This has to be quick. I just wanted to remind you that Verlon Thompson will be on the Grand Strand tonight, Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012, at the historic Myrtle Beach Train Depot, courtesy of the folks at South By Southeast. Verlon is the walking definition of the term singer/songwriter, a first rate troubadour.
I talked to him for a while earlier in the week. He was in between road trips and happy to talk a little about the upcoming show and Works, his 18-track 2011 album that ranges from solo recordings to a full band.
“Starting out, I wanted to keep it simple,” he says. “So some tunes are just me and Mike Dub on upright bass. But others have the complete band. It’s mostly pretty recent tunes.
“The song, “Oklahomagain” is about my home. It means a lot to me, and every time I sing it, I picture myself at home.”
For “Mike and Betty’s Daughter,” it’s a waltz, I added a big string section … I was just feeling so passionate about that song!” [Verlon met his wife, Demetria Kalodimos in 2000. Neither had expected to find “this love thing” again, but they did and Verlon calls her his “dream come true.” Demetria is a journalist and TV news anchor in Nashville and well as a filmmaker and documentarian.]
“The Guitar: I had made a little video for Guild Guitar company when they gave me an endorsement. The song was part of a songwriter class Guy Clark and I were teaching – [Jorma Kaukonen’s]Fur Peace Ranch, it’s like camp for pickers. We’d sit there and basically write taking input from the members. They all inspire me. To see the passion, the beliefs that some young person has … They don’t know – or care – how hard it is and how hard it is to get it produced. They just have to do it … They inspire me.”
“’Ballad of Stringbean and Estelle’ was a true story. Guy and I had talked about writing it. The story had all the ingredients for an old time murder ballad, but we were concerned about the families, so we kept putting it off. One day, Sam Bush came by and said his dad had saved newspaper articles about the murder. The three of us started jotting down facts and by the end of the day, we had a song.”
Verlon’s had some pretty heavy co-songwriters during his 30-something-year career, so I wanted to know how collaborating stacks up against writing solo.
“I get the most satisfaction when I write a song myself because every word is mine. Collaboration is great, but it’s always a compromise (even if it’s better). The ones that are all yours are the ones you hold closest.
“The ones I write myself, I can’t tell you how these happen. I try to catch them. If I let myself be open, sometimes I can get them. I write down what comes to me.
“As a songwriter, it’s your job to be open to what comes to you. I’ve just grown to see it that way … Now when I see a leaf fall from a tree, it’s a metaphor. Or sometimes, what’s literal to me might be a metaphor to you. That’s the beauty of songs; they mean different things to everyone.”
Click here to read my full interview with Verlon the last time he came to town. If you can make it out tonight, reserve your spot by sending an email to email@example.com. You won’t be sorry. Storytelling doesn’t get any better than Verlon Thompson.
Works track list with notes: “The Show We Call the Business” – the story of Verlon’s arrival in Music City. Accompanied by Mike Bub, Shawn Camp, John Gardner; “Oklamomagain” – Scenes from Verlon’s home town Binger, Okla. And a special shout out to fellow Binger boy, Hall of Famer Johnny Bench; “Caddo County” – More vivid images of home; “Dinnerbell” – …”you can’t lose what you never had”…; “Where the Bottom Is”; “Backup and Turnaround” – Perseverance. Verlong and Bub with harmonies by Larry Marrs and Diana DeWitt; “Adalee” – Not enough perseverance in this case. Featuring the “Works” band, Bub on Bass, Gardner on hand drums, Shawn Camp on fiddle and Larry and Diana harmonizing; “Gone But Not Forgotten”; “Big Bad John” – Just Verlon and a mando doing Jimmy Dean’s classic; “I Need More Time” – Don’t we all? With special guest Paul Franklin on steel guitar; “Joe Walker’s Mare” – Joe Walker was an early American explorer … he always had a nice ride; “The Ballad of Stringbean and Estelle” – Sad, but true. “The Get To You Waltz” – I’ve never been a dancer … or so I thought. A beautiful string arrangement by Kristin Wilkinson; “Mike and Betty’s Daughter” – In honor of three of the most beautiful people I’ve ever known; “El Toro” – Inspired by a trip to Spain. V., Shawn and Bub handle the manly harmonies; “Don’t Take Me Back” – Classic country music … I hope; “The Guitar” – The last line is the payoff; “Barnegie Hall” – Practice. Practice. Practice.
Multi-talented S.C. musician Rick Strickland is a one-man band. To say he’s a prolific songwriter just hints at his lyrical stamina. His soulful stylings are out of this world and and – with a four-octave range – his vocals reach even further. Add to that technical savvy, masterful guitar work and a producer’s ear, and you have an inkling of what Rick brings. He can do it all, and he usually does.
That said, this new recording is a departure. It showcases the entire Rick Strickland Band. Titled
Hangin’ Out, the brand new 12-track album (released on April 20) is a collaboration of the entire group, and Rick Strickland is very much the proud papa.
“The idea was for everybody to have their fingerprints all over this. I didn’t want to get in the studio and tell them what I wanted to hear. I just gave them little acoustic guitar/voice demos and said, ‘There, do what you want with it.’ And they stepped up with ideas I would never have even thought of.
“For ‘I’d Rather Be Your Friend,’ the big ballad, my original thought was to have the band in the whole song. But Lesa suggested starting with just the guitar, then bringing her in and then the rest to build. It really makes the song.”
Lead vocalist and keyboard player Lesa Hudson, a songwriter in her own right, is also responsible for some distinctive orchestration on “I’d Rather Be Your Friend.”
