This is the time of year when I sit back with a nog while all y’all tell me what’s cool, hip and happenin’ in the world of music. This year I’ve asked a mix of special friends to share their music picks with us. Enjoy!
Mike Farris. Intense, talented and on fire, this Nashville boy is one of the most exciting performers I’ve ever seen. Check out his picks.
Cosimo Matassa Story (import)
Proper Box (2007)
If you really want to take a peek inside the birthing room of rock & roll, look behind this curtain! Between the 40s and 60s everything that came out of New Orleans was recorded at Cosimo’s J&M Studio. Way too often overlooked, New Orleans and her amazing musicians laid the foundation for rock & roll. If you don’t like this box set, we can never be friends.
Goodbye Babylon (Box Set)
Sacred music grown in the hot southern dust. One of the greatest box sets ever put together. Makes me proud to be a southern boy.
From Amazon: Goodbye Babylon is a 6 CD gospel reissue collection. 5 CDs contain 135 songs from 1902-1960 and the 6th disc is comprised of 25 sermons recorded between 1926-1941. Also included is a 200 page book complete with Bible verses, lyric transcriptions, and notes for each recording, plus over 200 illustrations … Sound restoration and mastering by Airshow Mastering, the team that restored the “Anthology of American Folk Music” (Smithsonian Folkways, 1997), and won a Grammy® for their work on “Screamin’ and Hollerin’ the Blues: The Worlds of Charley Patton” (Revenant, 2002). – Reverently packed in raw cotton and housed in a deluxe 8″ x 11″ x 2.5″ cedar box. Notes and essays by musicologists and scholars, including several Grammy® winners. – Contributors include Lynn Abbott, David Evans, Ray Funk, Anthony Heilbut, Kip Lornell, Luigi Monge, Paul Oliver, Opal Louis Nations, Bruce Nemerov, Guido van Rijn, Ken Romanowski, Tony Russell, Doug Seroff, Dick Spottswood, Warren Steel, David Tibet, Gayle Dean Wardlow, and Charles Wolfe.
Still Bill (DVD)
New Video Group (2011)
Still Bill (documentary)- I know this is not technically a record. It’s a film….and I haven’t even seen this yet, but I can still safely say that it’s a must watch. Bill Withers is one of the great songwriters of our time and a true artist intent on steering his own wheel. Ride on, Bill……ride on.
Brian Rutenberg. Before he grew into his true self as a sought after N.Y.C. artist, this Myrtle Beach boy was a drummer. I knew his picks would be cool, but I had no idea how cool.
Virgin Records (1989)
My first recommendation is the fabulous Senegalese singer/ percussionist Youssou N’Dour whom I saw in concert at S.O.B’s in N.Y.C. in the late 80s. His soulful rhythm, smooth ambient keyboards (somewhat akin to Brian Eno), and musical voice are fabulous. I enjoy many of his albums but my favorite is 1989’s The Lion (Virgin), songs like “Bes” and “My Daughter (Sama Doom)” make me smile. His music also takes me back to the blissful days when I met my wife Katie. Now we have children and they like the same songs.
Robert Shaw & the Robert Shaw Festival Singers
If you want to be transported through music then Rachmaninoff’s Vespers are a must. They are sublime. Go somewhere you can be totally alone for an hour, shut the lights off, and listen. I also enjoy just looking out a window (preferably on a gloomy day) or a long drive with this recording. My ongoing studies of the late Canadian pianist/philosopher Glenn Gould involve long stretches of driving in Ontario and the Vespers are a perfect soundtrack. Another listening place might be the parking area that juts out onto the beach by the Cherry Grove Inn around 54th/55th Ave N. in North Myrtle Beach. I am not sure if it is still there but watching the surf to these Vespers would be nice; “Bless The Lord,” “O My Soul” and “O Serene Light” reaffirm what it means to be a human being.
Principle of Moments
Finally I am listening a lot to Robert Plant’s second solo album Principle of Moments released the year I graduated from high school in Myrtle Beach,. Although the drums are not Bonham they are played by Phil Collins with some heavy down beat and the unadorned clarity that Bonham mastered. There was a remaster released in 2007 which I play in my studio a lot. “In the Mood” and “Big Log” are still fabulous songs.
Clair DeLune. Music historian, writer and professor, producer and host of Blues Moon Radio … I love all that Clair does, and I’m grateful for her participation.
Bummed Out Christmas
The Bummed Out Christmas CD seems an odd choice because it is topically dreary, not cheery. As the host of Blues Moon Radio, I talk with a number of people each year who are not upbeat about the holidays. Contrary to popular belief, blues music does not depress one, it is one’s “ticket” for climbing out of a pit of despair and can improve your mood, so I recommend Bummed Out Christmas to all.
This CD fits the bill two ways: For most, it is an over-the-top array of songs so wildly absurd they are laugh out loud funny, thus a welcome break from standard treacly holiday pap . For those in a deep funk, it has been known to provide a balanced perspective – even if only from a “misery loves company” or “someone has it worse” perspective. The most requested holiday song on my radio show each year is “Christmas In Jail,” by the Youngsters, which begins with the ominous “I was in the wrong lane, feeling no pain.” It acts as an ersatz public service announcement – reminding us of our duty to not drive if drinking, but entertains as it informs.
Bluesman Eddie Taylor’s much-covered classic, “Bad Boy,” is given a twist by his daughter, Demetria. Eddie Taylor, who was not as well-known – yet was integral to the Chicago scene as Jimmy Reed’s guitarist – introduced Reed to that now-famous shuffling style. Eddie Taylor has influenced more people than know his name, including his own children, three of whom work actively in Blues music. This year Taylor’s daughter, Demetria, rises above the “Blues Legacy” tag with her vocals on “Bad Girl,” earning her place in the blues world as a powerhouse of song. It is nominated for Best CD of 2011 Lunie Award on Blues Moon Radio.
Laurence “Luckyman” Beall
The Huntsville Sessions
Turbine Incredible (2010)
Last but not least… indeed this is most likely my absolute favorite find of the year…
Laurence Luckyman Beall is the freshest, most invigorating artist to appear on Blues Moon Radio this year. His work is highly energized and he puts more sound out solo than most artists with backing bands. Sporting the Western-style dress and duck-tail hairstyle that emerged when Rock’n’Roll was young, Beall (pronounced ‘Bell’) is serious about his folio of Blues, Rockabilly and Americana that would get any mule kicking in its stall. Those who see Beall perform are impressed and charmed by his vibrant personality as well as his intense musicianship, comprised of powerful lyrics and melody, and a unique approach to electric chicken-pickin’ guitar work. His CD is the most commented on by Blues Moon Radio’s listeners this year… and many have become enthusiastic converts to “the Luckified.”
Co-founder and past president of the nonprofit South By Southeast music organization, this guy is responsible for making top drawer music (and musicians) accessible to the Carolina coast. Love you, Sam.
