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Hitless Wonder: A Life in Minor League Rock and Roll

4.01  ·  Rating Details  ·  325 Ratings  ·  61 Reviews
A classic underdog story about a local band that "almost" hits the big time. Everyone knows the price of fame. "Hitless Wonder "measures the price of obscurity. What happens when you chase a dream into middle age and, in doing so, risk losing the people you love?
ebook, 304 pages
Published August 15th 2014 by Lyons Press (first published June 5th 2012)
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Nov 27, 2015 Diane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs, music
This is a great rock-and-roll memoir. Joe Oestreich is a wonderful writer who guides us through a comeback tour with his band, Watershed, alternating between the present tour and the history of the band, which Joe and his buddy Colin started when they were in eighth grade in Columbus, Ohio. (They were inspired after seeing a Cheap Trick concert.) Joe never calls Watershed the hardest working band in America, but man, after more than two decades of van trips and sound checks and playing clubs all ...more
Aug 27, 2012 Mike rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This one hits it out of the park. The throughline is, of course, the story of Watershed, a band from Columbus, Ohio, that just missed the pros — its creation, the twists and turns of its journey. But along the way, the scope shifts widely, swinging from the particularities of individual relationships to the wide view of the music business in the United States, stopping along the way to consider the place of the Midwest in the American cultural landscape. It's a terribly hard trick to pull off, b ...more
Neil McGarry
Sep 29, 2014 Neil McGarry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
We've all heard the story of a band goes from fame to flameout, but what about those bands that never even got to step one? That's the topic of Hitless Wonder: A Life in Minor League Rock and Roll, and rocker-turned-author Joe Oestreich takes readers aboard his band's tour bus for quite a ride.

Not that Watershed could afford a tour bus. Formed in Columbus, Ohio, by Colin Gawel and Joe Oestreich, Watershed was the scrappiest of the scrappers, taking gigs where they could get 'em and putting every
Kenny Weissberg
Sep 26, 2015 Kenny Weissberg rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Having written my own rock 'n' roll memoir ("Off My Rocker"), I spend an inordinate amount of time reading others. I consider myself a rock 'n' roll lifer and love reading about others who were stung by the bug early in life and can't shake the disease. Bob Dylan's "Chronicles, Volume One," Patti Smith's "Just Kids," Levon Helm's "This Wheel's On Fire" . . . ooze the sweat, joy and frustration of leading a life devoted to music.

I just finished reading an incredible memoir and would be remiss if
Jan 16, 2014 Nita rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Ever wonder what life in a rock n' roll band is really like? I'm not talking about your won-the-rock-n-roll-lottery type band, but the average band. Now spin that out over twenty years. There you have Watershed, the band that wouldn't die. Oestreich's memoir of his adventures in Watershed beginning in 8th grade (Oestrich is now a college professor) lays it bare. It's a fun read as real as it gets. And yes, I'm proud to say I know Colin, Oestreich's bandmate, and that I write at Colin's Coffee, t ...more
Mike Ingram
Aug 15, 2012 Mike Ingram rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Two relevant disclaimers: 1) I am a sucker for rock-band memoirs. 2) The literary journal I co-edit (Barrelhouse) published both an excerpt from this book and an earlier essay of Joe's.

It's funny, because I've met Joe, and obviously I'd read about some of his experiences in Watershed, but I had no idea how close they'd come to being a Big-Ass Band. I mean, I knew they'd been doing it a long time, and that the book was largely about that perseverance, but the book is also a good reminder for any
Nate Trier
A memoir by the bassist of a Midwestern rock band that you've never heard of. In the right hands, this could have been a darkly humorous, insightful book, but the author isn't quite able to objectively look at his past, analyze his motives, and relay them to the reader. The first and last quarters of the book are filled with a sort of "I'm in a band, and yet I'm not living a life of rock and roll excess - how could that be?!" myopia that I get from a lot of rockers (is it possible an entire gene ...more
Jun 23, 2012 Brian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have expressed over and over that rock memoirs are a guilty pleasure. Maybe it's because I suck as a musician and am probably tone deaf. Can't sing either. But one thing I geek out about is music--live rock and roll music even better! Deafening distorted guitars. A blasting, devil-may-care drummer and stick-with-you-for-weeks pop lyrics. Doesn't really matter for the venue--could be an arena where your sharing in the ecstasy with ten-thousand cheering fans, or a run down graffiti-ed, bar with ...more
Sep 02, 2012 Damond rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have read many memoirs, mostly rock & roll or film, and this is hands down one of the best. Author Joe Oestreich is one of two founding members, along with Colin Gawel, of the band Watershed from Columbus, Ohio. The band formed on the bus ride home after a Cheap Trick concert in eighth grade, when Colin turned to Joe and simply said, "We have to start a band." While they never made it arena big, the limelight swept over them briefly in the 1990's with a short-lived contract under Epic. The ...more
Mark Sinnott
Mar 17, 2013 Mark Sinnott rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I devoured this book!

