Kool Kat of the Week: Whiskey Belt’s Rich DeSantis Slings Old-Time Rockin’ Classic Country at The Star Bar Every Wednesday Night With His Slim Chickens’ Honkytonk Extravaganza!

Posted on: Mar 2nd, 2015 By:
Photo Credit: Raymond Adams

Photo Credit: Raymond Adams

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

Rich DeSantis of Whiskey Belt, guitar slingin’, classic country and roots rock lovin’ wayward son and card carryin’ member of the “Redneck Underground” along with his outfit, the Honkytonk Extravaganza deliver a night of high-energy live-band classic country karaoke with a whole ‘lotta shakin’ shenanigans during his Slim Chickens’ Honkytonk Extravaganza event raisin’ a ruckus at The Star Bar this Wednesday, March 4 and every Wednesday night at 9pm!

Rich is no newbie to Atlanta’s ‘roots’ music underground. He’s been “channeling the Grand Ole Opry circa 1957” with his band, Whiskey Belt since 2011, has put together boot stompin’ classic country line-ups in the past as his alter ego, Slim Chickens, revvin’ it up with The Blacktop Rockets, Julea & Her Dear Johns [March 2014; see ATLRetro’s Kool Kat feature on Julea Thomerson, here], Migrant Worker, The Scragglers, Wayne “The Train” Hancock and more; and plans to keep on honkytonkin’ it up with the “Redneck Underground” on a weekly basis at The Star Bar!

The Honkytonk Extravaganza include members from Whiskey Belt as well as a few rockin’ extras: Rich DeSantis (host/vocals/acoustic guitar); Johnny McGowan (lead guitar/vocals); David James (keyboard); Dave Roth (bass/vocals); Mike Hammer (drums) and Steve Stone (pedal steel). So, come on down and raise a ruckus with these fellas at the rockin’est shindig in town, Slim Chickens’ Honkytonk Extravaganza, Wednesday nights at The Star Bar!

ATLRetro caught up with Rich for a quick interview about Atlanta’s “Redneck Underground” and roots music scene; his weekly Slim Chickens’ Honkytonk Extravaganza event and his admiration for Buck Owens of The Buckaroos.

And while you’re takin’ a gander at our little Q&A with Rich, gear up for a rockin’ night with the fellas by takin’ a peek at the Slim Chickens’s Honkytonk Extravaganza songlist here and take a listen to his Spotify playlist here!

ATLRetro: We see that you’ve been stompin’ it up since 2010 and dishin’ out a whole lotta live classic country karaoke, which has been a hit at the Star Bar. Can you give us the scoop on Slim Chickens’ Honkytonk Extravaganza’s origins?

Photo Credit: Raymond Adams

Photo Credit: Raymond Adams, (L-R) Johnny McGowan, Steve Stone and Rich DeSantis

Rich DeSantis: I’ve been hosting an event for years to feature roots rock music and culture called the Honkytonk Extravaganza. I would hire a couple bands and also invite some extra talent to play and encourage on-stage collaboration; it was fun and a great meeting place for people who love this music. Then, last May, Kahle Davis put a note out on FB asking if anyone had an idea for an event for every Wednesday at The Star Bar. I suggested doing live band classic country karaoke with a house band. My first call was to Johnny McGowan to play lead guitar, then David James on keys, Dave Roth on bass and Mike Hammer on drums. The first night was a success and we moved forward watching the event grow every week. In August, I added Steve Stone on pedal steel and lead guitar and that’s the band.

Atlanta has proven to have a soft spot for old-time country, rockabilly and has thrived on the sleazy nitty gritty underground music scene. What drew you to the scene and what do you think could make it even better?

The music is what drew me to that scene – with a taste for Buddy Holly, Buck Owens and Elvis, I went looking for like-minded individuals and found them at The Star Bar. That was always where the cool kids were. I was watching bands and playing in bands and learning what it meant to be in a band and The Star Bar is ground zero for the “Redneck Underground”. What we need to make it better is what you are doing – a little promotion is all we StarBar SlimChickensneed to draw more music lovers out to our little event.