The Definitive Collection (4CD set)
Rhino Records (1993)
After having half finished reading “Bill Graham Presents,” the autobiography/biography of Bill Graham, I realized that he and I have two things in common. One, we have helped put on music concerts (not that I put myself 1000th in the same company of this great Rock Icon), and number two, that Otis Redding was our favorite all time performer. Unlike Bill, I never had the pleasure of seeing Otis live, but this four-CD set is a very definitive representation of his short but significant contribution to popular music – helping to bridge the racial and music genre gaps that existed until the 1960s.
There are outtakes of many of his more popular tunes that I find very interesting, as well as enjoying the songs heard on the radio back in the day and now. He is timeless. Unfortunately, he died the week after he recorded “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay” and never got to hear his biggest hit on the radio.
Laura Nyro Live At The Bottom Line
Cypress Records (1989)
Always a huge fan of Laura, I was gifted this out of production CD a few years ago (it’s available on eBay). Known mostly for her pop hits recorded by The Fifth Dimension, Barbra Streisand, Blood Sweat and Tears and others such as “Stoney End,” “Wedding Bell Blues,” “And When I Die,” and “Stoned Soul Picnic,” Laura’s emotive piano playing and vocal phrasing have always touched me. This is a great example live of those qualities as exemplified on songs such as “The Confession,” “My Innocence/Sophia” and “Broken Rainbow.” She also mixes in R&B covers of “High Heeled Sneakers,” “La La Means I Love You” and “Up On The Roof.” She has influenced many singers.
Sugar Hill Records (2005)
Having seen these multi-talented young musicians at Merlefest in 2005, I bought their CD immediately. I have rarely been as impressed by a group that offered so much a diversity and cultural music mixture. Running the gamut from Celtic, Portuguese, Cajun, Rock N’ Roll, as well as Black Sea Island Gospel music, these folks tear it up. Jesse Havey’s vocals are unreal, along with fellow band member Tania Elizabeth. “Death Came A Knockin”, “Dance Hall Girls”, “True Religion”, and “ The Waggoner’s Lad” stand out to me especially. I am unsure if they are still playing, but even with a change in membership, they put on a great show.
Singer/songwriter and band leader for Southern soul/variety group, the Holiday Band, Mike has lived and breathed music since he was a kid. One of my faves.
What’s It Gonna Be Santa?
Twenty of the best arrangements of Christmas songs ever. Every song has a unique flavor, the changes are NOT traditional and the playing and singing is off the chart. I don’t usually like Christmas CDs much, but I love this one. You must listen two or three times to get used to the vibe.
Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro reviews blues and indie music at Mary 4 Music, and I’m always happy to listen to his picks. Yeah!
Blacktop Records (1990)
This is one of my favorite CDS simply for the fact that it introduced me to the person who has become my all time favorite blues vocalist – Darrell Nulisch. While at a friend’s house, he happened to be playing the CD and when the song “Play It Cool” came on I was blown away. I asked him to let me see the CD jacket and bought it the very next day. It’s almost 12 years old and I still listen to it very regularly.
Roomful Of Blues
Alligator Records (2003)
You could easily put on a three-day blues festival just using the great musicians that have been a part of Roomful of Blues over the last 40 or some years. Through it all, the band has remained in tact and is still headlining blues festivals themselves. This is one of my favorite discs of theirs because it featured the debut of Mark DuFresne who I feel gave them back the punch they needed in a front man. This is real good stuff.
Downchild Blues Band
I Need A Hat
Linus Entertainment (2009)
This is another one of those bands that’s been around forever. As the story goes, they were supposedly the influence for the Blues Brothers. This Canadian band, led by Donny Walsh, has more discs out than I care to count, and this – their latest release – is one of their very best.
The S.C. Internet radio station owner (along with wife Robin) of Large Time Network is one of my favorite deejays, and has a wonderful collection of obscure music.
Serenity Hill (2010)
There is a lot of good music available right now, but I have three favorites. I am a Rickey Godfrey fan through and through. His latest release Nasty Man is “Nasty” but in a good way!! Rickey is so talented and his talent shines with each song from his vocal ability to his amazing guitar licks. This CD should be in your collection right now. I feel that only Rickey could get away with the title “Nasty Man” and then on top of that pull off “I Want Me a Nasty Woman,” one of my favorites, as well as “When You’re Cool (The Sun Shines All The Time).” Only Rickey can make the blues shine.
Craig Woolard Band
Main Street People
Also on my list is Main Street People on Sisbro Records from The Craig Woolard Band. Beside the obvious songs on the charts “Your Love Is Amazing,” “Impossible,” and “Beachaholic,” there are some other great songs as well. “Soulful Kind Of Love,” I’m In Love With The Girl Next Door” and “Main Street People.” You can’t go wrong with this CD.
The new CD from Dip Ferrell And The Truetones, Along For The Vibe, on Arcade Records is awesome. The shag tunes “Hey Girl” and “Love Monkey” will make you lay some leather down on the dance floor. Two beautiful ballads “Baby Come Back To Me” and “I’m Way Too Proud” have great story lines, yes songs do have story lines and these certainly do. Not only that, but the music is fabulous and makes for a true slow dance.
Stuff the stockings with these CDs and you can’t go wrong!!! I simply put them in and hit “Play” without skipping to the next song, and that to me makes a great “Stocking Stuffer” and CD. Merry Christmas and happy listening!!!!
Head honcho and radio host for Blues City Radio, Sheila Cain found time to give us her faves, despite the fact that she was in the middle of moving her life to Denver. Check out her radio show.
Still The Rain
Pretty Pear Records (2011)
Being a blues enthusiast, my number one pick this Christmas has to be Karen Lovely’s latest CD, Still The Rain. I’ve listened to every track over and over again and still can’t get enough.
The title track “Still The Rain” is contemporary blues at it’s very best. But don’t overlook one single song on this CD. Every one is a winner in my book. Tracks from this CD have kept Karen Lovely at the number one spot on Blues City Radio for the past eight weeks straight with no signs of slowing down.
Karen Lovely has the potential to become a blues phenom!
Geffen Records (2010)
I don’t generally buy “collection” type CDs, but Etta James is the exception to the rule on this one.
Her CD Icon, a 12-song sampler spans the best of Etta over her illustrious career.
From “At Last” to “I’d Rather Go Blind,” this CD highlights her many hits. There’s just something about her sultry, soulful voice and lyrics that takes one on a musical journey that is hard (if not impossible) to duplicate. This is a “Must Have” CD for anyone who loves, blues, soul and R&B. I guarantee it will not be re-gifted.
Thanks to all my pals who contributed here. Happy Holidays to all!
I need to stop shooting my mouth off about how sick I am of tired old cover
tunes and even tired-er cover bands because, sure as Shinola, every time I do, some band comes along and insists on playing everything from “Mustang Sally” to “Lady Soul;” and completely blows me out of the water.
