DarielB – Flying Under the Radar

Mama Rue’s Gears Up for Summer

Posted in Music Stories by darielb on June 11, 2012

Mama Rue’s Blues Garden in Pawleys Island, S.C. was under water during the recent torrential downpour, but owners

Refried Blues Band will play Mama Rue’s on Friday, June 22, starting at 8 p.m.

Marrue Bleau and Eric Sutherland know how to roll with the atmospheric punches. They stayed open through the worst of it and are already gearing up for a summer of jerk pork and blues.

The entertainment lineup for June includes local favorites along with some regional big names that, combined with Chef Eric’s magic in the kitchen, are pushing this “best known secret of the Grand Strand” to the forefront of the music scene.

During cool months, there’s an intimate corner stage inside the restaurant. Once it’s warm, though, everyone heads outside to the Blues Garden with its live oaks, bottle tree and friendly, rustic bar.

June offerings include:

Friday June 15, 8 p.m. Pastor Pastor, a blues trip off the beaten path.

Wednesday,  June 20, 7 p.m. Jeff Liberty. From Columbia, S.C. Liberty’s scorching guitar and smokey vocals make him a favorite at Mama Rue’s.

Friday,  June 22, 8 p.m.  Re-Fried Blues. This local group plays some rockin’ blues. Members include Mike Markiewicz (vocals), Rick Oliver (bass), Chicago Bob Hess (guitar), and Ed Roderick (percussion), Sadly, Todd Roth “aka”My Buddy Todd” is off finding his fortune in Austin, Texas, so he won’t be joining them onstage.)

Wednesday, June 27   (not yet scheduled)

Friday June 29, 8 p.m.  Back Road Hounds. Another local group, the Hounds play hard drivin’ contemporary blues. Players are Eric Stair (drums), Johnny Webb (bass), Mike Donellan (lead guitar and vocals), and Steph Wilmson (harp and vocals).

Mama Rue’s Blues Garden is located at 9737 Ocean Hwy. (Hwy. 17) in Pawleys Island. Find them on Facebook or visit their website. For more information, call 843-235-3853.


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Road Trip: Pop Ferguson Blues Fest in Lenoir, N.C.

Posted in Live Performance Previews/Reviews by darielb on June 1, 2012

Pop Ferguson (Photo courtesy reverbnation.com/cjblues (Pop Ferguson Blues Revue)

Clyde “Pop” Ferguson is a legend. Never mind that you may not know his name. He’s a legend anyway. At 84 years old, he’s still playing the blues, and let me make it as clear as possible. He’s the real deal. He’s not someone who’s been influenced by those early authentic bluesmen; Pop Ferguson is authentic blues.

So gas up your Hummer or the pickup, whatever your vehicle of choice; mark your calendar for June 8 and 9 and set the Garmin for the historic city of Lenoir, N.C. in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains for the fourth annual free Pop Ferguson Blues Festival.

This Festival is unique in that its goal isn’t simply to provide a venue for blues acts. According to festival organizer (and Pop’s son) Clyde Ferguson, Jr., the Pop Ferguson Blues Festival also charges itself with the mission of reconnecting today’s culture with the true heritage of the blues.

To that end, five of the nine acts are considered elders of the genre, playing a range of blues, and all connecting to the past.

Eighty-four-year-old Pop Ferguson is one of the last practitioners of traditional blues in the N.C. foothills. Growing up in the African American community of North Wlikesboro, he played for local revivals, all the time yearning for the blues. As a young man, he traveled all around, playing juke joints, fish fries, coal fields and street corners in the northeast. He shared the stage with Papa John Creach and Etta Baker. Playing at first in the local Piedmont blues style (thumb and finger), he adopted popular techniques and developed his own style of blues gospel.

“With my dad,” Ferguson, Jr. laughs, “you never know what you’ll get. He may start a song that you think you know, but then he just does his own thing.”

Beverly “Guitar” Watkins. (Photo Mary Ann McLaurin)

The Festival lineup also includes the inimitable Drink Small, South Carolina’s much loved blues doctor (age 79); from the N.C. Piedmont, finger-style guitarist James Arthur “Boo” Hanks (age 83); Beverly “Guitar” Watkins (age 72), playing straight ahead blues and telling it from a woman’s P.O.V.; and Mac Arnold, playing modern day jump blues that reach back to the old days. At 69, he’s the baby of the group.

There will also be gospel, traditional acoustic folk music, storytelling, country blues and the introduction of a special young talent – Miss E.

History
How the Festival was born is especially touching.

“My dad and I starting playing together about six years ago,” says Ferguson, Jr. “My parents got divorced when I was really young, and I visited my dad and heard him play, but we didn’t spend ‘time’ together. I went away to school, started teaching, had kids. In 2006, we came back together, started to have a real relationship.

“For Christmas that year, I wanted to give him a special present. I learned to play guitar so we could pick together and on Christmas day I sat down to play for him. When I was done, he turned to me and said, ‘Boy I believe that song goes like this.’”

