The Holy Modal Rounders were an American folk music duo from the Lower East Side started in the early 1960s, consisting of Peter Stampfel and Steve Weber. Stampfel explained the origin of their name in the webzine Perfect Sound Forever: "We kept changing the name. First it was the Total Quintessence Stomach Pumpers. Then the Temporal Worth High Steppers. Then The Motherfucker Creek Babyrapers. That was just a joke name. He was Rinky-Dink Steve the Tin Horn and I was Fast Lightning Cumquat. He was Teddy Boy Forever and I was Wild Blue Yonder.
It kept changing names. Then it was the Total Modal Rounders. Then when we were stoned on pot and someone else, Steve Close maybe, said Holy Modal Rounders by mistake. We kept putting out different names and wait until someone starts calling us that then. When we got to Holy Modal Rounders, everyone decided by accumulation that we were the Holy Modal Rounders. That's the practical way to get named."
Their first album, The Holy Modal Rounders, was released in 1964. The unique blend of Folk Music Revival, psychedelia, and musicianship on this record make it popular among people interested in these phenomena. Shortly after their second album in 1965, The Holy Modal Rounders 2, they joined Ed Sanders and Tuli Kupferberg in The Fugs for a short time. Weber notably wrote the cult classic "Boobs a Lot" for the Fugs, which the Rounders would later record.
After leaving the Fugs, the Rounders reformed with Sam Shepard and Lee Crabtree to record their third album (Indian War Whoop), and to appear in Shepard's play Forensic. The fourth album, The Moray Eels Eat The Holy Modal Rounders, recorded in 1968, included "Bird Song." Essentially George Jones' "You Done Me Wrong" with altered lyrics, the song was prominently featured in Dennis Hopper's film Easy Rider. In 1970, Robin Remailly and Dave Reisch joined the band, which relocated to Boston and then Oregon, adding Ted Deane, Roger North, and Jeff "Skunk" Baxter. Stampfel stayed in New York but would play and record with the band on occasion. The band released their fifth album, Good Taste is Timeless, in 1971 on Metromedia, and their sixth, Alleged in their Own Time, in 1975 on Rounder Records. Stampfel also formed the short-lived Unholy Modal Rounders with Dave Reisch and Paul Presti. The Unholy Modal Rounders were part of the legendary collaboration Have Moicy! along with Michael Hurley and Jeffrey Frederick and the Clamtones. After releasing Last Round in 1978, the Holy Modal Rounders broke up once again.
Stampfel and Weber reunited briefly to record Going Nowhere Fast (1980). While working for his wife, Betsy Wollheim, as submissions editor of DAW Books, Stampfel formed the Bottle Caps, releasing Peter Stampfel and the Bottlecaps (1986) and The People's Republic of Rock n' Roll (1989), as well as an album of standards, You Must Remember This (1994). Rather surprisingly, perhaps, he won a Grammy in 1998 for writing part of the liner notes for the CD reissue of the Anthology of American Folk Music. When asked if he had plans for his award, he was quoted in the New York Times as saying "I'm going to put honey on mine and lick it off."
Stampfel and Weber finally reunited under the Rounders name for 1999's Too Much Fun. Since then, Stampfel has released records with the Du-Tels (No Knowledge of Music Required, 2001) and the Bottle Caps (The Jig Is Up, 2004). A number of Rounders live albums have also surfaced over recent years. Weber, meanwhile, is reportedly working on solo material. He recently released Steve Weber and the Holy Modal Rounders, B.C. (Frederick Productions, 2006), which was his set from a 1976 tour and radio broadcast with Jeffrey Frederick and the Clamtones. Stampfel and Weber were the subject of the 2006 documentary film, The Holy Modal Rounders: Bound to Lose.
As Steve Weber announced his retirement in late 2006, further reunions and recordings from the band are unlikely.