When Odell Mickens calls me, he’s on the turnpike returning from Philadelphia, where he’s just played organ at the funeral of his friend’s sister. His friend is Earl Young, legendary drummer and owner of the Trammps, known around the world for their 80s hit “Disco Inferno.”
Mickens has played bass guitar for the renowned disco and soul group for the past 23 years. Once working 300 nights out of the year, the Trammps now play – by choice – fewer than 40 gigs per year, mostly benefit concerts and disco events like the Disco Explosion Tour featuring the likes of KC & the Sunshine Band, the Village People, Gloria Gaynor, Evelyn Champagne King and Sister Sledge. They pack the house wherever they go.
Mickens wants to work more often, however, so five years ago he formed R&B group Wallstreet. The five-man band plays the New York City area, New Jersey, Delaware and the Carolinas whenever the Trammps aren’t on tour. Derrick Dupree (“Body Work” from the dance flick, Breakin’) handles lead vocals; Rich Nichols is on guitar; Pat Smith is the drummer; Rob McCoy plays bass; and Mickens is the group’s keyboard player.
“I’ve made my living playing bass,” says Odell, “But the organ is my first love. Put a Hammond B Three in front of me and I’m happy.”
Mickens first became interested in music as a teenager, “When I was about 15, I had a buddy whose dad was a jazz bass player. I learned how to play Wilson Pickett and I got into some James Brown grooves.
Still in high school, Odell and his buddy formed a band that played school events. “We didn’t go to any of our proms,” says Mickens, “because we were playing at them.
“I came up through the sixties during Motown and soul, but I gravitated toward the Beatles, Cream and the Stones because they were playing instruments. I remember seeing George Clinton & the Parliament Funkadelic. They had crazy outfits and guitars. They weren’t just standing there!
“I thought, “I want to do that! That was a big moment for me. That’s when I started taking it seriously.”
Odell’s high school band evolved into Exit Nine, an eight-piece horn band with a substantial following in Jersey.
“This was the eighties. We were the regular house band at this club in New Brunswick called The Cave. We’d pack about 2,000 people in there. The band would travel upstate New York or Scranton, Pa. for three weeks and then we’d play The Cave for the fourth week.
Performing at The Cave, Exit Nine opened for many big name bands including Cool & the Gang, Patti Labelle, the Commodores, BP Express and the Trammps.
“When we opened for the Trammps in the very early eighties, I became friendly with Earl Young, the band’s drummer and owner. He invited me to play bass with his band. In 1983, I went to Boston and I’ve been with the Trammps ever since. We’ve toured Europe, Canada, the Caribbean. Through the Trammps I also got to know Bunny Sigler, who wrote many of the big soul songs, some of them back as a staff writer at Gamble & Huff [which became Philadelphia International Records ca. 1970].He went on to say, “Working with Earl Young and Bunny Sigler has been invaluable.”
Young, considered by many to have invented disco drumming (using the Hi-Hat cymbal throughout the recording, which deejays liked because it helped them cue up the music), got into music publishing early in his career. Both Young and Grammy-nominated Walter “Bunny” Sigler are savvy musicians, writing and producing for themselves and other artists. Bunny Sigler was a co-writer for “Somebody Loves You Baby,” Patti Labelle’s million seller and he also wrote Instant Funk’s “I Got My Mind Made Up.”A true R&B pioneer, Sigler’s work has been sampled by Mary Kay Blige and other pop and R&B stars of today.
As Odell talks about playing with the Trammps, he laughs, “It’s funny to me that the Trammps recorded tunes like ‘Zing Went the Strings’ and ‘Sixty Minute Man,’ both big R&B hits, but it’s ‘Hold Back the Night’ that’s had the biggest impact in the Carolina beach music market.”
Mickens first played Myrtle Beach during the Trammps 2002 tour at nightclub 2001. He had already cut his single, “Finally Friday,” so he gave a copy to the deejay, who played it, liked it and sent it over to 94.9 The Surf in North Myrtle Beach.The song was then included on 120inc’s Soul Street compilation CD (2002). This was the beginning of a whole new fan base for Wallstreet.
