LOOKING TOUGH IN A BLUE DENIM Megadeth jacket, the guitarist launches the quartet into an unusual punk song called “Menopause.” “Runnin’ hot, runnin’ cold/I’m sick and tired of growin’ old,” the singer wails. After a set of original punk ditties, including “Golf Cart Drivers from Hell,” “I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up” and “Aches, Pains and Capital Gains,” it becomes as obvious as the drummer’s wattles that these punks truly are what they claim to be: One Foot in the Grave.
The geezer group, with 247 years on the planet among them, is believed to be the first rock band ever to come out of Sun City, Ariz., the retirement community where all four members gather to rehearse. One Foot in the Grave was formed in 1988 after lead singer Jo Dina, 51, a mortician’s daughter and retired embalmer, went looking for action in Phoenix punk clubs. There she absorbed a lot of punk screaming, felt vaguely refreshed and decided to give it a try herself. After all, she reasoned, “Hey, I can’t sing too.”
Indeed, so well did she sing badly that she was able to recruit guitarist Danny Walters, 74, a former arranger for Lawrence Welk; drummer Gino Costa, 74, and the whipper-snapper of the group, keyboardist Gavan Wieser, 48.
Today, Jo Dina’s happy undertaking is beginning to reap rewards. A growing attraction at clubs and jams, One Foot in the Grave has produced a demo tape in hopes of landing a recording contract. And the group has already earned a niche on a local radio station playlist devoted to alternative music.
“I have a different outlook on life and a different sense of humor,” says Jo Dina, “because I’m an ex-funeral director and embalmer. I know when you’re born you have one foot in the grave all the time. So you kind of look at life and say, ‘Hey, this might be my last minute. Let’s have fun!’ ”
In fact the band’s real appeal may lie more in its crazed sense of humor than its equally skewed sense of rhythm. Playing to kids 21 or 71 has been a rush, Walters says: “People want to touch us when we’re through.” Jo Dina compares the group’s appeal to another rock novelty act. One Foot in the Grave is “like the Monkees,” she says, “only just the opposite.”