Every family is a little different, isn't it? Growing up, when we needed to use the bathroom we didn't tell Mom or Dad we needed to urinate or pee.

Nope, by golly, we needed to tinkle.

We didn't even have a word for passing gas. Yes, you really can pretend nothing happened, even while your nose wrinkles up like an elephant's trunk.

Marriage grafted a new word on to my vocabulary. The act of breaking wind became a toot. A newsroom survey revealed a family that referred to a toot as a beep.

Tooting and beeping. A sound theme is developing around the ol' wind instrument, and just in time, too, since this column is about a little Provo band called, well ... let's come back to that.

The band formed eight years ago while Dr. Thomas Dickinson was performing a colonoscopy and asked an aide if he'd ever played in a rock band. Both men knew nobody would ever invite them to join one, so they formed their own.

Two names were suggested: the Bowel Sounds and the Sphincter Tones. Now Tom Dickinson is known as the Big Sphincter, and he and the rest of the Tones are scheduled to kick off Provo's free open-air summer concert series on Monday.

The performance is a milestone for band members, whose first gig in front of the staff of the Intensive Care Unit at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center went poorly.

"We were so nervous," Dickinson says. "We were miserable."

They stunk up the place.

"People told us the natural tones of the sphincter are a lot better than what came out of our band," he says. "You really can get all sorts of tones out of that little body part."

Years of practicing above Dickinson's garage and playing for weddings sharpened the band's skills. They play traditional rock 'n' roll from the 1970s and '80s, lots of Eagles and Toto.

Golden Oldies, get it? Classic Gas.

Blushing brides: "The Sphincter Tones totally rocked our wedding!"

The Tones don't do a comedy routine. They stuff gigs with as much of their favorite music as possible. On rare occasions they do perform a spoof of a colonoscopy using a takeoff on a Garth Brooks song.

Dickinson's sense of humor once landed him a radio gig as "Dr. Tom, Frontier Proctologist," though in real life he's a gastroenterologist whose patients get a bang out of the band's name and who is way beyond caring what people think about him.

"If we were interested in protecting our images, we wouldn't be playing in a band, so 'the Sphincter Tones' is a statement about that," he says.

The band never has been criticized for its name, probably because members obviously don't take themselves too seriously, but Dr. Tom says, "You have to be careful around here how far you take this humor."

Besides, he's too busy trying to become a famous musician.

Not too long ago, Dickinson was paying for a drink at a convenience store on State Street when the lady behind the counter looked at him and said, "Aren't you in the Sphincter Tones?"

"My dream had come true," Dickinson said. "I was a rock star."

And now the Tones get to open the annual Blue Sky Concert Series on Monday at 7 p.m. at Provo's Pioneer Park, 500 W. Center. The one-

hour concert is free.

No word if they'll play Bob Dylan's "Blowing in the Wind," but clearly, the Sphincter Tones are gonna go big. Maybe someday they'll open for Fresh Aire.

Even if the Sphincter Tones are a fun-to-watch, harmless mix of 50-somethings and BYU music students who make for great family entertainment, just putting the band's name on its calendar seems like a mildly risky step for the Provo, uh, Arts Council.

Last year, the opening act for the concert series was "Polkatonics." No kidding. The band was billed as "danceable oom-pah polka."

You can't make up this stuff.

Later last summer, the concert series included yodelers.

Hmm, does the Big Sphincter yodel?

"Hey," Dickinson says, "it's all just good, clean fun."


Utah County Bureau Chief Tad Walch lives with his wife Ronde and their five children in Provo, their home for the past 21 years. E-mail twalch@desnews.com.