Sweet Home man joins lousy semi-famous band

Sean C. Morgan

Jonathan Pelcher of Sweet Home is one of the newest members of a Grammy-nominated punk act – Green Jellÿ – but in reality, he’s one of many.

The band originally had the name Green Jellö, but Kraft Foods, manufacturer of Jell-O, sued for trademark infringement over the band’s name, so it became Green Jellÿ, which is still pronounced Jell-O despite the “y” with an umlaut.

The band took the name because green Jell-O is considered by many to be the worst flavor in the world. Bill Manspeaker and Joe Cannizzarro started the group in 1981 as a comedy-punk band in Kenmore, N.Y., with the idea of being “The World’s Worst Band.” It was a natural fit, and a Green Jellÿ eventually adopted “Suxx” as part of its band slogan.

“The Ramones went on record to say they were the worst band they’d ever seen,” said Pelcher, 32. “That’s the whole thing. Green Jellÿ is awful, but it’s all comedy.”

A lot of band members don’t have much musical talent, while others are technically proficient and amazing, he said. “Bill is the Moronic Dictator,” and the show is “proof you can impress drunk people with a puppet show. It’s ridiculous. It’s about fun.”

The band earned a Grammy nomination for best long-form video for “333,” and the group is famous for the hit video “Three Little Pigs,” which included vocals by Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan, still viewable on YouTube.

In its biography, Green Jellÿ boasts of selling 1 million records, and “32 years and 416 members later, Green Jellÿ still sucks.”

Pelcher said the number of band members has grown to 640-something.

It’s a band that takes nothing seriously, a perfect fit for Pelcher, who fronts the local rock band The Berated and has played bass with local metal band Cadacus.

Pelcher has lived in Sweet Home for seven or eight years. He is married to Melissa Pelcher. They have a 4-year-old son, Ivan. Jonathan Pelcher came from California, moving first to Roseburg and then Eugene before moving to Sweet Home.

He has no particular interest in becoming a rock star. He counts himself among bald middle-aged men who just play rock ’n’ roll because it’s fun. When faced with the opportunity to join such a horrible, fun band, Pelcher jumped at it – and he’s still not really a rock star, even though he fills in and is often confused for Manspeaker, who has continued to tour Green Jellÿ since starting the “Jet Set Tour” a few years ago.

The rest of the original band is doing other things, Pelcher said. “Bill decided to go on with nothing,” no band, no record company, and to start meeting up with “franchise bands” across the country.

On tour, Manspeaker maintains ties to musicians in different regions, Pelcher said. Those musicians may include entire local bands as well as individual musicians.

Around here, the band includes Headless Pez and Skwerll of the band Raw Dogs. Skwerll makes replica costumes from Gwar, a metal band.

Green Jellÿ concerts take place in small venues with about five guys who know who Green Jellÿ is, Pelcher said. And audience participation is mandatory, as the band pulls patrons onto the stage and backstage, where they don costumes and become puppet characters from the Green Jellÿ catalog and mythos.

The group is completely independent these days, and band members make money by selling their own merchandise at shows, Pelcher said.

“There is no record company. Record companies are dead. I take puppets to the show and sell them.”

He also draws Green Jellÿ characters and sells them. Tickets pay for Manspeaker’s airfare and help pay his bills.

When he saw Green Jellÿ the first time, “I thought the show would just be dudes with guitars,” Pelcher said. “I was expecting every rock show there is.”

Instead, the show had puppets, audience participation and R-rated comedy, he said.

“The whole thing is stupidity, just totally out of line ridiculousness. I’ve been a fan since I was a kid, but I didn’t realize it extended to the live show as much as it did.”

Pelcher has always wanted to bring the Gwar, Slipknot, Alice Cooper-style theatrics to the stage, and it’s something he’s worked into The Berated.

He went to a show in Salem and became friends with Manspeaker, and he started talking with him on Facebook.

“I lost my mind and made 30 puppets,” Pelcher said. He took those puppets to a show, responding to a challenge to help create a Green Jellÿ army. Manspeaker told him he needed to go on tour with him.

Pelcher declined, he said. It would have been two more days.

“What do I have to do to get you to go out on tour?” Manspeaker asked Pelcher.

“Talk to my wife,” Pelcher answered.

That turned out to be an easy sell, he said. “This is a band I’ve loved since I was a little kid.”

The Berated frequently covers “Three Little Pigs.”

Now, when he’s on a Green Jellÿ tour, Pelcher handles vocals, puppets and posters. He’s been invited to join a tour in the United Kingdom. He’s not sure if he can do that one though because he still has to work his day job at Sunshine Industries.

It’s Manspeaker’s show, Pelcher said, but he has no problem letting Pelcher say he wants to go out and perform “Obey the Cow God.”

When Pelcher performed it, the “band didn’t even know it wasn’t (Manspeaker),” Pelcher said.

Pelcher loves the job, he said.

“I’m not like super geeking out because everybody in the band is of a similar mindset. Everyone is serious about being stupid and having fun.

“It’s not to be a rock star. It’s to have fun. It’s sort of rock star. It’s rock star enough for me.”