The names Tenafly and Leonia don’t exactly evoke the musical image of Nashville or Liverpool. But out of those affluent New Jersey suburbs has come a new brand of country rock, and the source—a band which calls itself Quacky Duck and His Barnyard Friends—sounds like a line of bathtub toys.
Quacky Duck signed a $75,000 Warner Bros, contract in the midst of last fall’s vinyl shortage, expects to release a single from its first album, Media Push, and is planning a 20-city tour this summer. (Because the record business is nothing if not derivative, at least three other outfits with ducklike names have appeared.)
It certainly didn’t hurt, but the Quacky Ducks claim it didn’t help that the daddy of two members of the sextet is balladeer Tony Bennett. “I’ve always insisted no one know me as their father,” says Bennett, 47. “I like them a lot musically and they have done it all on their own.” Obviously far from Tony’s middle-of-the-road style, they play an inventive blend of rock, upbeat country, swing and ’50s music—or sometimes just spoof the whole spectrum. They parody other groups, like the Rolling Stones, but at times indulge themselves in puerile in-jokes best left in the barnyard. “We just aren’t into this ‘I’m-an-artist-so-I-gotta-suffer’ trip,” says bassist Curt Fried. In order to forestall any suffering, the six members have just settled communally into a pair of country cabins on a lake in wooded central New Jersey, still occasionally subsidized by checks from home.
The Ducks, now 17 to 22, have known each other since childhood. “Every kid who had a guitar was in a band,” says Gordon Javna. “Most petered out, though, or went to college. We must have been the only ones left, so we-got together about two years ago.” Their parents, like Tony Bennett, have been proud of the kids’ triumph. One exception is the father of Dave Mansfield, 17, the group’s gifted pedal steel guitarist and fiddle player. His dad, Newton Mansfield, a first violinist with the New York Philharmonic, though pleased with the success, is dubious about the genre. “He always tells me,” reports Dave, “that I have the arms, fingers and feel of a classicist.”
The group’s name, members say, is a testimony to their childhood love of Daffy Duck cartoons. “Donald Duck was just too straight, man,” Mansfield says. “Daffy was really off the wall. The name fits us: loose, happy, a little goofy.”