10,000 Maniacs

10,000 Maniacs is an American alternative rock band that was founded in 1981. They have released nine studio albums, six EPs and five live albums. They achieved their most significant success between 1987 and 1993, when they released four albums that charted in the top 50 in the US: In My Tribe (1987), Blind Man's Zoo (1989), Our Time in Eden (1992) and the live album MTV Unplugged (1993). After the recording but before the release of MTV Unplugged, original lead singer and main songwriter Natalie Merchant left the band to pursue a solo career. She was replaced by Mary Ramsey, who was the lead singer from 1993 to 2001 and then from 2007 to the present.

10,000 Maniacs
10,000 Maniacs original band (excluding original member John Lombardo): L to R: Rob Buck, Steve Gustafson, Natalie Merchant, Dennis Drew and Jerome Augustyniak
Background information
OriginJamestown, New York, United States
GenresAlternative rock, college rock
Years active1981–present
LabelsChristian Burial, Elektra, Geffen, Bar/None, Cleopatra, Omnivore
Associated actsR.E.M., John & Mary, Natalie Merchant, The Mighty Wallop!, Oskar Saville
Past members
  • Rob Buck
  • Chet Cardinale
  • Teri Newhouse
  • Natalie Merchant
  • Kevin (Dev) O’Neill
  • Tim Edborg
  • Jim Calavitta
  • Debbie Heverly
  • Duane Calhoun
  • Kerry Van Patten
  • Bob "O'Matic" Wachter
  • Jim Foti
  • Oskar Saville



Natalie Merchant as lead singer in 1984

The band was formed as Still Life in 1981 in Jamestown, New York, by Dennis Drew (keyboards), Steven Gustafson (bass), Chet Cardinale (drums), Robert Buck (guitar and Newhouse's ex-husband) and Teri Newhouse (vocalist and Buck's ex-wife). Gustafson invited Natalie Merchant, who was 17 at the time, to do some vocals. John Lombardo, who was in a band named The Mills (along with brother guitarist/vocalists Mark Liuzzo and Paul Liuzzo and drummer Mike Young) and used to play occasionally with Still Life, was invited to join permanently on guitar and vocals. Newhouse and Cardinale left the band in July, and Merchant became the main singer. Various drummers came and left. The band changed its name to Burn Victims and then to 10,000 Maniacs after the low-budget horror movie Two Thousand Maniacs!.[1]

They performed as 10,000 Maniacs for the first time on Labor Day, September 7, 1981, with a line-up of Merchant, Lombardo, Buck, Drew, Gustafson, and Tim Edborg on drums. Edborg left and Bob "Bob O Matic" Wachter was on drums for most of the 1981 gigs. Tired of playing cover songs—though their first notable American hit was a cover of the Cat Stevens hit "Peace Train"—the band started to write their own music, usually with Merchant handling the lyrics and Lombardo the music. In March 1982, with Jim Foti on drums, the band recorded an EP album titled Human Conflict Number Five. More gigs followed in 1982. During this time they lived in Atlanta, Georgia for a short period at the encouragement of friends who said that many gigs were available there. Discouraged by the lack of actual gigs, and by having to sell plasma and rake leaves to buy food, the band moved back to Jamestown in November 1982 to regroup.

John Lombardo

At the beginning of 1983, Jerry Augustyniak joined the band as their permanent drummer. The Maniacs met Augustyniak when they played in Buffalo, New York, where he was in a punk band named The Stains. Between March and July, the band recorded songs for a second record, Secrets of the I Ching, their debut full-length album, which was pressed by Mark Records for the band's own label Christian Burial Music. The record was well received by critics and caught the attention of respected BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel in London. One song, "My Mother the War", turned out to be a minor hit in the United Kingdom and entered the independent singles chart. The band toured extensively during 1983 and 1984, and played gigs in the UK.

Peter Leak, an Englishman living in New York City, became interested in the band, made contact and was made their manager. With the help of Leak and Elektra Records A & R man Howard Thompson, 10,000 Maniacs signed to Elektra in November 1984. In the spring of 1985, they recorded their second full-length album, The Wishing Chair, in London at Livingston Studios, with Joe Boyd as producer. Though the album was not a blockbuster hit, its status as the band's major label debut did win it some notice, and it received significant critical acclaim.