Subsequent Wallstreet singles, all written by Odell Mickens, have also made it on various beach compilations. “The Little Things” was released on More Soul 4 (2004); “Closing Time”is on KHP’s Locals Too (2005).
Performing for the first time at the Charleston Beach Music & Shag Festival in 2007, the group was a runaway hit with beach music fans who loved the band’s “classic” beach sound and old R&B stylings.
Wallstreet’s next singles, “I’ve Got a Feeling and “Such a Beautiful Girl” were both included on KHP label’s Thinking About You (2008).
What’s next for Odell Mickens?
“Wallstreet is really looking forward to this year’s Festival in Charleston,” says Odell, “Harriett [Grady-Thomas] has been a blessing . . . a real treasure to us.” The band takes the stage in Charleston at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 29 right after New York soul singer Angel Rissoff.
Mickens is also talking to Rissoff about working together in the New York-New Jersey area. “I hope we can make that happen,” Odell says, “We’re going to see what we can work out. There may be another Trammp tour coming up, too.
Wallstreet is currently in the studio working on their upcoming singles, “He and She” and “Something You Got,” with some production help from Bunny Sigler. Wallstreet Live In Concert is also in the works. Recordings for it will include some from the Myrtle Beach area.
If you’re into sizzling soul, order up some Odell Mickens and Wallstreet. They deliver.
This piece is also being published in the Beach Newz music column of Coast Magazine and Alternatives NewsMagazine, issue June 18 – July 2, 2009, p. 24.
This Charleston band has been partying for years. Their main job is to have fun … and when they have fun everyone has fun. The popular dance band includes six sing-from-the-gut vocalists and the horn section is nothing to sneeze about either.
Bass player Jack Tankersley and Mike Shuler (guitar/vocals) founded the group in 1991. Both had been with the Rivieras. Jack was co-leader with Jimmy Hendricks, but left after a difference over which direction the band should take. Shuler followed shortly afterward and the two formed East Coast Party Band (ECPB). Jack serves as the day-to-day operations guy, handling bookings, costumes, song selection, etc. and Mike is his business partner, making decisions about the band.
Joel Reese (vocals/trumpet) and Mark Black (musical director/vocals/saxophone) make up the horn section. Jerry Polk (vocals/drums) was invited to join the band by his dad, the late Gerald Polk, who passed away in 2004.Prior to working with ECPB, The senior Polk had also been a member of the Swingin’ Medallions and the Melody Makers. Jason Moore (saxophone/keyboards) eventually replaced him. Rounding out the group are David Fuller (vocals/keyboards), James Moore (guitar/vocals), and Jack’s wife of 25 years, vocalist Beverly Tankersley.
Polk, who started playing drums professionally at age five, has performed with Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose. David Fuller began playing the downtown nightclubs of his hometown, Mount Pleasant, when he was still a teenager. In Columbia, S.C. he joined Lion a band managed by deejay Woody Windham. The group was signed by Mainstream Records and enjoyed some regional success.
Originally from Clover, S.C.Mark Black grew up with music. The Black Brothers, his father’s family (including his aunt) performed locally and practiced in the basement. By age ten, Mark had decided that he would play the saxophone. After graduating from Appalachian State University, Mark joined the Fabulous Kays. He was a member of the Embers from 1996 to 2004, and signed on with ECPB as their musical director. For the past two years, he has also played with The Legends of Beach, made up of former Embers bandmates. A very successful studio musician, Mark is also known for producing two full-length documentaries that have aired on the Discovery Channel and the History Channel.
Joel Reese has played trumpet with some of the best – Marvin Stamm, Rich Mattison, Bill Watrous and Roger Pemberton. And despite undergoing surgery for throat cancer in 1998, he’s still playing … and partying.
East Coast Party Band has recently been named as official ambassadors of Mount Pleasant, where they play on a regular basis. These ambassadors of fun will be at the Charleston Beach & Shag Music Festival at 3 p.m. on Sunday, August 30. You won’t want to miss the party.
This piece is also being published in the Beach Newz music column of Coast Magazine and Alternatives NewsMagazine, issue June 18 – July 2, 2009, p. 24.
