Although Foster City, CA-native Allen Clapp only released one album and a couple of singles as Allen Clapp and His Orchestra, those records are among the best D.I.Y. pop releases of the '90s, with the album, 1994's One Hundred Percent Chance of Rain, a particular gem.
Clapp began his musical career with a high school garage band that included his friend Larry Winther on guitar. After a couple of years, the group split in 1989, with Winther and drummer Maz Kattuah going on to form the garage rock novelty the Mummies. Clapp spent a couple of years in an acoustic folk duo (a style resurrected on One Hundred Percent Chance of Rain's standout "Man and Superman") before starting to write lighter and poppier songs which he recorded by himself with a cheap Radio Shack microphone and cassette four-track. Kattuah released a single by Clapp, "Very Peculiar Feeling," on his Four Letter Words label in early 1992. On the strength of that single, Bus Stop Records signed Clapp to record an album.
Despite the band name, One Hundred Percent Chance of Rain is almost a solo project, with Clapp playing all of the instruments save for a handful of bass parts by his wife, Jill Pries. A masterwork of mature, well-realized melodic pop songs (leading off with the brilliant "Why Sting Is Such an Idiot," an answer song to "If You Love Somebody, Set Them Free") recorded in less than optimum lo-fi conditions, there's an emotional honesty and melodic richness to Clapp's songs that transcends the occasionally poor sound.
After a 1995 three-song EP for Darla Records featuring the sublime "Mystery Lawn," a wide-eyed love song to Pries that's among Clapp's best works, Winther and Kattuah rejoined their high school buddy and his wife. The foursome gigged around the Bay Area as Allen Clapp and his Orchestra for about a year until the swing revival started and people started taking the name seriously. Kattuah left the group during some contentious unreleased sessions with producer Jeff Saltzmann, who hired his former Cerebral Corps bandmate Bob Vickers to play drums on the session. The group fired Saltzmann but kept Vickers and renamed themselves the Orange Peels. In 1999, Bus Stop reissued the long out of print One Hundred Percent Chance of Rain. ~ Stewart Mason