by Nathan Lerner
In a long-gone era, dreadlocked musician Rodney Whittenberg might have been described with the sobriquet, “the cat’s pajamas.” Now, it has become literally accurate to apply the anachronistic idiom to him. Whittenberg has joined the high-energy kid-rock group, The Cat’s Pajamas, playing bass and guitar. In the release of their just-produced CD, “Backseat Driver,” the band will be performing Dec. 3 at World Café Live as part of their “Peanut Butter & Jams” series.
Whittenberg is an award-winning composer, film and video scorer/producer/engineer and multi-instrumentalist. The 48-year old musician, who after nine years in Germantown moved to Plymouth Meeting, first became involved with The Cat’s Pajamas in 2005. He recalled, “Keyboard wizard and just the best guy you could have as a friend, Dan Kleiman, who passed away last year, introduced me to The Cat’s Pajamas. I directed their first DVD.”
The scope of his involvement changed last year. “I called Janet Schreiner, the band’s leader, to see what the band was up to. It turns out we started making a new DVD called ‘Pajama Party,’ which was released earlier this year. Janet knew that I played bass and guitar as well as other instruments. I was looking for a band to be in as a sub player.
“I thought it would only be an occasional gig. However, when songbird and guitarist Emily Bate broke her arm, the group had a CD that needed to be finished and a lot of gigs. As it turned out, I have played over 30 shows and played bass and guitar on their new CD.”
The Cat’s Pajamas play cool music for kids, a little of everything — jazz, swing, blues, funk, folk. Many of their young fans even dress up as cats with tails and whiskers, or they dress up as characters for The Cat’s Pajamas’ songs.
Whittenberg discovered his muse when he was still young. “I don’t know when I was not a musician. I always credit my dad. He loved music and was always making up songs. I pretty much do now the same thing I did sitting in my parents’ basement with my instruments and reel-to-reel recorders 30 years ago.”
Whittenberg went to school for electronics and studied music at Settlement Music School, Temple University, Philadelphia Community College and University of the Arts. He left school to form his own band, “Dark Blonde,” which appeared on television’s “Star Search,” forerunner to today’s “American Idol” and “X Factor.”.
Whittenberg’s musical tastes are certainly eclectic. As a young kid in the early ‘70s, he loved AM radio, then shifted to rock. To this day, he loves the music of Led Zeppelin and the Beatles. He listens regularly to everything from hard core punk to the swing era jazz of Benny Goodman and Charlie Christian to the 20th century classical music of Philip Glass and Jennifer Higdon, from the ‘80s’ glam rock of Cinderella to the heavy funk of Parliament/ Funkadelic and from Bluegrass to Blue Man Group.
Whittenberg owns and operates Melodyvision, a full service production facility, which specializes in voiceovers, music production, video production and recording as well as arts education.
“Melodyvison was my response to being a musician, an African American artist who didn’t want to be limited by that. I was tired of people asking me if I was a jazz, hip hop, r & b or reggae artist. I want to do it all and do it all at a high quality. So I stated a company which took the focus off of me and put it on an entity that could be much bigger then me and could also help support other artists in making a living. And I started with the goal of composing music for Hollywood films and national TV shows.”
The Cat’s Pajamas will perform at World Café Live, 3025 Walnut St., on Saturday, Dec. 3, 11:30 p.m. More details at 215-222-1400 or www.worldcafelive.com.
Nathan Lerner, Director of Davenport Communications, is involved with civic and cultural affairs. He welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.