The Kool Kats’ Meow: Our ATLRetro Preview of the Third Annual Rockabilly Luau!

Posted on: Aug 1st, 2013 By:

Hawaiiana Tiki Culture and Rockabilly music are two of our favorite things here at ATLRetro, so you can bet we’re looking forward to the 3rd Annual Rockabilly Luau this weekend at Atlanta-Northlake Holiday Inn.  This year, it’s expanded to two days of feativities with a kick-off night on Friday Aug. 2 starting at 6 p.m. and then a full day of fun on Sat. Aug. 3 kicking off at noon hosted by Jim Stacy and mermaid Medusirena the Fire-Eating Mermaid, with bands, vendors, tropical cocktails, a classic car show, a pin-up swimsuit contest, Hawaiian fire performers and even a mermaid! The killer line-up includes a treasure chest of ATLRetro Kool Kats of weeks past, so we thought it would be fun to reprint some highlights from their interviews to give you a taste of the fun to come.

Rockabilly Luau Founder Chris Mattox

Chris told us that he grew up on rockabilly and surf music and that the Rockabilly Luau is a labor of love. “One of my fondest childhood memories was my dad taking me to see Dick Dale at the Variety Playhouse,” he says. “A love for Polynesian culture was inevitable.” At every turn, he reminded us of his passion for fair treatment of animals and that all proceeds from the Rockabilly Luau benefit dog rescue efforts. This year the designated nonprofit is Friends To The Forlorn Pitbull Rescue. Read Chris’s full Kool Kat interview here.

Hot Rod Walt of The Psychio-Devilles (Saturday 7 p.m.)

Hot Rod Walt, aka Walt Richards, may have roots in Jersey and Florida, but since parking in Atlanta in 2006, he’s quickly become one of Atlanta’s hardest working rockabilly/psychobilly singer/guitarists. He has 200 original songs, and his main band, the Psycho-Devilles, which also features Buford T. Ogletree on bass and Steve “Burnout” Barnett on drums, have generated multiple CDs, toured the US and Europe and shared the stage with some of the biggest names in the Retro Revival, not to mention lighting a bass on fire at the first Rockabilly Luau in 2011.

“I got my first guitar for Christmas when I was around 12 years old,” Walt recalled. “I will never forget being so stoked about it and I can still smell the smell of the wood and glue and paint it was made of. I didn’t come from a musical family so having an instrument seemed very exotic as a kid. I also remember my little brother and I fighting that day and my father threatening to smash my new prized possession !! He would have done it too.”

As for his fantastic rockabilly wardrobe: “I make all my show clothes myself,” Walt said. “I have some vintage stuff that I find randomly. But I usually find a halfways cool suit at Goodwill and then customize it to a Western style or ’50s style coat. Since I am an upholstery guy, I have industrial sewing equipment and just make whatever I want. I have quite a huge collection of suits. I always want to make a new one for every show!”

Read Hot Rod Walt’s full Kool Kat interview here.

Caroline Hull-Engel of Caroline and the Ramblers (Friday 7:15 p.m.)

As interviewer James Kelly noted, “Red Hot Mama” [the title of the Ramblers’ CD] Caroline Hull Engel is well known to the folks who frequent the Redneck Underground and rockabilly shows in town as one of the best singers around. She was even selected as Creative Loafing’s “Best Female Vocalist” in 2009. Keeping the spirit of the classic ’50s and early ’60s alive is her goal, and with an amazing mix of terrific original tunes and classy covers, Caroline & the Ramblers never disappoint.”

Caroline herself said The Ramblers, her current band, is “geared more towards a combination of originals and obscure covers and [is] heavier on the rockabilly stylings of Wanda JacksonJanis Martin and Gene Vincent with some torchy stuff mixed in. I had gone through a tumultuous relationship and breakup which gave me a lot of inspiration to write some songs that are finally ending up on my new record. Probably the best example of this time in my life is the song “Wasn’t Ready for the Heartache,” which is on the new record. Of course, a little time passing and meeting the love of my life – my husband Robert – helped a lot, too! In 1999 at the first Drive Invasion, I changed the name of the band to Caroline & the Ramblers. We’ve been playing as C&R ever since. There have been some lineup changes over the past 15 years, but I have been very fortunate to play with some of the best players in Atlanta.”

Read Caroline’s full Kool Kat interview here.

Julea Thomerson at The Star Bar's Bubbapalooza.

Julea Thomerson of Julea and Her Dear Johns (Saturday 1 p.m.)

