In 1978, he pieced together a surf pop/instrumental band called the Overtones, consisting of himself on guitar and vocals, Jim Thompson on guitar, John Wilson on bass, and Steve Foley on drums. The Overtones were the first band Amis had that played in front of people.
“It was a great time to be in the Minneapolis scene,” Amis recalled, referring to the wave of bands that were coming up at that time, like Husker Du, the Suburbs, and, shortly after the Overtones’ heyday, the Replacements. “We fared pretty well. It was a very nurturing and encouraging music scene in which everyone was given a chance and in most cases did something pretty cool with it.”
The Overtones made one record, a 45 RPM on Twin/Tone Records, recorded in February 1980 and released in May of that year. It consisted of three songs: “Red Checker Wagon” (an Amis original with vocals), “Surfer’s Holiday” (a cover tune written by Brian Wilson, Gary Usher and Roger Christian) and “The Calhoun Surf,” an Amis original instrumental that has become a neo-surf classic.
After the Overtones disbanded in the summer of 1980, Amis spent approximately two years with the Raybeats.
Shortly after the show [Nashville Now on TNN] was cancelled, he left TNN to get back into music full-time, hooking up with Eddie Angel, Jimmy Lester and E. Scott Esbeck to form Los Straitjackets. In 1995, Los Straitjackets issued their debut album, The Utterly Fantastic and Totally Unbelievable Sound of Los Straitjackets, to rave reviews, respectable sales and loads of fanfare. They found themselves media darlings, donning their wrestling masks on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, among other outlets. It was a far cry from the hand-to-mouth existence Amis had eked out with the Raybeats a decade and a half earlier.