notice." Strapped but determined to go on, word quickly spread that The Menus were in search of a new bass player. Patrick “Rerun” Linville to the rescue. On July 14th, 1989, the new and improved Menus played their first gig together at Hymie's in Cheviot, OH, and musical legacy was established.
It was from here that this present roster would successfully transform a once shaky, rookie type band into professional, polished musical veterans. Winning many local awards and filling every bar on a no less than a five nights a week work schedule, The Menus built a loyal fan base and their earlier natural chemistry ignited even more. They played in Cincinnati for almost every job, with the same array of faces present almost every night. In the fall of 1990, the owner of the most popular bar in downtown Cincy, Caddys, declared he was opening another side to his club, a nice little room he called Sleep Out Louies. He offered The Menus a house gig on weekends, they gladly accepted, sparking one of the most successful 6 year stints in Cincinnati history. But as always, all good things do indeed come to an end. With the desire to conquer new markets and the impending destruction Sleep Out Louie’s in lieu of a new Bengal stadium, The Menus began some regional travel. Already dabbling briefly in Columbus, Lexington, and Louisville, the band developed a huge following outside their hometown. Things were still going incredibly well.
But then a sad thing happened. In the winter of 1997, Jim Doyle, after fourteen years of excellent guitar work, decided to hang up his picks. Jim, a computer wizard, announced he was leaving the band for a job to utilize his hard-earned degree in computer science. The band was shocked and slightly devastated, but understood his decision and wished him all the best in the world.
After much confusion and several tryouts, the band hired its new guitar player. Enter Stephen Chiodi. A well-seasoned pro in the business and an astounding player, Steve fit in nicely with The Menus’ sound and style. Traveling increased and success continued for the band, as the once frightening crisis had been subdued.
Next crisis, please. Just less than a year later, after bouncing back to their feet, the boys were hit another damaging blow. Rerun, a crowd favorite, announced he also had his fill of roadwork and craziness, and decided he too, was resigning from The Menus. The band’s future was indeed shaky at this point. They survived one long time member leaving the team, could they make it through another? Tim and Brandon, the foundation of the band, decided the answer was yes. On Jan 6 1998, John Castetter strapped on his bass for the first time as a Menu, and filled some shoes some thought were once unfillable. John, a Columbus native and also long time professional, clicked immediately with his solid playing and his matching personality.
It was at this point The Menus continued their regional work, capturing new venues, drawing new crowds, and proving it is possible to make a good living playing in a band.
Jump to 2007. After almost a decade of wonderful shows and a myriad of great times, John Castetter saddened the band with the news that he would be quitting to pursue other interests. As this type of blow can be scary and quite intimidating, the future of The Menus was uncertain. Could they survive once again after losing another integral member? There were honestly many, many doubts. Finding and working in a new member in a short period of time is extremely difficult, if not impossible. Anyone who has ever played in a band can attest to this. Then the band heard about Jimmi Muench. Everyone in the group knew of Jimmi and had seen him play around the Cincinnati music scene for a number of years. They knew he was good. A great bass player with strong vocals accompanied by an impressive stage presence. But would he be interested? Or even available? A few weeks later, The Menus met with him, ran through some songs, and discussed their options. It clicked right from the start. He was hired on the spot. And just a few short weeks and minimal rehearsals later, Jimmi Muench played his first job with The Menus at The Blue Note in Cincinnati on January 18, 2008. The new addition added a fresh look and feel to the band as well as the opportunity to learn new material, and was instantly accepted by the band and of all of their fans.
Five years later, Jimmi decided to go full time in his very successful remodeling business, and now again, The Menus were without a bass player. Would the chaos ever end? After a myriad number of tryouts, the band met Adam Scovanner. He was hired after his first audition and The Menus’ seventh bass player was on board. A super nice guy with talent to match, the band continued with Adam for the next two and a half years, until an injury sidelined him and he decided it was best for him to take some time off, and embrace other opportunities once he was healed. But he, at the same time, referred the band to a man he thought would be his perfect replacement. And he was right. Sparing us from multiple, long, and many awkward auditions, Jonathan Grooms was hired and hit the stage at MVP Sports Bar in Silverton for the first time as The Menus’ bass player on Nov 7 2015. Jonathan brought a lot to the table and the band had a new freshness. The band was sounding as solid as ever during this period and had some incredible shows. But as you know, if you have been paying attention, this would not last either. An amicable split had Jonathan leaving and taking on freelance, studio, and solo projects.
September 2019. No bass player. Again. What happens now? Throw in the towel? Hang it up after what has now been over thirty six years? They didn’t know. Until they met Chip Stewart. A long time Cincinnati bass player who had worked with many popular bands in the region. They initially connected with him mainly via emails and texts, discussing gig availability, song lists, and the tight time frame to honor the upcoming gigs. It seemed almost impossible. But their trepidation and doubt vanished after hitting the stage at Belterra Park on Saturday September 21 2019. After only three short rehearsals, the band was back, almost seamlessly, in action. Tim, Brandon, Jimi, Steve, and Chip plan to keep the legacy of the Menus alive, throughout the decades of multiple change and uncertainty. There is no other option. It’s what they do.
In memory of our friends Kenny Farmer and Patrick “Rerun” Linville.