Co-founder Lombardo left 10,000 Maniacs during a rehearsal on July 14, 1986. The remaining five members started recording a new album in Los Angeles with Peter Asher as the producer. In My Tribe, a more pop-rock oriented record, was released on July 7, 1987. The album stayed on the charts for 77 weeks, peaking at No. 37, and established a large U.S. audience for the group. It was also well received in the UK. The album originally contained "Peace Train". It was removed from subsequent pressings after Cat Stevens (now Yusuf Islam) made comments implying he agreed with a death Fatwa against author Salman Rushdie.

10,000 Maniacs' next album, 1989's Blind Man's Zoo, hit No. 13 and went gold, further increasing the group's following. In May 1989, the British music magazine NME reported that 10,000 Maniacs had won the songwriter category prize at the New York Music Awards.[2] In 1990, with the help of Lombardo, they remastered their first two records, Human Conflict Number Five and Secrets of the I Ching, and released them as a compilation named Hope Chest: The Fredonia Recordings 1982–1983. Lombardo and Mary Ramsey, who had formed a folk act named John & Mary, opened gigs for the Maniacs on the Hope Chest Tour in 1990.

In 1991, during the recordings of a new album, Merchant revealed to the other members that she would be leaving 10,000 Maniacs for a solo career in two years' time. The new album, Our Time in Eden, was released on September 29, 1992.[3] In 1993, the band performed at the MTV Inaugural Ball for President Clinton in January and on MTV Unplugged on April 21. Merchant announced her departure from the band on MTV on August 5, 1993, saying she "didn't want art by committee anymore."[4] The MTV Unplugged album was released on October 26, 1993.[5] "The last 10,000 Maniacs gig was the first time I'd got drunk in nearly two years," Merchant later recalled. "I laughed a lot and threw lots of flowers out of the hotel window."[6]


Steve Gustafson

In late 1993/early 1994, the remaining members of 10,000 Maniacs (Augustyniak, Buck, Drew and Gustafson) asked John & Mary to join the band. The revamped band began performing new material almost immediately, initially calling themselves John & Mary, Rob, Steve, Dennis, & Jerry; then they were able to legally regain control of the 10,000 Maniacs name. 10,000 Maniacs released two albums with Ramsey on vocals. In 1997, they released Love Among the Ruins on Geffen Records, from which their cover of the Roxy Music song "More Than This" became a moderate hit, and followed up in 1999 with The Earth Pressed Flat on Bar/None.

In December 1998, Buck took some time off from the band, moving to Texas to focus on a new project named League of Blind Women. 10,000 Maniacs recruited Buffalo-based Michael Lee Jackson of the band Animal Planet to step into the lead guitar role. Buck returned to the band in the summer of 1999. On November 3, 2000, 10,000 Maniacs played with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra in Buffalo, New York. It was the last concert they performed with Buck. On December 19, 2000, Buck died of liver failure at the age of 42.[7] He was buried in the Mission Covenant Church Cemetery in Sugar Grove, Pennsylvania.

Following Buck's death, 10,000 Maniacs took a break. Gustafson and Drew, with Jeff Erickson, started a band named The Mighty Wallop!. Augustyniak joined a band named Only Humen. On December 5, 2001, a 10,000 Maniacs line-up comprising Gustafson, Drew, Augustyniak, Lombardo and Ramsey played a benefit concert in Toronto, with Buck's former guitar technician, Erickson, on lead guitar.


Dennis Drew

In 2002, Gustafson, Drew, and Augustyniak decided that they wished to continue 10,000 Maniacs with a new lead singer. Lombardo showed up at the first band practice, found out that the band had hired Erickson to play lead guitar and Oskar Saville of the Chicago-based band Rubygrass to sing, and quit the band. This lineup toured sporadically between 2002 and 2006, playing at various festivals.

On January 27, 2004, Elektra/Asylum/Rhino Records released Campfire Songs: The Popular, Obscure and Unknown Recordings, a two-CD set compilation, with 31 digitally remastered songs, four of them demos and one unreleased. The second disc contained B-sides and outtakes throughout the band's career up to that point, including many covers. Jackson Browne's "These Days" and Tom Waits' "I Hope That I Don't Fall in Love with You" were among those included.

