One of America’s first ska bands is coming to OC next month! Mod/soul/ska-pioneers The Untouchables are vaccinated and ready to be in front of music fans as soon as possible.
We spoke with the legendary crooner, Double-O-Soul himself, Jerry Miller. He’s a founding member and front-man of The Untouchables. We talked about his health, the future of the band, and the upcoming shows. Miller has a reputation of being incredibly nice and wanting to make others around him happy, and his reputation was confirmed during our phone call.
The first priority was addressing Miller’s health. In January of 2020, he had a scare that led to a four-day hospital stay. But thankfully now, “I am doing well!” he said. “It was scary there for a second, and I’m still going through, made changes on how I eat, medications, and all. Overall though, I am good and I try to stay positive and give thanks.”
But all the way back in early 2020 – before live shows shut down – the band had a show around the same time as his hospital stay, and Miller, being the guy he is, made sure to get out of there to play the show. He did not want to disappoint fans, so with his doctor, he got clearance and was careful. “It was risky, but I did what I needed to do and I’m glad I did it,” he told us. Of course, none of us knew that was going to be the ending of live shows for a year. As frustrating as it was to have our lives shut down, it had the benefit of giving Miller time at home to recover properly.
From their start in 1981, The Untouchables were a different sound for the US. The mod-ska frenzy was happening in the UK with English bands like The Beat, Madness, The Specials, The Selecter, but not so much here (although Fishbone were also gaining traction as a ska band).
At the same time, a documentary, “Dance Craze,” gave a glimpse into the scene: the music, the fashion, 2Tone (mod) movement. From there, clubs began playing the music, and radio stations and MTV followed.
The Untouchables played the Los Angeles scene while their single, “The General,” got them attention. A residency at the Roxy allowed them to show off their electric performances, filled with showmanship and a good time for all involved.
With their 1985 debut album “Wild Child,” they started drawing fans outside of California, even as far as the UK, where they played the iconic Glastonbury Festival. Locally, their following was just developing, and the teenage and college demographic became cartoon-crazy for their music.
The album gave us crowd favorites such as “What’s Gone Wrong,” “Wild Child,” “I Spy (For the F.B.I.),” and a cover of the Paul Revere & the Raiders tune, “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone.”
Before you knew it, the band had an anthem that US ska fans embraced, their best-known uber-hit, “Free Yourself.” What also developed was the band’s name, their diehard fans started to refer to them as The UT’s.
The UT’s followed that album up with critic favorite, “Agent Double O Soul.” More classic songs emerged; “Whiplash,” “Mandingo,” “Double O Soul,” and their take on The Drifters’ classic, “Under the Boardwalk.” The band was even appearing in movies (“Repo Man,” “The Party Animal”) and entering the mainstream.
Since then, there have been more albums which helped lead the way for future skankin’ bands like Reel Big Fish, The Bosstones, No Doubt, Sublime, Rancid, Save Ferris and 4th wave juggernauts The Interrupters.
Through the years, there have been some line-up changes, but Miller remains a core member. He told us how grateful he is that even after 40 years, concertgoers continue showing up – some who have been there since the early days and now show up with their kids. He said he loves to talk to fans and is humbled by them still wanting to talk and hear about The Untouchables.
During our conversation, we asked if new music was in the works for the future shows. Miller expressed excitement about one song in particular that he wrote during the pandemic. “I was hunkering down in my room, not sleeping a lot, but I would wake up at 1 a.m., 2 a.m.” he explained. “The walls would close in, so I would go drive around and it would soothe me. Everything was so split… on Facebook, politics… so I started thinking; maybe it is going to take the millennials to change things. Let people live. Tell the children the truth. Everybody loves their kids and the kids being happy and the making right choices.” He said the song started as 10 minutes, but he cut it down to just under five. He is not sure if it will technically be The Untouchables or a solo effort, because it sounds different, but “I cherish it and whether under The Untouchables or my name, I’m going to release it. But the kids… that’s what it’s all about.” It would be easy to create a song that can “beat you over the head” with what it is about, but Miller said he likes to leave lyrics open to interpretation: “That is the beauty of music.”
These days, Miller is joined onstage by some of the original band members. The band remains high-energy and electrifying, they are a definite must see! Their volcanic stage performances include guest appearances from the high-steppin’ vocalist, Chuck Askerneese, and bandmates Mark London Sims (bass), Dave Cassell (lead guitar), Jack Sneddon (trombone), Nick Ramos (trumpet), Bubba Sanchez (keys), Will Overholtzer (sax), guest appearances by Josh Harris, James Roberson on drums. No band would be complete without the hands that support the bands; the UT’s 2021 management staff includes band manager Kathy Smith and Road Manager Randy Lopez.
This weekend, the band will gather for rehearsal and Miller laughed, “I’m putting my foot down and we are going to get on it! I want to put on a good show!” We would expect nothing less!
The Untouchables play Gallagher’s Pub HB Sunday June 13th. You can also catch The UT’s at the SoCal Hoedown on September 18th at the Port of Los Angeles, Berth 46.
If you really want to reach back into the history of the band and the genre, check out SKABOOM an American Ska & Reggae Oral history.