I played with the author and his band a few times back in my music days, so this book spoke pretty specifically to me. Watershed made it a few steps further than my band did and we always admired their tenacity and stage effort. I've played in 95% of the clubs mentioned in the book, done the tours, recorded the albums, had the brushes with fame, spent hour upon hour in a van listening to the drone of the road in order to play for 35 minutes in front of ten people.

Joe does a
Cedric Hendrix
Sep 07, 2014 Cedric Hendrix rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a part-time musician, I have often dreamed of being part of a recording and touring band. Lucky for me, I started playing music in my thirties, relatively late in life. I say this because I was young enough to be idealistic about a life in music, but I was old enough to know better.

Now in my mid-forties, with my band long defunct, I came across Joe Oestreich's excellent memoir about twenty-plus years (and counting) in the music industry. "Hitless Wonder" effectively stamps down any resurfaci
Jun 25, 2012 Mike rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Too much tell and not enough show earns this one only an "I liked it" from me. And I'm not sure I would have liked it all that much if I didn't love the band Watershed. I was also disappointed the book did not touch on the band The Dead Schembechlers, which is a side project of the author and his Watershed cofounder.
Lovely Rita
I'm so torn on this book so far. I'll add the caveat that I haven't finished yet, and I do intend to finish. I think the author has a really unique (in a good way) style of writing. It's evocative and the way he's chosen to unfold the story has kept me reading.

It also really spells out how hard it is for bands to make it or at least be able to make a living at it. Near as I can tell, the major factor is pure luck because there are obviously hard work is not enough. It sucks that their band was
May 29, 2014 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
We all have bands in our CD collection that we wonder what went wrong. What happened? They were going to be huge, right? With Hitless Wonder, Joe Oestreich unpacks the story for one of those bands, Watershed from Columbus, OH. Oestreich is the bassist and shares lead vocals in the group. Even if you don't know who Watershed is, it's a compelling look into the world of a band that has spent its entire career on the fringe and Oestreich digs through the layers of their story and why they've contin ...more
Jan 01, 2013 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Utterly charming. A love story about rock music, friendship, persistence, more than a few failures, some indifference from the world, and the places where we grew up. In other words, a love story about life.
Jun 07, 2014 Jack rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you have ever been in a rock band, or thought that you would like to be in a rock band or wondered what it would be like to be in a rock band, you need to read this book.
Aug 14, 2012 Susan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A quick disclaimer. I have been going to Watershed shows for years. It is safe to say I love this band. That said, my review of this book is a bit biased, because I feel like I know them, even though I do not.

This book is Joe's first book, and it is a memoir that toggles between the time Watershed was first getting noticed, and landed a record deal with Epic Records, and much later, on tour, no longer with Epic (or any major label). If you are my age, ask yourself "do I know anyone who was in a
Ed Wagemann
Hitless Wonder was pretty much a typical write-by-numbers on-the-road memoir. Feels like it is written by a guy who writes Bar reviews for Esquire magazine. Not too great - not too terrible. The worst part were the numerous throw-away lines and cheesey ne'er do well cliches. "Oh gee, I wouldnt mind trading in just a little of my friendship with my bandmates for just one of those gold records" crap. I mean, Really??? That's pretty lame. It made me not want to care about the narrator. And if those ...more
David Kellogg
Jul 21, 2013 David Kellogg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
OK, so, full disclosure: Joe Oestreich, the author, is a colleague of mine and a way cool guy. That said, this is in many ways a terrific story about the kind of band that should have made it but didn't.