Clyde is laughing out loud as he remembers. “Well, my feelings were hurt, but Merry Christmas anyway! I went back to his house on New Year’s Eve, with a bass guitar and this time he said, ‘Play that again.’ And then we started playing together.

“Within 30 days we had a  harmonica player, a guitarist and Pop Ferguson Blues Revue was created. So we started playing.

“This guy was following us around everywhere we went. And a little while later, we get this notification he was going to be recognized by the Smithsonian Institute.”

Turns out the guy who was following them around was with  StoryCorps Griot Project and he was researching Pop for the National Museum of African-American History and Culture. So Pop Ferguson’s life story, recordings and works will be preserved by the Smithsonian.

This year’s Festival theme is Celebrating the Blues Heritage of the Appalachians. What a terrific way to not only learn, but experience the heritage of the area.

The Festival is free. Just head into downtown Lenoir and volunteers will be onsite to direct you toward the stages and events.

Festival Schedule
Friday Workshops
(5 – 8 p.m.)
Patrick Crouch. Slide blues guitar
Jaret Carter. Country blues guitar
Max Hightower. Blues “Hohner” harmonica
Saturday Performances
Main Street Stage
3:45 Pop Ferguson
4:30 Anointed
5:15 Drink Small
6:00 Boo Hanks
6:45 Beverly “Guitar” Watkins
7:30 Pop Ferguson
8:15 Mac Arnold
9:00 Blues Jam Session
Sweet T’s Stage
4:00 Strictly Clean & Decent
5:00 Mt. Pilgrim Choir
6:00 Jaret Carter
7:00 Smith Memorial Choir
Alibi Stage
4:00 Jaret Carter
5:00 Diana Banner & Sisters
6:00 Life Center Choir
7:00 Strictly Clean & Decent
Venti’s Casa Stage
4:00 Pop Ferguson w/Miss E
5:00 Life Center Youth Choir
6:00 Storytelling – Diana Banner
West Avenue Stage
5:00 Jacob Johnson Band

Conway’s Rivertown Festival Scores Big With Randall Bramblett Band

Posted in Live Performance Previews/Reviews by darielb on April 25, 2012

Randall Bramblett during a Myrtle Beach show for South By Southeast.
(Photo Dariel Bendin)

The Rivertown Music & Arts Festival is held in Conway, S.C. each year on the first Saturday in May, and it’s always fun. But this year, it’s going to be even better. Headlining the festival will be the eclectic and uber-talented Randall Bramblett Band.

The twenty-sixth annual Rivertown Music & Arts Festival will be held May 5 from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. in historic downtown Conway, S.C.  Great music, art and a variety of cuisine choices will celebrate this annual event.  Local and regional bands will provide music ranging from jazz to gospel to beach music from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The headline act, Randall Bramblett Band, is an extraordinary group of “musician’s musicians.” From his early career with Capricorn Records (Cowboy, Gregg Allman, Sea Level) to his more recent tours with Widespread Panic, Traffic and Steve Winwood, Bramblett has worked with the best in the business. Chuck Leavell (Rolling Stones, Allman Brothers) says “Randall is in my opinon one of the most gifted and talented souther singer-songwriter musicians of the past several decades.”

Bramblett has toured and recorded with national acts including Traffic, Gov’t Mule, the late Levon Helm, Elvin Bishop and Gregg Allman, to name just a few. Guitarist John Keane, of Widespread Panic fame, is joining the band for the Rivertown Festival show.

Randall Bramblett Band performs at 5:30 p.m.

Atlanta's power trio Kick the Robot

Also playing the Festival will be alternative rock’s Kick the Robot, a young powerpop trio driven by strong songwriting and vocal harmonies. The group, which recently won the Atlanta division of the Hard Rock Rising 2012 competition, is produced by Gerry Henson, legendary session drummer and producer for many artists, including Shawn Mullins and Randall Bramblett. Kick the Robot takes the stage at 4 p.m.

Another plus, local favorite Southern Blue is also set to perform at the Rivertown Festival. Playing throughout the southeast, the southern rock and blues band has opened for a long list of national acts that includes Blake Shelton, Molly Hatchett, Little River Band, David Allan Coe, and Confederate Railroad. Southern Blue performs at 7:30 p.m.

Festival-goers are encouraged to bring a chair to enjoy the musical acts on Laurel Street and then meander over to the Classic Car Show hosted by Chicora Car Club and sponsored by Palmetto Chevrolet.

From 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. local artists, crafters and merchants will line the downtown streets offering an assortment of wares including pottery, wood, glass, photography, jewelry and paintings.  Gourmet food, hotdogs and local cuisine will also be available in the food court area.

Proceeds from this event benefit Conway Downtown Alive, a nonprofit organization that aims to stimulate economic development, encourage historic preservation and promote the vitality of downtown Conway. For more information visit conwayalive.com or call 843-248 6260.

 

Charlie Snuggs On Guitar

Posted in Interviews by darielb on March 22, 2012

Charlie Snuggs (Photo Jim Allen)

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.