Have you always been into classic country? When did you pick up your first guitar?

I’ve always loved Buck Owens but I found classic country through the rock and roll and jump blues I was playing with my old band, Slim Chickens. I began adding a high-energy George Jones or Waylon Jennings tune to our set here or there and having fun and getting a good crowd response so I began looking for other great songs. I love the high quality of musicianship in classic country. I started playing guitar at 13.
Who are your favorite classic country and vintage performers and influences?

Hank Williams, Lefty Frizzell, Faron Young, Webb Pierce, Gram Parsons are folks I haven’t already mentioned. I love the space in this music as these fine players weave together their little vignettes. And I love what feels like down-home comfort mixed with the worldliness of narrators who learned their lessons the hard way.

In 2010, we see that you revved it up with The Blacktop Rockets and later with other wranglers and foot stompers (Kool Kat Julea & Her Dear Johns, Wayne “The Train” Hancock, Migrant Worker and The Scragglers). If you could line-up a show of your favorite musicians (still around or not) for a helluva hootenanny, who would you choose and why?

“Hot Rod Walt” & the Psycho-Devilles are a huge part of the Atlanta roots-music scene. I would have Cicada Rhythm, Willie Heath Neal, and Ghost Riders Car Club and open up for them, that would be a fun show. I guess Elvis opening up for Hank Williams would be pretty cool too.

Photo Credit: Raymond Adams; (L-R) Johnny McGowan and Rich DeSantis

Photo Credit: Raymond Adams; (L-R) Johnny McGowan and Rich DeSantis

You’ve stated that with the help of Steve Stone (Pedal Steel and producer/engineer) Honkytonk has been recording in his studio. Any plans for an album any time soon?

Well, we are recording – we have two songs finished and are about to record a new original or two for a compilation record. Steve is incredibly talented and busy being the hottest new picker in town, so I anticipate an EP ready in the spring.

What would you say is the most requested song at the Honkytonk Extravaganza? How do you choose your song lists?

I think “Jackson” by Johnny Cash and June Carter gets a lot of play and probably “Folsom Prison Blues” too. Johnny Cash is very popular; he is a dark character and creates a bridge between rock and roll/punk rock and classic country, so nearly every music lover likes the “Man in Black”. I started with the song list from my band Whisky Belt and continue to add new songs based on my research and suggestions from the audience and band members.

What can our readers expect at your Wednesday night Slim Chickens’ Honkytonk Extravaganza events at The Star Bar?

Expect to watch a great country band rip through a few numbers and then invite other entertainers from the audience to sit in with us for lively versions of dusted off country and rockabilly classics. It’s a fun-filled variety show with a parade of singers and instrumentalists showing out. The audience will be dressed in style and laughing, drinking and making the scene. Expect a spotlight shining on the “Redneck Underground” circa 2015.

Photo Credit: Raymond Adams

Photo Credit: Raymond Adams, (L-R) David James (keys), Johnny McGowan (guitar), Mike Hammer (drums), Art Holliday (vocals), Rich DeSantis and Dave Roth (bass)

Any special events coming up? Special guests in the near future?

We’ve been asked by the folks at Dad’s Garage to play at the Masquerade for BaconFest 2015 on March 28. We will be bringing the Honkytonk Extravaganza out there to do 3 hours of live band karaoke in Purgatory from 2-5pm.

What’s next for you and Slim Chickens’ Honkytonk Extravaganza?

I’m just excited to move into the spring with the momentum we’ve gained through the winter and take the whole event to the next level in every way. I have a few new things in the works and people can follow along by joining the Facebook Group, Slim Chickens’ Honkytonk Extravaganza.

Can you tell our readers something you’d like folks to know that they don’t know already?

