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Tranzfusion - Entertainer of the Year
Written By: Brenda Golden
*Click images below to view larger versions.
Tranzfusion - Entertainer of the Year
Free Radical cover photo, 1987
Tranzfusion - Entertainer of the Year
Landing Craft at Stinky Beach in the late ‘80s. photo courtesy Becky Davis
Tranzfusion - Entertainer of the Year
Private Beach cover photo, 1992
Tranzfusion - Entertainer of the Year
Tranzfusion, 2008, and their famous blue school bus.
    This year’s recipient of the Entertainer of the Year award has a long and interesting history. I had the pleasure of sharing a trip down memory lane with TRANZFUSION’s keyboard man, Bob Davis, recently, and while I won’t be able to print all of their story here, I’ll do my best to profile for you this dedicated group of outstanding musicians.
    Fans of Tranzfusion thrill to their music no matter how many times we hear them -  they’ll play their last date of the season at M.R. Ducks this Sunday, Oct. 16. Look for them over the winter at places such as the Steer Inn Tavern, Fager’s Island and 707 Sports Bar & Grille. But the format of their show has not always been classic album rock, as I call it.
    Like most of our generation, they are a product of early rock ‘n roll and the British Invasion. In fact, in their desire to achieve authenticity to an era of music now referred to as ‘classic,’ Bob plays on a 1967 Vox Super Continental Organ, the same as used by The Doors, plus a Fender Rhodes piano that has a sound, he says, that cannot be duplicated by digital instruments of today. While I’m mentioning equipment, let me add here that guitarist Hank Koenig uses a 1948 Gibson guitar amp through which he plays harmonica, and guitarist Josh Davis uses a 1964 Fender Tremelux amp. These pieces of equipment are important in recreating the original sounds of the classic music we all love.
    But how did it all begin? Bob Davis (keyboard), Bobby Malaby (drums), Alan Langrall (guitar/vocals) and John Mercogliano (bass) started a group called Just Us in 1977. Can you believe Bobby was only 16 years old at the time. Uh-oh, sorry Bobby. The music they covered was  the country/folk rock of the time, heavy on the California sounds from Poco, the Eagles, Jackson Brown and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
    Hank Koenig joined the band in 1981 and Davis proudly tells me that Hank is the only member of the band who has never missed a gig - that’s 26 years of perfect attendance. Incredible! In 1983, a familiar bass player on the Ocean City scene, Jeff Davis, joined the group. It was at that time of restructuring that the group searched for a new name and settled on Tranzfusion. As many of you know, Jeff now plays with Full Circle and Retrolux; and formerly with the Lauren Glick band (and many others, I’m sure).
    Three years down the road, Bobby’s older brother Tom Malaby, who had been playing bass in the very popular band Drawbridge, replaced Jeff on the bass. Tom is a very interesting man. As Davis relates, “from an early age all Tom was interested in was music and outer space.” Having succeeded in music with both Drawbridge and Tranzfusion, “Tom decided to go back to school at the age of 45 and he now works at NASA as a rocket engineer.” Really far out!
    In 1987 Tranzfusion recorded a tape of six original songs titled Free Radical, written by Langrall and Davis. The band enjoyed a major period of growth during these years thanks to the influence of the man who mixed these songs, the man with the ‘golden ear,’ Dave Leister, or ‘Big Mo,’ as he was called. Leister taught the band a lot about the science of sound before he left to tour with a sound company for such artists as Stevie Wonder.
    Shortly after, a new twist left the band reeling. The man they considered the center of their band, Alan Langrall, left the business.
    “We had only done backup vocals,” says Davis. “This was a real turning point. Did we look for a new front man or become a foursome? Could we cover the songs ourselves? I never thought of myself as having a good enough voice but it caused us to stretch our talents.” Each member found their voices and their own niche for covering different artists. As we hear now, Bobby sings the Stones songs and does a good Warrren Zevon, Hank sings Tom Petty, Dire Straits, Pink Floyd and others, and Bob sings the Doors, the Who, Jethro Tull, U2, etc. Tom’s specialty is Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone.” And Josh does a great job on Beatles tunes, REM and their originals.
