Former Shaggs member returns to perfoming

A music legend's journey continues

Union Leader Correspondent
November 28. 2013 8:22PM
Former Shaggs band member Dot (Wiggin) Semprini of Epping poses with her pug, Newman, and the album from her new band, the Dot Wiiggin Band. (JASON SCHREIBER/Union Leader Correspondent)

EPPING - Dot Semprini never thought she'd be back on stage at the age of 65.

She could retire, but instead she's working two jobs, caring for her diabetic pug dog, Newman, and is now the star of the Dot Wiggin Band.

"I'm not getting rich, but I enjoy it," the Epping musician said.

Nearly 40 years after she and her sisters disbanded The Shaggs - a band their late father formed in hopes of turning his daughters into rock stars - Semprini is writing lyrics again and performing with her new band.

Her first solo album, "Ready! Get! Go!," was released Oct. 29 and was followed by performances in New York City and Baltimore earlier this month.

"The fans loved it," Semprini said.

The band is set to kick off a tour in January that will take it to places like Atlanta, Nashville, and Philadelphia.

Another tour is being planned for March in the Southwest, with shows in Los Angeles, San Francisco and other big cities.

"This wasn't in my plans so I have to do a lot on my end to make it work," Semprini said.

Forming a new band wasn't something she had considered until Jesse Krakow, a musician from New York City, encouraged her to go solo to continue a bizarre musical journey that began in the 1960s when Semprini and her sisters, Betty, Helen, and Rachel, were teenagers living in Fremont.

Their father, Austin Wiggin Jr., forced them into their own band called The Shaggs after his mother read his palm when he was young and foretold that he would have four daughters who would become famous musicians.

The Wiggin girls had little exposure to music before making their own and later performing for audiences at the Fremont Town Hall. By all accounts, the music was unlike anything anyone had ever heard. It was out of tune and critics said the girls simply couldn't sing or play instruments.

An article in Rolling Stone magazine once referred to their music as sounding like "lobotomized Trapp Family singers."

Semprini was sometimes bothered by the way some people talked about her band and its music, but said, "I always look at it that everybody is entitled to their own opinion and freedom of speech."

Others saw something more.

Music legend Frank Zappa called them "better than the Beatles."

There was innocence and honesty in the music they wrote and performed.

The Shaggs produced their first album, "Philosophy of the World," in 1969 and at the time, The New York Times called it "maybe the best worst rock album ever made."

Lyrics from the song "Philosophy of the World" included, "Oh, the rich people want what the poor people's got. And the poor people want what the rich people's got. And the skinny people want what the fat people's got. And the fat people want what the skinny people's got."

"People forget that these are tunes with melodies and are not just randomly stapled together," Krakow said. "They knew exactly what they were doing."

Their father's death in 1975 brought an end to the band. The girls stopped performing and never planned to hit the stage again.

The musical journey was short-lived - or so they thought.

Their music has developed a following in the decades since they disbanded and most recently their story inspired off-Broadway musicals in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City.

Krakow was introduced to The Shaggs' music 15 years ago and became an instant fan.

"I just became obsessed with them. It's part of my DNA now. Those songs mean everything to me," he said.

Krakow convinced Semprini to form the Dot Wiggin Band after he directed a musical tribute to The Shaggs in New York City last year to benefit the Fremont Historical Society and the town's 250th Anniversary Committee.

Semprini is the only member of the original Shaggs to join the new band, which signed with Alternative Tentacles of San Francisco.

"I think a lot of people view The Shaggs as a cult band or a joke band, but we chose this music because we love this band. When I think of New Hampshire I think of The Shaggs. It's from the heart," said Krakow, who has a tattoo of Semprini's cat Foot-Foot on his right shoulder.

Semprini once wrote a song called "My Pal Foot-Foot" when The Shaggs were performing and it has become one of their most popular.

Semprini is still trying to get used to all the traveling for performances. She admitted that it's a bit overwhelming.

"Once I get there then I can relax and enjoy it. I do appreciate the fans," she said.

So far, the band's performances have attracted standing-room only crowds.

"I think it makes Dot feel good to know people really love her music," Krakow said.

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