You don’t have to sing or play to participate – most people just come to watch and have their own kind of fun.

What question do you wish somebody would ask you and what’s the answer?

Q: “Where can we get shirts like you guys wear?”
A: I bring 10 or 20 western shirts to the events to sell.

 

Photo Credit: Kim Koch, Front (L-R) Dave Roth, Mike Hammer, Anita Lee, Steve Stone, Johnny McGowan. Back: Rich DeSantis

All photos are courtesy of Rich DeSantis and used with permission.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Gritty Psychedelic Garage Rockers Nick and Peter Furgiuele of Gringo Star Get Nostalgic and Make a Hometown Pit-Stop, Slingin’ Some Old-School Sounds with a Modern Twist

Posted on: Oct 27th, 2014 By:

by Melanie CrewGringo Star 2014 PR-5 (2)
Managing Editor/Contributing Writer

Gringo Star, will be slingin’ that nitty gritty, ‘60s beach-y dirty rock ‘n’ roll your mama warned you about this Thursday, October 30, during a homecoming pit-stop on their whirlwind of a Fall tour, at DASHBOARD CO-OP, presented by Atlanta’s own WRAS-Album 88! And if that wasn’t enough, they’ll be hawkin’ their hot-off-the-presses, 7”- debuting two new edgy singles, “Long Time Gone” and “World of Spin” released by dizzybird records, which can also be purchased here. So, rock out, clear your calendar, and shake on down for a night of psychedelic shenanigans with Gringo Star and their pals, the psych-rock outfit, the Mood Rings at DASHBOARD CO-OP this Thursday!

Atlanta’s Gringo Star is a long-running collaboration of brothers Nick and Pete Furgiuele, catching the ears of the nation and the itch reaped from the godfathers of R&B, rock and soul. Their tantalizing and tainted tunes pay homage to The Kinks, Richie Valens, The Rolling Stones, The Byrds, Sam Cooke and a helluva lot of old-school rockers and purveyors of doo-wop and soul. Their love of music sprung from a childhood chock full of the wonderment spilling over from their radio dj’ing granddad and his tales of the past. With three full-length albums under their gritty garage rockin’ belts [2008’s “All Y’All”, 2011’s “Count Yer Lucky Stars”, 2013’s “Floating Out to See”], their new 7” and nods from national outlets [December 2011, Rolling Stone mention here, Consequence of Sound articles here and more recently, a review in The New York Times here ], they are well on their way to the psychedelic garage rockin’ celestial cloud of Gringo Star-dom!

ATLRetro caught up with Nick Furgiuele for a quick interview about Gringo Star’s rock ‘n’ roll roots, their new singles “Long Time Gone/World of Spin”, why Aretha Franklin rubs them the wrong way and their upcoming show at DASHBOARD CO-OP!

Gringo Star 2014 PR-6And while you’re takin’ a gander at our little Q&A with Furgiuele, take a peek at Gringo Star’s new “World of Spin” video, reminiscent of “an old Polaroid coming to life”, here, directed, shot and edited by Megan Gamez.

ATLRetro: Your Fall 2014 tour has been a non-stop rockin’ trek across the U.S. What’s it like getting to come home and put on a show for your local fans?

Nick Furgiuele: It’s always great to play in Atlanta, getting to come back to a bunch of familiar faces and friends after being gone awhile.

You have a show nearly every day so far on this tour; what’s a day on the road like for Gringo Star?

Well, there are nights we don’t get to bed until 4:30 am, and then we’re up at 9 am. to start driving to the next spot. So first, we have to find coffee. Seventy-five percent of touring, we’re driving down the highway, so we have a little acoustic guitar and we just have sing-alongs in the van. The radio sucks and our CD player doesn’t work, either, so that helps pass the time on the drives. That and apples. Then we get to the place—load in, sound check, hurry up and wait. Play the set, load out. Repeat.

How did you get involved in Atlanta’s rockin’ indie music scene?

