Jim Mathus (vocals, guitar, trombone) and Katharine Whalen (vocals, banjo) formed Squirrel Nut Zippers in 1993 after leaving Chapel Hill, NC, for the nearby small town of Efland. As soon as they settled in Efland, the couple renovated a farmhouse, where they pursued various arts and crafts, and eventually the band fell into shape as Mathus and Whalen met local citizens like Don Raleigh (bass) and Ken Mosher (guitar, saxophone, vocals) who shared an interest in hot jazz. Before long, Chris Phillips (drums, percussion), Tom Maxwell (vocals, guitar, baritone saxophone, clarinet), and Je Widenhouse (trumpet) were added to the band, which was now named after an old-fashioned candy bar, Squirrel Nut Zippers. The group soon made its live debut in Chapel Hill and within a few months had developed a large fan base throughout the South.
By the end of 1994, Squirrel Nut Zippers had signed with Mammoth Records, and they released their debut album, The Inevitable, in the spring of 1995. The album didn't make much of an impact, but the group continued to tour. Their second album, Hot, was released in January of 1997. Soon after its release, "Hell" became a hit on such influential radio stations as Los Angeles' KROQ, and MTV soon made the video into a buzz clip. By the spring, "Hell" and Hot had become hits, as the single was a staple on modern rock stations. Although the Zippers were now successful, they received mixed reviews, with many critics claiming that they were mocking hot jazz, not paying tribute. Nevertheless, the album went gold, and a second single, "Put a Lid on It," was released in the summer. Perennial Favorites followed in 1998, as did Christmas Caravan. Two years later, the band released Bedlam Ballroom, showcasing a cut by late bandmate Stacy Guess. Squirrel Nut Zippers went on an extended hiatus in the early part of the decade and eventually reconvened in 2008 for the live concert album Lost at Sea, which saw release a year later . ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi