Seven Mary Three has been making music for nearly 20 years, with major hits like Cumbersome and Water’s Edge. But they also happen to have one of the coolest band names in rock, taken from Officer Jon Baker’s radio call sign on CHiPs.
In the latest episode of Just My Show, actor Larry Wilcox – who played Baker – got a surprise “guest question” from Seven Mary Three founding member Casey Daniel. Of course, JMS couldn’t let Daniel get away without having a quick chat about the band and its classic TV connection…
How’d the name come to be? Were you there when the name was tossed around?
Yeah. Our singer, Jason Ross, and I were watching actually reruns of CHiPs. We were watching the World Cup all summer in college and we had been picking a different band name for almost every night. We chose Seven Mary Three, but weirdly, we heard it on the show and…we heard both of the call signs called at the same time. But with us, it was like, we kind of noticed that every time…Ponch’s character would be trying to get some lady or do something and in the background you’d have Larry Wilcox…walking off with a lady. He already had it in check. So, we were like, we gotta go with Seven Mary Three then.
Was it a show that you’d watched over the years growing up or did it just randomly happen to be on that day?
No…I watched it first growing up and then we watched the reruns every day…It was the first year they had televised the World Cup in total and so every time they went to half time, CHiPs was on the other channel. So we’d switch it and watch CHiPs every day.
Super cool name that I bet a lot of people get and think it’s the best thing ever and some people – it probably goes right over their head. Does it get tiresome answering questions about it?
It’s weird. I would think that as much as we’ve done it and especially for any of the older generation, that they would have recognized at least part of it or having seen the show would have thought of it. The weird thing is the misinterpretation because it’s got the seven, the three and Mary, people put all this religious connotation on it which obviously has zero connection. We’ve actually been booked before and gone and played a festival where we showed up that day and there was a complete and total religious festival. And I got out of the bus in the morning and was like, “OK wait, something’s weird here.” And I was like, “you do realize we’re not a religious band and we don’t represent…we’re not against any of that. There’s no problem. Just letting you know that that’s not…” And the guy’s like “you aren’t?” I was like “No.” So, it’s definitely had some weird things and we got some weird letters in the beginning. People thinking it was…“oh, the seven deadly sins, the holy trinity and Mary.” And I was like “wow. I’ve never really thought of that,” but…It’s been weird with the interpretations of it, you know?
Have you had any or much interaction with Larry [Wilcox] or Erik [Estrada]?
No, actually never met. But I do remember initially, right after the band kind of caught some steam in the 90s, that [Larry] was cool enough – he called our manager and sent over a signed photo and some stuff and that was the coolest thing. We really thought that was great that he instantly got it and reached out to us. We were already out on the road but it was really cool of him to do that. We really appreciated that.
I asked the same question to the lead singer of Wang Chung. Do you remember any of the band names that you were tossing around that got rejected before Seven Mary Three?
Well, we had played under names like Grandmont Dynamite, Ukon Cornelius. I mean all types of crazy names. I mean there were so many terrible ones that we had used that…we had notebooks full of it. If mean if you threw one word that sounded cool or a combination of words, we probably tried it and played it…It’s one of the toughest things to do is name your band something and then go that’s what we are…It’s silly and stupid but at the same time obviously it’s necessary and it sticks with you. So choose a wise one if you’re a young person deciding your band name now.
When you’re in a band, you’re together much more than when you’re shooting a TV show. What’s the key to not killing each other and being around as long as you guys have?
It’s a family in that sense. You know, like you fight the worst within your family. When you’re mad at your brother or sisters and parents and whatever else, it’s there. But in the same way, there’s always all the other things that have happened. Not just that moment. So, sometimes it’s important to get it out and other times…you gotta just think about the entire picture and pick your battles and remain civil with those things. I mean we’ve had our moments when we’ve been at each other and done all types of stuff and done that. But, it’s that larger thing of – especially between Ross and I – have been doing this for over 20 years together…I know if I absolutely need something, he’s gonna be there for me and the same goes the other way.
The first album way back in the day was an indie release that ended up having two of your biggest commercial hits. Did you have a feeling that Cumbersome was gonna be the song that would push you into the spotlight or was it just anybody’s guess?
You know, it was the first song on that and it didn’t kind of hit me initially I wouldn’t say. I mean I always thought that the song that followed it, Water’s Edge, was the song that, that was newer and fresher to us. We had written that one closer to the time of the release and that one did really well, but…it’s hard to say at this point if I…I don’t remember going “oh that song’s gonna be eternal” in the sense that it has. It’s lasted and still gets that recurrent type of radio play now a days…I wouldn’t have guessed at that time, no.
What’s harder, being unknown and playing small bars trying to get the first hit or trying to get a hit now when you have to follow something that great and people have certain expectations?
They’re both…can be difficult in different ways…You can have a song and it goes to number two and sits there for ten weeks and that’s a great success, but if it doesn’t live for 20 years, it’s never gonna pass Cumbersome in that sense in our case. You know what I mean? So being happy with what you have in that sense is easier having been able to be a professional musician and play music for lots of people and have fans and do that, I’d say. That hunger that’s inside for that with today’s just over saturated internet where anybody who’s good with a computer, even if they’re not good at music, can reach a bunch of people quickly because they’re good with computers is probably more frustrating. I have another band as well…a separate project and it’s tough even with that sometimes to get people’s attention, even with the built in fan base. So, I’d say it’s probably more difficult to get that real notice in today’s market of a picture goes further than a song.
Everybody else, no matter how successful they are – whether they’re a famous actor or a famous baseball player – would much rather be a rock star. Everyone just thinks it’s the coolest job ever. As a rock star, do you feel like it’s the coolest job ever or would you rather be something else? Would you rather be a center fielder?
You know, there’s so many cool things I think to do. I think people kind of have that misunderstanding of what it is. But I think it’s the live performance aspect of it…night after night you’re in front of a crowd of people who are all there to see you. That really draws people into it…I’ll play music the rest of my life. That’s what I love doing. So, if I could do anything else…I don’t know. I’d be one of those people who just collects money. I’d be a money collector. I’d just be like, “Hey, cool, look at this. It’s another million dollar bill. I’ll put that in my stack of those.”