Charlie with Jaynie Trudell. (Photo Jim Allen)

“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.

The Sharks. L-R, Terry Harper (bass), Earl Truette (drums), and Charlie Snuggs (guitar). (Photo Rosa Bean)

“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.

Soulful Troubadour Back at Myrtle Beach Train Depot for SxSE Show

Posted in Live Performance Previews/Reviews by darielb on March 6, 2012

Randall Bramblett and his band will play the South By Southeast Music Feast on Saturday, March 6 at 8 p.m. This will most like be a sellout. To reserve your spot, send an email to southxsoutheast@aol.com. (Michael Kelly Guitars)

It’s become a wonderful tradition for South By Southeast concert goers in Myrtle Beach. Right about this time of year,  the Randall Bramblett Band – and we’re talking the full band here –  head to the Grand Strand for a fast-paced, high energy show at the historic Myrtle Beach Train Depot. And when I tell you they blow the roof off the place, that Davis Causey’s guitar work defies description, that Michael Steele is a monster on bass, I’m not exaggerating.

John Keane of Widspread Panic fame will perform with RBB for the Myrtle Beach show.

Randall Bramblett has performed and recorded with Sea Level, the Allman Brothers, Steve Winwood,Traffic, Levon Helm, Bonnie Raitt, Widespread Panic, Gov’t Mule and more. His tunes have been covered by scores of others. In fact, Bonnie Raitt is covering his “Used to Rule the World” from Randall’s 2008 Now It’s Tomorrow CD on her next release. It’ll be the lead track and the second single to be released. Plus, they co-wrote another tune together that will be one of Starbucks’ free releases.

Randall Bramblett is a multi-talented icon in the music business. He’s more than proficient on guitar, saxophone and keyboards. His raspy vocals are passionate and soulful to the bone. But songwriting for this Jesup, Ga. native is akin to breathing, and that’s what I wanted to talk to him about during our telephone interview last week.

He was happy to oblige.

“I have a lot going on,” he tells me. “I’ve been writing, getting ready to put out another album. I’m in the process of demo-ing songs that I’ve written since The Meantime [his beautifully sparse 2010 recording that featured Randall on grand piano, Gerry Hansen on drums and percussion and Chris Enghauser on upright bass].

“I think I have enough for a record. I have to figure out a direction now.”

Did Randall write his songs as a concept album, I wanted to know.

“I’ve never done a concept album. They have a ‘feel’ after the fact, and I always like to  think of it as an ‘album’ even with single downloads.

“The thing with me is I have so many different styles. My songs can be folkie or funky gospel or something else. But I don’t want the album to be too disjointed. A lot of it comes together from the players.

“But [for this next album] I’ve got a lot of strong bluesy R&B going on.”
It makes sense, when you consider that Randall grew up in the heart of soul country in southern Georgia, where he counted James Brown and Ray Charles among his musical heroes. Further influenced by artists such as James Taylor and Carole King, Randall began writing songs while still in high school.

In college at the University of North Carolina, he studied religion and psychology. But shortly after graduating, he moved to Athens, Ga., where he made contacts and honed his skills in the “Liverpool of the South.”

I’m always curious to learn how songwriters work at their craft … whether it starts as an idea or a line or a piano riff…

“I don’t write like Tin Pan Alley writers do,” Randall told me. “I don’t have an angle. Basically, I sit at my computer, two actually. One is for lyrics and one is for music.

“I’ll have sheets of paper with ideas from journaling written all over them.

“I usually write with a vignette or scene in mind. It’ll have some meaning, but I hardly ever write a story. I write more mood stuff.

“It’s similar to poetry, I think, hard to define … it has some openness to it.”

Intelligently written lyrics are a signature for Randall. His 2004 album Thin Places, much of which he co-wrote with guitarist Jason Slatton, is one of my faves.

“Jason usually gets it started and I finish. He comes up with some great lines,” Randall laughs as he explains. “We still write together, on two acoustic guitars.”

No More Mr. Lucky [released in 2001 and produced by John Keane of Widespread Panic] was my first record for New West Records,” he continues.

Another beautifully written album, it served notice that Randall Bramblett had achieved a new level of songwriting. Soulful blues, jazz, funked up rock and a Southern sensibility meld together in a standout recording.

The album’s opening track, “God Was In the Water,” feels dark and desperate, a spiritual longing or questioning, a feeling of being lost ­–  recurring themes in Randall’s work. Written by Randall and Davis Causey, Bonnie Raitt covered the tune on her 2005 Souls Alike album.

Other notables include the uptempo “Get In, Get Out,” “Lost Energy” and Aching For a Dream, a tune about life choices, Neal Cassady and the Beat generation.

“I called Carolyn, Neal Cassady’s wife,” Randall says. “I found her on the Internet. She had a website devoted to Neal. She objected to my lyrics. She said he didn’t die counting the railroad ties in Mexico. She says Ken Kesey started all that.”