When we caught up with lovely Julea, she was singing and strumming (she plays banjo, acoustic guitar and rubboard) with some of the best male blues and roots musicians in the city, including Bill SheffieldCharlie WootonNathan Nelson and Danny “Mudcat” Dudeckand her main gig was with the Bareknuckle Betties. Now she’s got her own band, Julea and Her Dear Johns.

When asked why she plays country and honky tonk in the 21st century, Julea retorted, “Why not? Every form of music we listen to today is, to some extent, derivative of some sort of sound that is not from the 21st century. There is not one song you can listen to that is completely unique, not one style or genre of music that hasn’t already been reinvented hundreds of times. And that’s true for every genre, not just honky tonk. So if you’re looking at music from that angle, why play anything at all? As for me personally, I play what I play because those are the kind of songs that I write. I write those kind of songs because that’s what I listen to. And I listen to what I listen to because it’s what I connect with and enjoy. I guess you could say that country western honky tonk music is not a 21st century sound. But in my opinion, I think it’s silly to try to assign a time period to something that is timeless.”

Read Julea’s full Kool Kat interview here.

Rev. Andy Hawley. Photo courtesy of Andy Hawley.

The Right Reverend Andy of Garage 71 (Friday Kick-Off Party, 10:30 p.m.)

For almost a decade, the Right Reverend Andy Hawley has been at the pulpit of Atlanta’s rockabilly revival as the DJ of Psychobilly Freakout (now airing Mondays from 8-10 p.m. on Garage 71 Internet radio and live at area events) and also for the many ‘billy events he has organized. Andy said he became the Right Reverend a bit by accident. “It began as something fun I decided to do one afternoon,” he added.  “I came in to do my show at Album 88 (88.5FM) and told the DJ before my show went on I had become ordained through the Universal Life Church. Without prompting her, she ended her shift by saying, “Coming up next is Psychobilly Freakout with Reverend Andy!” Years later, Sully from daveFM would add the “Right” part to add some flourish. Now, I’m active outside the studio with my role as the high priest of rock ‘n’ roll getting folks deep fried and sanctified with the help of roots music!”

As for the origins of “Psychobilly Freakout,” he told us “This name (and song) encapsulated the theme for what I wanted my show to become. Honestly, it came down to naming it this or “Rockabilly Rebel,” after a Hillbilly Hellcats song. The program director for Album 88 wanted to differentiate my show from the country show, so I went with the Freakout. The first time I interviewed Jim Heath (Reverend Horton Heat), I told him I had named my show after one of his songs. He told me, “You better make it live up to the name,” and I think I have, eight years going.”

Read Rev. Andy’s full Kool Kat interview here.

 

Mon Cherie. Photo credit: Chris Buxbaum.

Mon Cherie (Hostess, Friday Night Kick-Off Party)

When we Kool Katted Atlanta’s hostess with the mostest Mon Cherie, she was resurrecting notorious nightclub The Chamber for one more dark and delightful night, but she’s also the divine visionary behind the Rockabilly Lounge, burlesque shows and an amazing array of other Retro-inspired activities here. We asked her what started her love of all things vintage and she told us: “When I was a little girl, my Aunt Peggy from the hills of Pennsylvania used to let me and my sisters listen to her 45 records on her portable record player. This is the beginning of my fondness for ElvisJohnny CashEddie Cochran,Hank Williams and Ritchie Valens et al. I have always loved the trends of the ’40s, ’50s & ’60s – Rockabilly Lounge was just my way of putting it all together.” As to her secret to success: “I have an ability to share a smile, so when I put one on your face, it puts two on mine.”

Read Mon Cherie’s Full Kool Kat interview here.

Chris Hamer. Photo courtesy of Chris Hamer.

 

Monsterific Comics Artist Chris Hamer (Vendors Row)

The Rockabilly Luau’s vendors’ alley is always full of fantastic finds from carved tikis to floral hair styling accessories to carved Cthulhu tiki mugs, but one of our favorites has to be the man who put a monster in your thrift store painting, Chris Hamer of Urbnpop Studio. When we caught up with him, he was about to do a Tom Waits-themed art show, and this is what he said about his approach to using found pieces in his works: “This show was a bit how I do my thrift store pieces, but I did the shopping at antique stores instead. I would travel around to different stores with a song in mind, walk around, do a lot of staring at stuff, and buy it [if I had] the feeling that I could make it work. When you listen to Tom Waits, or even see a photo of him, there is this nostalgic, romantic quality to him. I feel that with his music, he does not fit into this new polished sound that is on the radio or popular with a wide audience. It’s almost like his fans are antiques or vintage themselves. By no means am I calling them old, but you just do not hear people talking about him as much as you do a mainstream band or singer. I did not want to just simply make a wooden box or buy some canvas for the art, I wanted to take the vintage old soul approach with the art. So each piece has some sort of lost antique or discarded feel to it. One piece that will stand out the most in the show is for the song “Old 55.” I used an original pre-‘50s Ford truck door for my canvas to paint on. It’s all rusty and looks like time forgot all about it. I love it.”