1. When a reporter or editor asks for an image or a bio, don’t just send them to your website. Reporters are almost always working on a deadline. So make a point of having your biography and a current photo on your computer ready to go. You can always say, “I have additional information and images on the website, so feel free to download whatever you need.” If you have someone handling your PR, by all means give the reporter their contact info, but take the initiative here, too: “John Smith handles all that for me, but I’ll call him and tell him to email you what you need right away.” This is sometimes the difference between getting a story about you published and not.
Think about it from the reporter’s point of view: if one guitarist answers his email promptly and sends you a photo and a quote, while another takes his time getting back to you and then tells you to go somewhere else for the pic, which, by the way, he doesn’t know if it’s high resolution or not, and your deadline gets closer every minute … which story are you going to write?
2. Don’t lie to reporters or mislead them. I understand that this can be tricky if you’re not ready to talk about something yet. Working sometimes on the marketing side and other times in editorial, I’m well aware that we often have different priorities. But you put the media in a bad situation if you allow them to go public with facts that you know aren’t true. It can come back to bite you.
I was interviewing a bandleader once and asked him about an upcoming change to the band. He looked me in the eye and told me nothing was changing. No one was leaving.
Well I already knew it for a fact. But if I hadn’t heard it firsthand from one of the departing musicians, I might have accepted the bandleader’s word and “put the rumors to rest.” Of course, I would have looked pretty foolish a short time later when the move was announced.
End result? I didn’t run the interview at all. He lost out on free publicity for his band. And now I take anything this guy tells me with a grain of salt.
3. If you tell a writer you’re going to do something, don’t forget about it. Make sure you do it. This is tough because a musician’s job is not just playing music. Often, you’re booking your own gigs and then loading in and tearing down, too. On top of that, you’ve got fans that want your attention; rehearsals, songwriting and maybe you want to see your family sometime.
Somehow though, you’ve got to come to terms with this. So if you say you’re going to send a CD, send it. If you commit to a telephone call, make the call. If you plan a lunch date, follow through with it. Media people play an important part in your success; and if you’ve found a reporter whose work you respect and who gets your music, this is a relationship you want to nurture.
4. Don’t assume a music editor knows about or remembers every show. I’m not suggesting that you inundate the media with reminders about every gig. But, once you’ve met an editor (or reporter or deejay), in particular one with whom you feel a connection, it’s a good idea to send a quick personal email inviting them to the show. If press passes won’t suffice (and they don’t always for bloggers and other Web-based media outlets), leave tickets or names at the door so there’s no charge for admission.
5. Don’t be shy. If you have something newsworthy, don’t hesitate to contact the writer and talk about it. It could be a change to your band; you’re in the studio working on a new CD; you’re writing a song with a new partner; you’re opening for a well known band; or you’d like the music writer to cover your just released CD … Your call might come at just the right moment for a writer who hasn’t figured out his next column yet or a local TV reporter who’s been thinking about highlighting the local music industry or a deejay who’s happy to do an on-air interview with you. If it doesn’t work out this time, your call may have paved the way for something else in the future.
6. Don’t assume that a reporter has kept your information on file unless he or she tells you so. It’s not always a perfect world, and just because you were on the afternoon news once or a music columnist interviewed you during a local festival, your bio and other data may have been deleted. So if you’re fortunate enough to have another story planned about you, just update and resend your information. In fact, even if there isn’t a story about you in the works, send another press kit after a few months. Sometimes it’s enough to jumpstart another interview.
7. Don’t get snarky because an editor hasn’t made time for your interview yet. Just because an editor has agreed to do a story about your music, you can’t always assume it’s going to happen on your schedule. Other time-sensitive stories and last minute assignments can move your story to the back burner. Your interview won’t always be top of mind. Here’s where you need to perfect the art of staying in touch without browbeating them. If you haven’t given them a press kit yet, email your EPK (Electronic Press Kit), send it in the mail or use the excuse to drop it by the office. If you’ve just gotten a new photo, email it with a short note. Remain patient and pleasant and resist the urge to send off a curt email about it.