Watershed is a band I'd never heard of before I met Joe, because I'm neither from Ohio and nor follow the rock club scene. They are smart and dedicated, not self-important hipsters or prog-rock virtuosos but genuine wannabe rock stars. There's something refreshingly honest about this -- or maybe
Dave Schwensen
Jul 15, 2013 Dave Schwensen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I almost heard alarm bells when somewhere toward the beginning of this book the author mentioned going for his advanced (either Masters or Doctorate) degree in creative writing. It started "reading that way" - as if this might be a term paper - and I almost put it down as being simply a diary of a band that never made it to "The Pros" (as the author puts it). But somewhere toward the middle, the storyline seemed to shift. It starting kicking butt - just like a great rock'n roll concert should. I ...more
Jan 20, 2014 Leta rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the differences between a life at the edge of theater and a life on the road with a working-but-not-really-succeeding band would be the hours on the road. The joking rule in theater is that if the audience outnumbers the actors, the show must go on.

For Watershed the rule might have been that there had to be more audience than hours on the road to get to the venue, but they never cancel, so over the years they've played for thousands in large venues and two people in bars, always with set
Lisa Gallagher
From the age of 18 to 23, I was the "chick with the band". Hanging out at shows, at practice sessions, at the recording studio. I was part of a thriving collection of punk, psychedelic and alternative rock bands in Detroit in the mid'80s and their friends, including The Generals, who Watershed played with and Joe wrote about in his memoir. This was a good trip down memory lane for me, remembering times hanging out in the van, with a beer, behind the scenes, singing along to every song, sweating ...more
Jim Moore
Dec 27, 2012 Jim Moore rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the quintessential Rocky Balboa story, except that Rocky never actually makes it into the ring with Apollo Creed. Picture a rock and roll band in Columbus, Ohio that does everything necessary to become rich and famous, but ends up only being immensely popular in and around Columbus (plus a few places in Wisconsin). They write their own music, generate a following, meet nearly all of the right people, but seem to take most of these steps slightly out of sync with those of lesser bands tha ...more
The scene: Seedy bar and rock 'n roll venue, Anytown USA.

Girl #1: Umm. Who is this band? I mean, they look kinda old.

Girl #2: I dunno. The Justin Bieber show was sold out. And this place serves minors (shhh).

Fan (sidling up): Hi ladies. Can I buy you a drink? I couldn't help but overhear you. This band right here is none other than Watershed. From Columbus, Ohio. They're mavericks. I mean they have a strong work ethic and stick together through thick and thin. For the music. And they totally ki
I've only heard one Watershed song, and that was yesterday, on YouTube. I wasn't following guitar rock in the 1990s, so maybe that's how I missed them. "A ballsier Gin Blossoms" is an apt description, based on what I heard, and that's just not my thing.

That said. Very good book, maybe a little overly writerly at times. The depictions of male friendships and the closeness of band members was its greatest strength. And who can resist a peek inside the world of rock and roll? And isn't next-best-t
Nacho Brubach
My boyfriend, who is a Watershed fan, suggested I read this book after he finished it. It's not that I'm *not* a Watershed fan, I just have trouble connecting with their voice which has always seemed to be geared to/coming from a young male's perspective. This book has a similar voice.
Sep 02, 2012 Mike rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Slide up alongside Columbus band Watershed as they refuse to give up on their dreams. What is great about this book is that it takes the reader behind the scenes of a band that came so close and then keeps going. Is it because they want another shot? Or is it more simply because they don't want to give up on one another. From sleeping in the van to ratty motel rooms and concert payouts of $6.25 per band member this book lets you look behind the scenes of the 99% of bands that are struggling to s ...more
Aug 16, 2015 Pete rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was neat to hear about the experience of being on the road with a band. Very little sex, minor drugs, and a whole lotta rock 'n roll.
Jul 18, 2012 Terrence rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music-related
Brilliant. This book should be required reading for anyone who wants/has/would-have started a rock band. The author's voice is true, yet not snotty. He leaves his words for the reader to stand beside him and his band mates as they follow their dream, and the detours such a journey may present.
I find it very funny that I live only about 2 hours from Watershed's home turf of Columbus Ohio, and have never heard of them. I plan on changing that, and hope that these guys play in Cincinnati before the
Apr 20, 2013 Ian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent read if you want a memoir about the day to day life of a struggling rock band. Certainly not a topic of universal appeal, but among the best books in this niche you are going to find. If you enjoyed So You Wanna Be a Rock & Roll Star: How I Machine-Gunned a Roomful Of Record Executives and Other True Tales from a Drummer's Life you will love this one too.
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