Rick explains, “We’re holding these two chords and she kind of does these classical rolls through them that provide the song the tension and release that makes it interesting … Lesa has a million great moments on the CD.”
Lead vocalist and keyboard player Lesa Hudson adds, “For me, I love the harmony and Rick’s take on the harmony arrangement.”
Harmony is key to the Rick Strickland Band, both in an out of the studio. “This experience was all about the group,” Lesa continues. “At the end of the day, it wasn’t just Rick’s project, it was all about everybody.
“What sticks with me is the whole process … the talent, the people. This is my seventh CD, but the first I’ve recorded with live musicians … It really comes through in the recording.”
This is definitely a cohesive, single-minded band, but there’s room for individuals to shine, and shine they do.
Says Rick, “Don [Hamrick] really shows his butt through the whole thing, and being a drummer myself, I love it. On ‘I’d Rather Be Your Friend,’ his first entrance is the second verse, and he’s barely playing on the rim of the snare drum and just before bringing the snare in on the precourse (where 99% of dummers would do a bombastic drum fill on the toms), he instead just lightly touches on the head of the snare drum before bringing it in officially. It’s so artful and restrained.”
“Alive Til 95” is a kick-ass soul tune with lead vocals by bass player Debbie Anderson and Rick.
“I had a band called the Citizens back in ‘85. This was written for them, but I thought it was be great for Debbie to sing, and she nailed it! I had never heard her sing lead until we got into the studio … and she can nail it! To see our Cupcake sing like Mavis Staples …” Rick’s voice trails off here. He’s genuinely proud of his band mate.
That’s a running theme of our conversation, as he recounts the studio sessions, which, by the way, were executed in about three days.
“‘Gonna Come a Day’ is a sassy duet with Lesa Hudson and Rick Strickland on lead vocals.
“Lesa and I wrote that in the car on our way somewhere, to a gig, I think. We got most of it down on the way and finished the lyrics on the way back. It’s another really good example of Don’s brilliance.”
The admiration here is mutual. “It’s an honor for me to be in this band,” says drummer Don Hamrick. Words almost escape him as he tells me about the recording sessions.
“The collaboration in the studio … the intent … the chemistry … The ideas we had just meshed like a dream come true. I’ve had recordings where you spend weeks working with a click track, but this … this is real. This is us playing. What we did in the studio is exactly when we do onstage.
“Sometimes you can lose the chemistry when you try to make it too perfect … We rehearsed, but we allowed the chemistry to come through. For ‘Let’s Take Our Time,’ I was playing cajón. I thought it was a run through, but when we listened, it was right on the money.
“It’s a wonderful experience to record that quickly and still have the quality.”
Chatting with Debbie Anderson, it strikes me as ironic that the woman who can ‘sing like Mavis Staples’ is so soft spoken and shy even. She tells me that this is her first time recording instrumentation, that she’s an understated bass player; she keeps the tempo, keeps the pace. But then suddenly, she makes me laugh out loud.
“I started playing bass when my church needed a bass player,” she says. “So I put on some Lynyrd Skynyrd and taught myself.” Goes to show, you should never underestimate the shy ones.
Listen closely to “Hey What You Say.” Debbie came up with a subtle bass line that adds a lot to the song.
Keyboard player Art Benton is a session veteran. “I’ve been doing studio work sing the 60s, and it was amazing to see how this group with little studio experience ripped through everything.”
I wondered if he had a favorite tune on the Hangin’ Out CD.
“Maybe ‘Little Diva.’ Technically speaking it’s got vocals, piano part, drum track, flute, syncopated piano part all going on at once. I love it.
“It’s great to work with a drummer who can hold his meter and be colorful at the same time.”
CD credits: Rick Strickland (lead and background vocals, electric and acoustic guitars, producer, mixing); Art Benton (keyboards and accordian); Debbie Anderson (lead and background vocals); Lesa Hudson (lead and background vocals, keyboards); Don Hamrick (drums and percussion); Kevin Smith (engineer); Six+1 Studios (recording); Songwriting: All songs written by Rick Strickland except “Gonna Come a Day,” written by Rick Strickland and Lesa Hudson. CD cover design Lesa Hudson. CD cover photography Jim Allen.
Nashville singer/songwriter David Fair is coming to Myrtle Beach this weekend for two shows. Tonight, Friday night, he’s opening for Phil Vassar at Club Boca at Broadway At the Beach (in fact, he’s probably on stage now!); on Saturday, he’ll be at 2001 Nightclub in their intimate Stage room.
David plays a rockin’ guitar, writes some solid lyrics and brings a kick-ass voice to the stage. No surprise, he grew up with music all around him. His dad, Joe Fair, is a respected Nashville singer/songwriter in the Christian music community (Listen to “I Am Certain,” written by Joe Fair, vocals by David Fair). By age 12, David was playing drums in a garage band. Then he joined Tennessee rock group Pieces of Eight, playing clubs and local events. David formed his own band at age 15. Dubbed Walt-Dizzy by David’s father, the group had a southern hard rock sound that helped them land gigs opening for Steppenwolf and headlining local shows throughout the south.
“After that I joined a hard rock metal band called Medicine Mann,” David said in a telephone interview last week. “I fronted them for eight years. We opened for some major acts.”
David is very low key about these major acts, so let me tell you. During his career, he’s opened for Tesla, Craig Morgan, Warrant, Skid Row, Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora, Jewel, Quiet Riot, Big and Rich, Eric Martin and Eric Church. He’s played The Fillmore in San Francisco, the Cannery and the Starwood Amphitheatre in Nashville, and the Bitter End in New York City.