One thing all Randall Bramblett songs have in common is their emotion. I find it impossible to listen without feeling something.They push, they pull. They ask questions. They insinuate. They make me feel. Something.

The date for this year’s show is Saturday, March 10. The show starts at 8 p.m. And it will be SRO. If you don’t have a reservation yet, stop reading and shoot off an email with the number in your party to SouthxSoutheast@aol.com.

Music Feasts are $25 per person ($20 for SxSE annual concert series members).

Admission fees include a range of potluck meals and often homemade dessert (to which you are invited to contribute), wine, beer, soda and coffee. The Myrtle Beach Train Depot is located at 851 Broadway in Myrtle Beach. For more information, or to join the nonprofit group, log onto http://www.southbysoutheast.org.

Kerry Michaels Band: Baby, It’s White Hot Soul

Posted in Live Performance Previews/Reviews by darielb on February 17, 2012

Pops and Kerry (photo courtesy Kerry Michaels)


Kerry Michaels Band reunion show at Kono Lounge, 8 p.m. Feb. 17.

If you don’t have plans tonight (or even if you do), there’s a super show about to take place. The Kerry Michaels Band is getting back together for one night of gut-wrenching blues, searing guitar and an on-stage camaraderie that’s going to knock our socks off.

Kerry belts out the blues (photo courtesy Kerry Michaels)

I’m especially excited because I’ve never seen the Kerry Michaels Band live. I recently watched a video, circa 1990 maybe, of  them opening for Buddy Guy in Winston-Salem, N.C.  and this band kicked butt! Michael Stallings, better known as “Pops” was putting out one sweet guitar lick after another. Kerry (still going by Kerry Martin then) was belting out the blues, her voice powerful and rich and heart-wrenching. I read somewhere, that when asked to describe their music, she said, “Baby, it’s white hot soul.” Now I get it. Yowza, that girl is making Etta proud!

The band hasn’t played together for years, but they’re coming back for a one-night, one-time reunion show (at least that’s what I’m told), and I’m excited! I talked to both Kerry and Michael about the reunion, and they’re even more excited, so we are in for a night of fantastic music!

Pops and Kerry first met in a little country bar in Greensboro, N.C. sometime in late 1987. She had moved there from Galveston, Tex. to be closer to Duke University Hospital where she was being treated for cancer (Yikes! And just 30-something). She was tending bar. He was gigging at the in a country band called Stampede.

“I got up and sang a few songs with the band, and the first words I spoke to Pops were ‘Someday you and I are going to be in a band together.’”  She had that right. They started working together. In fact, it became a romantic thing, too, but that’s a story for another day.

“We were in Greensboro when we formed the band, “ says Stallings. “And we were playing a little bit of everything. On Friday night, we’d be at Rhino Club or Night Shades playing blues and the next night we’d be the country band at the Carousel Lounge.”

A popular band throughout the Piedmont from the start, KMB’s first big break came when they were sponsored by the Piedmont Blues Preservation Society after winning the area’s Piedmont Amateur Contest (now the regional IBC Challenge) in Greensboro, N.C. They went on to the National Blues Amateur Contest finals at the new Daisy Theatre in Memphis, Tenn.

“This was a great experience,” said Stallings. “I think we were the only Piedmont band to place at the national level. The night before our competition, we were across the river in Arkansas and met up with the great Albert King. We told him we were playing and he came to see us!  What a night!”

The group didn’t win. They came in third, but the wheels were set it motion. They impressed Albert King and they were on their way.

At this time, band members of were Kerry Martin (lead vocals and keys); Michael Stallings (lead guitar and vocals); David Hutson (bass guitar and vocals); Ronnie Skidmore (keys and vocals) and Brandon Cardwell (drums).

“After Memphis, we started gigging all the time; we were playing so often, we had to bring in band members who wanted to play full time,” Michael told me.

Says Kerry, “That’s when we added Bryant Bowles on drums; Mike Stevens on bass; and then Jimmy “Grub” Thornberg on keyboards. This is the Kerry Michaels Band you’ll see with me and Pops at Kono Lounge.

“These were guys I’ve played with forever,” she continues, “I met Mike Stephens in 1979, playing an after-hours gig at Sockeye’s, a place out on 501 called Sock’s Lounge.

Bryant Bowles. Kerry says, "Musically, Bryant is my soul mate." (photo courtesy Kerry Michaels)

“Bryant Bowles is the kind of drummer you don’t even have to turn around and look at. He already knows what I’m thinking. Musically, Bryant is my soulmate.”

Kerry adds, “We had met Albert King, who came to see us play in Memphis. We started opening for Koko Taylor, Buddy Guy, Dr. John, even Charlie Daniels.  We did shows with Valerie Wellington and Denise LaSalle. We were going strong.”

They became regulars at Dick’s Last Resort, playing not just the Barefoot Landing location in North Myrtle Beach, but nationally at clubs in Chicago and Dallas. Gigs also included regular Saturday night stint at Fat Harolds. “I remember seeing the plane flying up and down the beach with the banner ‘Kerry Michaels Band at Fat Harold’s tonight,’” Stallings recalls. “The shaggers loved Kerry,” Michael says. “They couldn’t get enough of her. And with good reason. No one can sing it like Kerry.”

