Stress Jingle #19: The Tinklers

The Tinklers are the duo of Charles Brohawn and Chris Mason, both of whom sing, play guitar, and percussion instruments (including cigar boxes, spoons, and other types of junk). Both members are also actively engaged in other mediums including visual art and books. Although the first Tinklers album did not come out until 1990, the roots of the band are in the mid-'70s performance art scene in their native Baltimore.

Their music has a weird, spellbinding quality, with half-sung, half-spoken vocals over sparse and rudimentar instrumentation, and topics covering everything from James Brown and outer space to advice about not putting your fingers in the fan. Early Tinklers gigs usually took place at art galleries at which Brohawn's paintings and drawings were on display. An early project was called "The Tinkler's History of the World": Brohawn and Mason constructed a 50-foot-long time line and performed while walking along it, stopping at various points and performing songs related to that moment in history.

Longtime admirers and friends Half Japanese sent some tapes to legendary producer Kramer at Shimmy Disc, and soon enough, with Don Fleming on guitar and Kramer on keyboards, 'Casserole' was recorded in two days. The album featured 38 songs, nearly a third of them under a minute long and only a handful breaking the two-minute barrier. The band would release three more records - 'Saplings', 'Crash' and 'Slowpoke'. Throughout 2006 and 2007, director Brian J. Averill followed the duo and interviewed their friends creating the documentary "Everybody Loves The Tinklers."

Charles Brohawn of the Tinklers has recorded a series of Station Id's for


"Ten years ago in Baltimore, the part-hippie, part post-punk Tinklers were emblematic of the energetic happenings in a town where you did little things like make art to keep from going crazy."
Rick Sugden, Chemical Imbalance, 1990