“It was pretty cool,” David says. “I opened for Tesla at the Warfield in San Francisco … and I played the Fillmore, too, which was great because my dad had played there with the Grateful Dead. I grew up looking at the poster.”
Have you been living in Nashville this whole time, I asked.
“No, I had moved to California in 1999. After I left Medicine Mann, I began to pursue the Americana thing.
“My dad really helped me make connections,” he laughs. “He’s good friends with David Garibaldi, the Tower of Power drummer, who hooked me up with Troy Luckketta, the drummer for Tesla, who wound up producing my first solo CD. Halfway through the album, Tesla went out on the road. That was when I opened for them at the Warfield.”
Returning to Tennessee, David toured with the Mulch Brothers, opening for the group and then playing in the band. He also began work – with the help of CJ Boggs – on a second EP, You Never Know.
“CJ played on my first album and played for Mr. Big, and now he has this engineering gig. We set up a studio in the house, brought in these fabulous players … it was great.”
Players included some of the best session players in Nashville and then some: Troy Luckketta, Tesla’s drummer; Kevin Carlson from Aldo Nova on guitar and keys; bluegrass performer Chris Thile; Bryan House, Sam Bush’s bass player; Bruce Bouton on steel guitar; “Banjo Ben” Clark, who plays with Taylor Swift and the Clark Family; Chris Solberg, Eddie Money guitarist, and N.Y.C.’s Phil Roselle, now part of the Sowing Circle.
David’s favorite writing partner, other than his dad, is music veteran Billy Falcon, who shares songwriter credits on half a dozen Bon Jovi albums and whose tunes have been covered by Stevie Nicks, Cher, Manfred Mann, Sherrie Austin, Meatloaf, Trace Adkins and others.
Based on what I’ve heard, the new CD will be a keeper.
Band members include: David Fair, acoustic lead vocals/guitar/harmonica; Moises Padilla/drums; David Phoenix/bass; Josh Gramling, lead guitar/backing vocals.
David Fair and I share the same hometown. Floral Park, N.Y. I went to school with his Uncle Dave. My older brother was great pals with David’s dad, Joe. Joe played ball on one of my dad’s ball teams, either Little League or Babe Ruth, and my sister is friends with David’s aunt.
Until last week, though, when I got a message on Facebook from David, I didn’t know him and wasn’t familiar with his music. Now I’m a fan.
If you’ve been in the Carolinas for any length of time, most likely you know Charlie Snuggs. You may not remember which band you know him from, but you definitely know him.
“I’ve played in so many bands, even I can’t remember them all,” laughs the versatile guitarist during lunch in Little River, S.C. this week. “I’ve been with country bands, dance bands, blues bands … all of them.”
Born in Highland Park, Ill. to native N.C. parents, Charlie moved to Pittsburgh, Pa., Lakewood, Fla. and Thomasville, Ga. all before he was five years old.
“My dad was a municipal manager,” Charlie explains. “He’d be fired and rehired with every election. We lived all over the place.
“Blues was in the air in southern Georgia, when I was there in the 50s. The old men playing on the street fascinated me, and I’d put a penny in the cup, and sit to watch them.”
Family life revolved around music, too. Charlie’s old sister played classical piano. His father sang in the choir at church and community events.
Sunday, Feb. 9, 1964 was a pivotal date for a young Charlie Snuggs. He, along with a reported 73 million others, watched The Beatles for the first time on the Ed Sullivan Show.
“Watching John Lennon, it hit me. That’s what made me get a guitar.
“It took me two years to learn my first song. I did it by ear. It was ‘Love Me Do’ by the Beatles.”
His next big musical moment would come in 1967 with the release of Cream’s critically acclaimed psychedelic rock album Disraeli Gears. It catapulted the young guitarist into a whole new area of music – blues.
“I started really listening to British music … the Yardbirds … the Stones … I didn’t know it was blues, but I knew I liked it.”
During this time, Charlie was busy playing. At 14, he had his first gig, playing for a teenage center (By now the family was living in Mooresville, N.C.). A few years later he landed a spot with a more experienced band, Nova’s IX. They had recorded a record and appeared on American Bandstand. The band included Bobby Nance (trumpet player for the Catalinas), vocalist Gary Brown and guitarist Sammy Ingram (now a professor at Clemson).
“They hired me to take Sammy’s place … a 17-year-old in a happenin’ band … I think Gary Brown got me drunk for the first time!”
Later on, in Charlotte, N.C., Charlie met drummer Earl Truette, and then the Barkley brothers – Rusty and Johnny.
“We toured the hotel and fraternity circuit, playing Top 40. Then one day the Barkleys walked in wearing cowboy hats and boots. ‘We’re shutting this band down. We’re going to play country.’
“So now we’re a country band,” said Charlie.
Rusty Barkley’s comment to me about this, when I reminded him of the incident during a phone conversation this afternoon? “That was the only way we could get out of playing disco … And doing country really opened up another kind of playing for us. Charlie’s dad had told him, ‘You’re never going to be a real guitar player until you can play Chet Atkins.’ So Charlie started doing “Yakety Axe” [the Chet Atkins 1965 single, which was an adaptation of "Yakety Sax" by his friend saxophonist Boots Randolph.] Then doing James Burton‘s chicken pickin’ stuff and playing with Jim Brown, a guitarist for Charlie Daniels Band, who had a big influence on both of us … well the country thing opened us up to a new kind of playing.”
