NIGHT LIFE : THE CLUB SCENE : Down and Dirty : * The Mudheads, who got together 1 1/2 years ago, like to play acoustic songs in a band format.

The Firesign Theatre was probably the funniest comedy group of all time. In the early ‘70s, its album “Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Pass Me the Pliers” featured a pair of characters called Porgy and Mudhead. Naturally, Ventura’s Mudheads didn’t get their name from the Firesign Theatre. The band members are too young to remember the Firesign Theatre. So much for that story.

“When I was going to Ventura College, I took this American Indian history class from Joyce Evans,” drummer Bill Boland said in a recent interview. “And we learned about these guys called Mudheads--they were really cool. They were sort of priest clowns or priest comedians from the Hopi and Zuni tribes.”

“Check it out,” said singer/guitarist Bill Coffey. “We’ve got a drummer that can read.”

In fact, all of them can read.


“Bill, myself and Dave Ragsdale all met at San Bonaventure High School. I didn’t even pick up a guitar until I was a senior,” Coffey recalled. Then they met Luke McAuliffe; “we’ve only been together as a band for about a year and a half. Boland is a communications major and Ragsdale is an English major--both go to UCSB. I do too, but I’m not going this quarter.”

Since Santa Barbara’s Toad the Wet Sprocket was recently signed by Columbia Records, the local buzz is that the Mudheads may be next. They put on a very impressive live show--people dance and everything. During a recent three-band bill at Charlie’s in Ventura, the whole place erupted into a chant of “Mudheads! Mudheads! Mudheads!” and brought the band back for an encore. Pretty unusual for a bar.

Coffey has this classic rock ‘n’ roll voice, clear and strong, and harmonizes perfectly with guitarist McAuliffe, while Ragsdale, resplendent in his Dodger hat, shreds on bass and Boland beats the hell out of the drums.

“We sort of play acoustic songs in a band format,” said Coffey, the chief songwriter. “I’d like to do this so we wouldn’t have to work anymore. I just want to write good songs--good songs, that’s the main thing.”

And there’s a bunch of good songs on the band’s recent tape, “P.U. Ideas.” “One Voice,” “Empty Bottles” and the title tune, “Picking Up Ideas” have more hooks than the pier in August and will live in your head for days on end.

“The tape made money; we sold about 400 copies so far, so we’ll definitely do it again,” Coffey said.

Certainly the troubadour type, Coffey often performs an acoustic set with his pal Matt Shulte, lately the brain behind the Crashing Plains. Anyway, they compare favorably to the Everly Brothers. Really. Using an organic sound system (as in acoustic and no electricity), the duo recently played the Clock Tower in Ventura during Friday Happy Hour, serving as a backdrop for business types crying over big real estate deals that got away.

“Anyway, we were playing away when the bartender came by and told us, ‘Hey, can you guys keep it down?’ We decided that was enough for that place,” Coffey said.

The Mudheads cite influences such as Eric Clapton, Bob Marley, X, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Flying Burrito Brothers and King Sunny Ade.

The Mudheads will be at Charlie’s this evening along with that singing landscaper, Spencer the Gardener.