rest in peace, jon ashline of the screamin’ mee mees

announced today that one of the original punks and front man jon ashline passed away after a 10 year battle with bone marrow cancer. statement from rerun records:

May 8, 1951–November 11, 2012

It’s with a heavy heart that we report the passing of a St. Louis music icon and one of the true, original punks, Jon Ashline. Jon was half of the legendary Screamin’ Mee-Mees, one of the earliest proto-punk basement rock outfits. Along with partner-in-crime Bruce Cole, the Mee-Mees recorded their brand of racket since the late 60s in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, MO. What started out as drunken/stoned goof-off recordings quickly morphed into paint-peeling Kraut Rock/noise-inspired jams which they dubbed Warp Music. The Warp name was soon supplanted by the Screamin’ Mee-Mees moniker, and they went on to record countless hours of original material, much of it written spontaneously as they were taping it. Jon played drums, handled most lead vocals, and contributed the occasional guitar, organ, slide whistle or other backing part, as Bruce led the songs with his drunken guitar wailing.

The Mee-Mees saved up and unleashed their first piece of vinyl on the world in late 1976, though it sported a 1977 date, as not to seem too “last year’s model.” The Live From The Basement EP stands as one of the crudest, most mind-boggling Midwestern D.I.Y. rock slabs of the original punk era. Plans for more records followed, but a lack of funds, marriages, jobs and other real-life stuff got in the way. The Mee-Mees stayed silent for most of the 80s, but enjoyed a resurgence starting in the early 90s, releasing two LPs and a string of 7-inchers on several different labels. Wowing even the most hipper-than-thou fanzine and indie-band folks, the Mee-Mees had more fans than ever.

Jon had moved from Ferguson to Topeka, KS shortly after the release of their first album in 1992, but they continued to record new material on his holiday visits back to St. Louis. Starting in the early 2000s, Slippy Town and then Gulcher Records helped bring even more attention to their music with several reissues and collections of unreleased material. In 2007, Gulcher released what would be the last “new” Mee-Mees album, Plastic Hong Kong Doorbell Finger. Affirming there is still an audience for the Mee-Mees, Rerun Records released two cassette/CDR releases just this year, with many more to follow from Bruce’s vast basement archives. Gulcher Records is also reissuing the two Mee-Mees 90s LPs on compact disc, remastered from the original tapes.

Diagnosed with bone marrow cancer in 2002, Jon wasn’t about to leave this world without a fight. After ten years, it finally got the best of him. Never giving up on playing the music he loved, Jon had a new, Topeka-based musical duo during the last few years called the Don’t Wait Arounds. A CDR-EP and other new recordings proved he hadn’t lost his sense of humor or mellowed with age. Jon Ashline was a one-of-a-kind and will be greatly missed. If there’s an afterlife, we’re sure he’s keeping time for Captain Beefheart or jamming with other fallen heroes.

–Jason Ross, Rerun Records

below check out some of our favorite screamin’ mee mees tracks. rest in punk, jon ashline.

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