Musician redefines old-time rock 'n' roll
Posted Oct. 13, 2006

Kelly Rivas

On the California leg of his “Cheap Liquor” tour, Ted Wulfers performs at The Press Restaurant in Claremont on Oct. 6. Wulfers offered a combination of cover songs and some of his own. Seen here playing his composition, “S.W.E.L.L.,” Wulfers went on to play a song by the Traveling Wilburys, which he said was about “scoundrels like me in the music business.”

From the toes of his white snakeskin boots purchased in Nashville to the prescription shades he donned at night, Ted Wulfers personified classic American rock ‘n’ roll onstage at The Press Restaurant in Claremont Friday, sharing musical tales accumulated from countless adventures on the road.

“I’ve lived in so many states over the last few weeks, I don’t even know if I’m American anymore,” Wulfers said.

Living the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle to the fullest, he has trekked highways across the country like a rolling stone, basking in the thrill of new places, faces and ears to share his music with while journeying towards fame.

Various recording studios have also become second homes to Wulfers, a self-proclaimed workaholic, road dog and “fish out of water without music.”

“At the end of the day it’s my job to bring joy to the world and make people happy instead of just looking at my shoes and complaining about an ex-girlfriend all night, like so many other bands are doing these days,” Wulfers said. “I really feel that it’s what I’m here to do on the planet.”

Playing old-time Americana that soothed the soul and abiding by the written musings of Mark Twain, he has frequently merged fact with fiction while putting pen to paper – chronicling his rock cowboy-inspired escapades through song and “keeping the beat with rock ‘n’ roll company.”

“I try to write for the song and not the genre or the time period we have to be in,” Wulfers said. “I’ll probably never fit into a fad; I write for me and the experience.”

The restaurant became an expanded stage as he ran between tables and chairs, strumming a honky-tonk riff on his guitar and ultimately creating the facade of a full-blown concert.

Clothes were shed, drinks were spilled and dances were had as Wulfers created southern harmony, performing a mood-elevating mix of alt-country rock with a twangy Chicagoan vibe akin to the simplistic depth of Tom Petty, Warren Zevon and Bob Dylan.

He sang several tracks from his newest release “Cheap Liquor,” including “S.W.E.L.L,” a story of love, alcohol and “a match made in heaven, if heaven were a bar.”

Born in Chicago, Wulfers’ tuneful dreams began at the age of three with the piano.

Falling in love with media notions of the infamous rock star fantasy during his teenage years, he picked up guitar and attempted the musician reality.

Seemingly born to rock, the open highway beckoned his name, inspiring him to abandon college aspirations as a junior at Denison University in Ohio for the school of hard knocks.

“This is the last business where you can legally be a pirate,” Wulfers said. “The van, bus, or plane is the ship, and you travel the seas to wherever life brings you.”

Twelve years, 500-plus songs and four stylistically distinctive albums later, Wulfers is on a gritty assignment to salvage rock ‘n’ roll.

Stressing the “roll” in the genre, his music has always embodied a rockin’ good time. He returns to the folkloric days of rock with his latest release, a feel-good, get-up-and-shake-it album.

“I just wanted to put out a really fun, kick your ass rock ‘n’ roll record that would fit jukeboxes and car stereos really well and get people drinking, stomping their feet and having a good time, rather than wallowing in their miseries,” Wulfers said.

Wulfers said he planned to travel as far as his music would carry him, playing hundreds of show dates and releasing new material every 18 months.

“I’m not asking for the cover of Rolling Stone or Time Magazine,” Wulfers said. “I just want to spread a little love and joy to a bunch of different people every time I come to town. I’m not in this for the awards or to sell 10 million albums; I’m just here to make music.”

Even while performing with the sole-companionship of a guitar, his stage antics resembled those of a full-band show. Emulating trumpet and slide guitar sounds and creating the illusion of rhythmic drumbeats with several taps to his microphone, he satisfied both new and old fans.

“With every Wulfers song, you get real honesty; you can always tell what he was feeling when he wrote the song,” Tom Beach, a high school friend and longtime fan, said.

 “He has the ability to infuse old music with new music and has an eclectic, unique style,” Ethel Acohon, a sociology major at Scripps College added.

Wulfers, a rock ‘n’ roller for the long haul, said he hoped his music would surpass his legacy.

“I’m happy to carry the torch that has been passed down to me by previous people who’ve cherished that wonderful thing called rock ‘n’ roll,” Wulfers said. “I know these songs are going to be here a long time after I’m gone.”

For upcoming show dates visit

Jessica Bell can be reached at

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