There was talk of record deals, Hollywood opportunities. But instant fame isn’t always easy to manage. The band members had their share of drug and alcohol problems. Kerry cut a solo record that she admits was not successful. The band eventually folded, playing their last gig in the late 1990s. In Kerry’s own words,  she “spiraled downward.”

“Because of some bad decisions I made, I lost my boys. We haven’t played together for 15 years or more. It was all my fault, but they’ve forgiven me. I still can’t forgive myself. But they’ve forgiven me. I’m tickled pink to be playing with them. I want to make this music one mo’ time.”

Tickets are $15 and include Kono Lounge is located at 1901 N. Kings Hwy. in Myrtle Beach, S.C. For more information, contact Nathan Stallings at 843-224-7748 or via email at BonoProductions@yahoo.com.

Barefoot Movement – Old Time With a Twist

Posted in Live Performance Previews/Reviews by darielb on February 10, 2012

 

 

SxSE presents Barefoot Movement at the Myrtle Beach Train Depot,  8 p.m. Feb. 18.

The folks over at South By Southeast have planned another wonderful night of music for us. The Barefoot Movement  is a group I haven’t seen live yet, but I’ve been listening to

The Barefoot Movement: L-R, Tommy Norris, Hasee Ciaccio (local Myrtle Beach-ite and SxSE sweetheart), Noah Wall, Quentin Acres .

their music and I’m looking forward to the show. They’re a quartet of accomplished acoustic musicians who seamlessly meld old-time Southern music with Americana, jazz and even modern rock.

Players are Noah Wall (lead vocals, songwriter, fiddle); Tommy Norris (mandolin and harmony); Quentin Acres (guitar, vocals, songwriter); and Hasee Ciaccdo (upright bass and harmony).

The group’s sweet energetic vocal harmonies are supported by topnotch instrumentation. I was tempted to label them as bluegrass or maybe “new grass,” but after talking to Noah on the phone earlier,I’ve changed my mind.

“In the world of bluegrass,” she explained, “people are very particular about what’s included. We like to experiement. We call ourselves an eight-legged bench with our feet going in different directions. We don’t want to close the door to any kind of sound we might make.”

Whatever you want to call them, this group is on the rise, one to watch. So, once again, Trust the Frog.

The opening act, which starts at 7 p.m., is folk duo Debbie Daniel and Jack McGregor  from the Columbia, S.C. band, Slap Wore Out.

Music Feasts are $25 per person ($20 for SxSE annual concert series members). Admission fees include a range of potluck meals and often homemade dessert (to which you are invited to contribute), wine, beer, soda and coffee. Reserve your spot by sending an email to southxsoutheast @aol.com, with the number of tickets you need and your zip code. They’ll put you on their A list.

The Myrtle Beach Train Depot is located at 851 Broadway in Myrtle Beach. For more information,log onto http://www.southbysoutheast.org.

More Live Music in 2012!

Posted in Live Performance Previews/Reviews by darielb on January 10, 2012

I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions. I never do. But I just heard one that I can support wholeheartedly.

More live music in 2012!

So for this piece, I’ll be focusing on my own local stomping grounds, from the port city of Wilmington in North Carolina and North Myrtle Beach on down to Pawleys Island in South Carolina. There’s a lot coming up, so check the websites for even more shows.

Mike Taylor and the Holiday Band will kick off Mid-Winter S.O.S. at Duck's on Wed., Jan 11.

I can’t talk about local live music without mentioning Mid-Winter S.O.S. in the Ocean Drive section of North Myrtle Beach. It’s just begun and runs through Sunday, Jan. 15. The S.O.S. lounges (Fat Harold’s, Duck’s, Spanish Galleon, O.D. Beach Club, O.D. Café and O.D. Arcade) feature deejays for the dancers, but a few will have live music, too. They all require S.O.S. cards for entry. Cost is $35, but you get a lot of band for your buck.

Fat Harold’s  will be packed with shaggers day and night. Don’t miss lunch with Lulu. She’s one of the best cooks around and you can tell anyone I said so! Thursday, Jan. 12, it’s Craig Woolard Band. This’ll be crowded, but worth an elbow to the ribs. There’s a reason he’s taken home CBMA Male Vocalist of the Year award nine times. On Friday, Jan. 13, it’s Coastline time with Jim Quick at 1 p.m. Nashville songwriter and producer Gary Nicholson says, “Jim Quick sings read deal country-soul from the heart. He’s combined all the ingredients of his influences to cook up a tasty stew that keeps you coming back for more.” Sea-Cruz takes the stage at 1 p.m. on Jan. 14. Sax, keyboards and top-notch vocals make this trio a powerhouse. Closing out Mid-Winter, the always popular bluesy Castaways will be at the Fat Man’s on Sunday, Jan. 15 starting at 4 p.m.

