The Band that Kept Asking One Simple Question a Musical Mystery

The Podcasting Store
3 min readMay 3, 2024


By Drew Holmes

Keeping a band together is nearly impossible. Changing priorities and too much traveling can eventually break up musical groups, despite the success they achieve. Usually fame and notoriety cause a group to ask one simple question: How to keep the band together? But as one band achieved fame, they asked an entirely different question.

While at Brown University, Sean, Elliott, Steve, and David had performed in the same on-campus ensemble, though not all at the same time. When they found each other in New York City after graduating, the quartet decided to form a group.

Performing on busy city street corners with a hat at their feet, they hoped to earn tips. Before long the cash that filled the hat was peppered with business cards, invitations to perform at private parties and small clubs. Around the time David left (and was replaced by Charlie) the band played at a dinner party for Kathie Lee Gifford. This led to an appearance on a local New York television program called The Morning Show, hosted by Gifford and Regis Philben.

Producer Gerard Brown saw their Morning Show performance and booked the band for a “Great Performances” special on PBS featuring Spike Lee. Charlie moved on from the group and was replaced in time for the taping, but despite the personnel change the band now had national attention.

With the success of a PBS special and several talk show appearances, producers for a new kids show took notice of the band and asked them to try out to be on it. In preparing for the audition, the band started to ask one simple question, a question they would continue to ask for the entire run of the program. Steve remained with the band through their audition for the show, but he left to pursue a career in law before taping began.

The show and its iconic theme song were an immediate hit. The five-season run put the band on the map, leading to performances in a Whoopi Goldberg HBO special, Jay Leno’s first New Year’s Eve as host of The Tonight Show, and even a Taco Bell commercial. During this time, they also opened for such performers as Styx, Chuck Berry, and Billy Joel. The band was featured in two Folgers commercials, a PBS special of their own, and performed with the Boston Pops.

After the show ended, Sean left to pursue a solo career. Elliott, the last original member of the group, also exited. Others took their place and were replaced as the years went by, but the band stayed together, recording numerous albums while crisscrossing the globe.

Back on the street corners of New York, no one could have predicted the international fame the group would achieve, especially with their chosen instruments. Because Sean Altman, Elliott Kerman, Steve Keyes, and David Stix did not play instruments at all but instead performed acapella with just their voices. A style of music that inspired the portmanteau moniker of their group — Rockapella. A group that in the 1990’s could be found on television as the house band for a children’s geography quiz show. A show that every day asked one simple question: Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?



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