Artful Dodger - Biography
Artful Dodger were a Virginian rock band who mixed the typical power pop influences of Badfinger and The Raspberries to which they added a harder rock edge. Despite critical acclaim, their popularity was mainly limited to working class towns in the Great Lakes Region, especially Cleveland.
Gary Herrewig (guitar), Billy Paliselli (vocals), Gary Cox (guitar and vocals), Steve Cooper (bass) and Steve Brigida (drums) formed Brat in 1973, born out of the two Fairfax bands, Badge and Homestead. The group's first release was a self-produced single, "Not Quite Right" b/w "Long Time Away." After its release, Cox traveled to New York City to shop around a demo and in time the band were signed to Columbia. Since there was already another band going by the same name, Brat became Artful Dodger.
Their first album was the Jack Douglas-produced Artful Dodger (1975 Columbia), released in September. Against some objections, the label chose the Cox-penned, “Silver and Gold.” Though a lovely ballad, it wasn’t as typical of the band’s sound as some of the harder tracks. Their second album, Honor among Thieves (1976 Columbia) followed in August, this time co-produced by Douglas and Eddie Leonetti. Despite more positive reviews and a high profile spot opening for KISS, it also failed to sell well. October's Babes on Broadway (1977 Columbia) was produced exclusively by Eddie Leonetti, as Douglas focused on the debut of a similar sounding but much more successful power pop act, Cheap Trick. After another commercial failure, Artful Dodger’s contract expired and Cox left the band.
The band soldiered on and, in 1979, guitarist/keyboardist Peter Bonta (ex-The Nighthawks and Rosslyn Mountain Boys) joined the struggling band. The following year they signed to Ariola recorded and self-produced Rave On (1980 Ariola), which was released in July. It also failed to ignite the charts and afterward, Paliselli quit, prompting the rest of the band to break-up. Cooper and Brigida went on to join Jeff Smith in The Band of Steves. Bonta opened a recording studio, Wally Cleaver' and engineered and played on solo projects by his former bandmates Gary Herrewig (the unreleased Four Gone Conclusions), Billy Paliselli and Gary Cox (a set of country songs that never made it past the demo stage).
In 1991, the band briefly reunited to play a series of reunion shows in Ohio. Artful Dodger reunited once again play celebrate the Cleveland Agora's in 2005 and 2006 as well as the Taste of Cleveland. More Agora performances followed in 2008 and 2009 — the latter recorded live but not yet released.