Also part of Mid-Winter, but minus the required S.O.S. card are 2001 Nightclub  in Myrtle Beach and on the Waterway in North Myrtle, Boom Boom’s Raw Bar.

2001 Nightclub is really three venues in one: Club Touch, Starlight Room and Next Level, which is where the live bands play. Show time is 9:30 p.m. You can see Jim Quick & Coastline, Jan. 12; Craig Woolard Band, Jan. 13 and on Jan. 14, the Magnificents, known for their powerful vocals. Cover charge is $10, $5 with S.O.S. card.

If you haven’t been to Boom Boom’s yet, check it out. The large deck overlooks the Waterway and brand new chef, Ronnie Stevens, is getting rave reviews. Tommy Black Band (beach and blues) is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Jan. 14. On Jan. 21,  Fat Jack Band brings their brand of soul funk to the beach. Rick Strickland Band, playing all-original tunes, is set for Jan. 28. With Rick’s impressive four-octave range and female vocalist Lesa Hudson, this group has built a huge following throughout the Carolinas.
Hip Pocket Band is also coming to town. Equal parts fun and talent, they’ll be at Duck’s on Jan. 21. Love these guys!

Over at the Boathouse , we switch gears a little bit. Through Feb. 23, they’re hosting Coyote Country Fridays with cohost Coyote 106.5 FM. They’ll be featuring local and regional country artists. Sure to be a blast.

Kono Lounge in Myrtle Beach  is another hip, loungy kind of night club. Nathan Stallings with Bono Productions has been bringing some terrific acts in. This coming Friday, Jan. 13, get set for Michael “Pops” Stallings, one of the area’s top blues guitarists. On Feb. 3, The Sharks featuring blues mama Jaynie Trudell will be front and center. Feb. 17  will be the long-awaited reunion show for the Kerry Michaels Band, the must-see blues band on the Grand Strand during the 1990s. The show will feature original members Kerry Michaels (vocals), Michael “Pops” Stallings (lead guitar); Bryant Bowles (drums);  Mike Stevens (bass) and James “Uncle Grub” Thornberg (keyboards).

Juke Joint Johnny, shown here in September at the 2011 Summer's Last Blast Blues Festival in Piedmont, S.C. (Photo Mary Anne McLaurin)

Mama Rue’s in Pawleys Island , hands-down my favorite place for blues on the Strand, has a full line up for us. Friday, Jan. 13, she’s bringing in Juke Joint Johnny and Bad Drew Baldwin. If you’ve never seen Johnny on harp, you’ve never experienced blues harmonica. On Jan. 20, Pastor, Pastor is bringing their unusual blues act back to Mama Rue’s. Guitarist Jeff Liberty, whose style has been described as “fuel-injected blues that lights a fire under your seat,” performs Jan. 28. On Feb. 3, My Buddy Todd aka Todd Roth will perform his last show at Mama Rue’s before moving his life and career to Austin, Texas. Definitely one to see. Feb. 17 will be a big night, too. N.C. bluesman Matt Walsh is the featured act, another one not to miss. No cover charge and the best Jamaican food this side of Nassau! Tell Chef Eric I said hey! Then get you some jerk pork (and a Howlin’ Wolf  from Marrue at the bar). You’ll be hooked on the food, the friends and the music!

Another of my favorite blues joints is the Rusty Nail , home to the Cape Fear Blues Society weekly jams. On Jan. 14, the Nail will host a Pave the Road to Memphis fundraiser for Randy McQuay and Lawyers Guns & Money, winners of the Cape Fear Blues Challenge who will represent the blues society at the IBC in Memphis later this month. Both acts will perform. YEAH!

I can’t write about live music along the Grand Strand without talking about the nonprofit South By Southeast Music Feasts at the historic Myrtle Beach Train Depot. They bring in nationally known acts that often don’t come to this area otherwise. Tickets are $20 for annual series supporters and $25 for nonmembers. The Barefoot Movement, a group of musicians blending  Southern-style bluegrass improv with modern acoustic jazz and rock influences, is scheduled for Feb. 18. Randall Bramblett Band is set for March 10. They meld rock, blues, jazz and soul with razor-sharp songwriting to produce a sound unlike anyone else. It doesn’t get any better than this.

Chuck Leavell (Rolling Stones, Allman Brothers) says, “Randall is in my opinion the most gifted & talented southern singer-songwriter musicians of the past several decades.”

Every one of these shows is worth your time and money. Hope to see you live music junkies out and about!

GRAMMY Winner Yonrico Scott Heads to Myrtle Beach for SxSE Show

Posted in Music Stories by darielb on December 1, 2011

Yonrico Scott. Check out the drum head.

On Jan. 31, 2010 drummer Yonrico Scott was onstage at the L.A. Convention Center for the pre-telecast award ceremony of the GRAMMYs accepting the award for Best Contemporary Blues Album for the Derek Trucks Band. On Dec. 3, he and his own Yonrico Scott Band will hit the stage right here at the historic Myrtle Beach Train Depot for the final South By Southeast Music Feast of the year.