We’re all from Atlanta or the surrounding area.

Gringo Star has been described as being the purveyors of retro-infused rock, stepping in and out of genres, while keeping your fans on their toes anticipating what’s coming next. How would you describe your sound?

#underground

Can you tell folks a little bit about your new 7-inch featuring “Long Time Gone” and “World of Spin?”gringorooftopcincy

This is the first record we’ve recorded that was just Pete and me on all the instruments, vocals and recording. We did it at his home studio in Atlanta earlier this spring. “Long time Gone” is my song and “World of Spin” is Pete’s.

Having experienced releasing albums that were both produced in studio with an engineer [2008’s All Y’all and 2011’s Count Yer Lucky Stars] and home recorded, mixed and produced [2013’s Floating Out to See and your new 7-inch], which would you say fits your band’s persona more and why?

We like doing things both ways. Lately we’ve been more into doing it ourselves. It’s just nice to have more time to experiment with the songs, arrangements and sounds. Sometimes when you’re in a studio with a producer, you feel more pressure to finish things up or hurry because of time constraints. Plus, although it’s great to have some other ears besides ours involved, in a way, it’s also kind of nice that we don’t have any other outside perspectives—it’s as much us as it can be.

You guys draw much of your sound from a wide spectrum of musical acts of the past [Sam Cooke; Ritchie Valens; The Stooges; CCR, to name a few], fusing their genius with your own. If you could pick one musician/band from the past that influenced you the most, who would it be and why?

It’s hard to pick only one. The Kinks are way up there. Buddy Holly was one of the first guys I was really into, but there are so many great bands and singers out there.

1277168_10151884827439797_837269387_oMusic definitely runs in your family with your grandfather’s involvement in ‘40s and ‘50s radio and his induction into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. Can you tell our readers any interesting tales about what it was like growing up with his stories and how they influenced your own musical upbringing?

That all definitely played a big part in us playing music growing up. Our mom used to always tell us stories about her childhood, being around the early rock & roll scene, hanging out with Sam Cooke, who was granddad’s favorite, working at the record shop and going to shows. Our granddad started off as a radio DJ and then got into promoting shows and opened several record shops in Columbus, Ga. He used to put on shows by Sam Cooke, The Soul Stirrers, James Brown, Otis Redding, Little Stevie Wonder, Jackie Wilson, Martha and the Vandellas and on and on. We always used to look through my grandma’s scrapbook at all the photos she took of the shows, and we’d listen to her retell the stories. I guess one of the go-to stories we used to hear was how our granddad was putting on a show with Aretha Franklin coming through town, and she got completely wasted on whiskey and then fell off the stage that night and broke her arm. My grandma took her to the ER. She said she was swearing at her the whole way. And then she sued my granddad for the medical bill. So, yeah, never been much of an Aretha fan. Can’t stand her voice.

If you could put together a dream lineup of bands to play with [still around or not], who would it be and why?

I would have loved to have played with Ritchie Valens. I love his guitar playing so much.

Anything special planned for your 7” release party at Dashboard Co-Op this Thursday?10373113_10152507399444797_5166874530616465230_o

We couldn’t be more excited to have this show at the Dashboard Co-Op space over on North Ave. We’ve been friends with them for years and love that we’re getting to do the show somewhere a little different from the normal clubs in town. Plus, Dashboard has a major rad exhibit currently installed over there that folks can check out. We have the WRAS DJs spinning tunes between bands and afterward for the dance party! And our pals Mood Rings are playing with us, too! And it’s ALL AGES!! And if you’re old enough, there’s free beer!!!

What’s next for Gringo Star?

We’re going down to Florida for a final week of shows after the Atlanta release show, and then we’ll be back to start working on the new album, which we hope to finish before the end of the year.

What question do you wish somebody would ask you and what’s the answer?

