Roll Out The Carpet – The Carpet Frogs

Jeff Jones and Michael Zweig.jpg

Submitted by Pat Blythe
Photo Credits: Pat Blythe, A Girl With A Camera "The Picture Taker"
Photo at right: Jeff Jones and Michael Zweig

The Canadian music industry's best kept secret. A famous? unknown? band. I first heard mention of The Carpet Frogs about a year ago. I just nodded, figuring they were a new band I should know about and then whispered to someone at the table, "who the hell are The Carpet Frogs". A very odd name for a band (I thought). ....and so it began.

During the ensuing months The Carpet Frogs name was tossed around in many, many conversations. Why is it when you hear a new word or phrase or song or, in this case, a new name, suddenly it seems to be everywhere? Almost like an earworm (but not quite). However, it was during all those discussions I began to learn more about this popular, high-low profile band. Of course the names Burton Cummings and Randy Bachman would catch anybody's attention so that certainly piqued my interest. But....still not a band I was driven to see and, quite frankly, I never seemed to hear or read about any concerts or shows they were performing at....and they did "covers". I eventually found out their primary gigs were private, or corporate, events (both of which are really private right?) so that pretty much dropped them from my radar of "go see" bands at local clubs and concerts. That was until I met their bass player at a show I work on. But I digress..... 

....a little history

The Carpet Frogs formed in 1993 with the merging of the band Ground Zero with Alice Cooper tribute singer Nick Sonopoli, he of the leonine hair. The sole reason? To perform at the closing of the Gasworks, one of Toronto's (and Canada's) foremost rock 'n' roll bars. Best shwarma, burgers and fries in town too. I cannot believe I missed that show considering the Works was my corner bar when I moved to this city in 1979. I met my future husband on the patio six weeks after I landed in Toronto.

Consummate, accomplished and well-respected musicians all, founding members Jeff Jones (bass/vocals), and Nick Sinopoli (lead vocals) have remained the core for 23 years. There have been a few changes over the years but Jones and Sinopoli have remained solid throughout. The other "Frogs" are Michael Zweig (lead guitar/vocals), Sean Fitzsimons (drums/percussion) and Gerry Finn (guitar/vocals).Beginning as Q107's house band, segueing to regular gigs at Lulu's Roadhouse in Kitchener to their discovery at a private Christmas charity event by Burton Cummings, The Frogs just keep on keepin' on.

The Burton story goes like this, “Our manager, Sam Boyd, wanted Burton to check us out but he was ready to head out the door and didn’t want to be bothered....anyway, we’re back on stage, I think we were playing The Beatles’ 'Nowhere Man’ and Burton says to Sam, 'So I know that Beatles song is playing over the P.A but when’s that band of yours going on?’ “No,” says Sam, “That’s not a Beatles song – that’s the band playing!”


....toss a nickel in the jukebox

Jeff Jones and Toney Springer (Wild T & The Spirit) had been booked for an acoustic guitar night at a weekly concert event I do publicity and photography for. I was looking forward to meeting one of the members of this infamous band. The Carpet Frogs really do exist! Although Jones is known for his way around a bass guitar, the evening's event had him showing his skills with six-strings instead of four. I ran into Jones again at the Kelly Jay benefit at the Hard Rock Cafe in Toronto a few weeks later. During our conversation I mentioned I had never heard The Carpet Frogs perform and I would love the chance to photograph them. I finally got my opportunity a few days ago after a quick call from Jones to tell me The Carpet Frogs were performing at a free event in Brampton. GPS programmed, off I went, camera in tow.

Michale Vassos Vic D'Arcy Nick SinopoliL-R Michale Vassos, Vic D'Arcy and Nick SinopoliOh what a show! The Frogs have been referred to as a "living jukebox" and a very apt description it is. Call out any song, they can play it, and nail it. I am now crystal clear on what this band does and how extremely well they do it. Nostalgia baby, nostalgia. Who needs to follow the latest trend? If you can play anything you are the trend. What was past never goes out of tune in the present. More mature audiences love to hear the songs of their youth while the kids (and I use that term very loosely) love to hear what was. Whether the song is from yesterday or yesteryear, the band has the innate ability to play damn near anything you scream at them, or maybe just throw nickels and yell J2 (that was my favourite at the local diner....Mony Mony was J2 in the table jukebox at the London Cafe).

Now I have no idea where the name "The Carpet Frogs" came from, and apparently neither do The Carpet Frogs. My guess? Most likely a name somebody threw out there at the last minute for The Gasworks performance, never thinking that all these years later they'd still be performing under the same moniker. Each of the band members also ply their trade individually. Jones tours with Tom Cochrane and Red Rider (of which he is also an original member). Fitzsimons is the drummer in the cover band FlairZ with his wife, vocalist Barb Sherk.  Zweig performs with his band The Fabulous Knockouts. However, whatever they do, wherever they are, they all reunite to share with audiences their particular brand of magic.

Ladies and gentlemen, roll out the carpet and put on your dancing shoes. The Carpet Frogs are about to take the stage.