So the newly designated country group hooked up with Larry Presley, who built the Beach Wagon on Business 17 in Myrtle Beach and Kaleidoscope Productions.
Continuing his saga, Charlie says, “We opened the place and played there for a couple years, opening for folks like George Jones, Vince Gill, Patty Loveless and others, until the band broke up. Rusty and John went back to Charlotte. Earl and I stayed here.
“My next adventure was at Sock’s [Myrtle Beach club on Hwy. 501]. It’s around 1979, and I’m working the 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. gig.
“I played with Kerry Michaels and Mike Stevens for about a year. It was a crazy place … gambling, hookers. John Jenrette [from the FBI ABSCAM debacle] used to hang out there.”
“I moved to Nashville; that didn’t work out. Went back to Charlotte, got a great gig with the Country Underground [now Morehead Street Tavern]. Upstairs was the blues band and downstairs, it was country.”
Back at the beach in the late 80s, Charlie was again playing country music with Silver at the Beach Wagon. After Hurricane Hugo, he joined Party Sharks playing the hottest gig in town at the Holiday Inn in downtown Myrtle Beach.
When Chicago Bob Hess quit his gig with Blues Express, the house band at House of Blues in Myrtle Beach, Charlie took his place.
“It was great,” he says. “They sent us to Orlando for two months. We opened for Johnny Winter … we opened for
Robin Trower – one of the highlights of my life.”
In the mid nineties, Charlie played at Sandpipers. “Bo Diddley came in, hired a local band, so we hung out, another great time. What a storyteller he was. And I ran Smokehouse Brown’s band for a while.”
After that, Charlie played with local musician Jaynie Trudell, for some 15 years. In fact they still work together sometimes and pull in the crowds when they do.
“I decided at some point I wanted to have a blues jam band. And that’s the Sharks [formed in Fall 2011], with Earl Truette on drums, Terry Harper on bass, and me on guitar. It’s sort of Widespread Panic meets Albert King,” he says. “You can’t just mimic old Elmore James sound. The rhythms are different now. So our jam band sound is appealing to a pretty broad crowd.”
Charlie Snuggs is all about the music. When he’s not playing, he’s practicing or listening to music.
“I study music all the time,” he tells me.” I’m fascinated. I like it. I like hip hop rhythms. I listen to Rihanna and Mary J. Blige. I listen to Derek Trucks and Jimmy Herring.”
Chicago Bob, Ambassador of the Blues for the State of South Carolina elected by the National Blues Society Hall of Fame, told me, “Charlie Snuggs is probably the most accomplished musician I’ve ever had the pleasure to share a stage with … He probably knows more styles of music then anyone I’ve ever met … Charlie is the absolute best
I’ve ever worked with and I’ve been at this business for over 40 years.”
Kerry Michaels and bandmate Terry Harper concur. She said, “Charlie and I go way back [He is a] great, great guitar player as everyone knows, but with Charlie this is no other guitar player as sincere and honest. He has always been my friend.”
Terry adds, “Charlie has such great stage presence. He brings a personality to the stage before he even opens his mouth … and his playing …. it’s just topnotch.”
Rusty Barkley was happy to elaborate. “Charlie’s ability to set a groove helps other players sound better,” said Rusty Barkley. “He’s never selfish, always does his best to help. It was Charlie, back in the day, who pulled me along. He knew theory and taught me … I always loved playing with Charlie … He was playing like Jeff Beck; I was playing Clapton. We put it together and got rock & roll … oh, and Charlie on slide…
Charlie told me that a great guitar player doesn’t want to play a bunch of notes. “We want to make the guitar sing like a voice … like B.B. King says about Lucille.”
“I hear so much emotion in Charlie’s playing,” adds local blues legend Michael “Pops” Stallings. “It’s not just technique. It’s more.” And when you go see Charlie Snuggs play guitar. That’s what you get. More.
You can catch Charlie jamming with the Sharks at 2001 Night Club on Sunday nights, beginning at 9:30 (often along with pals such as Chicago Bob, Kid Drew, Anson Funderburgh, Jaynie Trudell, Scott Cable, Digger Tozzi, and Calabash Flash. On Wednesday nights, he’s usually there, too, playing with the Coco Loco Party Band. And if it’s country licks you’re lusting for, look for the Most Wanted band, with Charlie Snuggs on guitar.
I first heard about Royal Southern Brotherhood (RSB) from the band’s drummer, Yonrico Scott. He was in town last Dec. for a South By Southeast show and during an interview, I put the standard query to him, “So what’s ahead for you?”
The enthusiasm and intensity of his answer caught me by surprise. “I’ve just joined this band,” he told me, “Get on Facebook, check it out! This is big! Devon Allman, Cyril Neville, Miko Zito, Charlie Wooten … and me! We’re already working on a CD. We’ve got bookings lined up! This is big!”
Okay, this sounds big.
Guitarist Devon Allman is, after all, the son of legendary Southern rocker Gregg Allman and successful leader of his own Honey Tribe band. Percussionist Cyril Neville is from the first family of funk, the Neville Brothers (and the groundbreaking Meters) – and of course, some of the best vocalists around. Guitarist Mike Zito took home a Blues Foundation award last year for his tune Pearl River, which he co-wrote with Cyril Neville, and his newest recording, Greyhound is up for best blues album this year. Charlie Wooten, the group’s Louisiana-grown bass player, founder of Zydefunk and the Charlie Wooten Project, is into everything from R&B to funked up jazz and reggae. Drummer Yonrico Scott has his own band, is a 2011 Grammy winner (with the Derek Trucks Band) and has played with Col. Bruce Hampton and Ike Stubblefield.