8. Don’t misrepresent yourself when answering questions or making statements to the media via email. Without tone of voice and facial expression, it’s easy to sound glib or uninterested or even rude . Always include a greeting and sign-off. It’s important that you sound friendly, cooperative and interested in the exchange. Before you hit the send button, reread your email. Is it sarcastic? Could it be interpreted as uninterested or impolite? Consider rewording or adding emoticons. ☺ (Wow, MS Word just made that a smiley face. Okay, you’ll have to decide how you feel about emoticons.)
9. Don’t read a writer’s blog or watch a show only when it’s about you. If you respect the person’s work, make it a point to follow his or her work. You’ll get a big return for a small investment of time.
10. Don’t put media people on your catchall email blast list. Think about it. Do you really think it’s helpful for a writer or broadcast reporter to receive an email that says Thanks to our fans who came out Saturday in Raleigh. We had a blast. And happy day to the Parkers, who just had their 18th anniversary. Kudos, you two! Now multiply that by 25 bands and you know what a music reporter’s inbox looks like on any afternoon. I guarantee emails with messages of substance will be much appreciated!
Why Musicians Should Send Out Press Releases
1. A press release helps to remind the local media that you exist. (Media: newspapers, alt-weeklies, magazine, radio, Internet radio, television and cable)
2. A press release tells the media AND their listeners/readers/viewers what you want them to know about your band or your music.
3. If you can interest an editor in your story, he or she is more apt to not only run the release but also maybe assign a writer and photographer to your story.
4. Sending out press releases can help you develop relationships with the media.
5. Editors and writers are almost always on deadline. When you provide them with a well-written press release about your gig, you’re making their job easier. They appreciate that, and if they don’t pick up your release this time, they may next time.
6. By promoting your public gigs, you show the club owners and media that you’re professionals. It also helps to fill the house.
How to write an informative press release:
First paragraph. This is your basic information: Who is your band and what is the event? Is it concert, a club date, a festival, a street fair? If it’s a charity event, who or what group does it benefit? When is it? Time, date, how long it lasts; where is the venue? Include an address (and a city). Not all readers know the local landmarks and intersections. Note: remember to write this in the third person, as though you were writing a news story. Try to avoid words that exaggerate. Don’t say you’re the premier blues band or the hottest dance band. Don’t say you’re the best, the strongest, the most talented … let other people come to that conclusion and say it for you.
Middle paragraph/s. Here’s where you give us the details about your band. Who are you? What sort of music do you play? If you’ve received awards or other honors, this is a good place to talk about them. If you have a single that’s climbing the charts or a CD being touted on Internet radio, talk about that here as well.
You might want to say something about the venue here: the ambience, the food, the acoustics, and the sound system. If you’re playing an event, this is where you describe it.
Closing paragraph. Is there a cover charge? How can people pay for/obtain tickets? At a box office? Advance sales? Telephone sales? Through TicketMaster? If there’s a number or website for folks to contact for more information, add that here as well. Don’t forget the area code. With cell phones and more area codes being added in many cities, you shouldn’t assume everyone knows this one.
Some final suggestions.
•Although good manners are to be admired, the word PLEASE does not belong within your press release. It should read like a news story, not a personal note.
•Unless an editor requests that you write a commentary or personal experience story, do not write in the first person; use the third person. Do not use I, WE and OUR in your release. Remember it’s a news story.
•Don’t forget to run Spell Check before you submit your release. Editors hate typos in press releases.
• At the end of your release, indicate the end with three number signs (###) and below that, tell the editor how to contact you if he or she has any questions about your release. Include your name, phone number and email address. Remember, you need to be accessible, so if you list your cell number, don’t leave your cell phone on the bus.
• Regarding photos: Don’t overload the editors with pics, but it’s a good idea to email an image of your band or band leader along with the release. They’ll contact you if they want more or if the resolution isn’t high enough.
• If you have a press kit, try calling individual editors, news department or radio personalities to see if you can drop off your Electronic Press Kit (EPK). If you’re out of town, obviously you’ll need to mail it, but you still might benefit from a phone call, too.
In a word, yes.
If you want paying gigs, if you want radio play if you want to get noticed by industry players, if you want to generate word of mouth, if you want to play local or regional festivals, club dates, concerts, special events, parties, weddings, chamber of commerce events, corporate sales meetings or in-home concerts, you need a press kit.