Read Chris Hamer’s full Kool Kat interview here.

Medusirena. Photo courtesy of Medusirena.

Medusirena (Saturday, 8:15 p.m.)

And last but not least it’s true, there will be a mermaid and she knows how to play with fire! One of the last luau’s most alluring acts was aquatic dance by Medusirena, also known as Marina the Fire-Eating Mermaidfrom Fort Lauderdale, FL., and we’re happy to say she’s back. She wasn’t an official ATLRetro Kool Kat, but we did interview her for last year’s preview to find out a little more about this self-described “zany Uncanny Exoticat-Aquaticat,” whose passion is to recreate vintage aquatic dance for today’s audiences.

“Well, there was never a time I “became” a “mermaid,” to tell you the truth,” Marina told ATLRetro. “I can say that  I learned how to free dive at a very early age – 3 – in the West Indies and have always maintained a strong connection with aquatic movement art. That, together with training in Polynesian and Eastern dances, it was a natural fit.  I was inspired by marine animal movement and performers and showpeople ranging from Esther Williams, Eartha Kitt, Ricou Browning, Annette Kellerman, Iris Chacón and even Freddie Mercury, with a touch of Bruce Lee. My goal is to not only to return aquatic performances to people’s consciousness, but to help educate and encourage the art form for future generations. Retro-tainment if you will.”

Read our full interview with Medusirena here.

And that’s just our Kool Kats sos far. Everyone on the Rockabilly Luau playlist is a sure-fire contender for a future Kool Kat. Here’s the full performance schedule, but keep in mind, as we said, they’ll be a lot more going, especially on Saturday, including vendors, classic cars, cocktails and food.

Friday Night Line-up:

6:00-7:00 The Monterreys
7:00-7:15 Daisy Day
7:15-8:00 Caroline & The Ramblers
8:15-9:00 Bikini Tiki Luau Pin-up Swimsuit Pre-Qualifier
9:00-9:45 The Mystery Men?
9:45-10:30 Forged Creations Fire Performers
10:30 -? Hotel guests only kickoff party! Hosted by Mon Cherie, Garage 71 and Bachelor Pad Magazine!

Saturday Line-up:
12:00 Gates open!
1:00-2:00 Julea and her Dear Johns
2:00-3:00 Gemini 13
2:30-3:30 “Taste of the Islands” part 1
3:00-4:00 Davina & the Harlots
4:15:-5:15  The Intoxicators
5:30-6:00  Hawaiian Performance by Aloha Islanders
6:00-6:45  Bikini Tiki Luau Pin-up Swimsuit Contest Finals “Taste of the Islands” part 2
7:00-8:00  Hot Rod Walt & The Psycho Devilles
8:15-8:45 Medusirena
9:00-9:30 Hawaiian Performance by Aloha Islanders, Fire Knife dancer
9:30 Kat Chaffin & Woven Pines

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Kool Kat of the Week: Like a Jagged Stone: Keef Richards Gets What He Needs Paying Tribute to a Guitar Legend and Rocks Around the Christmas Tree Sat. Dec. 1

Posted on: Nov 28th, 2012 By:

Barry Zion, aka "Keef Richards," of The Jagged Stones.

Forget the Elvis impersonators. The Rocking Around the Christmas Tree benefit on Sat. Dec. 1 at 7 p.m. treats you to a rarer form of superstar tribute and a delightfully different holiday party courtesy of Nine Inch Neils, who channel Neil Diamond in his ‘70s heyday, and Jagged Stones, whose name should give away the act they idolize that also came of age in the late ’60s/’70s. In addition to two rockin’ fun bands, a humble suggested donation of $10 (kids free) serves up pizza from Mellow Mushroom Decatur, two glasses of beer or wine, free sodas and a dessert bar. There’s also a silent auction including some cool items like a signed movie poster from the TWILIGHT series and an original POWERPUFF GIRLS animation cell from Cartoon Network. Proceeds support the House of the Rock (also the site of the party; 731 Peachtree St., NE, corner of 4th Street) and Lutheran Community Food Ministries, which do amazing work feeding Midtown’s homeless. So if you can, also bring some cans to benefit the food ministry. And parking is free, too.