Carolina Soul Band is that band, and they’ve made me eat every last snarky word I’ve had to say about cover bands. I caught one of their sets at the O.D. Beach Club and it was a blast! Talk about high energy, I still have goose bumps from the vocals. The sax player was a crowd pleaser. They’re all showmen. What a great party band these guys are.
The nine-piece powerhouse puts out some of the sweetest, coolest, hottest
soularound – a mix of old school, R&B, beach music and southern soul. Their high energy level along with huge talent will bring you back for more.
Last week, I had a chance to talk to drummer Chris “Silk” Terry, who is also the group’s founder. He formed Carolina Soul Band about two years. He and all but one of the other band members had played for years as the backup band for Bill Pinkney’s Original Drifters.
“I started off in gospel, played with the Brooklyn All Stars,” Chris told me. “I grew up in Winston-Salem, N.C. My dad was a gospel singer. My uncles played guitar, drums, keyboard … I think I chose drums so I could make a lot of noise.”
How big an influence was Bill Pinkney, I wanted to know.
“Bill was like a father to me. It’s hard hitting the stage and he’s not there. He taught me a lot about the music, and keeping it alive,” Chris remembers. “He showed me how to be a great entertainer and that I should never be arrogant with fans because the fans are who support us. He taught me so much. July 4, 2007 in Daytona was the hardest show I’ve ever played. That’s when Bill Pinkney passed.”
Bill Pinkney’s influence is evidenced throughout the band.
Jervey “Supreme Keys” Geddies, longtime bandleader for Bill Pinkney’s Original Drifters also serves as CSB’s bandleader and keyboard player. FromCharleston, S.C. he has toured with Betty Wright, the Platters and the Coasters.
Joe “Run-On” Turner from Suffolk, Va., was one of Bill Pinkney’s lead vocalists, and you’ll know why after just one tune. What a voice!
Midway, N.C. boy Kacey “Smooth” Leak is also a vocalist from the Bill Pinkney days, and he plays lead guitar for CSB. He has also played for the Charlie Thomas Drifters, Ollie Woodson from the Temptations and the Herb Reed Platters.
Vocalist Erik Glenn is from Columbia, S.C. In additional to touring with Bill Pinkney’s Original Drifters, he has starred in the gospel play “Bible Story” with Donald Lawrence and Daryl Coley.
Will Green, also from Columbia, performed with Smokey Robinson, Patti LaBelle, Jerry Butler, The Gap Band, Jeffery Osborne and more. He plays organ and keys, lead and bass guitar, drums and is also a super vocalist.
Phil “Crazy Strings” Watson from Myrtle Beach is the group’s rhythm guitarist, and he’s on vocals, too. He’s toured with Bill Pinkney’s Original Drifters, Percy Sledge and the Marshall Tucker Band.
Birmingham, Ala. vocalist Paul Shields puts the soul in Carolina Soul Band. He’s also toured with Bill Pinkney and other nationally known acts. Once again … goose bumps.
Chuck “7 Strings” Ruby is the group’s bass player and also provides vocals. From Baltimore, Md., he’s the new guy, joined Carolina Soul Band about a year ago. Chuck plays a seven-string bass and, on occasion, a six-string fretless, bringing a definite jazz influence to the group. I bet Bill Pinkney would be pleased.
Chris tells me that it was his soon-to-be-wife and booking agent, Katisha Gladden, who – after Bill’s passing – pushed the group to form: “She comes in one day and says to me, ‘You’re too talented to be sitting at home. So here’s your name and your website.’
“We owe her a lot. She got us going.”
They haven’t stopped to look back once. They’ve been playing clubs, corporate events, festivals … and audiences love them.
“I think ‘Dock of the Bay’ is our most requested song,” says Chris. “But we get asked for ‘Baby Don’t Be Mad at Me’ a lot, too.”
“Baby Don’t Be Mad at Me” is Carolina Soul Band’s current single, a beach tune that’s climbing the charts and getting these guys some notice.
They’re also hard at work on a new CD (which will include covers and original tunes). Musician Jim Quick and Keith Houston, owner of KHP Music in Dunn, N.C., after one of the group’s early Fat Harold’s appearances, contacted Chris and set up a recording deal to co-produce a new album, which they expect to release this fall.
“Our band’s goal is to keep good clean music alive,” says Chris. “We want the younger generation to know that not everything is about killin’ and spillin’.
“I love when the parents and grandparents bring their kids who dance and love the music, too.”
All in all, I suppose a cover tune or two won’t hurt me, if I get to listen to musicians like these guys.
Here are some upcoming shows for them: Ducks on Main St. in North Myrtle Beach (Balladeer Lenny Welch will be joining them! ); Thirsty’s2 in Greensboro, N.C. on Aug. 5; back to North Myrtle Beach for Boom Boom’s Raw Bar on Aug. 12; my favorite beach bar, HOTO’s in Cherry Grove, S.C. Aug. 28; over Labor Day weekend, Fat Harold’s on Main St. Sept. 4; down to Chucktown for the Charleston Beach Music & Shag Festival, Sept. 5; and back again to Fat Harold’s on Sept. 18. You’ll have a blast. And while I’m busy eating my words, you can sing along with theirs.
Three days of blues in the Port City will include live concerts, a blues workshop, an all-day blues jam, a guitar raffle and the always popular Blues Cruise aboard Wilmington’s Henrietta III.
Headlining the main deck on the Friday night Cruise will be Nashville guitarist Rickey Godfrey and his band.
“Rickey is a consummate entertainer,” said Cape Fear Blues Society president Lan Nichols in a telephone interview. “He’s a master on guitar … and has a really emotional voice. Rickey reads his audience and knows exactly what to give.”
Godfrey, who has been blind since birth, has been nominated for both guitarist and keyboard player of the year by the Music City Blues Society. He’s touring now as a featured guitarist with the Cee Cee James Band, so this is a rare opportunity to see the Rickey Godfrey Blues Band.
Above the main deck, fans will be treated to the retro blues of Wilmington’s own wildly popular Ten Dollar Thrill. Up in the atrium will be acoustic storyteller Tampa Blue.
Cruisers will be noshing on heavy appetizers provided by Angie’s of Chris’s Restaurant and no doubt enjoying the three different cash bars.
The boat departs promptly at 7:30 p.m., but be sure to get there early enough to enjoy blues veteran Rick Tobey singing his unique brand of Chickenhead blues on the dock before boarding.
The Henrietta III will return to dock by around 9:30, and you’ll want to head right over to the Port City’s favorite blues saloon, the Rusty Nail, where The Treblemakers will be rockin’ the room with their electric blues/classic surf sounds!
Presented by the Cape Fear Blues Society, the Festival has a reputation for bringing top talent to town while it also showcases the best in local and regional blues artists.
