The Little Dinks
Small in stature, limited in prowess and talent. Certain to offend.
The Tucson, Az. Based performance art trio The Little Dinks stunk up the Southwest from 1987-1996, with sporadic sightings since.
The Dinks arose from various prior interactions of its members. Zingg and Buckley met in a contemporary music workshop taught by composer Larry Solomon. Both were members of the Central Arts Collective, and worked together in the improvisational music group The Out of Sight Orchestra, which performed from the rafters of the CAC. Baird was a frequent guest artist at CAC, and he and Buckley had collaborated on video and performance art projects prior to the Little Dinks. Baird and Zingg were part of Tucson’s Fine Stream Gamelan. In addition Baird performs with multi-instrumentalist Matthias Düwel in the Oracle Art Ensemble.
The Little Dinks were unofficially first heard at a going away party for a friend, Teri Mumme, when they joined voices for verses from her Donovan songbook. The din was horrendous. It was a sound so awful they knew it had to be repeated and cultivated.
Officially the group debuted as Captain Imo and the Little Dinks at Tenth Street Danceworks in 1987 but shortened it to The Little Dinks for all gigs thereafter.
Around Christmas of 1987, Buckley and Baird ran across small plastic kids guitars at a Fry’s after too many beers. They took them back to Buckley’s apartment and jammed until four in the morning, then returned to the store to find one for Zingg (aka Mr. Z). Further instrument trips to Toys R Us and other kids shops produced an arsenal of what they called “Dinky Guitars” and a new horrible brand of improvisation called “struggling” was born. Such “struggles” were also referred to as “Mississippi Bela Bartok Music.”
Despite their clear limitations (or perhaps because of them), The Little Dinks became disproportionately popular, playing art galleries, night clubs, performance art festivals, parties, weddings (!) and college gigs around Arizona. They billed themselves as “the floor from which all others rise,” and were known as much for their self-effacing PR as their taste-free playing.
Legend has it that the group’s live cassette, “Lynch Mob Bait,” caused a fist-fight among judges at Austin’s South by Southwest festival. An invitation to SXSW was offered from a private source, but the Dinks turned it down, content to offend sensibilities closer to home, and fearing they might get signed to a national label.
At Tucson’s legendary El Casino Ballroom in 1987, The Little Dinks debuted “Velvis” to enthusiastic response. The world’s foremost velvet Elvis impersonator, “Velvis” was a hit with young and old everywhere.
In 1992, the trio ran for the office of President of the United States, offering round-the-clock service in eight-hour shifts. It chose as its running mate the Ghost of Elvis, in order to secure the southern vote. It was the year that Bill Clinton was running on health care. Part of the Dinks’ press material read, “If the Little Dinks are elected president, we will have better health care.You may not, but we definitely will.” The group lived up to its campaign promise to bother the American people as little as possible by making only one public appearance. The Little Dinks was successfully defeated by Bill Clinton.
Around that same time, the group embarked on its “It turned out to be a much Dinkier world than we thought” world tour. The tour took them as far north as Phoenix and south as Bisbee. Beers were spilled everywhere the band performed.
Over the years, the Dinks introduced a bewildering variety of senseless alter-ego bands, among them Trio Los Dinquitos, The Longtime Ramblin’ Booty Strugglers, and the Dinkimotos.
The Little Dinks’ sure-fire crowd pleasers included its covers of “Whole Lotta Love” (for baritone ukulele, alto sax and concertina accordion), “Ring of Fire” (with Scottish brogue) and their encore favorite, “Strangers in the Fucking Night.”
In 2010 the group released the live CD “Negligible Chub” during a reunion show at Tucson’s Club Congress. The disc is available for $15 postpaid by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org, and is the perfect gift for someone you don’t like much.