Okay what’s a press kit?
A press kit is the packet or electronic folder of information you give to media people and promoters to help them “sell” you. You’ll also want to give it directly to club owners and anyone else who may hire you.
EPK stands for Electronic Press Kit. This is what you’ll use most often, although publicists still use printed versions, often including the printed information when they send out a CD for review.
Press kit components.
• Band biography/history. Keep this to one or two pages (approx 400-750 words). Write in the third person (he, she, they). Treat it like a news story. If you do a good job, you may find a publication or blog will pick it up almost verbatim. Be sure to include band members /instruments played, particular strengths, awards and high-profile gigs and the type of music you play. If you have limited experience, stress your strengths and add a human interest angle, if you can. i.e. your band recently worked at a Habitat For Humanity build or performed for a local charity.
• Band leader bio. Again, write in third person. Share your musical background, talents. You can include where you studied, where you grew up, family mentions, musical and personal influences. Try to keep it to a singe page (approx. 400 – 500 words).
• Band members bio sheet. One or two pages total (approx. 50 – 300 words for each player, depending on the experience of your band members). If you’ve got a ten-piece band, don’t worry if it’s longer! Some bands use a pool of backup musicians. You may choose to include these, or not.
• Press clippings. If you’ve had press coverage, chances are the editor or writer can supply you with an electronic file of the article. Ask for a .pdf file. Or, if the publication archives its articles, online, you can copy it yourself and save it as a .pdf.
Another option is to scan the printed article and save it as a .pdf file.
• Fact sheet. This is something not often included in musicians’ press kits, but it’s a great opportunity to add something that didn’t fit easily into your bio. Do it with bullet points. Make it simple. It’s a good place to list home towns and pertinent family information; tidbits about the band, i.e. Together the five-piece band plays 27 instruments or The lead guitarist often has as many as six guitars on stage at once or John Doe’s mother taught him to play slide guitar with a butter knife. A musician I know once taught Brandon Lee to play guitar – for his final film as it turned out. This is the sort of item you want to include here.
• Discography. Use your judgment. If you’re at the beginning of your career and have just produced your first homemade CD, include it in your band bio instead. Once you have a few recordings, you may want to include a discography sheet with title, year and label, maybe an image of the cover. If you have a long list, the image may not be practical.
• Technical requirements/capabilities. Depending on where you are in your career, most of you will bring your own equipment. It’s a good idea to have a sheet that lists your equipment along with your technical requirements. Club owners will appreciate the heads up.
• Professional band photo. This is something that bands seem to resist, but you need a current, professional-quality photograph of your band. Bite the bullet and do it. Have the photographer give you color, black & white, high resolution ( 8 x 10, 300 dpi, .tif) and low resolution (5 x7, 72 dpi, .tif). If you find yourself emailing a photo to an editor, you’ll probably have to adjust the size and format, but these sizes are fine for download from your site and for a CD. If your photographer wants a photo credit, be sure to include it with the photo. The photographer may embed it in the corner of the image so editors are sure to see it. NOTE: If your photo includes a band member who’s no longer with the group, it’s not current anymore. You need a new one!
• Band leader photo. Same as above. (If your group doesn’t have a specific leader, you’re off the hook for this one and the band leader bio!)
• Performance photo/s. This/These can be color, both high and low resolution. This image should be dramatic, can be one or more players. Use just one or two shots in your press kit.
• Band logo file. High and low resolution. .tif or .jpg.
• MP3. A representative tune or two, so they can hear how you sound. Choose this carefully. If you play mostly originals, but your press kit tune is a cover, that’s what folks will expect. Maybe you should have one of each.
Note that these written items are all separate documents, not one long piece. Be consistent with your headline fonts and type sizes. They should be the same for each one. Don’t make the type smaller just because the document is longer. You want them the same from one to the next.
Another tip, the paragraph is your friend. Don’t write one long block of copy. It’s too hard to read like that!
And finally, be sure you have included your contact information: contact person; phone number; email address; website, if you have one; MySpace address (you should be on MySpace); Twitter (you should be on Twitter, too!)