According to Nichols, this year is no exception. Saturday begins with a free
blues workshop conducted by Raleigh-based guitarist Eric Manning and sponsored by longtime Festival supporter Finkelstein Music. Following the workshop will be a performance, also free, by Manning’s band, E-Train & the Rusted Rails, at The Cellar in downtown Wilmington.
The Festival’s Saturday headliner is Studebaker John & the Hawks (The name refers to a Studebaker Hawk, a car he still owns).
“John is a triple threat,” said Nichols. “He plays great guitar, harmonica and has an excellent voice, too. He’s got a lot of old-school Chicago in his sound, but can rock out, too.”
Born in Chicago as John Grimaldi, he started playing harmonica at about seven years old, and was greatly influenced by Chicago’s famed Maxwell Street. He learned guitar after watching a single electrified slide guitar performance of Hound Dog Taylor and the Houserockers.
Currently on tour through the U.S. and Canada, Studebaker John talked by phone about his newest CD, Studebaker John’s Maxwell Street Kings’ That’s the Way You Do (Delmark 2010). The 15-track recording is essentially a tribute to all the musicians who performed on Maxwell Street.
“It was a labor of love for me. I started thinking about it years ago, when I was on a bigger blues label, but they didn’t think it was commercial.
“Then last year, I was working at St. George Records, playing a session for Delta Slim, and these two musicians – Rick Kreher on guitar and Steve Cushing on drums – were there and I thought that maybe we could do it.
“The three of us were able to conjure up a sound.
“I wanted it to be a tribute, but still original. It’s the same line-up as Hound Dog Taylor: two guitars, drum, and harmonica … I’ve always been a fan of Less Is More.”
His Rusty Nail show on Saturday night will include tunes from the new CD as well as the full band sound of Studebaker John & the Hawks. Don’t miss this one!
Opening for Studebaker John, by the way, is local acoustic fave, Spider Mike Bochey, so get there early.
The Sunday blues jam starts at noon, and this is always a great event. There are a lot of great players in Wilmington, and they come out of the woodwork for this event, so get ready to be entertained. Bring a lawn chair, but leave your coolers home. There will be plenty of food and drink for sale.
The Jam ends at 6 p.m. with the Finkelstein Music Guitar Giveaway—a Gretsch Electromatic Pro Jet guitar ($850 value). Raffle tickets cost $1 each with proceeds supporting the projects and programs of the Cape Fear Blues Society.
Raffle tickets are available at Finkelstein Music and The Rusty Nail.
For more information about the Cape Fear Blues Festival visit http://www.capefearblues.org or call 910-350-8822.
Friday, July 29
5:30 p.m. Live blues on the dock. (Water St. at Dock St.) Blues soloist Rick Tobey will treat you to the blues, Chickenhead style, as you wait to board.
7 p.m. Boarding begins.
7:30 p.m. Blues Cruise on the Henrietta III! Headliner Rickey Godfrey brings his gritty, soulful blues to the main deck. Wilmington’s own Ten Dollar Bill will be rockin’ the party deck. Storyteller Tampa Blue will be in the atrium. Tickets are $49 (www.wilmingtontickets.com). Or call 910-350-8822.
9 p.m. Post-Cruise Party featuring The Treblemakers at the Rusty Nail, 1310 S. 5th Ave. (910-251-1888).
Saturday, July 30
11 a.m. Blues workshop sponsored by Finkelstein Music: blues guitarist/vocalist/ songwriter Eric Manning followed by an outdoor set of jump blues and rockabilly from Manning’s band E-Train & the Rusted Rail at The Cellar, 35 N. Front St. Free.
8 p.m. Festival concert. Headliner Studebaker John & the Hawks. A night of electric blues from a Chicago legend. Opening act Spider Mike Bochey, at the Rusty Nail, 1310 S. 5th Ave. (910-251-1888). Tickets $8 advance/$10 at the door.(www.capefearblues.org or http://www.wilmingtontickets.com)
Sunday, July 31
Noon – 6 p.m. All-day blues jam under the tent at the Rusty Nail. Free.
6 p.m. Guitar raffle announced. Note: you don’t have to be on hand to win! Raffle tickets are $1 each or six for $5. A steal!
This summer marks year 16 for the Cape Fear Blues Festival, and once again, I can’t wait!
According to Lan Nichols from Cape Fear Blues Society, they’ve moved away from the big outdoor concert on Saturday to a few different venues. And who doesn’t want to support the blues clubs, after all?
They don’t have all the details worked out yet, so I’m jumping the gun a little bit here, but I wanted to give you plenty of time to get yo tix! This weekend is going bring together Chicago blues, swamp funk, soul blues, electric blues and acoustic blues with some surf rock(?) mixed in to keep us on our toes. Go figure.
Here’s the schedule as it stands now. Friday night, July 29, is the ever popular Cape Fear Blues Cruise, of course. Henrietta III, Wilmington’s largest riverboat, was originally built for dinner cruises and later enlarged to be a casino boat. There are three decks; the lower two have dining and dancing. The upper deck has an enclosed atrium as well as the open deck portion. There will be three different bands playing.
My buddy Rickey Godfrey and his blues quartet will be tearing it up on the main deck of Henrietta III. If you’ve never experienced this Telecaster-wielding, growling, gravelly-throated soulman, you’re in for a treat.
He released a new CD last year, Nasty Man, and let me tell you what just a few folks in the know are saying about it:
“… Nasty Man, a 12-track whoop-up that comes out of the chute kickin’ like a wild bull on Red Bull. From the grungy “I Want Me a Nasty Woman” to the first single from the album, “Don’t Get Your Honey Where You Get Your Money,” this is a fiery, guitar driven and gritty masterpiece. It’s electric blues the way God intended them to be played. Lord have mercy, Miss Percy. Rickey Godfrey has done got nasty on us, and it sounds so good.”
– Michael Buffalo Smith, Universal Music Tribe
“Hard sung vocals, wonderfully amusing lyrics and scorching guitar all make this one a winner.”
– Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro/ Blues Editor at Mary 4 Music
Rickey’s unique brand of hot rockin’ blues and hip-shakin’ soul will keep you boogeying all night long. Yah!
Playing the party deck will be Wilmington faves, Ten Dollar Thrill. These guys are a blast! They’re into everything from Chicago blues to West Coast swing to rockabilly and good ole rock & roll.
This band gets rave reviews wherever and whenever they play. Check ‘em out on the Henrietta III. I promise you, it’ll be a party!
If you’re into acoustic blues and finger pickin’, don’t miss Tampa Blue on the upper deck.
It’s hard to describe this music in just a few words. In fact, someone asked this Alabama picker what kind of blues he played, and his answer was “Traditional, acoustic, Delta, slide, Piedmont, finger-style, Southern rural, pre-war, country, pre-electric with a touch of spirituals, hollers, rags and American finger-style guitar seasoning.”
Blues fans love the historical fabric of his music along with the storytelling and anecdotes that this southern gem brings to the stage.