So I started following their progress on Facebook. With Grammy-winning producer Jim Gaines they were recording at Dockside Studio near Lafayette, La.
Pretty soon they were posting snippets of tracks … harmonies for “New Horizons,” then guitar dubs … vocals for “Left My Heart In Memphis.”
They had me at the harmonies. I had to interview this band. And after talking to them, I’m more excited than ever about the music that’s in store for all of us.
Devon was my first phone call. We talked a little about his famous dad, but mostly focused on the new group and their debut 11-track self-titled CD, which will hit the streets on May 8.
“There’s a real blend of styles,” he tells me. “But it all comes from old school blues and rock.”
Devon is the founder and bandleader of Honey Tribe, a St. Louis, Mo. based blues-rock band known for their musicianship and jam band leanings.
“RSB is definitely more laid back than Honey Tribe,” he says. “But we’re stylistically similar. I’m really stoked that we came together.”
Are there any highlights of recording that you can share, I asked him.
“Any time Cyril stepped up to the mic,” he answered. “He really inspired me. There’s a tune that he sings,
“Moonlight Over Mississippi. It’s a standout. I honestly like the whole album, but this might be my favorite.”
Every one of the band members is excited about the new group. “We all came ready to work, said Cyril. “We wound up doing 12 tracks in two days, finished in five. We’re all putting 150% in.
“We needed a solid rhythm section and that’s what we have.
“What you hear on the recording, that’s performance on there, not all studio trickery and overdubs. It’s performance.
“Devon and Zito, they’re amazing guitarists. I like the blend between them. They never stepped on each other.
“And I’m very excited about the singing. Devon’s vocals are topnotch. Each song is different, but they all come together.
“All the elements of what I’ve been exposed to in my life are mixed up in this beautiful musical gumbo. Every member of this band has been involved in some of the seminal Southern musical ensembles.
“I’ve known Gregg Allman for over 35 years, so I don’t believe this is a coincidence or accident that I’m in a band now with his son.
“The music, to me, feels a lot like what Gregg’s brother – and Devon’s uncle– did and what I did with my brothers and my uncle.”
I really had considered Mike Zito a guitarist, but in reading about him, I found reference after reference to songwriting.
“I’ve been writing my own songs since high school, 20 something years,” he explained.
“I don’t ever write with intention for style. Usually just sit down and pick the guitar up and start singing. Or I’m driving.”
So how would you describe yourself, I asked, guitarist, vocalist or songwriter?
“Six years ago – would have been guitar, love guitar. I didn’t get it that singing and songwriting was where it’s at. These days, guitar isn’t my strength. Now I pay more attention to my voice.
“Used to be I wrote songs to play guitar. I found some songs off my old independent releases. I think they’re stronger than my guitar. Over the past five or six years, it’s come together.”
I knew Mike had some addiction problems in his past, which we spoke about briefly.
“I started playing in bars, six nights a week in bars … drinking a lot … drugs … too much partying,” he said. “I got in trouble with it, quit playing music. I was out on the streets.
“But I got into recovery. I had people helping me and eight years ago I started playing music again, different this time. Nothing came between me and the music. My newest album is Greyhound, produced by Anders Osborn.”
“Pearl River, the album before, was my first experience with Cyril, and my first ever collaboration.”
Cyril talked about it, too. “We had never met. I sent him lyrics. He asked what I felt about music. I had Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ ‘I’ve Got a Spell On You’ in my head and we went from there.”
The respect these guys have for each other is evident with every sentence.
“Charlie Wooten and Yonrico? First time playing with them, we hit it off instantly,” Zito said.
“The first night before anyone else got there, we recorded guitar, vocal, bass. They’re the backbone.”
Until Royal Southern Brotherhood rolls into your town, they’re as close as your computer. They have released their official video of “New Horizons.” It was uploaded to YouTube on Feb. 20. Check it out.The band’s website is: http://www.royalsouthernbrotherhood.com. And if you’re on Facebook, find them and “like” them. You’ll enjoy the exchange.
Sweet Goodbyes to Molly & a Warm Welcome for Allie
Until Oct. 27, Allie Privette was a dental assistant in Raleigh, N.C. Now she’s the girl in the band.
Twenty-seven-year-old Allie has the challenging job of filling the shoes and monumental vocal vacancy left when singer and
five-time CBMA Female Vocalist of the Year, Molly Askins decided it was time to leave Sea-Cruz, the powerhouse trio known for their impeccable vocals, high energy and musicianship that doesn’t quit.
Sea-Cruz will be 11 years old in March 2012. Originally a duo (vocalist Molly Askins and Dino Fair on keyboards and vocals), they hit the ground running with “You Bring Out the Boogie In Me,” “Baby I’m Yours/Make Me Your Baby” and “Shake Your Hips” – all in 2002.
Thomas “Butch” Barnes added his saxophone and vocal muscle to the group in April 2005. Together they have stormed the Carolina Beach Music Academy (CBMA) awards, earning in a single year (2007), Instrumentalist of the Year (Dino), Male Vocalist of the Year (Butch) and Female Vocalist of the Year (Molly).
When Molly announced she would leave Sea-Cruz so she and husband Lyle could focus on their family life, there was a collective groan throughout Ocean Drive and beyond as legions of fans were forced to imagine life without Molly.
Enter Allie, stage right.