Now you have a press kit. What do you do with it?
• Burn it to a CD. Keep a couple safe and marked Master Copy/EPK with the date. Then burn ten or 20 more so you have them ready. Create labels for them There are templates at avery.com. You just fill in the copy (i.e. Press Kit, band name, contact name, telephone number and email address), upload a photo or logo if you want and choose a background color or design.
• Have your Webmaster put it in a downloadable zip file on your website in a section marked Media or Press or News. You or your Webmaster may have to adjust the sizes of your images.
If you don’t have a website, consider setting up a blog. Look into WordPress.com or Blogger.com. You may have to post your press kit items as separate elements. In that case, you could name a category Press Kit and post the components as individual blog posts within your Press Kit category. You would post the photos in an application such as Flickr (Some WordPress themes offer Flickr as a plugin) and your tunes in a music player. A drawback to using a blog is that your photos will not be large high resolution images. You’ll wind up emailing them (which, you’ll do when you send out press releases and notices about your gig. But that’s a blog post for another day!)
• Be generous with your EPKs. They won’t do you any good sitting on the dashboard of your car.
For a Second Time
(June 16, 2009)
Label: Cedar Creek Music
Well, today’s convoluted music news is that Daddy’s gonna be a daddy for a second time with For a Second Time, and if you understand what I’m talking about, then God love ya and log onto ReverbNation.com/DaddyTheBand PDQ because time’s running out to get your copy of this baby with the name-your-own-price option.
That’s right, the CD hits the streets on June 16 and Daddy’s letting you set the price (plus S&H) until June 6, all in time for Father’s Day.
I first heard about Daddy from Jeff Roberts, owner of the very independent Sounds Better Records in Myrtle Beach, S.C. “You need to know about Daddy,” he told me, “You start out with two solid singer/songwriters who are at different ends of the playing field and the place where they meet is completely different… it’s like two and two equal five … and they rock!”
He was right, so I did a story about their live Myrtle Beach performance courtesy of South By Southeast [Alternatives NewsMagazine, vol. XXV, No. 2, issue Aug. 28-Sept. 11, 2008] and later blogged about their first CD, a live recording titled Daddy At the Women’s Club.
For the uninitiated, Daddy, which made its official debut at this year’s SXSW Music Festival in Austin, Texas, is made up of five super talented players. Founders and touring duo Tommy Womack and Will Kimbrough deliver rockin’ guitar licks and write some of the wildest songs around. They first worked together in the bis-quits on John Prine’s Oh-Boy! label.We’re talking early 90s. Will was the 2005 Americana Music Association Instrumentalist of the year and Tommy has twice received the Nashville Scene Best Song award.
The rest of Daddy includes monster talents Dave Jacques on bass (John Prine, Emmylou Harris), John Deaderick playing keys (Dixie Chicks, Michael McDonald, Patty Griffin), and Paul Griffith on percussion (John Prine, Todd Snider).
After listening to this bluesy-country group for the last three days, I’m happy to report that the band’s latest offering has been worth the wait. For a Second Time is a ten-track recording that’s classic Daddy – schizophrenic rants that morph into crystal clear observations of life. This little slice of roots-rock Americana with its gospel overtones and rockabilly undertones gets better with each listen.
Here’s how Tommy describes the opening track, “Nobody From Nowhere:” Will and I wrote this one together with acoustic guitars in my house. I love how the tunes came from that and flowed to a place that sounds like the bayou coastline looks, with flashes of Memphis. You can dance to it. It fuses and Motown and the Allman Brothers like probably never before.”
“Early To Bed, Early To Rise,” is another written and performed by Womack. He says, “It’s a tough song for tough times. I play the part of the curmudgeon commencement speaker who needs to put the fear of God into the young, fresh hearts and minds of this country. Warren Zevon meets Crazy Horse.”
Next up (and the only track not written by one or both) is folk classic, “The Ballad of Martin Luther King,” which comes from singer/songwriter Mike Millius, who reportedly wrote it the same night Dr. King was assassinated.
