Kerouac Shack Expeditioni

I know I should use the word expedition, but expeditioni sounds more impressive. Here are the shacks that I had never seen that inspired one of my signature songs, Kerouac Shack. I visited the weekend after Labor Day 2022, when I embarked upon a demanding hike through the dunes of the Cape. I kept my distance because the shacks are still inhabited by artists even though they have no running water or power. It was a beautiful trip!

The song Kerouac Shack traces its roots to when my friend Ian Donnis told me about a story on the news wire about a preservation effort to protect historic beach shacks in Cape Cod. The shacks were originally for fisherman, life guards and Coast Guardsman on the Cape but were also inhabited by On the Road writer Jack Kerouac and other artists. I remember I had my guitar and my friend Ian was working at the Associated Press in Providence on the late night shift. I visited the newsroom at 11 p.m. and took out the guitar in a corner of the room and came up with the basic feel of the song by using a 6/8 time signature and open chords and letting the low E string ring out. The result was Kerouac Shack, a pretty simple song but one that has the drive and feel of a big fan of Beatnik poetry, which I was and still am.  A lot of people I knew over the years remember the chant KEROUAC SHACK KEROUAC SHACK. The song inspired a video project in 1988 with Daniela Hinsch and a cast of some of my close pals at the time. I lost touch with Daniela but I just saw her on IMDB and she’s a professional film editor. Bob Plotkin also posted the Kerouac Shack video as an early example of internet video back in 2000 or so. Thanks Bob.

Rock on!

The Ripe

Well, since we’re all home bound during this Covid-19 madness, I finally have a bit of time to share some stuff from my archives. Interesting enough, two of the tunes on here celebrate HOME life. We had the vision thing, no?

More is coming include my first all new recording since Javalicious in 2009 or so. Long overdue! Java Gems will be released here soon and hopefully on Spotify or something if I can figure it out.

Onward and upward!

The Ripe – play it here!

Home I Love
I Love My Home
Miss Ya Much
Morning in America
Motor Maxine
Mushrooms and Flowers
Put Your Foot Down
Suburban Blahs
Take Me Away in a Basket

Songwriting Credits:

Robert McMullen wrote “Take me Away in a Basket” and “I Love My Home” and lyrics to “Mushroom and Flowers” and “Suburban Blahs”. Aku wrote “DFT”, which was originally recorded as a punk tune by his band PIPE in Santa Cruz. Java Jel wrote “Home I Love”, “Strawberries”, “Miss Ya Touch” and “Morning in America”.   But everyone had input into the songs. “Put Your Foot Down” is an adapted cover of an artist called N’Jagga from the Philly area in the 1990s. 

Liner Notes: The Ripe Selected Tunes 1992-98 

Java Jel, Aku Tardiff and Robert McMullen

Here’s Java Jel on vocals and guitar, Aku Tardiff on bass and vocals and Robert McMullen on drums and  vocals. We called ourselves The Ripe as a three-piece band in Jacksonville, Fla. in 1991-92 and also at reunion gig in NYC in 1998.

Bob Plokin joined us on violin in the studio in NYC in 1998 and played on “I Love My Home” and “Home I Love” quite nicely.  At the time the other guys said, what? A violin? But they agreed to give it a try. The result was great. Of course I gave Bob no direction whatsoever and only one take do everything. First thought best thought, as Paul McCartney says. Best not to overthink things sometimes. You did great Bob and if we ever record again, I will at least tell you what key it’s in.

Overall, it was always easy and fun playing with these guys and some of these tunes came out great. They’re all favorites but “Strawberries” always ranks near the top. 

We recorded the tunes in a variety of spots: a home studio in Jacksonville in 1992 and live at the Murray Hill Theater in Jacksonville in early 1992 or 1993 or so for a farewell gig that stirred up a big crowd. We made some studio recordings in 1998 when Robert and Aku visited me in NYC when I lived in the West Village with my new spouse, Jennifer May

The last song, “Take Me Away in a Basket” was recorded at Robert’s house in Avondale, Jacksonville. It’s one of my favorite sessions ever because Robert played the drums so gently we were able to just use an acoustic guitar with no amp.

“Motor Maxine”, is kind of a bonus track. Aku and I wrote it on one of my trips to California and I recorded it with drummer Gary Strauss and bass player Jesse Krakow at the Stolen Moments Studio in  Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. in 2000 or so. Kol Marshall produced that tune.

Thanks again to Aku for supplying the photo of The Ripe when we played live at The Baggot Inn in New York City in 1998. 

Thanks also to Paul Ruest of Argot Network who deftly wrangled a variety of mediums including tunes on a video tape, some DAT recordings from the studio and cassette recordings to put together this digital master. Rock on!

— Steve Gelsi, Montclair N.J., March 25, 2020

Hey man, it’s Java Jel

javalava-backI’ve been strumming and busking for as long as I can remember.  When I am not hanging with my fabulous family or playing music, I could be working on a book instead or something.

I am glad you stopped in – please enjoy my journey and all the embedded tunes here on the site.

Stay tuned for more updates as things progress.  There is almost always an album or gig in the works – stop back soon to learn more.

Peace –


Tom Hannon’s Kerouac Shack

DSC00049Java, Joe Kelly and Dominic jamming at JavaFest in late 2008 in the shack rich in pop culture located in bucolic Sewell, N.J.
Host Tom Hannon snapped this from behind his drum set during our super fun jam.
We recorded a bunch of songs on Dom’s computer and we totally rocked out. Some day the tunes may be mixed, but who cares, I loved it.
These guys are all really amazing and I’m totally stoked that they stil put up with me.

Java Jel going digital, gradually

Hey, I’m finally starting to go digital. I guess it’s easier than copying tapes on my old cassette and hand-lettering all the labels. Anyway, I’m trying to get my new record, Javalicious out in digital formats before wrapping it up. Cover art is needed as well, naturally. The fun part — making the music — is pretty much done.

Anyway, Java Jel is moving toward the digital age whether he wants to or not. Here’s a rehearsal that Denver area DJ Toby Houser posted a few days ago. It’s a session I did with him back in 1988 or so when he played bass in the combo, Java Jel & Big Bambu. It featured JD Wood on drums — (JD WHERE ARE YOU NOW?) and Lee Sled on keys. The tune, Start Something New is really groovey with super funky guitar and bass, and a long vocal break. Here’s the link: