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Reflections of Katzenjammers Founder Peter Urquhart '74

[In fall of ’73] we had no name—Mixed Company was bland, Mixed Nuts was absurd. Sessions devoted to finding a name were frustrating; people started to suggest names of food products as they got punchy (Light and Lively? Firm and Fruity?). We held a lottery for a name; did we really advertise the prize as “Submit the winning name and take the group member of your choice out on a date?” Maybe that’s my imagination. I don’t think we got a name out of the event, but we did sing in the student center hyphen, and I remember thinking that we were really making music at that point.

Somehow the name Katzenjammer came up, was overlooked briefly, and then considered again. I looked it up in the OED, and got excited about the confusion of meanings:

1) distress, depression
2) a hangover, or symptoms of one
3) a discordant clamor
4) enfants terribles, as in the Katzenjammer Kids from the cartoon strip.

Images of wailing, drinking, trouble-making, cats, jamming, Katz: a little degenerate maybe, but otherwise perfect. That was it! We imagined ourselves the youngest but most musical group on campus. The repertoire continued to include both popular and classical music... Arrangements were made tough, on purpose, to challenge our enfants terribles. Ben [Indig] and Scott DeVeaux began adding some, as did Bob Cohen when he finally stopped fussing with it. I eventually wrote one in response, “Mercy,” equally fussy and difficult, for Tina’s Janis Joplin side...

By the spring, we may well have become the most musical group on campus. There were Reunions gigs, some raised eyebrows from Nassoon alums, and an amazing arch sing in Blair. For the first time ever, I felt comfortable giving an announcement in front of an audience; I could represent this group without holding back, because I had created it. Or had I? Princeton is a funny place. Things happen there that don’t seem to happen elsewhere. Music sounds a certain way only in an arch during Reunions Friday night. I do feel that the creation of the Katzenjammers, and the music we made together, was the height of my Princeton career. But without those arches, without all those other people, the models of the Nassoons and Footnotes, the Princeton ambiance, etc., Katzenjammers could not have been. And then I was only in the group for a year. The real history of the group lies in the fact that it continued and grew, and [the Katzenjammers who followed] know a lot more about that than I.