This is why I “Trust the Frog.” The folks at SxSE spend their time scouring the road not taken by the mainstream bandwagon to bring us some of the country’s most respected singer/songwriters and musicians, most of whom aren’t household names to the public, but are well-known to other musicians.

Yonrico Scott is one of this talented community of musicians. He played with the Derek Trucks Band from about 1993, he guesses, until the band went on hiatus late last year so Derek could form a new band with wife Susan Tedeschi. He has toured with Peabo Bryson and Earl Klugh and played with greats like Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Freddie Hubbard and the Allman Brothers Band.

In a telephone interview earlier this week, we talked about his GRAMMY experience, his career and his passion for art.
As a child, Scott was greatly influenced and encouraged by his mother Ruth Naomi Scott, a gospel singer who grew up in Detroit. She was a member of the Detroit Harmonettes and it sounds like she cherished her son’s budding talent.

“She was truly an angel,” says Scott, “always encouraging me. I started playing drums at about five years old.”

By age 14, he was studying with Motown drummer George Hamilton. At 15, he recorded “Message From the Ghetto” with The Sons of Truth for the Stax gospel subsidiary.

He went to college in Kentucky, studying drums and percussion with Chicago Symphony classical percussionist Patrick Arnold and classical timpanist Dave Davenport. Scott says his classical study is the reason that he is the drummer he is today.

Upon moving to Atlanta, Ga. in the late seventies, he immediately met guitarist George Greer, who turned him on to the neighborhood arts center. Connections made there helped get his foot in the door of the jingle business, and he started doing work for Atlanta mogul Ted Turner.

Sometime in 1992 or 1993, he had a call from Col. Bruce Hampton (Gov’t Mule) with the news that then 14-year-old Derek Truck was looking for a drummer.

“The first time I heard him play, I knew this was big,” Scott tells me. “The first year we played 320 dates. We did all the small cities.
“A lot of people don’t know, but when I started with DTB, we were doing bebop … all sorts of stuff.”

Because DTB took a regular hiatus, Scott was able to play with his own Yonrico Scott Band, which includes Kofi Burbridge, keys/flute; Todd Smallie, bass; Mace Hibbard, sax; Nick Johnson, guitar; Laura Reed, special guest vocalist; and many other players on different occasion. YSB’s debut release, Turning the Corner, a 12-track disc of mainly jazz instrumentals, was released in January, 2004.

His first touring job was with Peabo Bryson and Patti LaBelle. Through Bryson, he connected with Broadway and spent several years working in productions such as The Wiz, Dream Girls, Les Misérables and Five Guys Named Mo, which featured the music of Louis Jordan.

What was it like getting a GRAMMY, I wanted to know.

“I loved it. I walked the red carpet with Ringo Starr on my right and Mick Fleetwood on my left.”

He continues, “Derek had been really cool with it, said he wasn’t going to go, so I said that I was thinking of going and Derek asked me to represent the band, so then it was official. I was going!”

Scott kept a GRAMMY journal about the experience that’s posted on the Derek Trucks Band site. It’s a great read. I love how much fun he’s having with it. Here’s just a snippet:

“I get the award and I’m trying to stay composed on stage but in my mind, I’m freaking out! A lot of the other winners seemed so relaxed when we won, but for me it was just such a huge deal. I had this Grammy in my hand and I was just blown over! Right now I still think it’s a dream and I just wonder when the dream will be over.”

Throughout all Scott’s stories (and he has many), I was impressed by just how jaded he is not. He is embracing every experience that comes along.

“After I got the Grammy, I decided I wanted to do another album. I started in March of 2010, and I finished about three months ago.”

Scott is very excited about the new recording, Be In My World, which he expects will be released in early 2012. Players include his sister Ronda Scott (they sing a duet); vocalist Laura Reed from South Africa; Derek Trucks; DTB bass player Todd Smallie; DTB vocalist Mike Matteson, jazz guitarist Grant Green Jr.; virtuoso bassist Joseph Patrick Moore; singer/songwriter Diane Durrett and more. Three of the tracks are written by funk keyboardist Reverend Oliver Wells. Scott himself wrote several tracks.

“There are 15 original songs and a cover of Buddy Miles’ “‘dem Changes,’” Scott says, “and this is the first recording with me as a lead vocal. So that’s me on vibes, percussion, singing and drums. The album, titled Be In My World is a tribute to Buddy Miles.”
Art is another passion for Yonrico Scott. “I was always drawing and making stuff, as a kid.”
Once again, his mother was at his side, encouraging him.

“‘You can have the upstairs. Do whatever you want,’ my mother told me,’ Scott laughs.

“Then, when I started with Derek, we were making up set lists and I started drawing on them. We would make color copies for the band, and then for some of the fans. And now they’re collected all over the place.”

Scott is a prolific artist, painting drum heads for his many gigs along with paintings.

