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Paul Cebar Looks to Tomorrow

Jan. 7, 2014
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Nearly 40 years after his first paying gig in the city, there may be no more conversationally colorful character and Milwaukee institution than Paul Cebar. Inherent in Cebar’s verbal floridity, however, is the missionary zeal of a musician whose breadth of taste manifests in his own singular style.   

The most recent manifestation of that style can be heard with his latest band Tomorrow Sound on Fine Rude Thing, the CD release of which will be fêted at Turner Hall Ballroom this Friday. The band isn’t a complete break from Cebar’s past. Only bassist Mike Fredrickson wasn’t a part of Cebar’s previous long-running combo, The Milwaukeeans. But despite those old ties, Cebar saw fit to give his new ensemble a futuristic name “to put further emphasis upon the original, forward-looking nature of our artistic project,” he says. “We’ve listened long and hard to many vintage styles, but our thrust is forward.”

Cebar’s internationally inclusive, multi-generational aesthetic comes from sources both foreign and domestic. Cebar says he finds inspiration through a process of “following my dancing feet and squinting my ears.” He adds, “Great tunes have other tunes standing beneath them. Many a library, record store and nightclub search has opened up a new seam in the musical substructure. Listening to the favorites of musical heroes also opens up new streams of possibility.”

He also credits his heritage. “My hybrid Slovak-American/Croatian-American Milwaukee boyhood filters into the music, I guess, in a high regard for working class festivity,” he says, going on to credit the diversity of Milwaukee radio during his formative years as making its mark on his artistic direction as well.

Cebar himself has been in a position for more than 30 years to influence fellow musicians by his own contributions to the city’s airwaves as well. Almost every Wednesday from 9 a.m. to noon on WMSE he plays an eclectic mix on his program “Way Back Home,” which he describes as “a chance to block out three hours of listening to whatever’s been floating my boat and share it with the hipsters, flipsters and cool-rocking mamas and daddies who tune in to turn on.” Those contributions can’t be of his own origination, however. “It is against FCC rules for a DJ to play his own music on his or her own radio show,” he explains. “Thus, I have to rely upon my colleagues at any of the fine stations in town to spread the word and sound of my actual recordings to the community.”

Though he’s been a constant on Milwaukee’s FM dial all these years, his paying work has changed plenty since his mid-’70s fledgling days. This comes at least by dint of technology. “Recording methods have gotten more flexible and, marginally, less expensive, but the value of trained and adept engineers is still a big part of the picture and cost,” Cebar says. In regards to his being an indie career all this while, he adds, “By never being signed to a major label we avoided all of the horror stories of said arrangement. But we also failed to benefit from the myriad pluses of the same, prime among them being the substantial funds spent to publicize and promote virtually every artist whom I’ve admired, emulated and, in some cases, come to know quite well.” 

Though touring costs are increasing and actual pay for the effort remains at late-’80s levels, as Cebar maintains, “I am proud of the genuine connection that we’ve made with our fans through a dedication to bringing them fresh work as often as possible.” He has pride in his and Tomorrow Sound’s endeavors, too.

He may have been around long enough to lure longtime fans, but these days he’s out to lure newcomers as well. “I might be your mama’s Paul Cebar but let us be your Tomorrow Sound. We’ll bring the flavor, the soul, the stomp and the understatement you never knew you were craving virtually to your doorstep. You owe it to you.”

Paul Cebar Tomorrow Sound play a Fine Rude Thing release show Friday, Jan. 10, at Turner Hall Ballroom with openers The Delta Routine. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. For ticket information, call 414-286-3663 or visit pabsttheater.org.


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