Santa Claus is coming to town
It’s that time of year when those who don the Santa suits are back in business. But what do they do the other 11 months of the year? Do they booze it up full time, like Art Carney in his masterful performance in the classic Twilight Zone episode? Or perhaps they just case department stores for potential heists, like Billy Bob Thornton in Bad Santa.
As for our local Santa impersonator Gary Sula Goff, currently wearing the red duds at Universal Studios, it’s his band The Last Dog and Pony Show that bides its time in the off season.
The 61-year-old Goff has been playing music all his life, growing up on the East Coast then moving to California to raise a family. His son Evan is best known as the lead singer of 8STOPS7, and over the years, the elder Goff’s own music career became more of a hobby that found him playing covers and supporting his son’s band until the arrival of Mel Grace. Through a mutual friend at Guitar Center, Goff was introduced to the Texas native and songwriter, and they immediately connected over a love of blues and soul. In short order, The Last Dog and Pony Show took form.
Age ain’t nothin’ but a number
For original live music, The Last Dog and Pony Show’s personnel are on the older side of things, with members ranging from 50 years old to older than 60 — but in many ways, that’s their secret weapon. When Goff and the gang load into venues like Sans Souci, Billy O’s and Rookees, patrons tend to expect a set of uninspired covers, but what they get instead is a fiery set of original rootsy blues jams that would be better suited to a bumping Friday night in a West Texas honky-tonk. “We know what people are thinking — ‘who are these old guys?’ laughs, Goff. “But once we get playing, it changes fast. It’s gratifying to see people surprised they’re enjoying it so much.”
Enjoying the ride
With a debut release under their belt, recorded live at Rock City Studios in just one day, and a solidified lineup that features Ed Dies on bass and Jack Wride on drums, the gentlemen of Last Dog and Pony Show are looking at a busy 2010 with talks of a studio release and a summer of outdoor shows and festivals. Members are at least as serious as the hungriest of youngsters, and they feel as if their time is now. “We’re clearly not getting any younger,” notes the ultrapositive Goff.
So the holidays are coming to a close, and soon Goff will be back to Last Dog and Pony Show business fulltime, but this season there was an added bonus for the music-loving Santa look-alike. When the call went out for a Kris Kringle impersonator to appear in a music video, Goff didn’t think much of it but he did get the job. When the artist turned out to be one of Goff’s heroes, all those years of playing Santa seemed worth it because not many people get to sit in on a private Bob Dylan jam session. That’s a story for another time, though. As the big fella says, “Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!”