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Railroad Jerk's lineup changed frequently, but the core members were Minnesota native Marcellus Hall (vocals, guitar) and North Carolina-born and Trenton, N.J.-bred Tony Lee (bass). The two met in Trenton, New Jersey in the spring of 1989 and formed the band with drummer Jez Aspinall and second guitarist Chris Mueller rounding out the quartet. Hall chose the band's name because he "liked the clack and clang of the two words together."
The band gained a following on the Manhattan club scene and were signed to indie label Matador Records, for whom they recorded four albums—all well received critically—before breaking up in the late 90s .
Their first two albums—Railroad Jerk (1990) and Raise the Plow (1993), but Railroad Jerk reached its biggest success with One Track Mind (1995). The band made two music videos for the record: "Rollerkoaster" and "Bang the Drum", both directed by Jim Spring and Jens Jurgensen.
The "Rollerkoaster" video was shown on MTV's Beavis & Butthead. On tour, the band shared bills with bands including Guided by Voices, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Cibo Matto, Girls Against Boys, and Cat Power. "The Ballad of Railroad Jerk" became a college radio hit.
Around the time their 4th album—The Third Rail (1996) was released—the band recorded demos for a fifth Railroad Jerk LP which was to be entitled Masterpiecemeal. This final LP was never released but a bootleg cassette version supposedly exists. Dave Varenka and Marcellus Hall went on to form the band White Hassle.
- Railroad Jerk (1990), Matador
- Raise the Plow (1992), Matador
- One Track Mind (1995), Matador
- The Third Rail (1996), Matador
- Strong, Martin C. (2003) The Great Indie Discography, Canongate, ISBN 1-84195-335-0, p. 935
- Ali, Lorraine (7 March 1995). "Railroad Jerk on Track to Move Beyond Indie Circles". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 15 May 2014.
- Railroad Jerk