Track four is “Wash & Fold,” written by Will Kimbrough. Tommy calls it “Will’s tune of love in a laundromat.” The backstory is that it was inspired after bringing some gamey “tour-filthy” laundry to a city laundry and being subjected to utter rudeness after choosing wash-and-fold instead of springing for wash-and-press.
“He Ain’t Right,” track seven features Tommy’s lyrics, Will’s music. Basically, it’s Kimbrough singing Womack’s story.
The melancholy album closer, “Redemption Is a Mother’s Only Son,” was written by Kimbrough and Jeff Finlin, another talented American singer/songwriter traveling under the radar.
For June, South By Southeast is bringing us a roots-rock group that’s not quite a household name yet, except maybe throughout the upstate of South Carolina and North Carolina.
The Bad Popes are a popular five-piece group known for their own brand of Texas swing, their country leanings, their rockin’ roots and their folksy bluegrass.
At one show, you can expect to experience a combination of all that and more. Guitarists Jef Chandler and Charles Hedgepath handle the group’s lead vocals and the lion’s share of the songwriting. Hedgepath has also been known to pull out the mandolin. On bass is Greenville’s Chris Garrett. Kevin Heuer, who has been teaching all levels of drumset for 24 years is on the kit. Mike Bagwell is on pedal steel and dobro.
Right off the bat, I had to know: where did that name come from?
“Well,” Charles Hedgepath laughed, “I had borrowed this book from my mother-in-law. It was about these popes who weren’t exactly good … they were bad. It was strange and we like it … and now we’re The Bad Popes.
Both Hedgepath and Chandler are prolific writers. Charles said, “I started when I was 16. I went through a phase in my early 20s when all I wrote was instrumentals, but then I started listening to Hank Williams … what good songwriting. Now I take that energy … I try not to pigeonhole songs right away; I don’t set out to write any type of song. It’s never like ‘Oh, we need another ballad.’ I just write what comes.
“I’ve written, I think, about 30 songs with Jef. I like throwing ideas off someone else … and working together, it’s a good check-and-balance. We both work on lyrics and melody.
“If there’s a theme that runs through all our songs, I’d say it’s strong melody.
“Sometimes one of us needs help with a bridge. Or I hear something of Jef’s and I add a chord … or we add lines for each other. Sometimes we work from scratch and other times we help each other finish something already begun… We try to let the songs breathe … kind of cultivate. This lets us play whatever’s right for the song.”
Chandler agrees, “I write based on how I feel. I grew up listening to the Beatles, Tom Petty, Steve Earle, Bob Dylan. Lyrics and music have always been important to me.
He laughs as he talks about his introduction to music. “I started playing guitar at 12. I was also playing piano, but I dropped it for guitar because I thought the guitar was cooler.
“I’ve been writing songs since I was a kid, I think, when I was taking lessons.
“For me, the songwriting comes as I’m trying to pick out another writer’s song.”
A serious student, Jef was an English major at Furman University and then took classes James Dickey, who was a poet-in-residence at the University of South Carolina at Columbia.
How does it work with two guitarists, I asked. “We both play rhythm or lead, says Charles. It depends on the song. We look at what the musical situation calls for.”
The band members are also known for their work in other bands including the Jef Chandler Band, the Work, Vigilantes of Love, Matthew Nights Williams Band, William F. Gibbs, Danielle Howle and Seconds Flat.
The June 6 smoke-free performance of The Bad Popes for South By Southeast will take place at the landmark Myrtle Beach Train Depot. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for those under 21 if you’re a member, $25 if you’re not. Don’t forget, your price of admission includes not only the show, but also a pot luck dinner along with free wine, soda and beer Dinner starts at 6 p.m., music at 7 p.m.
If you’d like to support this wonderful grassroots nonprofit organization, membership in SXSE costs just $25 a year. This all-volunteer group is dedicated to preserving and promoting all sorts of American music that mainstream America sometimes forgets. For more information, log onto http://www.sxsemusic.com and download an application form.
Sponsors include New South Brewery, QROCK Radio, Sea Note Recording, Pepsi, Sounds Better Records and the Anderson Property Group.
For more information call Jeff Roberts, owner of Sounds Better Records at 843-497-3643 or Seth Funderburk, Sea Note Recording, at 843-455-6499.