Before you even set foot on the Henrietta III, Rick Tobey from the Chickenhead Blues Band will be entertaining on the dock. This well-respected musician won the 2009 Cape Fear Blues Society Solo Blues Challenge and then the 2010 Triangle Blues Society Solo Blues Challenge. About himself Rick says, “I was born in a south Louisiana chicken coop with a bottle neck on my little finger and a guitar in my hand. Been playin’ dem Chickenhead Blues ever since I could crawl, from the Mississippi Delta to the North Carolina Piedmont, from the Cape Fear River Basin to the Smokey Mountains.”
Afterward, head to the Post Cruise Blues Party, where the Treblemakers
are the headline act at the Port City’s hottest little juke joint – the Rusty Nail. If you’re not from these parts, you may not know these guys yet, but this five-piece blues band slash surf rock group rocks the room. Party hearty!
Saturday, July 30, begins with the downtown blues workshop sponsored by Finkelstein Music. Blues guitarist Eric Manning will share his knowledge and stories of life on the road and then deliver a kick-butt set at The Cellar with his band, E-Train & the Rusted Nails. This will be a performance for anyone calling himself – or herself– a blues fan.
Chicago bluesman Studebaker John (aka John Grimaldi) plays both guitar and harp. He has been recording albums, touring the U.S. and Europe since the seventies. On his latest CD, Studebaker John’s Maxwell Street Kings (Delmark 2010) he pays homage to the early days of Chicago street blues.
I can’t say enough good things about Studebaker John, and it seems I’m not alone:
“It’s rare to hear a blues artist perform three sets of irresistible originals, and it’s even rarer for that artist to stay ‘in the zone’ from first song to last.”
– Thomas J. Cullen, III (Blues Revue magazine)
“John captures the raw energy and grit of the classic blues musicians but pumped up to a rocking energy level. He has a deep understanding of the blues tradition that comes from hanging with the classic Chicago bluesmen, but he’s created his own sound and style from these roots.”
– Bruce Iglauer (Alligator Records)
The opening act for this show is Two of a Kind.
Come Sunday July 31,, and we’re here once again at the Rusty Nail for the All-Day Blues Jam. ‘Bring a lawn chair because this will be outdoors under the tent. You’ll find some of the area’s finest blues musicians come out for this free event.
At day’s end, some lucky duck will win a Gretsch Electromatic Pro Jet guitar ($850 value). Tickets are just $1 each and the proceeds help support the projects and programs of the Cape Fear Blues Society. The giveaway takes place after 6 p.m. and it’s sponsored by Finkelstein Music.
You can find all the information you need about tickets, times and locations at the Cape Fear Blues Festival website.
The site will continue to be updated as more Festival information becomes available.
The Grand Strand was the place to be this past week. Bass extremists Steve Bailey and Victor Wooten performed two awesome shows at Coastal Carolina. Whoa! South By Southeast brought the rockin’ Randall Bramblett Band back for another SRO crowd. I’m surprised the Train Depot is still standing. Green Dot Records had its CD release party for the Holiday Band’s latest recording, Sweet Love, and it was sweet. I love these guys.
Up at Ocean Drive there were two big deejay events. The Association of Beach and Shag Club DeeJays held its annual DJ Throwdown. Sure wish I could have made their James Hunter show on Saturday night! Duck’s Beach Club held its first annual DJ Appreciation party – four days of partying, that is, including a show by the mighty, mighty Tams of Hotlanta! I managed to catch the final set for Jim Quick & Coastline at Fat Harold’s on Sunday. Stay tuned for more news about this bad boy.
New York City, eat your heart out!
Not only is it sunny and warm here in the Carolinas, but Steve Bailey, Victor Wooten and Randall Freakin’ Bramblett are headed our way!
March 3 – Steve Bailey & Victor Wooten at CCU
Internationally acclaimed bass wizards Steve Bailey and Victor Wooten will be at CCU’s Edwards Recital Hall on Thursday, March 3 at 8 p.m.
Do you know who these guys are?
Myrtle Beach’s own Steve Bailey practically invented the fretless bass. Well no, but he started playing it after he ran over a fretted bass with his car. Bass Player magazine said, “Steve Bailey is to the six-string fretless bass guitar what Columbus is to America.”
He’s played with a huge number of high dollar artists; including jazz greats, Dizzy Gillespie, Paquito D’Rivera, Claudio Roditi, David Benoit and more. He’s shared the stage and the recording studio with folks like Lynyrd Skynyrd, Jethro Tull, Chris Duarte, Willie Nelson, Ray Price, Kitaro, Carol Kaye, Billy Sheehan, and, of course, the other half of his double bill, Victor Wooten.
Five-time Grammy award winner Victor Wooten, no slouch himself, has earned the title of Bass Player of the Year award from Bass Player magazine three consecutive years and, according to his website, is the only player to have won the award more than once.
Victor is a founding member of Béla Fleck and the Flecktones (banjo master Béla Fleck, Victor Wooten on bass, Jeff Coffin playing saxophone and Roy “Futureman” Wooten on his drumitar (drum/guitar developed by the innovative Grammy winner).
Together they conduct Bass At the Beach, a clinic/competition held in Myrtle Beach and attended by bass players from all over the world and the even more intensive Bass/Nature Camp held at Wooten Woods, just outside Nashville.
“It’s rare to be able to hear someone with creds like Victor here in Myrtle Beach,” says Bailey, who is an associate professor in music and artist in residence at CCU. “We found out early on that bass players getting together is an accident waiting to happen – it’s like trying to get two elephants to ballet dance together. But when we met each other in San Francisco in 1991, we had a chemistry that’s unheard of, and we’ve collaborated on CDs, clinics, DVDs and conferences since then.”
The show at Coastal Carolina will feature music from the duo’s signature Bass Extremes project as well as their recent solo efforts. This much anticipated performance will be the second stop on the bassists’ Pushing the Limits Volume 3 Southeast tour. About the event, Bailey says, “Surprise guest performers are always a possibility, and ticket holders should bring a question or two, as we are prone to interact directly with the audience in intimate venues like Edwards.”
For more info, check out their websites: Victor Wooten and Steve Bailey. Tickets are $20 general admission or $15 for CCU/HGTC students, staff, alumni, seniors and kids 17 and under. Pick up your tix ahead of time from the school’s Wheelwright Box Office (843-349-2502) or at the Recital Hall that evening.
March 5 – Randall Bramblett Band at South By Southeast Music Feast
Right on the heels of Bailey and Wooten comes the rockin’ Randall Bramblett Band.
Randall Bramblett first came to the attention of music industry insiders (and some astute FM listeners) back in 1973 for his amazing saxophone work on Laid Back, Greg Allman’s first solo album. Allman tapped him again for his follow-up The Gregg Allman Tour, recorded in part at Carnegie Hall, for which Bramblett was again recognized by musicians and serious music lovers. One-time Allman Brothers keyboard player and more recently a backline fixture for the Rolling Stones, Chuck Leavell says, “Randall is, in my opinion, one of the most gifted and talented southern singer-songwriter musicians of the past several decades.”