The question is, “How do I do shots with Gringo Star at one of their upcoming shows?” Answer: Tweet at us. #shotswithgringo

All photos courtesy of Gringo Star and used with permission.

Category: Kool Kat of the Week | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Kool Kat of the Week: Hooting, Hollyfesterin’ and Cockle-Doodle-Doom with Phil Stair of Grim Rooster

Posted on: Jan 31st, 2013 By:

Phil Stair, lead vocalist/guitarist of Grim Rooster. Photo courtesy of Phil Stair.

Every year around the anniversary of The Day the Music Died, the Right Reverend Andy Hawley gathers some of Atlanta’s best rockabilly and neo-honkytonk talent at the Star Bar for a righteous revival called Hollyfest! This year the fifth annual tribute to Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper is on Sat. Feb. 2, so mark your calendars for  a Groundhog Day you’ll want to relive with a 14-band line-up conjuring up rock n roll deja vu that includes many groups whose members have been previous Kool Kats from Cletis Reid to Andrew & The DisapyramidsThe Stumblers to Rod Hamdallah.

Also on the playlist is Grim Rooster. While the group has only been around for a couple of years, its members include Phil Stair (lead vocals, guitar), Dylan Ross (bass) and Nate Elliscu (mandolin) and Tigerbeat Tony (drums) who have been active in the scene here for many a corn season. Boasting a diverse barnyard of influences that range from Johnny Cash to Rancid, they’ve already got more than 30 original songs under their belt and the fireball audacity to promise this about their musical menu on Facebook: “just try not to drip any tobacco juice on the floor the first time you feast your ears on this blue-plate dee-light of mother-cluckin’ foot-stompin’ fun and your jaw drops wide open!”

ATLRetro caught up with Phil to find out how Grim Rooster got hatched, what Hollyfest is all about and just what the hell is honky punk anyway?

So how and when did Grim Rooster get hatched?

Grim Rooster came about in the spring of 2011. My band Rocket 350 was on its last legs, and I was fairly bummed about it. My bass player had moved to Nashville so I wasn’t getting a lot of playing time. Also our crowd had finally faded, and it  just wasn’t worth the effort of getting everyone together. At that point, my buddy Dylan asked if I had any interest in starting some sort of side project. I knew that I wanted to start either a straight punk band or do something very stripped down and roosty. Dylan wanted to play stand-up bass so it was settled. We asked one of neighbors to come play drums, and then I wrote about 20 songs for the project. I really got wrapped up in the music and was very excited to be doing something new. It had been about 15 years since I started a new band.

What’s in the name?

Grim Rooster came from a goofy brainstorming session. We wanted to use something with the word “rooster” in it, and that’s when we started coming up with ridiculous names. Obviously it’s a play on Grim Reaper, and it was meant to be funny at first, but it had a pretty good ring to it. We started coming up with crazy logos and realized we had a winner.

What the hell is honky punk?

We play honky tonk and bluegrass. We have an acoustic guitar, mandolin, upright bass and drums. The ferocity that we play our honk tonk is where the punk comes in. Although we have a real roosty sound, the punk rock still seems to slip in there. This is great when we play places like the Star Bar, but when we play to the bluegrass crowd, a lot of times they get a bit lost. We used to do a cover of Operation Ivy‘s song “Knowledge,” but it never seemed to go over too well even though we really honky-tonked it up.

What’s so great about three dead Retro rockers and was it really the day the music died? In other words, what do Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper mean to you personally?

The day the music died will always remind me of the terrible Ritchie Valens movie that they did in the 80s. “Not my Ritchie!!” But seriously I think out of the three, Buddy Holly was the biggest loss. He was a great songwriter, and he did a lot to help shape rock ‘n’ roll at its very beginning. I will have to say though, that I’m very happy Waylon Jennings did not get on that plane. I can only imagine how terrible this event was when it happened and what a blow to rock ‘n’ roll it was. It seems like we always lose the great ones, yet guys like Justin Bieber seem to stick around forever. As far as what they mean to me personally, I’m more of an Elvis man myself, but that’s a conversation for another day.