Last year ATLRetro interviewing Cage, lead singer of Nine Inch Neils, to find out what made him and the band a believer in Neil Diamond. This year, we decided we wouldn’t get no seasonal satisfaction without catching up with Barry Zion, aka Keef Richards, of The Jagged Stones.

ATLRetro: When’s the first time you heard the Rolling Stones and was it love at first listen?

Keef: When I was 13 years old, my older brother turned me onto the GET YER YA-YA’S OUT live album. I had been taking some bass lessons, and the guitar work on that album immediately grabbed me. I can remember playing the Chuck Berry cover “Carol,” about 200 times a day until I developed the strength to do that Keith Richards rhythm. It’s quite a physically challenging thing when you are first learning as it takes all of your fingers, barre technique, pinky strength and solid rhythm with the right hand, plus the added handicap of playing on a $20 acoustic guitar with string height action that was measured in feet rather than millimeters. But thanks to that, it helped me develop some very strong muscles in my left hand. After that it allowed me to focus on the other songs and I wore out that album.

It wasn’t until I was older that I mastered Keith’s tunings and techniques and got closer to his sound, and Mick Taylor‘s fluid lead playing was something that took me years to even understand and is something I am still working on today. Mick Taylor is in my opinion, the most under-rated guitarist in rock, and his time in the Stones is clearly the era that grabbed me the most and that I try to emulate in my playing.

There’s got to be a great story about how you all came together to found a Rolling Stones tribute band?

I had recently relocated to Atlanta from NY/NJ/PA, and I had been frequenting the Atlanta jam scene and been known as “that Allman Brothers guy, that did some Stones too.” Duane Allman and Dickey Betts are other influences on my playing. I was not really interested in being in a band for the usual reasons – low pay, long hours, lots of competition, playing songs you don’t like, smoky bars, etc. One of my jam friends saw on Craigslist an ad for an open audition for a Rolling Stones tribute band, and he dragged me to the tryout. Well, of course, everybody want’s to be Keith, and when I got there, the audition coordinator asked me if I wanted to take the lead guitar spot for the audition. Since I planned on trying out for Mick Taylor’s spot, I quickly set up. I think the first song we played was “Wild Horses,” and I guess I nailed it pretty good and stayed close to the album. Then while another Keith was setting up, Skip [Stephen Skipper, aka Mick Jagger in the band] and I were sitting around, and I started playing “Love In Vain.” The two of us just clicked, and from then on Skip put the pressure on me to be in the band.

Funny we clicked so well, that he asked me which of the Keiths I liked the best, and I told him, that I thought I could do a better Keith than any of the guys that had auditioned. Skip didn’t want to lose me as Mick Taylor, but I assured him that I could backfill a lead guitarist for my slot (Yeah, even back then I had Eddie Brodeur, our current guitarist in mind) and that it was more important to have a strong Keith guitarist in the band. Well, with some hesitation, Skip let me try it, and I guess I did pretty good during that audition and have been Keef ever since then.

Since then Skip and I have become “Soul Brothers,” and we share the same vision on where the band is going. All the guys in the band are the top musicians that I had met from the jam scene.  Dave Lang (keyboard/vocals/guitar/harmonica/kitchen sink) and I had met a few months before that at a Kennesaw jam. About a year before that, Eddie Brodeur (lead guitar/Ronnie Woods) and I had met  at a Southern Rock theme night jam where without a rehearsal we absolutely clicked. It’s a really rare thing to have two lead guitarists that can leave space for each other and have styles that are different enough yet similar enough for the magic to happen. Eddie is that guy for me. The bass player and drummer took a while to settle in, but Joel Edwards (bass) is one of the most sought after bass players in Atlanta, and he’s a scary good musician that can play just about any style, and also plays drums, keyboard and guitar very well. Frankly I was shocked that he wanted to play in The Jagged Stones. He has, in my opinion, solidified us and carried us over that hump of trying to establish a new band.   Martin Abbot was the drummer that same night I played with Eddie at the theme night, and I knew that day that he would be the rock steady drummer to anchor the rhythm section.

Keef Richards (Barry Zion) and Mick (Stephen Skipper) of The Jagged Stones.

How many Rolling Stones tribute bands are out there and where do The Jagged Stones fit in?

