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Ridgewood’s Doghöuse Loved As Band With Bite

The musicians of Doghöuse, front to back, are drummer Vic Gratta of Warwick, N.Y., guitarist and lead vocalist Jim Marussich of Ridgewood, and bass guitarist John Santuoso of Ridgefield Park. Photo Credit: Zigi Putnins
Friend and guest Gillian Galler-Foley sings Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll" with Doghöuse band leader Jim Marussich at the Steel Wheel Tavern. Photo Credit: Zigi Putnins
From the left, Doghöuse bass guitarist John Santuoso of Ridgefield Park; band leader Jim Marussich of Ridgewood; and guest Chuck Schaeffer at the Steel Wheel Tavern. In the back is drummer Vic Gratta of Warwick, N.Y. Photo Credit: Zigi Putnins
Doghöuse friends and guests Chuck Schaeffer and Erin Taddei on vocals at the Steel Wheel Tavern. Photo Credit: Zigi Putnins
Doghöuse leader Jim Marussich on harmonica. Photo Credit: Zigi Putnins

RIDGEWOOD, N.J. — Doghöuse, a popular Ridgewood rock cover band, is sending a message with its name.

For one thing, it fits.

“I have a wife and two daughters. There’s no way I’m not in trouble all the time,” said Jim Marussich of Ridgewood, the one remaining founding member.

But why the umlaut over the second "o"?

Marussich says his wife’s favorite band is Mötley Crüe.

“Plus, we thought the umlaut would add a little rock ’n’ roll edge,” he said. “We are edgy.”

Doghöuse didn’t start its life as the high-energy bar band it is now.

Today the group plays once a month, rotating its gigs among five Bergen restaurants and pulling in 50 to 70 people for some of its shows.

Five years ago, though, the three original members were Ridgewood dads who met through their daughters, who all attended Willard Elementary School in the village.

They formed “Willard Dads Live” and performed fundraising shows.

Marussich, who works in cyber security and always loved music, stretched the truth a bit when he told the school he had a band.

What he had was three guys jamming in the basement. And no vocals. He taught himself to sing.

The following year, Doghöuse landed its first gig at Smith Brothers restaurant on North Broad Street.

It caught on.

Today the band features Marussich on lead vocals and guitar, John Santuoso of Ridgefield Park on bass guitar, and Vic Gratta of Warwick, N.Y. on percussion.

Doghöuse consistently draws friends and family members to its shows as well as a general audience.

“Every show is like a mini high school reunion for me,” said Marussich, who graduated from Ridgewood High School.

He attributes the band’s success – measured in good times, not good money – in part to its surprise factor.

Because the musicians are in their late 40s and early 50s, people expect them to only play the 1970s music of their youth.

“We play stuff that’s brand new to the stuff of the 2000s, ’90s, ’80s, and ’70s,” Marussich said.

“We do a lot of Green Day, Blink-182, Matchbox Twenty, newer bands. We hold the young people.”

Doghöuse also stays true to its roots by playing local free gigs, including Ridgewood Unplugged and Music in the Night, a summertime series of The Ridgewood Guild.

The band plays The Office and Steel Wheel Tavern in Ridgewood, Blue Moon Mexican Café in Wyckoff, The Doghouse Saloon and Grill in Washington Township, and The Orange Lantern in Paramus.

Doghöuse is booked through April.

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