The Grim Roosters at Twain's. Photo courtesy of the Grim Roosters.

Have you played past Hollyfests? For the uninitiated, what happens at Hollyfest and makes it special? With all the Star Bar regular bands and Andy organizing, it sounds like it’s a big rockabilly/honkytonk homecoming. 

I have played many Hollyfests. One with Grim Rooster and a couple with Rocket 350. It is like a big homecoming, or more like the Atlanta rockabilly scene’s annual meeting. It’s always a great time, and its always great to see friends that I’ve hung out with for the past 20 years. It’s funny. I was sneaking into that place when I was 18, and here I am seeing the exact same folks. Something like that is rare, and I’m glad Andy and the Star bar are keeping it alive.

What will Grim Rooster be playing at Hollyfest – Holly classics or your own songs or both? Any special plans?

We are stripping down for Hollyfest because our drummer won’t be able to make it. We will be going string-band style. We are going to bluegrass up “Midnight Shift” and “True Love Ways.” Next we are going to do a slow-dance version of “Rave On.” Then, last but not least, we are going to do a Roosterized version of Weezer’s tune “Buddy Holly.”

How did you start playing guitar, and were your first rock influences the classics or were you more of a punk rock boy or a metal-head?

I started playing guitar in 7th grade but quit when I got a Nintendo for my birthday. I stupidly put it down, but hell, I was 12. I picked it back up when I was 19 because I wanted to be in a band and I realized that no one wanted just a singer. I started by trying to play along to punk rock records. It took a few years to start getting the rockabilly licks down.  When I finally did, I started Rocket 350.

I would say punk rock boy and metal head, or maybe just a lot of classic rock. I love Guns n Roses and the Ramones, what can I say?! I knew about the classics, but I didn’t start seeking out different genres till high school. I originally got into roots music through ska. That scene used to be huge in Atlanta, and there were a ton of shows. That pushed me to seek out rockabilly, and then I was hooked on that for many years. Through all of it though, I would have to say punk rock is by far my favorite music. That is probably my biggest influence. Then there’s a lot of old school country and just plain rock ‘n’ roll thrown in there.

What other bands have you played with?

Rocket 350 has been my main band; that lasted from 1997 to 2011. We went on four US tours and played hundreds of regional shows. We recorded five albums. I have yet to release our last record. Also I did fill in for my buddy’s metal band Grayson Manor once. That was fun as hell, but not exactly a good fit.

Other than Hollyfest, what’s your most memorable, fun, crazy or satisfying Grim Rooster gig? 

We enjoy playing an outdoor venue in Alpharetta called Matilda’s. Everyone calls it the poor man’s Chastain. They have roots music outside every Saturday during the summer. You play on the porch of an old house, and everyone brings their own food and beer. It’s all ages, so all of our families can make it out to the show. Those so far have been my favorite gigs, and they always draw a huge crowd. Just a really great vibe when we play there and a lot of interaction from the crowd. At the end of the day, we do this for fun so when you can get people out and involved, it makes it worth it.

The Grim Roosters shake up Matilda's. Photo Courtesy of the Grim Roosters.

Do you have a day-job?

I do, but I don’t want to ruin the illusion. Ha, yes in real life, I have a wife and two kids and live in the burbs. I work as a financial advisor, so me playing music has become a way for me to release a ton of stress. If it wasn’t for the release of playing music, I would probably be in the looney bin. I was very lucky to have been able to play music for a living and go nuts. In my late 20s, the writing was on the wall. I realized I wanted other things.

What’s next for Grim Rooster?

Just trying to find more gigs. If you know of any, let me know. We do have a big one on Feb. 6 at Smith’s Olde Bar. We are opening up for Corb Lund, and we are super excited about it. We will be playing our usual set of originals with a couple covers thrown in. Should be a great night of honky tonk.

