The Black Keys are based in Nashville, but their hearts and a portion of their considerable revenue streams are still here in Akron.
Singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney have teamed up with award-winning, Los Angeles-based, gourmet hamburger restaurant Umami. Starting July 1, the chain, which has 20 outlets around the country (the nearest one is in Chicago) will begin selling the Akron Burger. Umami has created other charitable burgers under its Artist Series.
The $13 burger’s Akron-centric ingredients, selected by the band, are a beef patty topped with Velveeta fondue, a “secret sauce,” yellow mustard, chopped onions and dill pickles. Local burger aficionados might recognize those basic ingredients as a classic Hamburger Station slider, one of Carney’s favorite local burger joints.
“It’s very much based on the ingredients that they ate growing up in Akron,” said Veronica Rathbourn, spokeswoman for Umami Burger. “They’re big fans of mustard, I guess …”
For a limited time, $1 of each Akron Burger sold will be donated to the Black Keys Alfred McMoore Memorial Endowment Fund at Akron Community Foundation. The foundation helps finance Community Support Services, a local agency that helps people with mental illness.
McMoore, who died in 2009 at age 59, was a local artist and family friend of Carney and Auerbach. He lived with schizophrenia much of his life and was a client of the agency. His unusual way of communicating his displeasure with someone or something, i.e. “your black key is taking too long,” provided the band with its name. (Read more about Alfred McMoore with this story on Ohio.com.)
The fund was established with proceeds from a local benefit concert by the band in 2010 and augmented in 2013 with a $10,000 cash prize the band received for a Mid-Career Artists Awards for music and dance from the Cleveland Arts Prize. Currently, the fund has raised about $50,000.
The news came as a pleasant surprise to the folks at the foundation who said they received a call from the band’s management Q-Prime, offering them a slice of the gourmet Akron burger pie.
“Because the fund was established in their name and goes to support Community Support Services and people like Alfred who helped name the band, they thought of us immediately,” said Tina Boyes, vice president of marketing and communication for the foundation. “We were just kind of blown away that something at this large of a scale would end up coming back to Akron, so we appreciate their thoughtfulness and remembering their hometown.”
According to Rathbourn, the Akron Burger will likely enjoy a limited run on the menu of a few months but can be revived at any time for special band- or burger-related occasions. A past entry in Umami’s Artist Series was the Slash Burger, which raised more than $14,000 for the Los Angeles Youth Network. The Akron Community Foundation would be very happy with that amount and is lightheartedly throwing down the gauntlet to other local chains.
“The next thing we have to do is let Swensons know they have to one-up these guys, do the Turn Blue [the name of the band’s latest album] Cheeseburger or something,” Boyes said laughing.
The Akron Burger joins the quietly growing list of ways the band has helped its hometown. In 2013, the West Akron-bred musicians began supporting the West Akron Baseball League in which they played as youths through sponsorship of the Orioles team and selling a specially designed Black Keys/WABL T-shirt via their website, theblackkeys.com.
The band is on tour in Europe and will play Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland on Sept. 6.