I had a chance to talk to Allie and the rest of the band after the Endless Summer Festival in North Myrtle Beach on Oct. 29. The show was a great send-off for Molly and also gave the fans a chance to meet Allie.
Dino pretty much summed it up when he said, “We’re all sad Molly is leaving. We’re a family and we’re going to miss her. But this is an opportunity to refresh.”
As a family, Sea-Cruz has had more than their share of storms to weather. In the past 24 months, Molly fractured her foot. Dino
discovered he had diabetes. Butch’s high blood pressure resulted in a torn retina and then he had to undergo a hip replacement.
But, certainly the most devastating event was the unexpected death on Feb. 9 of Jimmy Lathan, the band’s live engineer and best friend a band could have.
“I hate that Allie won’t know Jimmy,” Molly tells me, and it’s a conversation stopper. So, yes, I can appreciate the need to refresh.
“We haven’t had the time to record and freshen our song list,” Dino continued. “And that’s what we’re going to do with Allie.
“We want to keep our working model. We’re a happy, fun-loving, kick-butt little three-piece band.”
Molly jumps in here and interjects, “And Allie has what it takes! You can’t help but love her!”
“Thank God she’s got a work ethic. We’ve only had a day of rehearsal, and she jumped right in … 20 songs at TJ’s Nightlife in Raleigh last night …” Dino adds.
Allie is quick to credit Molly with helping her with lyrics.
Molly comes back with,”Gotta help my sistah! “It really helps that we’re friends.”
Butch agreed, “This is a family situation, and the most important thing is to keep it positive.
“I think it shows how strong Sea-Cruz is,” says Molly, in response to Butch. “And people love Sea-Cruz. They’ve been coming out in droves to see us.”
It’s true. During the Endless Summer show, folks were waiting in line to give Molly a hug and welcome Allie to the group.
On stage, Allie was a dynamo. She lit into Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing,” leaving no doubt that she’s got the vocal chops to carry on.
In a phone interview last week, she told me knew many of the musicians through her significant other, Stephen Pachuta, trumpet player for the Embers. She’s been singing informally with Band of Oz, Jim Quick & Coastline, the Embers, Craig Woolard Band, Atlantic Groove, Tim Clark Band and the Fantastic Shakers.
Speaking about Allie, Butch said, “There’s an explosion waiting to happen, and some people are going to be amazed!”
According to Dino, and who would know better, the band will be recording Allie as soon as possible. Until then, their most recent CD is Rockin’ the Boat, a dual-disc project featuring 32 tunes (plus two bonus tracks) recorded live during assorted shows and cruises.
You can bet that Allie Privette will be rockin’ the boat – Sea-Cruz style – and I can’t wait to see the splash!
Getting back to Molly, I know I speak for a lot of folks when I say, we’re going to miss your smiling face. Don’t be a stranger. We’ll be looking for you to sit in once in a while.
And what does Molly say?
“I’m sad about leaving, but I’m a lot less sad because of Allie. I’m happy to leave it to a friend. (And yes, I’ll be back for the Sea-Cruz reunion!)
Exit Molly. Stage right.
Read more about Sea-Cruz on their website, which will be undergoing a sea change of its own, as soon as the band can slow down long enough to do it. This is just one of the many behind-the-scenes changes (and challenges) that Sea-Cruz faces as they change out vocalists. My guess is that they will handle it with grace and smiles, and the band will continue to kick butt.
Piedmont Blues refers to a regional subcategory of blues, which is characterized by ragtime-based rhythms associated mostly with African-American musicians of the southeastern U.S.
Freddie Vanderford is Piedmont blues. Born in the tiny town of Buffalo, S.C., he grew up listening to his grandad playing harmonica, though more of a mountain style than blues. Freddie started playing guitar at ten years old, appearing on the Farmer Gray show on WSPA radio in Spartanburg, S.C. and the Bob Ledford TV show on Channel 13 in Asheville, N.C.
He credits “Peg Leg Sam” Jackson as an important musical influence in his life.
“I met ‘Peg Leg Sam’ when I was about 15,” Freddie tells me.
Jackson was a percussive harp player with a talent for storytelling. A rough sort of character who played in a traveling medicine show, he lost his leg in a hoboing accident and part of an ear in a shooting.
“I first heard him play harmonica on this little AM radio station. I found out that he lived close by, so I started going to see him. At first he wouldn’t play for me. I played for him.
”He was a crazy old guy, but a good guy,” Freddie says, laughing, “I started carrying wood for him, I’d take him to buy liquor, I’d take him to gamble. Guys would have their straight razors and pistols out on the table. Didn’t see a lot of cheatin’,” he laughs.
“Eventually, he’d play, and then I’d play. We’d go out to where they sold moonshine. Someone would pull out a dollar. And then someone else would pull out a dollar, and this would go on all day.
“Greasy Greens was one of Peg Leg Sam’s tunes, and that’s why it’s the title track on my album.”
Greasy Greens is an album that’s chock full of Piedmont harmonica blues and more, and I love every minute of it. The 16-track recording includes originals by Freddie Vanderford, some traditional blues and some unexpected covers.
The opening track, and one of my favorites is the traditional tune “She Can Cook Good Sallett.” And by the way, that’s Upstate guitar sensation, Brandon Turner on acoustic guitar. “Trouble Come Knocking,” one of Freddie’s own pieces, rocks the room and “Greasy Greens” made popular by Pink Anderson is another fave.
The Josh White adaption, “One Meatball” is just pure pleasure. Freddie offers up a tasty version of Percy Mayfield’s “Lost Mind” and does Townes Van Zandt proud with “White Freightliner Blues.”
