The Blue Towel Troupe

The Blue Towel Troupe Origin Story

As told by Andy Kerber in The Music of the Soul Lives On

One night I was playing bass in my room with my door open. Henry had just gotten out of the shower when he walked by, wearing only a towel. He saw me playing and said, "You stay right there!" Then he ran next door to his room and grabbed his guitar. He came back and said, "There's no time to put clothes on, we're jamming right here, right now." So he sat in a chair in his blue towel and we jammed, making up everything as we went along.

I was pretty familiar with improvisation, but my primary instrument was the trumpet, and I had only ever played bass with strict, predetermined written lines. Playing with Henry that night was the first time that I was able to play more freely and make it up as I went along. Henry would name a key, and we'd jam as if we'd played it a thousand times before. Eventually, Henry started adding lyrics that he made up on the spot, a skill that had always amazed me. We played for the better part of forty-five minutes, and ended up accumulating a substantial audience.

Combined with his virtuoso guitar skills, I could tell that I was in the presence of someone incredible. We heard a knock on the door, and it was a house-fellow telling us that quiet hours started twenty minutes ago, and we had to keep the noise down.

That's what he had intended to say, anyway. He was thrown off mid-sentence by the sight of Henry playing guitar wearing only a towel. He muttered in confusion for about ten seconds, then regained his composure, and politely asked us to quiet down, in between bouts of giggling.

That was not the last time we would share a jam under those circumstances—it was repeated the following night. But that time, our floor-mate Alex Schacherl joined us with his guitar. Another person on our floor, Monica Nigon, was part of the audience that night—until she went back to her room and grabbed her violin. The four of us played some Irish folk songs and Mumford and Sons tunes, until we were again waylaid by the house-fellows for quiet hours. But it was that night that we resolved to make ourselves a group. I called my high school friend, Matt Kline, who lived on the floor below us, to play piano, and the Blue Towel Troupe was born.