We definitely have some competition and that keeps us always trying to improve. I really love The Glimmer Twins from Philadelphia. I’ve seen them  on visits I make up north, and they are a vintage 70s Stones band. I think because we are a bit older, we are more of the recent Stones tribute, probably 90s/2000s. The GTs don’t travel much down here, and we don’t travel up there, so I like to think that we are mutually supportive of our respective bands, and territories. Their Mick (Keith Call) and Keith (Bernie Bollendorf) are masters at their craft, and they have a great supporting cast behind them and have been at it for quite some time and are successful at it.  I really respect Bernie and the attention he pays to the tunings and the version of the songs they play. I think what sets us apart from the other tributes, is that Skip nails the look and sound of Mick Jagger whereas most of the other tribute bands have a Mick Jagger lookalike, but they don’t sound much like him.

This is your second year doing the Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree show at the House of the Rock with the Nine Inch Neils, right? How did you get involved?

Cage (Neil Diamond from the Nine Inch Neils) was instrumental in getting Skip to go from a karaoke singer to a front man for The Jagged Stones. Last year’s event was really our first “real gig,” and thanks to Cage, we got that gig and met Jon Waterhouse and Pastor Matt. Jon has been a key to our success, and without his support and guidance we would probably not be together, so anything that we can do to help Jon out including playing his charity events we try to do. For me, once I saw what was going on at The HOTR last year, I was just really moved by the people that are involved with the church and the event. It was a real special event for me, and one that I will always remember. I think this year will be even better, as we are now more seasoned, and our current lineup is firing on all cylinders.  People have told me that they can see that we all have fun playing the music and that it carries over to the audience.

What can audiences expect from the Jagged Stones at Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree this Saturday? Holiday favorites? Greatest hits?

We always put a lot of thought into our setlist and tailor it to each show.  Dave Lang works hard on that and takes in all the parameters of the venue. You will definitely hear all the familiar Stones hits and a few deeper cuts for the Stones aficionado. They have such a vast catalog of hits, [so] it becomes challenging to try and cram them all into the time we have allotted.

Some people might think the event can’t be hip, because it’s at a church. But to us this just tells us the House of the Rock is mighty hip. Tell them why they’re wrong.

As I said above, the event was an incredibly moving experience for me last year. I was surprised that the Church has a state-of-the-art sound system, lighting and a nice size stage for Skip to strut his stuff on. The people who organize and staff the event are cool cats and chicks and are more of the hippie generation, and certainly not that image I had of little old church ladies pulling bingo balls. Pastor Matt is quite a musician himself and has a pretty good band that plays regularly at the HOTR. I live close by and it truly touched me how they are helping the hungry in downtown Atlanta. I have been shopping the whole week for canned food to bring with me and encouraging all our friends to go above the ‘suggested one can of food. Also it’s such a bargain at $10 for two excellent bands, let alone Mellow Mushroom Pizza and two drinks. You’d be hard pressed to find that anywhere around Atlanta.

What’s gives you the most satisfaction about being a Rolling Stone impersonator?

Well if you look up the definition of ‘Rock & Roll’ in a dictionary, there should only be a picture of Keith Richards there. He is Rock & Roll, and what better character could anybody want to portray then Keith?! Lots of people think Keith is not a very good guitar player, but he finished in the #10 spot in Rolling Stone Magazine’s Top 100 Greatest Guitarists of all time. I think it’s easy to take him for granted as he is not flashy or incredibly fast or a very innovative kead player. However he is the riff-master. There are only a handful of guitarists that you can identify by their tone, and Keith’s tone is one of those. It doesn’t take more than a few notes to identify a Rolling Stones song on the radio. I try really hard to reproduce the subtleties of his tone by using his tunings, instruments, attack and, of course, dressing up like him and moving around like him.

What’s next for you and the Jagged Stones in terms of gigs? Any recordings?

Recordings are not something I have given much thought to, but Skip has been in the studio recently recording some corporate stuff that needed some Jagger-like vocals. We love playing live and thrive at auditoriums and festivals. Skip has a knack of working a big stage and reaching a big crowd. In addition to the HOTR show, we are really looking forward to our New Years Eve show at The Strand.

What do you do when you are not a Jagged Stone?

Besides sleeping? For fun, I like to take long walks in dimly lit cemetaries. Seriously I enjoy the jam scene around Atlanta, and have a day job that keeps me pretty busy. The joke I have is that I am an “Antique Consultant,” which has its origin in women giving me the usual interrogation to assess my datability quotient:

Woman: What’s your name?
Me: Barry
Woman: What do you do?
Me (over loud music): IT Consulting,
Woman, yelling: Wow that’s so interesting. Have you ever been on ANTIQUES ROADSHOW???
Me: No, not antiques. IT like computers.
Woman:  Oh ok, cya.

So I learned to just go with the antiques and say I speacialize in Queen Anne chairs, and the interrogation proceeds a few more questions, before the woman leaves.

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