In 2006, John & Mary formed a folk-rock band named the Valkyries. John & Mary & the Valkyries are composed of several longtime Buffalo music scene stalwarts. Ramsey rejoined the current edition of the band for several dates in 2006, playing viola and singing backing vocals. Saville left in 2007, and Ramsey regained the lead vocalist spot.


10,000 Maniacs in 2019 in Rochester, Minnesota

The band—consisting of Augustyniak, Drew, Erickson, Gustafson and Ramsey—remained active, playing shows throughout the United States. In June 2011, the band released the EP Triangles on its own label, Ruby Wristwatch Records. The band celebrated its 30th anniversary in October 2011 with two sold-out concerts at the Scharmann Theater on the campus of Jamestown Community College. The band spent most of 2012 recording a new full-length album at their studio in Jamestown, New York. In February 2013, they released the album, titled Music from the Motion Picture.

Former drummer Robert Wachter died on March 26, 2013 at the age of 49 due to a long illness.[8][9]

Twice Told Tales, an album of traditional British Isles covers, was released on April 28, 2015, on Cleopatra Records.[10] Founding member John Lombardo was brought back into the fold as creative director and to play guitar on the album and following tour. 10,000 Maniacs released its live album Playing Favorites on June 3, 2016, their first live album with Mary Ramsey on lead vocals.

Band members




Studio albums
Year Album details Peak chart positions Certifications
(sales thresholds)
1983 Secrets of the I Ching
1985 The Wishing Chair
1987 In My Tribe 37
1989 Blind Man's Zoo 13 84 18
1992 Our Time in Eden 28 171 33
  • RIAA: 2× Platinum[15]
1997 Love Among the Ruins 104 200
1999 The Earth Pressed Flat
2013 Music from the Motion Picture
2015 Twice Told Tales
Extended plays
Year Album details Peak chart positions Certifications
(sales thresholds)
1993 MTV Unplugged 13 190 40
  • RIAA: 3× Platinum[15]
2006 Live Twenty-Five
2009 Extended Versions
2016 Playing Favorites
2017 Live at the Belly Up
1990Hope Chest: The Fredonia Recordings 1982–1983
1994The Unplugged Collection, Volume One
2004Campfire Songs: The Popular, Obscure and Unknown RecordingsAUS No. 337,[12] UK No. 192[13]


Year Single Peak chart positions Album
US Hot100
US Alt
US Main
1984 "My Mother the War" Secrets of the I Ching
1985 "Can't Ignore the Train" The Wishing Chair
"Scorpio Rising"
"Just as the Tide was a Flowing"
1987 "Don't Talk" In My Tribe
"Peace Train"
1988 "Like the Weather" 68 37
"What's the Matter Here?" 80 9
1989 "Trouble Me" 44 3 20 7 102 31 77 Blind Man's Zoo
"Eat for Two" 12 93
"You Happy Puppet"
"Poison in the Well"
1992 "These Are Days" 66 1 34 151 35 58 Our Time in Eden
"Candy Everybody Wants" 67 5 174 71 47
1993 "Few and Far Between" 95
"Everyday Is Like Sunday" 22 Candy Everybody Wants
"Because the Night" 11 7 9 190 10 65 MTV Unplugged
1997 "More Than This" 25 94 11 87 Love Among the Ruins
"Rainy Day"
1999 "Beyond the Blue" The Earth Pressed Flat
"—" denotes releases that did not chart

