Non-fishing 'Trouts' find all ages take their bait

January 27, 1994|By Steve McKerrow | Steve McKerrow,Staff Writer

When he was about 11, recalls Ezra Idlet, he'd sit in his house off Mount Royal Avenue, blasting a Kingston Trio album out the windows and rhythmically playing along on a snare drum he received in exchange for washing a neighbor's steps.

"My fantasy was that the Kingston Trio would come walking down Lanvale Street, and they'd hear this music coming out the window. They'd hear themselves and this incredible drummer and buy me a drum set and take me on the road with them," says the 6-foot-9 performer.

Didn't happen.

But the drum-banging boy grew up to have a musical career anyhow. And this weekend, for the first time, he performs in his home town as one-half the duo Trout Fishing In America.

The other half is 5-foot-5 Keith Grimwood, who plays a string bass considerably taller than himself.

Based in Prairieville, Ark., the pair tours the country playing concerts for both kid and adult audiences, singing original songs that sound reminiscent of Simon & Garfunkel, the Smothers Brothers and even Fraggle Rock.

Sunday's performances at Kraushaar Auditorium of Goucher College, a benefit for the Krieger Schechter Day School of Chizuk Amuno Congregation, are targeted to a youthful audience.

The concerts will include numbers from the duo's album of comic children's songs, "Big Trouble" -- and a lot of juggling, too.

"Our real strong philosophy is that a kids' show should relate not only to the kids who come to see it but adults, too," says Mr. Idlet. "We'll get really old people, college grunge rock and roll people and children -- basically what it becomes, though, is just music."

But what about that name? For an army of cultish readers, "Trout Fishing In America" is the title of a reflective, irreverent book by author Richard Brautigan.

"I've always been a big Brautigan fan," confides Mr. Grimwood in a joint telephone interview with his partner.

He read the novel in 1979, when the duo first began performing. They were moonlighting from a rock band and were in a health food store when the clerk asked the name of their act.

"I just said 'Trout Fishing In America,' thinking of the book, and he laughed," Mr. Grimwood recalls. "You know when you tell a joke and somebody laughs, you just tell it again and again."

In other words, the name just stuck.

"It seemed to fit us. There's a whimsical attitude about our music, too. The book's not about trout fishing and we're not about trout fishing, either," says the bass player. Informally, they call themselves "The Trouts."

And Mr. Brautigan approves. He has attended several concerts, the performers say.

So how did Baltimore-born Ezra Idlet hook up with Lone Star native Keith Grimwood?

After he finished Mount Royal Elementary, he and the Idlet family -- his mother, Nancy, and sister, Susan -- left Baltimore in 1964 to resettle in the Houston area.

"My dad was not around for very long. He was inspired by the beat poets and left when I was about 5 to live out on the North Beach with the rest of those guys. We were a single-parent family," says Mr. Idlet succinctly.

Interested in pursuing music, he taught himself to play guitar. In junior high he played in a Tijuana Brass-style band, the Spanish Fleas, and in high school had moved on to the rock band St. Elmo's Fire.

In the meantime, Mr. Grimwood, just out of college with classical training as a string bass player, was bowing in the back row of the Houston Symphony Orchestra. But he hung out at clubs where St. Elmo's Fire played.

"At the orchestra, there was a union lockout and we were out of work," he recalls.

"I had always enjoyed hearing this band, and it happened they needed a bass player at the time, so I joined them."

When the lockout was over and the orchestra asked him to return to work, he didn't.

"I imagined I'd go back later, but I never did . . . It just seemed like the next thing to do, the next door that opened," Mr. Grimwood explains.

The next door that opened, both musicians say, was performing for children.

"We had friends who taught school, and they thought the kids in their class would like to have a musical experience, and so we started to come in and play," Mr. Idlet says.

Their 16-inch height differential proved an attraction all by itself.

"We'd walk in and kids would laugh. Ez is so tall and I'm carrying this big bass.

"We had a lot of enthusiasm and energy and kids pick up on that," says Mr. Grimwood.

On their record label, Trout Records, the duo has won Indie awards -- the independent producers' equivalent of a Grammy -- for both the kids' album "Big Trouble" and the adult-oriented "Over the Limit."

The latter includes the Baltimore song, "Park Avenue and Tyson Street."

"We work both ends, which is something you're not supposed to do," sums up Mr. Idlet of the act's split personality. "We juggle and we do things that are directly aimed at a kids audience. Then we work an adult show with the same enthusiasm and some of the same humor, actually, and we're serious in both of them."

'Trout Fishing In America'

When: 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Sunday

Where: Kraushaar Auditorium, Goucher College

Tickets: $8

Information: (410) 486-8640

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