Like many other rock legends, Fort Lauderdale's Tuff Luck may never earn the credit it deserves, but one thing's for certain: it will now never be forgotten.
Sure, their hometown may be known as the city that launched Marilyn Manson, Saigon Kick, and the Mavericks into international rock stardom, but way before those guys soared to fame, there was a group of kids who paved the way for future local bands.
"It was really innocent," recalls Tuff Luck frontman Kenny Monroe, who met guitarist Dave Scott and drummer Todd Klein at a bar, later forming their first band, Cryer.
"I had always been a singer. When I joined Cryer, I was a bass player. I wanted to go back to singing. Once I stepped into the plate, it just all fell into place." Taking over vocals and adding James Marino as the bassist, the foursome became Tuff Luck.
"We already had an amazing drummer and an unbelievable guitar player," Monroe adds. "Dave [Scott, the guitarist] had a following. We tried it out, recorded a couple of demos, and never looked back."
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During its ten-year career, Tuff Luck had plenty of success. It shared the stage with metal giants Stryker and Dokken, posed in glossy zines alongside Ozzy Osbourne, scored endorsement deals, and were on the verge of signing with Atlantic Records.
That all changed in 1994 when Klein was shot and killed in North Miami. With the tragic end of Klein's life came the end of the monumental band. Although the guys went on with their careers, the glory days of Tuff Luck became a thing of the past.
Going on what would have been their 30th anniversary, Klein's brother and film producer Andrew Klein is "recapturing a moment" and "showing the world what could have been" with his latest documentary, Tuff Luck, premiering this Saturday at Cinema Paradiso.
"Nobody was a bigger fan than I was," Klein expresses. "I was always right next to my brother. I had a feeling this must be what it felt like to sit behind the Beatles before they went big. When it didn't happen, it was devastating. I felt that this couldn't be the end."
Although Andrew was never an official member of the band, where ever Tuff Luck went, he followed.
"Because my brother was the drummer and we were very close -- Dave was my lifelong best friend and Kenny my roommate -- they always brought me everywhere with them," he recalls. "They always let me tag along."
"Andy was with us every step of the way," Monroe interrupts. "I think people were much friendlier as far as band camaraderie."
That may have been the case, but their desire to make original music and the fact that South Florida's rock scene was practically nonexistent at the time had a lot to do with their success.
"Kenny was really good at promoting the band and convincing clubs that we could do an original set," Scott adds. "It wasn't being done at the time. He also convinced them to do all ages shows, and that was huge for us because it was our fan base."
"[The now defunct] Button South was our stomping ground," Monroe proudly states. "That's where we shot off the cannon every night. We were the closest thing to Van Halen, Mötley Crüe, or Ozzy Osbourne these kids had. It was like a bad car crash when they [Tuff Luck] played, and I was the mouthpiece for the band.
"What was so special, our music, it was free and open. When you went down, it was like a monster truck show meets shark wrestling."
But as great and talented as Tuff Luck was, the band never "made it" mainstream, per se. "I thought the band had the ability to be as big as Mötley Crüe," Scott interjects. "Till this day, I'm not exactly sure why this didn't happen."
Unanswered questions aside, Tuff Luck definitely set the stage for rock music in South Florida, something members have come to appreciate over the years.
"I don't think any of us ever realized the impact we had on folks," Monroe ponders. "We created a scene down here. This film's not just for Tuff Luck fans in Florida or the U.S. -- it's a film about struggle. You can learn something from it. It's just like a roller coaster, and what Andy's done here, he's put life back into this style of music."
Although Klein's life was cut short, he contributed more to his brother's work than any other person working on the film.
"The film probably wouldn't exist if it wasn't for Todd's massive collection of Tuff Luck stuff," Scott smiles. "He was saving every magazine article, flyer, we have to thank Todd for that. He was the biggest collector."
"Todd would always have that camera on stage," the band's vocalist recalls. "It's like he had that vision, 'I should be documenting this.' A lot of it [the film] is Todd's footage."
But more than "another chance to share their music with people who either loved it or who've never heard it," as Klein expresses, the film is all about honoring the late drummer.
"A couple of weeks before he [Klein] died, we were talking about his future," the film producer shares. "He said to me, 'If Dog for a Day [the band that succeeded Tuff Luck, consisting of Klein, Scott, and Marino], made it bigger than the Beatles, the years of Tuff Luck with Kenny Monroe will always be the greatest years of my life.'"
Monroe concludes: "This is a monument that he [Andrew Klein] has built for his brother. It's gonna outlive us all."
Tuff Luck Premiere. Saturday, February 21. Cinema Paradiso, 503 SE 6th St., Fort Lauderdale. The screening starts at 7 p.m. and tickets are sold out via fliff.com. Call 954-525-3456 or visit fliff.com/Cinema_Paradiso.
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