Bramblett is a true musician’s musician, proficient on saxophone, keyboard and guitar. He is a skilled and highly regarded songwriter. His tunes have been covered by Bonnie Raitt, Delbert McClinton, Atlanta Rhythm Section, Sea Level,Rick Nelson, B.J.Thomas, Hot Tuna and so many others. He’s toured or recorded with Steve Winwood, Gov’t Mule, Widespread Panic, Levon Helm and Cowboy.
His vocals are emotionally-charged and honest, stripped down to bare the soul. Born and raised in Jessup, Ga., Bramblett crosses genres seamlessly, melding rock, blues, soul and even pop to deliver a collection of heartfelt southern songs.
Honestly, it’s hard to imagine this much talent all crammed into one guy, and don’t get me started on his band. Longtime collaborator Davis Causey on guitar is a standout; drummer is Gerry Hanson, who often functions as the band’s producer; there’s Mike Hines, also on guitar; and bass player Michael C. Steele. These guys are all talented, successful musicians in their own right. Together, the Randall Bramblett Band is a powerhouse.
Randall recently released Live At the Rialto Room, a DVD recorded on Feb. 13, 2010 at the Rialto Room in Athens, Ga. This was the CD release concert for The Meantime (Blue Ceiling Records 2010), a sparse, sophisticated recording by Randall Bramblett with Gerry Hanson on drums and Chris Enghauser on upright bass.
About the concert, Randall says, “It was a great night of music, and one of the most beautiful performances of my career.”
I haven’t gotten my copy yet, but I know it will be stellar. And, happily, Randall says he’ll have some at the South By Southeast show, so bring your wallet. You’re going to want at least one.
The South By Southeast Music Feast takes place, as usual, at the historic Train Depot in downtown Myrtle Beach (851 Broadway). Tickets are $25/$20 and include potluck, pizza, homemade desserts, wine, beer, soft drinks and coffee. Feasting starts at 6 p.m. and music begins at 7. Email your reservation to firstname.lastname@example.org by 3 p.m. Friday and pay at the door. Come early, this show will be SRO. See you there!
Deejay Pat Patterson has always been about the music and since he and wife Robin formed the Large Time Network and Patman & Robin Records, it’s even more evident.
This dynamic duo is on a mission to find and share the best in “beach, boogie, blues and beyond,” and while they’re at it, let’s save the world from musical sameness and low budget crimes of production.
They’re my super heroes!
The Large Time Network (www.largetime.net) was formed on Feb. 2, 2010, about a month after the sale of John FM, where Pat had programmed music and was the on-air deejay.
Pat and Robin saw it as an opportunity to become even more involved with the music they both love – beach, boogie. blues and beyond. During his show, Pat plays a lot of older, obscure R&B from the 50s along with today’s popular tunes charting on Beach Music 45. He gets requests from all over the world.
The show streams live on Warp Radio from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. Email your requests to email@example.com.
“Robin and I both have such a love for the music,” Pat told me in a telephone interview last night. “We saw a label as another way to get more music out there. We wanted to give artists some other opportunities.
“Robin has a real good ear and a great feel for the music. She has a knack for ‘hearing’ a tune after about ten seconds.”
He went on to tell me that it was Robin who found “Till the Day After,” an old Huey Lewis tune and sent it to Mike Farber with the now defunct 120inc, who got it to N.C. beach artist Craig Woolard. Perfect song for Craig. It was Robin who found “I’m In Love With the Girl Next Door,” again another hit for Craig Woolard.
“We had a list of songs that we wanted to get for the new compilation CD Something ’bout the music! We had help from Bobby Simmons [former keyboard player with the Rickey Godfrey Band and now with Shag Attack] and Odell Mickens [with the Traamps and the New Jersey-based Wall Street]. Odell helped us out with Keisa Brown’s song.”
He’s referring to track no. 8, “Some Bridges Need Burning Down” by the Keisa Brown Band. Originally performed by Mississippi-born soul blues singer Keisa Brown, who passed away in 2006, this is a tribute by her band. Vocals are by drummer Jerome Tyus. “It’s different, “ says Pat, “They left out some of the repeat vocals, put their own stamp on it. It’s a nice tribute to her.
“There’s a story to tell about ‘Muskrat Love,’ too. We’re good friends with Billy and Jack Jeffords. We were all out on the patio. They were playing some songs for us that they had written. All the brothers were there. All of a sudden they were playing ‘Muskrat Love.’ We told them: we want you to go into the studio and record it. Nothing fancy … exactly as they did it on the patio. Even with all of today’s technology, this was recorded raw – guitar, acoustic bass, bongos … no electronic enhancement … four vocals … one take. And Wayne, who was singing lead, passed away in Nov. 2010.”
Track no. 7 on the CD is “Can’t Get No Lovin’ Over the Telephone” by internationally known blues singer, Toni Spearman. “She’s originally from Greenwood,” Pat told me. “I get emails from all over the world – Zurich, India, China, Finland, from people who have seen her in concert the night before and she has talked about the CD and the Large Time Network. And what a band she has. During mastering, one of the guys wanted to know if this was her band or studio musicians … No, her band travels with her, and they are good!”
A side note here, mastering was done in Easley, S.C. at Buddy Strong’s Southeastern Sound Studios, known for their work with Marshall Tucker Band.
“I Can’t Wait Forever,” is written and performed by Grammy winner Debra Hutchinson, another Greenwood connection, by the way.
“I think “I’m Fixin’ To” by Rev. Bubba D Liverance and the Cornhole Prophets is a real sleeper,” says Pat.” It’s from his 2008 Let My Peoples Dance CD. Great song and production.”
The Joe Pope Tams weigh in with “Numbers,” chosen for its happy, upbeat sound.
“Shaggin’ in the Moonlight” comes from the current generation of Swingin’ Medallions.
Track no. 12 is “Georgia Pine” by Chocolate Thunder from her 2008 Ear Candy CD, which was produced by bass player Franklin Wilkie, who had the unenviable job of taking over after the death of Marshall Tucker Band’s Tommy Caldwell.
“Linda Rodney [aka Chocolate Thunder] has a tremendous voice. She has a great talent and needs to be put out so people can hear her.
So far the most successful single from Something ‘bout the music! is track no. 2, “My Knees Are Gettin’ Sore From Crawlin’ Back To Your Door.” Penned by Rickey Godfrey, lyrics are – no surprise – humorous, clever and spot on. Shag Attack does a super job with the tune. Drummer Jimbo Durham is on vocals, and the song fits him to a T. The rest of this strong four-piece group is Bobby Simmons on keys, Ronnie Goldman playing guitar and Mike Hill on bass. Pat would like to see this group getting some more notice, and I have to agree. Rockin’ good job, guys.