    In 1992, four years later, Tranzfusion compiled a list of 11 original songs written individually by each member, on a tape called Private Beach, this time engineered and mixed by Tom Malaby.
    Tranzfusion traveled to Baltimore and southern Maryland and made road trips to play at Sloppy Joe’s and Holiday Isle in the Keys. The band opened for such big name acts as Guess Who, Bachman Turner Overdrive and Dr. John. They were having a ball and growing musically. The set lists were different then, though. They were playing popular Top 10 tunes, having made it through the Disco era and now into the Grunge era of the early ‘90s. At one time they played tunes by such bands as Pearl Jam, Nirvana and Live; but they discovered that a lot of the new songs of that time had a shelf life. They didn’t have the staying power of the still popular classic music. So, another big change. By 1997-98 they had ‘cleaned house’ and concentrated on pure classic rock whose tunes still stand the test of time - and we, the fans, love it!
    As Bob says, “our common goal was to make the music as good as we could make it both in performance and quality of sound.”
    Davis and wife Becky were busy raising a family, too, who were often present during rehearsals and performances, absorbing the energy and love of the music. So it was no surprise that son Josh became an excellent guitar player as well. In 2003 at the age of 23, Josh joined the band filling in for Tom Malaby when he would be off traveling the world on scientific expeditions for NASA. In addition to playing bass (which Bob plays also on certain songs), Josh began playing rhythm guitar and doing some leads or duets with Hank. Josh also demonstrated his writing ability with the release of Tranzfusion’s third effort, the CD Lotus (2008), all 15 songs written by Josh Davis. (Josh is also using his writing talents as the new sports writer for the Daily Times and has published a book titled The Muse and the Mechanism, available on amazon.com.)
    Tranzfusion has enjoyed a youthful infusion of new music still, certainly, influenced by the classics with which they grew up. Two more Davis children, daughter Mardi, 15, a high school junior, who has astounded us  playing trumpet and french horn; and son Will (12), who is already an accomplished saxophone player. Together, and sometimes with another friend on sax, Eric Miranda (high school sophmore), they are called the Intravenous Horn section. Bob proudly notes here that Mardi and Eric are members of the award winning Parkside Marching Rams. The horns have added yet another dimension to this multi-talented group of musicians.
    “Hey, Cullligan Man?” That’s what superb drummer/percussionist Bobby Malaby answers to during the day working for the famous water company in the Salisbury area. Being a wannabe drummer myself, I’m fascinated to watch Bobby at work as he plays every intricate detail and nuance of the classics that complete the authenticity of the sound. Hank Koenig has a degree in Botany using his vast knowledge of the green plant world in the landscaping business that keeps him trim and fit. This is aptly demonstrated as he is the one most likely to jump around the stage (barefoot) while exactly duplicating the guitar work of such incredible artists as Jimi Hendrix, Carlos Santana, Mark Knofler and so many more.
    Bob Davis, currently teaching at Pittsville Elementary & Middle School, Special Ed., is always most humble regarding his talents. He tells me he never considered himself as very good but when the band became a foursome, he worked hard and gradually found his confidence in recreating the sounds of some unbelievable entertainers, both on vocals and keyboards. In the process, he developed a superb voice and mastery of the keyboards; although he would humbly deny this. He also plays some great harmonica bits.
    Davis gives a lot of credit to sound man  Paul Brunkhorst (in Broadcast Sports) who had worked with Drawbridge since ‘81. Tom asked him to work with Tranzfusion and he has been with them since 1989.
    We’re not alone in our praise for Tranzfusion. In 2008 a survey in the Daily Times listed Tranzfusion as the readers’ #1 All-time Favorite Band with Love Seed Mama Jump as #2 and Jack of Diamonds #3. It’s so rare that a band stays together as long as they have. They consider themselves as family and share a mutual respect for each other and the music they love to play. And they love us - their loyal and adoring fans and always strive to present the best show possible.
    Congratulations again to Bob, Bobby, Hank, Josh and Tom, Coconut Times Entertainers of 2009 ... and beyond.
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