Johnny Cash fans, you’ll be happy to hear Vanderford’s versions of “Delia” and “I Still Miss Someone.”
Freddy Vanderford is the 2010 recipient of the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award for his Piedmont blues harp work and is being featured in a special B&C Art Museum exhibition melding S.C. music and visual art.
Players on the CD include: Freddie Vanderford (lead vocals, harp); Brandon Turner (acoustic, electric, resophonic and steel guitar; banjo; acoustic bass; snare drum; bongos; djembe and backing vocals); Matthew Knights Williams (acoustic guitar, backing vocals); Don McGraw (electric bass); Fayssoux McLean (backing vocals); T.J. Jeter (kick drum and hammers; drums and bongos); David Ezell (acoustic guitar, backing vocals); Wes Wyatt
On Friday evenings throughout the warm summer months, hundreds of locals in and around Ocean Isle Beach, N.C. head to the Museum of Coastal Carolina where the parking lot transforms into an outdoor concert area. Folks set up their lawn chairs, blankets and coolers and get ready to enjoy some good music.
On Aug. 12, the music will be especially fine as one of the area’s top beach music groups take the stage. Legends of Beach was originally formed in 2007 by a group of musicians most of whom happened to be former members of the legendary Embers band. They included vocalist Jackie Gore, known for his “I Love Beach Music” anthem for the genre; keyboard player Johnny Barker, a prolific songwriter responsible for such classics as “Summertime’s Calling Me;” guitarist Jeff Grimes; the extraordinary saxophonist and vocalist, C. Mark Black; and longtime bass player (and now band manager for Legends of Beach), Gerald Davis. Drummer Tony Davis, Rusty Smith (horns) and sound technician Steve Davis were also in the original lineup.
The band has undergone some changes in the past year. Jeff Grimes has returned to the Embers. Mark Black has also left the group, devoting more time to his East Coast Party Band. Both are huge talents, whose departures must have been felt to the core of the band.
But as they say, when one door closes another opens, and these exits were balanced by the addition of other topnotch players to the band.
For a time Gary Lowder of the Carolina Breakers was with the band to help fill in when Mark Black was not available. Since then, Terri Gore, the original “Carolina Girl” and daughter of Jackie Gore has joined; Nantucket saxman Eddie Blair has signed on; guitarist/ vocalist Pat Carpenter is now a full-time member; and so is trumpet player Ben Shaw. Not too shabby.
Gerald and I had a good long telephone conversation this past week, after a brief time out for a tornado warning in Wilson, N.C. where Gerald lives with his wife, Jane. We talked about his pre- and post-Embers life, the new players and what’s ahead for Legends of Beach.
Gerald’s got some great stories that I’d never heard before.
He was living in Riverside, Calif., playing in the house band for a joint called the Gas Company, right on the main drag. One night a young guitarist wanted in, and Gerald brought him up on stage. Forty years later, Gerald saw him again, this time at House of Blues. It was Sammy Hagar and the band was Van Halen.
“Your husband gave me a chance, got me up on stage,” Hagar told Gerald’s wife after the HOB show.
“I was shocked that he remembered me,” says Gerald. “I still have the bottle of Cabo Wabo Tequila he gave me.”
That house gig, by the way, helped land our young hero a singing contract with Liberty Records in
Hollywood. “I recorded two singles there with with the Jazz Crusaders; it was a big deal,” says Gerald.
A few years later, still in Riverside, he had a chance to meet one of the giants of Motown.
“There was a project, and I brought my old buddy from N.C. State, Donnie Weaver, lead singer for the Okaysions, out to California. We met Marvin Gaye, wound up at his house in Topanga Canyon and then went into A&M Studios to record.”
The album was never released, but they did get to work with Marvin Gaye. How cool is that?
In 1976, he moved back to Raleigh, N.C. and joined the Embers. Gerald figures he produced or co-produced a dozen albums for the Embers between 1979 and 2002.
After 31 years with the Embers, he left in 2007 to form Legends of Beach, and that brings us to the upcoming concert at Ocean Isle Beach.
I wanted to know what to expect.
“We haven’t changed our direction,” he tells me. “We still play the beach music our audiences love. And we love getting them involved. They’re there to have a good time.
“Of course, we have a female vocalist now, so that’s new for us.”
Terri Gore joined Legends of Beach on March 25 as a replacement for Gary Lowder. For anyone out of the Carolinas, she is a five-time Carolina Beach Music Academy (CBMA) Female Vocalist of the Year, and has also earned two Album of the Year awards, along with a Collaboration award with the Soft-Tones. She was inducted into the Beach Music Hall of Fame in 2010. Just last year, she had four No. 1 hits on the beach charts, including “Put a Little Love In Your Heart” recorded with Legends of Beach before she even joined the band.
Her latest album is YBF on Forevermore Records. Terri is married to Daryl Lemonds, leader of the Sand Band.
“I’m like an old Motown singer. I like power vocals with an R&B groove,” Terri says.
How about singing with your dad, I wanted to know.
“We’re so fortunate to be able to do it together,” she says, genuinely excited. “My dad is just the best singer in this industry … in my opinion, of course. And audience response has been incredible.
“Legends of Beach is the most incredible thing I’ve ever been part of.”
Let me introduce you briefly to the other new members of the legendary Legends of Beach band.
Eddie Blair is a strong, strong presence in the horn section and as a soloist. I can’t wait to hear his Junior Walker thing. Pat Carpenter has that bluesy, soulful voice that just gets under your skin. Ben Shaw has played trumpet with The Fantastic Shakers, the Kays and the Castaways.
