This tremendously talented singer/songwriter/guitarist/cartoonist/author/producer was the go-to guy for many of the most well-known bands of Boston’s early punk era: his great musical presence went from The Mezz (Mickey Clean) to The Modern Lovers (Jonathan Richman) to The Chartbusters (Robin Lane) to The Grey Boys to his own bands Asa Brebner’s Idle Hands, a r&b/doo-wop group The Family Jewels and his current gig fronting The Naked I’s. Born in Boston November 21, 1953 the only child of Winston Brebner and Ardell Cogswell Brebner, Asa grew up listening to his father’s jazz 78 records, blues, The Stones, folk music, The Fugs, Mothers of Invention, and groups from the British invasion. His father wrote the well-known book Doubting Thomas which was a best seller in the ’50’s. “My first release was Prayers of a Snowball in Hell (1996),” Brebner remembers, “and after that Ragged Religion, Best No Money Can Buy, I Walk the Streets and Hot Air, Abbey Lode and Suenos De Los Muertos in that order. Time In My Way was a comp put out by Windjam Records who also released Robin Lane’s last solo record, which I produced. The Family Jewels put out two CD’s; Saturday Night and Rockin’ Strong.”
Growing up Asa attended The Meeting School, a Quaker-based alt/progressive high school and his music life was briefly interrupted when he was seventeen and hitching around Central and South America; he got arrested and charged with drug smuggling and was sentenced to twenty years in prison. He elaborates: “Yes I did a year in a South American jail and insane asylum (which was to assure an Ecuadorian judge that I was undergoing “aversion treatment” to marijuana). This was supposed to be like the treatment Alex got in A Clockwork Orange but I didn’t end up getting it and I was released after a year in jail.” Finally making it back to Boston, Brebner continued his extraordinarily diverse career in the entertainment scene. In fact, with Bill Flanagan he co-wrote some cartoons that have appeared in High Times and other magazines and is currently about to publish his first novel with the working title Revenge.
Advice to young struggling musicians? Asa notes: “Here’s what Jonathan Richman gave me for advice when I was first starting out: ‘Don’t take no for an answer.'” That pretty much sums it up.
BANDS ASA BREBNER HAS OPENED FOR:
Hall and Oates
The Beach Boys
(by A.J. Wachtel)
Asa Brebner passed away in March 2019 at the age of 65.