Other releases

2000"(I'm Always Touched by Your) Presence, Dear"Digital download provided through Reciprocal for $1.50. Studio cover version of a Blondie song from around 1995.[21]
2000"Rainy Day (live)"Digital download provided through Reciprocal for $1.50. Live acoustic performance from Fredonia Opera House in 1998.[21]
2000"Stockton Gala Days (live)"Digital download provided through Reciprocal for $1.50. Live acoustic performance from Fredonia Opera House in 1998.[21]
2000"Rainy Day (live)"Digital download provided through Reciprocal for $1.50. Live acoustic performance from Fredonia Opera House in 1998.[21]
2013"Sweetest Gift"Digital download provided through PledgeMusic to those who supported the pledge for Music from the Motion Picture. The song was recorded for the album but was not included.
2013Music from the Motion Picture Alternate MixesDigital download provided through PledgeMusic during the drive to support Music from the Motion Picture for $45. All songs from the original album provided with alternate mixes.[22]
2013Music from the Motion Picture Sing-A-Long Mixes' Digital download provided through PledgeMusic during the drive to support Music from the Motion Picture for $30. All songs from the original album except for "Chautauqua Moon" provided in a karaoke format with limited backing vocals.[22]
2015Twice Told Tales Alt/Early Mixes/TakesDigital download provided through PledgeMusic during the drive to support Twice Told Tales exclusively available in the producer package. All songs from the original album except for "Lady Mary Ramsey", "The Song of Wandering Aengus", "Bonny May", "Greenwood Sidey", and "Lady Mary Ramsay II."



1985The Tube10,000 ManiacsPerformed "Can't Ignore the Train" and "My Mother the War"
1985Music Convoy10,000 ManiacsMimed "Grey Victory"
1987The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson10,000 ManiacsPerformed "Peace Train" and "Don't Talk"
1987Late Night with David LettermanNatalie Merchant and Rob BuckPerformed "Don't Talk" with the house band; this version of the song has some alternate lyrics at the end
1988Saturday Night Live10,000 ManiacsAired 27 February 1988; performed "Peace Train" and "Like The Weather"
1988Wired10,000 Maniacs
1988The White Room10,000 ManiacsPerformed "Don't Talk" and "Like the Weather"
1989MTV Unplugged10,000 ManiacsFirst appearance
1989The Big Al Show10,000 ManiacsPerformed "Headstrong"
1989The Arsenio Hall Show10,000 ManiacsPerformed "Eat For Two" and "Poison in the Well"
1989Late Night with David LettermanNatalie Merchant and Rob BuckPerformed "Trouble Me" with the house band
1989The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson10,000 ManiacsGuest Host: Jay Leno; performed "Trouble Me" and "Eat For Two"
1989One Hour With Jonathan RossNatalie MerchantPerformed "Verdi Cries"
1990The Word10,000 ManiacsPerformed "The Latin One"
1990Earth Day Rally10,000 Maniacs (minus Dennis Drew)Performed "What's the Matter Here?", "Dust Bowl" and "A Campfire Song" (with Michael Stipe); Merchant later performed "Get Together" with The Indigo Girls, Woody Harrelson and Stipe
1992Saturday Night Live10,000 ManiacsAired October 31, 1992; performed "These Are Days" and "Candy Everybody Wants"
1992Late Night with David LettermanNatalie Merchant, Rob Buck and Dennis DrewAired November 19, 1992; performed "Few and Far Between" with the house band
1992The Tonight Show with Jay Leno10,000 ManiacsPerformed "These Are Days"
1992Live with Regis and Kathie Lee10,000 ManiacsPerformed "How You've Grown"
1992/1993MTV Drops the Ball10,000 ManiacsPerformed "These Are Days" and "Candy Everybody Wants"
1993MTV Unplugged10,000 ManiacsFirst artist to make second appearance
1993The Arsenio Hall Show10,000 Maniacs
1993The Tonight Show with Jay Leno10,000 ManiacsPerformed "Candy Everybody Wants" and "How You've Grown"
1993Late Night with David Letterman10,000 ManiacsPerformed "Stockton Gala Days"
1993Rock and Roll Inaugural Ball10,000 ManiacsPerformed "These Are Days", "Candy Everybody Wants" (with Michael Stipe) and "To Sir With Love" (with Stipe)
1993The Today Show 10,000 Maniacs
1993Late Show with David LettermanNatalie Merchant and Rob BuckPerformed "Because the Night"; introduced as Natalie Merchant as she had already left the band
1997Showbiz Today10,000 ManiacsPerformed "Rainy Day", "Even With My Eyes Closed", "Big Star" and "More Than This"
1997Live with Regis and Kathie Lee10,000 ManiacsPerformed "More Than This"
1997Sabrina, the Teenage Witch (1996 TV series)10,000 ManiacsMimed "Rainy Day" on the episode "A River of Candy Corn Runs Through It"
1997The RuPaul Show10,000 ManiacsPerformed "Rainy Day"
2014Indy Style TV[23]10,000 ManiacsPerformed "More Than This" and "These Are Days"
2015WGN 9 News [24]10,000 ManiacsPerformed "Canadee-I-O", "Lady Mary Ramsey" and "More Than This"
2015Talk of the TownMary Ramsey, Savannah King and Joey MollandPerformed "Sweet Tuesday Morning"
2015Talk of the Town10,000 ManiacsMay 7
2015AM Buffalo[25]John Lombardo and Mary RamseyPerformed "Canadee-I-O"