It’s going to be a perfect night at Ocean Isle Beach.
(Photos Jim Allen; CD cover photo Jim Allen; CD cover design Joanie Dakai)
On my way to see the fabulous duo, Blue Mother Tupelo, at Mama Rue’s Blues Garden in Pawleys Island last week, I stopped off to visit with singer/songwriter Lesa Hudson, so we could talk about her new solo recording, her work with Rick Strickland Band and her plans for the future.
I’ve known Lesa for a couple years and have always considered her to be pretty laid back and mellow. During this visit, though, I was struck by just how driven she is.
Much like her bandmate, Rick Strickland, she’s driven to write, to create.
“I’m a songwriter first. I’m always writing. In fact, I’d like Rick to produce a
Praise and Worship album for me. I already have the songs for it.”
Hudson grew up in Darlington, S.C. as part of a musical family, with church as its centerpiece. Playing piano since the age of six, her first singing “job” was with a trio at church. N’Accord was very successful and traveled throughout South Carolina. She still sings with the group when time and opportunity allow.
She went on to front her own Lesa Hudson Band, a larger contemporary Christian group. She produces and performs several Christian-based showcases, and has also performed with the classic rock band, 3 Day Funk with Keith Hamrick (formerly with Billy Joe Royal and the Atlanta Rhythm Section).
Lesa tells me she’s been writing and composing for about 15 years. (“I still have my doodle sheets in a folder somewhere.”) Her very first completed composition was “Lukewarm Christian,” written and produced in 2003. It went to No. 8 on the Power Source 100 chart. “I was thinking about my life and where I wanted to be. I didn’t want my faith to take a back seat …” she explains.
She still leads a contemporary worship service in Darlington, but her current position as lead vocalist and keyboard player with the Rick Strickland Band takes up the bulk of her time.
“Rick Strickland is an incredible talent, and I don’t know if the world really understands that,” she tells me candidly. “From day one, he has been the person I could rely on and trust. We think the same way about music.
“When I write a song, it starts with a feeling … I’m just not passionate about singing covers,” she tries to explain.
This particular thread refers to the fact that so many deejays and booking agents prefer bands and singers who perform cover tunes.
“I’ve never really taken the easy road,” she laughs. “And I guess this is one of those times. I don’t want to offend anyone, but I’d just rather not play covers.”
Happily, the Rick Strickland Band is making a name for itself playing Strickland, and now Hudson, originals.
Tunes like “Something Smooth” (Rick Strickland/ 2004), “So Do I” (Rick Strickland/2008) and now “When You Look At Me” (Lesa Hudson/2010), the immensely popular Hudson/Strickland duet on Sweet Wonderful You, have been huge hits with fans and deejays alike.
Sweet Wonderful You is Lesa’s second solo project. According to the artist, the ten original songs each tell a story about love and being thankful for the people you love. Hudson either wrote or co-wrote eight, with the other two penned by Rick Strickland.
“The current breakaway hit,” she says, “seems to be the duet with Rick, “When You Look at Me.” I intended for this song to take people back to the moment they fell in love … when they weren’t quite sure the other person felt the same way … I shared it with Rick and he loved it. He said it had to be on the project.
“Track two, ‘Can’t Help Lovin’ On You,’ is a little different for me. I love the bluesy, laid back feel. It’s a little more romantic. It was a way to stretch my songwriting and my vocals.
“On the title track, ‘Sweet Wonderful You,’ I love the harmony vocals by Debbie Anderson … and for the whole CD … the amazing keyboards from Art Benton and incredible guitar work of Rick Strickland.”
The truth is, although I think Lesa comes alive when she’s under the Rick Strickland spell, she was making a name for herself long before they met.
A few years ago, one Chamber of Commerce prez said, “It wasn’t just fireworks that sparkled and lit up the sky at the July 4th Hartsville Family Fireworks Festival. It was also Lesa Hudson and her band who kicked off the holiday event with a bang!”
Kevin Stokes, songwriter for G3 Productions in Nashville, said, “Lesa’s sound is progressive and honest. A lot of times, artists deny their own passions creatively in order to squeeze into a marketplace that’s already crowded with artists doing the same thing. Taking a different road may seem like a harder route, but applaud Lesa for coming up with a sound that is as commercial as it is unique …”
David Wade agrees. He has recently signed both Lesa Hudson and Rick Strickland (as solo artists) to his Shanty’s Records label. Wade will be booking the two artists and promoting them on radio in some expanded markets.
“I don’t want to put myself in a box. I want to write a song, express myself and create music the way it comes to me.”
Lesa Hudson is definitely driven. In a laid back kind of way.
CD Tracks: 1. Only You (Lesa Hudson); 2. Can’t Help Lovin’ On You (Lesa Hudson); 3. Falling For You (Lesa Hudson); 4. Baby Baby (Lesa Hudson & Rick Strickland); 5. When You Look at Me (Lesa Hudson); 6. Win My Heart (Lesa Hudson & Rick Strickland); 7. Try (Rick Strickland); 8. You Make the Good Times Better (Lesa Hudson); 9.Just To Wake Up Next To You (Rick Strickland); 10. Sweet Wonderful You (Lesa Hudson).
Players on Sweet Wonderful You include Lesa Hudson (lead & background vocals, keyboards); Rick Strickland (lead & background vocals; guitar, bass & drum programming/producer); Art Benton (keyboard); Debbie Anderson (background vocals).