Walt “Moon Dog” Goodman names two unifying characteristics of the members of Los Desterrados: “fanatical groove junkies and a fanatical interest in beer.”
But there is more to this group of guys than good music and drinking. When they aren’t playing blues and Latin music on stage, they’re saving lives, serving lattes, working with patients and doing social work.
The group began as a weekly jam session at what used to be the Music Café, now the Blue Fugue.
They had no name, no structure and no defining genre. A violin or a kazoo could be on stage at any one time.
Eventually, they decided to create a solid group.
Goodman named the band after the outcasts that created flamenco music. By definition desterrado means “to banish or to exile.”
Each member of Los Desterrados lives a very different life during the day.
Goodman, one of the guitarists, went to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina as a rescue specialist and came back realizing he wanted to focus on his growing family.
”So, I went to work as a firefighter, and the band evolved from crazy and drunken to crazy, not playing as much, but playing better,” he said.
He has been a career firefighter for about a year. Before this he has been a volunteer with the Missouri Task Force One for five years and a volunteer for the Boone County Fire District for 10.
He says he “learned early on that late-night jamming sessions aren’t compatible with fire fighting.”
Goodman has roughly 11 24-hour shifts with the fire department a month.
“There are jobs where you can get away with coming in hung over, but being a firefighter isn’t one of them,” he says.
As a result, he cut back on his late nights with the band.
“I’m still learning how to balance things,” he says. “Where do you prioritize your music in relation to your family? I think the people that are happier make sure that family is number one.”
Percussionist John Markovitz has been a nurse practitioner in the orthopedics department at MU for four years.
“My job is really busy, but I like working with the patients,” he says of his day job. “I was injured when I was a teenager, and I was cared for. It helped me to overcome my injuries, and I wanted to give that to other people.”
He copes with a busy life by crunching his work schedule.
“It’s a lot to do, but one of the things I have done to adjust is to work four days a week instead of five,” he says.
He engages his creativity through his profession and his hobbies.
“It can be music or it can be surgery, but it’s something new, and I think that’s exciting,” he says.
Chris Robinson, who plays the harmonica, was a professional musician for eight years, but it wasn’t something he was interested in doing for the rest of his life.
“The next step would have been to sign with a label and be on the road for 300 days of the year,” he says.
That was not his dream.
Robinson now works for a battered women’s shelter doing male outreach education.
“I go out into the community and talk to groups of boys about manhood and masculinity and about violence against women in all its forms,” he said.
He also works at the Division for Youth Services one week a month and interns for the public schools.
“The thing that fascinates me the most after music is the mind and adolescent psychology,” Robinson said.
Drummer Stephen Varner works as a barista at Cherry St. Artisan and also has a history of managing conflicts in his schedule.
“A lot of my experience playing with Los Desterrados has been working, going to school and playing,” he said . “Since my other job is steadier, the band sometimes gets the shaft, but that doesn’t happen too often.”
If a member must cancel, the band has a list of sit-ins. Many “are just as good or better,” Goodman said. Still,
the band sticks with the guys who’ve stuck with the band through the free gigs and the crazy schedule.
And when they do get together as a band, they become what Goodman calls the “beautiful train wreck” that started with the jam sessions.