Pat goes on to tell me that both the title track “Something ‘ bout the Music,” performed by Donnie Ray and the Earl Gaines tune, “You’ve Been Good To Me,” came via Memphis-based Ecko Records. “You’ve Been Good To Me” was released on a 2010 Earl Gaines recording titled Good To Me. He passed away New Year’s Eve in 2009.
“‘Something Bout the Music’ – the song, the feel, the music … that’s what we’re all about,” says Pat, and I can hear him smiling over the phone. He’s having a large time!
Track list for Something ‘bout the music! (Patman Robin Records/ Sept. 2010) “Something Bout the Music,” Donnie Ray; “My Knees Are Gettin’ Sore From Crawling Back To Your Door, Shag Attack; “I Can’t Wait Forever,” Debra Hutchinson; “Kind Man,” Rickey Godfrey and Ronnie Godfrey; “I‘m Fixin’ To,” Rev. Bubba D Liverance; “Shaggin’ In the Moonlight,” The Swingin’ Medallions; “Can’t Get No Lovin’ Over the Telephone,” Toni Spearman; “Some Bridges Need Burning Down,” Keisa Brown Band; “You’ve Been Good To Me,” Earl Gaines; “Numbers,” Joe Pope Tams; “Muskrat Love,” Jeffords Brothers; “Georgia Pine,” Chocolate Thunder; “Justified,” Out of Towners; “Let’s Dance,” Don Dixon.
Something ‘bout the music! is available at the Large Time Network website (www.largetime.net), in North Myrtle Beach, S.C. at Judy’s House of Oldies on Main Street, and out of the back of Robin’s car.
Gospel rocker returns for SxSE show Dec. 4
I’ve been following Mike Farris’ career since I saw his no- holds-barred show at the Myrtle Beach Train Depot in May 2008. Today, I’m excited to report that he’ll be back for another South By Southeast performance at the Depot on Saturday, Dec. 4.
Mike’s road to success has presented him with many obstacles to overcome. Probably in response to his parents’ divorce, he began using both drugs and alcohol while still a child, and almost died from an overdose at the tender age of 21.
After recovering, he went on to form the Screamin’ Cheetah Wheelies, a southern rock & boogie band based in Nashville. They were signed by Atlantic Records and enjoyed what they refer to in the biz as a “sustained success.” A self-titled debut album in 1994 reached #40 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart. Subsequent singles and albums brought the rockers more success.
The talented vocalist would also serve as frontman for Stevie Ray Vaughan’s backing band, Double Trouble.
For Mike Farris, this wasn’t all good news. Easy access to drugs and alcohol was wreaking havoc on his personal life. With help from his family and his church, he was able to break away from a life of addiction. In 2002, he released a solo album titled Goodnight Sun. He was on a positive path.
Oct. 31, 2007 would prove to be a monumental turning point for Farris.
He had been scheduled to perform at a Porter Wagoner tribute during the Americana Music Conference. Sadly, Wagoner passed away on Oct. 28 and the tribute became a eulogy. A young Mike Farris walked on stage, sat down with his guitar and proceeded to bring a hush over the entire room with his achingly soulful rendition of Wagoner’s “Green Green Grass of Home.” The clip went viral on YouTube, and when Mike released his Gospel-based recording Salvation In Lights in June of 2007, little pockets of folks in the know all around the country were waiting for it.
Since releasing his benchmark recording, Mike has played the monster South By Southwest, Austin City Limits Festival Bonnaroo, and the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. Response has been the same: people are speechless with delight.
And the kudos keep coming in.
In 2008, Mike received the American Music Award for New/Emerging Artist of the Year. In 2009, his next CD, SHOUT! Live earned a Dove Award for Best Traditional Gospel album of the year.
Singer/songwriter Buddy Miller has said, “Mike Farris has enough heart, soul, and power to light up a city. He mixes up the elements and turns them into something new, beautiful, and uniquely his own.”
From Peter Cooper of The Tennessean magazine comes: “It’s inspiring to hear so many people with glowing things to say about something, especially when that thing is too gritty and hard to define for flavor-of-the-month status. But it’s more inspiring to hear Farris sing. He’s one of the most dynamic, convincing talents to emerge from Nashville in years, and his Salvation in Lights album sounds like the gospel truth.”
Roots/blues musician Delbert McClinton, who welcomes Mike Farris to the Blues Cruise every year, said, “Mike Farris is magic – The Rejuvenator! You gotta see it to believe it!”
His most recent accomplishment is The Night The Cumberland Came Alive, a six-track charity recording that is already receiving rave reviews. I haven’t heard the EP yet, so I’m including this from Mike’s website:
“Mike Farris who recently was honored with a Dove Award for his 2009 SHOUT! Live release wanted to give back to his hometown who suffered during the May 2010 flood in Nashville. This six-song charity EP was recorded at the historic Downtown Presbyterian Church in one afternoon and proceeds will be used to help flood victims via the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. The Night The Cumberland Came Alive features an all-star cast of musicians including: Sam Bush, Kenny Vaughan (Marty Stuart), Ketch Secor and Gill Landry from Old Crow Medicine Show, Byron House (Robert Plant), as well as Ann, Regina and Alfreda McCrary (The McCrary Sisters), Derrek Phillips and Eric Holt from Farris’ own Roseland Rhythm Revue.
The title track’s lyrics deal directly with the flood, and Farris penned “Dear Lazarus” along with Ketch Secor just days before the recording. Musically it is in keeping with the old roots Gospel flavor that Farris’ has been known for on previous releases but with a more blues and country feel.
“Stylistically, pre-war American music has long been a passion of mine,” Farris says of the project. “Before the flood, we’d been searching for songs that would evoke the struggle and the victory of the working class, a sound rising up out of flesh and bone, of spit and spirit. But then, as a city, we were hit square in the gut by this unbelievable flood. And that sound meshed with the spirit of resurrection we saw rise up all over this area. When we gathered in that historic church to lay it all down, what happened was beyond our imaginations.”
You need to experience the power of Mike Farris. You will be nothing short of amazed!
The Skinny On SxSE
South By Southeast is a nonprofit music organization formed in 2003 by a bunch of Myrtle Beach music lovers (including the late, great Jeff Roberts) who decided they wanted to preserve and promote American music not heard on mainstream radio outlets or performed in traditional venues. The result has been an incredible “listening room” that not only serves up some of the most amazing music you’ll ever hear, but also a complimentary feast of casseroles, pizzas, homemade desserts, wine, beer and soft drinks.
Here’s just a smattering of the musicians they’ve brought to town: Justin Townes Earle, Randall Bramblett Band, Scott Miller, Stoll Vaughn, Robbie Fulks, Verlon Thompson, Wendell Mathews, Webb Wilder, the Susan Marshall Band, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Jumper Cables, Diesel, Danger Muffin, Tommy Womack, Will Kimbrough, David Olney, Ericson Holt Band, Harry Manx and Bonnie Bishop.