“I’m not a trained artist,” he continues. “I’m making a statement . . . One of my biggest idols was Howard Finster [legendary Atlanta folk artist known for his 1980s album designs for groups like R.E.M. and Talking Heads].  He told me to keep doing my own stuff. Don’t take lessons. So that’s what I do.”

This past October, when  visionary artists Alex and Allison Gray, known for their psychodelic album covers, came to Atlanta’s inaugural Visionary Arts Fair, Yonrico was part of it.

“I was playing drums, wearing a crazy suit. I loved it.”

So much is  happening for Yonrico Scott these days, it’s  hard to keep up.

“The biggest thing for me right now is a new band. I’ve been invited to join the Royal Southern Brotherhood with Cyril Neville, Devon Allman and MIke Zito with Charlie Wooton on bass. The band will debut at the New Orleans Jazz Fest, and we have bookings through Dec. 2012.”

Joining Scott at the SxSE gig will be jazz keyboardist Buzz Amatto, guitarist Randy Honea, and Ted Peccio on bass. Something tells me this is going to be a genre-jumping adventure, and I can’t wait.

Music Feasts are $25 per person ($20 for SxSE annual concert series members). Reservations are suggested. Send an email to southxsoutheast@aol.com, with the number of tickets and your zip code. They’ll put you on their A list.

The Myrtle Beach Train Depot is located at 851 Broadway in Myrtle Beach. For more information about the SxSE event,log onto http://www.southbysoutheast.org.

Note: I loved talking with Yonrico Scott, and there’s a lot more to the interview, so I plan to organize my notes and add some of them to this blog post soon.

Bono Productions to Hold Music Showcase at Kono Lounge Nov. 27

Posted in Live Performance Previews/Reviews by darielb on November 14, 2011

Nathan Stallings, owner of Bono Productions, has announced the new firm will hold its first music showcase on Sunday, Nov. 27 at Kono Lounge in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Doors will open at 5 p.m. Music is set to begin at 6 p.m. and a complimentary filet hibachi will be served from 6 to 8 p.m.

Lesa Hudson and Rick Strickand will perform their original material at the Showcase.

In a telephone interview last week, Stallings said, “My main goal is to give musicians an opportunity to put their stuff out there. This Thanksgiving weekend showcase demonstrates the diversity of talent in this area. The opening set will be by Rick Strickland and Lesa Hudson. Both talented songwriters and vocalists, they perform all original music.”

A sessions player for more than 20 years, Strickland has recorded with and opened for some of the country’s top acts, including Carl Perkins, Todd Rundgren and B.B. King. He has also produced over 50 albums in a wide range of musical styles. His work has made it to the silver screen (Modern Love/1990) He has composed two productions for the Columbia City Ballet. He has performed at the Georgia Music Awards, backing Tommy Roe, Joe South and Ray Stevens. He was Billy Joe Royale’s musical director for three national tours. Rick is well-known for his four-octave vocal range as well as his considerable skills on the guitar.

Hudson is a lead vocalist and keyboard player in the Rick Strickland Band. She grew up in Darlington, S.C. as part of a musical family, with church as its centerpiece. She went on to front her own Lesa Hudson Band, a contemporary Christian group. Hudson 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)

The second act will be award-winning songwriter and entertainer Jaynie Trudell. Based in Myrtle Beach, this traveling troubadour is a national recording artist and plays multiple instruments, including piano, guitar, harmonica and dulcimer. Known for her original material, she was honored with the 2010 Blues Entertainer of the Year by the Grand Strand Blues Society.

Electrifying guitarist “Kid” Drew Voivedich has the third time slot. If you frequent the Sunday night blues jams at Jay’s in Little River, S.C., you already know how he and Pops tear it up. Kid Drew’s rockin’ blues is edged with funk, country, jazz, pop and even reggae. Never a dull moment with the Kid.

Closing act will be Pops, himself, possibly the most respected blues guitarist on the Grand Strand – not to mention jazz, pop, R&B and then some.

Michael "Pops" Stallings

He’s played with the Clovers, Percy Sledge, B.J. Thomas and many more. If you’re a local, you may have seen him with singer Kerry Michaels.

Playing guitar is practically in his blood. Michael Stallings got his first guitar at eight years old and his first electric guitar at ten. “I remember my mom playing ‘Ballad of Jesse James’ with a butter knife. She never did like the slide,” he laughs.

Nathan Stallings is Michael’s son, and proud papa can’t wait for the event at Kono. “We’re going to put on a great show,” says Michael.  “I hope everyone stays around to jam with me.

On Facebook, look for Kono Lounge (Myrtle Beach) or Michael Stallings (Little River)

General admission tickets cost $15 each, and include the free food. VIP tickets, at $20 each, also include a free drink and access to the club’s upstairs VIP section, which features special seating and a private bar.

Kono Lounge is located at 1901 N. Kings Hwy. in Myrtle Beach, S.C. For more information, contact Nathan Stallings at 843-224-7748 or via email at BonoProductions@yahoo.com.