Thursday, July 15, 2004

Tribute band tackles complex
logic of Steely Dan

By C.E. Hanifin
Enquirer staff writer

Lenny Hickey's black baseball cap bears the gold letters "SDU," for "Steely Dan University." The bass player says he feels as though he enrolled in that fictitious school nine months ago, when he decided to form a Steely Dan tribute band.

What: Pretzel Logic's tribute to Steely Dan

When: 8 p.m. Friday

Where: 20th Century Theatre, 3021 Madison Road, Oakley (731-8000;

Cost: $13 in advance; $15 day of show. Tickets available at Wizard's Music & Movies, 2940 Markbreit Ave., Oakley, and online at

Information: 703-0040

The course work has been rigorous. After placing a newspaper ad, Hickey spent two months auditioning 30 musicians who wanted to join Pretzel Logic (named after a 1974 Steely Dan song and album).

Hickey and the 10 men and women from the Cincinnati and Dayton areas who made the cut have devoted the last six months to learning Steely Dan's complex jazz-rock songs.

Now, it's graduation time for Pretzel Logic. The band makes its debut Friday at the 20th Century Theatre.

Although tributes to '70s rock bands like Aerosmith hit stages almost as often as classic rock stations cue up "Sweet Emotion," not many musicians take on Steely Dan. The group first rose to popularity 30 years ago with albums that were praised for their unconventional song structures and top-notch musicianship.

"Steely Dan is a musician's band," says Hickey, 41. That's why the members of Pretzel Logic committed themselves to performing note-for-note re-creations of "Doctor Wu," "Aja" and other tracks that don't get much radio play but thrill hardcore fans, he says.

"The one thing I kept telling myself is, 'If you're going to do this, you have to do it right,' " Hickey says.

Pretzel Logic's lead singer, Rick Auhagen, 49, says getting it right was a daunting prospect at first, even though he's been performing for more than 30 years.

"I couldn't believe anybody would try to put together a Steely Dan tribute band, just because of the musicianship it would take to pull it off," he says.

But the members of Pretzel Logic astounded Auhagen with their skill.

"This is the most talented group of people I've ever worked with," he says.

Hickey, who says he expects the band to ace its debut, plans to book more Pretzel Logic shows around the region. The group is having too much fun not to keep playing Steely Dan tunes together, he says.

"If I could have been born anywhere, be anybody, I would have been a bass player for Steely Dan," he says.


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