Essentials

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Fronted by female vocalist Deeme Katson, Essentials was a melodic, tuneful alternative pop-rock/adult alternative/indie rock band that was active in the Washington, DC area in the late ‘80s and early…
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Fronted by female vocalist Deeme Katson, Essentials was a melodic, tuneful alternative pop-rock/adult alternative/indie rock band that was active in the Washington, DC area in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Essentials, whose sound could be described as a combination of 10,000 Maniacs and ‘Til Tuesday, was little known nationally. But the five-member band (which shouldn't be confused with a Florida punk band called the Essentials) did manage to create a buzz in Washington, DC and its suburbs. Essentials was formed in the late ‘80s, when lead singer Katson (a charming, expressive artist with a girlish voice) got together with John Jennings (electric guitar), Bo Eckard (electric bass), Shep Williams (keyboards) and Mike Marzullo (drums). With that lineup in place, Essentials became quite active on the DC scene and also did their share of club gigs in other northeastern cities. It was in 1990 that Essentials entered a studio in Springfield, VA and recorded their debut album, Beguiled, which employed Mary Chapin Carpenter and DC singer/songwriter Mike Cotter as background vocalists. Jennings did most of the producing, while Williams served as executive producer. With Beguiled, Essentials took the proactive approach--instead of waiting to get signed by either a major or independent label, they released the CD on their own label, Potomac Disk (Potomac as in the Potomac River). Unfortunately, Beguiled was plagued by limited distribution; some CD stores accepted the release, while others didn't. And back in 1990, Essentials didn't have the Internet to use as a promotional tool; these days, an indie rock band like Essentials would be able to use the Internet to promote itself aggressively. Along the way, Essentials' members won a few awards from the Washington Area Music Association (WAMA), which holds the Wammies (a local DC version of the Grammies) annually. In 1989, Katson won a Wammie for "Best Local Female Pop/Rock Vocalist." Then, Essentials was named "Best Local Pop/Rock Group" twice--first in 1991, then in 1992. Unfortunately, Essentials' first album turned out to be its last; in 1994, the band broke up. Katson went on to sing lead for a Washington, DC-based band called Groovy, which has a strong world music influence and shouldn't be confused with an electronica/ambient act that has the same name.