Upcoming shows include Charleston’s rockin’ Rev. Johnny Mac & the Booty Ranch on Jan. 15, 2011 and the Randall Bramblett Band on March 5, 2011, giving us another taste of their first class blues, jazz, and southern rock.
Tickets are $25 ($20 members) and the good news is that SxSE has finally been granted 501 (c) (3) status, so the I.R.S. now recognizes your charitable gifts and donations as such. YAY!
For tickets or more information, shoot an email with your name, number of tickets needed and your membership status to: firstname.lastname@example.org. The Music Feast starring Mike Farris will be at the historic Myrtle Beach Train Depot, 851 Broadway, Myrtle Beach, S.C. Feasting begins at 6 p.m. and Mike Farris takes the stage at 7 p.m.
Trust the Frog. He hasn’t disappointed me yet!
Ronnie Godfrey Concert at School For Blind
It’s about 250 miles from where I am in coastal North Carolina to the South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind in Spartanburg … kind of a long way to go for a piano recital. But I’m thinking about making the trip.
I mean, how often do I get to hear freakin’ Ronnie Godfrey?
In case you’re one of those folks who never ventures far from the Top 40, let me tell you about Ronnie Godfrey – singer, songwriter, composer, producer and piano man – who’s well worth breaking out the Garmin.
During the early eighties, he was the keyboard player for Marshall Tucker Band, playing on three of the group’s Warner Brothers albums. He was a driving force behind the S.C. Upstate powerhouse, Garfeel Ruff. He’s written over 2,000 songs with recordings by Marshall Tucker Band, Billy Joe Royal, Sonny Turner, Damon Gray, Rob Crosby, Johnny Lee and others.
He’s played piano for Crystal Gayle, Charlie Daniels and David Allen Coe – among others. His list of credits is a mile long.
“Hat Full of Rain,” which Ronnie co-wrote with wife Kim Morrison, was recorded by Ty Herndon for his highly acclaimed 1995 debut album, What Matters Most on Epic Records. In 2004, Ronnie co-wrote, co-produced, played keys and sang background on Johnny Lee’s “Santa Claus Is Lookin’ For Love.”
Ronnie also produced Cole Porter’s indie-country release, Poetic Justice, which climbed to the indie top ten charts and featured two singles that reached number one spots on the indie charts.
In 2007, Ronnie brought soulful background vocals to Leon Russell’s Angel In Disguise release.
Born completely blind in Greenville, S.C., Ronnie was introduced to music at the S.C. School for the Deaf and Blind. On Oct. 30, he will return to present a special concert celebrating the school’s 155th anniversary.
Last week, I talked to him about his music, his family, his experiences at the blind school and about going back to where it all began. As you’ll see, it was classic Ronnie Godfrey. He tells it like he sees it.
“When I started playing in 1964, I was eight. I didn’t like it. At the school, they forced us to play … If you’re talented they make you play. For first five years, I tried to quit. All my friends were out of it and I was a little bit of a problem child anyway. I went to Dr. Walker, but he wouldn’t let me quit. Now I’m grateful. It’s a really good lesson. Don’t expect to like everything.
“When I was 15 my parents bought me a piano so I could play over the summer and I fell in love with it. Now at this 50-year mark, I want to go back to where it started and feel it …. sort of absorb and connect to where it started … be in that room again.”
Ronnie Godfrey is very matter-of-fact about his childhood. He states the facts, but doesn’t dwell on the difficulties.
“I was so troubled, ran away from school three times. My dad was in prison: he robbed a bank, and everyone knew it. I had bedwetting problems.
“The school had that 19th century parochial school, sort of Dickensonian quality to it. The housefather and his wife at the dormitory made me wash my sheets if I wet.
“The teachers at the school were wonderful, but the dormitory was abusive.”
“One time this housefather, he was going to show me he could control me. He said I was an instigator. He put me in a room with the deaf kids.
“But, I think those things mold you if you let them.”
He doesn’t seem to have hard feelings about his father either, who shares his first name, Virgil.
About Music City, Ronnie says, “Nashville has become a cesspool. Once Travis Tritt, Garth Brooks and the others made it big, there was suddenly a lot of money. Then the lawyers showed up. Now the radio is packed with bad songs. “Somewhere Between Old and New York” by Dave Loggins? It’s about a shoe shine guy at Yankee Stadium. You couldn’t write that song now. Now it’s crappy ass songs.
“There are two ways to make money: sales money and play money. Some bribe the radio stations. You can make money without even selling records.
‘It’s not depressing to me. I’m not a typical human being. I never did fit in with the good old boy set. I didn’t hold my mouth right. I’m not even normal for blind people.”
Songwriting is clearly a great love for Ronnie Godfrey. “It’s got to have a combination of being honest and conversational, yet also a sense of imagery. Convince the listener that it’s real … like the opening to “Hotel California” … On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair Warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air . They made you know … in a very few words.”
In 1998, Ronnie began to jam with Casey Lutton (guitar and vocals), Steve Johnson (drums and vocals) and Michael Thorn (bass). In 2000, they formed Virgil, a genre-resistant jam band. The group recorded Standin’ In a Circle, which, you can hear on the group’s MySpace page at the previous link.
“My philosophy of life is in Virgil. I believe people should be free with each other – spiritual and free and open. The church has done more to screw up manhood. People don’t believe they have the right to feel that good. If people would learn to be free and love, people wouldn’t have to fight wars.
“I see Virgil as my alter ego. Why the name for the band? We didn’t want just my name on it, but it was my concept, so it was a way to name the band.”
If there’s a single song that reveals who Ronnie Godfrey is, it’s “The Man In the Glass,” and he’s happy to talk about it.
“I did a bad thing. I knew it wasn’t right. I was drunk. I had this old pendant metronome … well, I stumbled into the piano, activating the metronome. It was telling me sit down and work this thing out. For two days … I wouldn’t eat until it was done. I couldn’t sleep.
“I had one guy , an alcoholic, it made him quit drinking. That song is my benchmark, my anthem, my way of facing up to myself. It’s like it was meant to be. That metronome told me. That song was in my soul.”
Ronnie’s currently working on a project with Kim, his wife of ten years, also a singer/songwriter/musician. “It’s the best stuff I‘vet ever done. I’m playing all the parts. She’s singing it all. We’ve co-written it all. It’s a CD for her, Therapy.”
When will it be done, I wanted to know?
“Probably two years. I’m a guy who needs time. Virgil took five years.”
I’ve heard three rough tracks from Therapy. It will be worth the wait. In the meantime, visit the website for more info.
The South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind is located at 355 Cedar Springs Road in Spartanburg, S.C. The concert begins at 7 p.m. Admission is $7 and proceeds will benefit the School for the Blind Alumni Association. For details call 864-285-2921 or email: email@example.com.
This Flying Under the Radar post has also been published in Coast magazine and Alternatives NewsMagazine, Myrtle Beach, S.C.