  1. Deusner, Stephen (May 12, 2014). "Natalie Merchant: "When I talk to friends who have creative lives and children, we commiserate about all the time we wasted in our youth"". Salon.
  2. Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. p. 456. CN 5585.
  3. 10,000 Maniacs, Our Time in Eden. allmusic.com. Retrieved 2013-05-08.
  4. Hajari, Nisid (1995-07-21). "Naturally Merchant". EW.com. Retrieved 2011-10-02.
  5. 10,000 Maniacs, MTV Unplugged. allmusic.com. Retrieved 2013-05-08.
  6. 'Q Questionnaire': Q, January 1994, p154
  7. Basham, David (2000-12-20). "10,000 Maniacs Guitarist Rob Buck Dies Of Liver Failure – Music, Celebrity, Artist News". MTV.com. Retrieved 2013-02-27.
  8. Robert J. Wachter (1963–2013) Obituary, Legacy.com, Retrieved 2015-06-25
  9. 10000 Maniacs Biography, Billboard.com, Retrieved 2015-06-25
  10. "Cleopatra Records | 10,000 Maniacs Announce Official Release Date Of Their New Album And Offer A Sneak Peek!". Cleorecs.com. 2015-02-12. Retrieved 2016-03-13.
  11. "10,000 Maniacs Chart History > Billboard 200". Billboard. Retrieved 2019-11-14.
  12. Australian (ARIA) chart peaks:
    • Top 100 peaks from January 1990 to December 2010: Ryan, Gavin (2011). Australia's Music Charts 1988–2010 (pdf ed.). Mt. Martha, VIC, Australia: Moonlight Publishing. p. 277.
    • All ARIA chart peaks to September 18, 2018: "10,000 Maniacs chart history, received from ARIA on September 18, 2018". Imgur.com. Retrieved 2019-06-21. N.B. The High Point number in the NAT column represents the release's peak on the national chart.
  13. UK chart peaks:
  14. "Certified Awards Search". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved on 2012-01-23. Note: User needs to enter "10000 MANIACS" in the "Search" field, "Artist" in the "Search by" field and click the "Go" button. Select "More info" next to the relevant entry to see full certification history.
  15. "Gold & Platinum Search". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved on 2013-1-25.
  16. "10,000 Maniacs Charts History > Hot 100". Billboard. Retrieved 2019-11-14.
  17. "10,000 Maniacs Charts History > Alternative Songs". Billboard. Retrieved 2019-11-14.
  18. "10,000 Maniacs Charts History > Mainstream Rock Songs". Billboard. Retrieved 2019-11-14.
  19. "10,000 Maniacs Charts History > Adult Contemporary". Billboard. Retrieved 2019-11-14.
  20. Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  21. "- – - --- – -- --- t e n · t h o u s a n d · m a n i a c s – - --- – - – ---- – -". 14 June 2000. Archived from the original on 14 June 2000.
  22. "10.000 Maniacs: Music From The Motion Picture".
  23. "10000 Maniacs Perform". Wish-Tv. 2014-07-31. Archived from the original on 2016-03-02. Retrieved 2016-03-13.
  24. "Music Lounge: 10,000 Maniacs perform live". WGN-TV. 2015-02-13. Retrieved 2016-03-13.
  25. Frank Pacella (2015-05-04). "10,000 Maniacs – Story". Wkbw.com. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2016-03-13.