Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1  (1970-73)

- John Nicholas -- vocals, bass

- Tom Nicholas -- lead vocals, guitar, keyboards

- Harry Rumpf (RIP 2003) -- vocals, guitar


  line up 2  (1973)

- Marc Bell (aka Marky Ramone) -- drums, percussion

- John Nicholas -- vocals, bass

- Tom Nicholas -- lead vocals, guitar, keyboards

- Harry Rumpf (RIP 2003) -- vocals, guitar


  line up 3  (1973-77)

- John Nicholas -- vocals, bass

- Tom Nicholas -- lead vocals, guitar, keyboards

- Harry Rumpf (RIP 2003) -- vocals, guitar




- Wayne County & the Backstreet Boys

- Dust

- Eldeberry Jak (Tom Nicholas)

- Richard Hell and the Voidoids

- King Flux

- M-80

- Marky Ramone & the Intruders

- Marky Ramone & the Speed Kinds

- Misfits

- Tom Nicholas

- Osaka Popstar and the American Legend

- Ramainz

- The Ramones (Marky Ramone)

- Teenage Head (Marky Ramone)



Genre: country-rock

Rating: *** stars

Title:  Estus

Company: Columbia

Catalog:  KC 31125

Country/State: Missouri

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: includes original inner sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 3163

Price: $75.00

Largely unknown band; largely album ... Unless you lived in Missouri during the mid-'70s, or happen to be a Ramones completist, the few folks who've heard it probably only know if due to the fact the line-up included a pre-Marky Ramone Marc Bell on drums.

Formed in Missouri, Estus featured brothers John (bass) and Tom (guitar) Nicholas, and guitarist Harry Rumpf.  John had previously recorded an album with the obscure band Elderberry Jak.  Between 1970 and 1973 Estus apparently attracted a Midwestern following, eventually attracting the attention of Columbia Records which signed them to a then sizable $100,000 recording contract.  Having gone through a number of drummers, the trio signing former Dust drummer Marc Bell prior to going into the recording studio with producer Andrew Loog Oldham.   So, a quick word of warning - anyone expecting to hear Ramones-styled punk-rock moves might want to avoid this album.  In fact, the album's most punk-ish featured might have been the cover photo showing the four distinctively unhappy members posing in the middle of a wet New York street.  With the Nicholas brothers responsible for the majority of material,  "Estus" featured an engaging mixture of country-rock and more conventional rock moves.  As a country-rock album it certainly wasn't bad.  As lead singer Tom had a nice voice with tunes like 'Goodbye' and 'In the Morning' touching  the same areas contemporaries like Poco and Pure Prairie League were riding up the charts.  To my ears the group was actually far better when they focused more on the rock part of country-rock - check out tracks like  'Inside Out You Look the Same', 'Sweet Children', and the closer 'B.M.D.'.


"Estus" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) 90 M.P.H. (Just a Poor Boy In the Country)   (Tom Nicholas) - 4:27  rating: *** stars

The lyrics and performance were pretty mundane - one of those songs where it was easy to play spot-the-influences.  That said, the performance reflected more energy than you'd expect with the 

Tom Nicholas and Harry Rumpf twin lead guitar line-up adding a nice Southern rock touch.  Columbia released the tune as a promotional single, but apparently gave up on the group before a stock copy could be released:





1973's '90 M.P.H (Just a Poor Boy In the Country)' b/w '90 M.P.H' Columbia catalog number )







2.) On the Wings   (John Nicholas -- Tom Nicholas) - 7:12   rating: **** stars

Hum, the band taking a stab at a more sophisticated mash-up of progressive and country-rock influences.  It should have been a disaster, but was actually quit enjoyable.  Would have been even better with less of Oldham's heavy orchestration.

3.) McCloud (instrumental)   (Tom Nicholas) - 2:28   rating: ** stars

Somewhat pedestrian, bluesy instrumental with lots of twin guitar work.

4.) Goodbye    (John Nicholas -- Tom Nicholas) - 5:03  rating: *** stars

'Goodbye' found the band returning to a more conventional country-rock flavor.   Sweet shuffle melody; nice harmonies ...   hard to imagine Marc wanting anything to do with this idiom.


(side 2)

1.) Inside Out You Look the Same   (John Nicholas -- Tom Nicholas) - 5:29   rating: **** stars

The title was a bit disconcerting, but 'nside Out You Look the Same' was actually one of the album's most attractive performances with the band putting the focus on the rock part of their country-rock sound.  The song also served to showcase Bell on drums.  

2.) Sweet Children   (John Nicholas) - 6:14  rating: **** stars

'Sweet Children' was easily the band's most rock oriented performance and the album's standout performance.  Shame they didn't pursue this direction for more of the album.  

3.) Truckin' Man   (John Nicholas) - 4:06    rating: ** stars

Lame Chuck Berry knockoff - lucky they didn't get sued for plagiarizing Berry.

4.) In the Morning   (Harry Rumpt) - 4:45   rating: *** stars

The lone tune written by Rumpf, 'In the Morning' was a sweet, Bread-styled ballad with some tasty slide guitar. Again, Oldham's orchestration added little to the tune, but had Columbia been paying any attention to the band, it actually would have made a nice single.

5.) B.M.D.  (John Nicholas -- Tom Nicholas) - 5:00    rating: ** stars

Not sure what to make of the oddball sound effects and the country shuffle that opened up 'B.M.D.' ...   It almost sounded like they were just looking to fill up some running time on the album.  When the song actually kicked in around the two minute mark, it sounded like something from a mid-'70s Dutch pop band.  


The album instantly flopped and with a couple of months Columbia dropped the group.  Bell subsequently quit the band, eventually earning fame as a member of Richard Hell and the Voidoids and then The Ramones.  The rest of the band returned to Missouri calling it quits in 1977 without having ever recorded a follow-up.


For anyone interested, Bell includes some information about his time with Estus in his biography Punk Rock Blitkreig: My Life As a Ramone.


Apparently written by one of Thomas' children, I  found an article that was focused on restoring the Greyhound bus the band had toured in (not making this up).   The article included an update on the band members:  


John Nicholas became General Manager for Washington D.C.'s Tower Club (described as a Gentlemen's Club). 


Thomas Nicholas turned his attention to teaching guitar and the recording side of the business, working as a Kansas city based sound engineer, focusing on commercial work.


Harry Rumpf dropped out of music, turning into a New York City office worker.  He died in 2003.


I'm not sure about it's legitimacy, but in 2015 the Liechtenstein-based Sound Hifly label reissued the album pressed on green vinyl (catalog number 8032).