Also, Grim Rooster is on Facebook if anyone wants to check us out. We have a three-song demo up there for everyone to listen to and download.

 

Category: Kool Kat of the Week | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Kool Kat of the Week: Caroline Hull Engel Keeps on Ramblin’ with a New Album and CD Release Party Saturday at the Star Bar

Posted on: Jul 19th, 2012 By:

By James Kelly
Contributing Music Editor

(Full disclosure – Caroline recorded one of my songs on her new album, but I loved her music long before that happened)

It’s been a long time coming, but after almost 20 years, fans are FINALLY getting a full length album from the amazing Caroline & the Ramblers! They’ll be celebrating RED HOT MAMA with a record release party Sat. July 21 at the Star Bar, also featuring the Billygoats from Nashville, Whiskey Belt and Rockbridge Heights. Showtime is 9 p.m.

This “Red Hot Mama” 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.

We will let this week’s “Kool Kat” tell her own story…

ATLRetro: How did you first get involved in performing music? Please tell us about your former bands and how they developed over time.
Caroline Hull Engel: I have been singing and performing since I was little. I performed at many school and church functions from a very young age. And then later as an adult I would sing with different friends’ bands at house parties and such, but really hadn’t found “my tribe” yet. Not until one fateful night in the early ’90s at the Dark Horse Tavern in Virginia-Highlands where my best friend and I stumbled across a band called the Diggers. That changed everything for me. Once I saw those guys, I knew I had found “my people.”

After seeing the Diggers that night we found out when they would be playing their next gig. Turned out they were playing at a new bar called the Star Community Bar. One visit to the Star Bar and we were hooked. My friends and I started going there regularly. Night after night there were amazing roots rock bands playing rockabilly, country, hillbilly, garage, surf! We could always count on hearing great live music there. We were like kids in a candy store! It was an amazing time.

After that I was getting to know some of the bands and other regulars at the Star Bar, and one night I got up and sang a Patsy Cline song at an open mike night. This guy came running out after me as I was leaving the bar and he introduced himself as James, aka Slim Chance of Slim Chance and the Convicts. He asked if I would be interested in singing at a Patsy Cline tribute show he was putting together. I knew it was time to start my own band. Trail of Tears was primarily a country band with a hint of rockabilly. We did a lot of Patsy Cline and Brenda Lee covers – and a great Pogues song called “Haunted.”

Then I formed a new band called the Ramblers. This new band was geared more towards a combination of originals and obscure covers and was heavier on the rockabilly stylings of Wanda Jackson, Janis 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.

Having lived in Atlanta all your life, what are your observations and impressions of the local roots music scene?
Like a lot of things in life, there are ebbs and flows, genres of music that are more popular at one time or another, and that is no exception for the local roots music scene. I think for Atlanta – the roots music scene was probably at its height from the mid-’90s to the early 2000s with a few of the original players maintaining a presence all the way through, but it definitely slacked off in the mid 2000s. Bands break up, people move, and some people aren’t with us anymore. There have always been bands and players who have consistently performed over the years, but there seems to be a resurgence as of late of some new roots rock bands. It is exciting to see this happening!

Who are some of your favorite local and national artists, and why?
JD McPherson’s SIGNS & SIGNIFIERS has not left my CD player since I got it a couple of months ago. Before that was The Bellfuries’ JUST PLAIN LONESOME. Both are truly fabulous records. My all-time favorite touring band is Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys. I love how how pure they are and how they stick to the roots of rock ‘n’ roll. “No fuss, no fanfare,” as my husband would say. They don’t try to conform to popular conventions; they just do their thing and they do it really well.

I’m very lucky to be in Atlanta where there are so many great local bands of varying styles – like Tiger, Tiger, Anna Kramer and the Lost Cause, Slim Chance and the Convicts, the Serenaders, Villain Family and Ghost Riders Car Club (GRCC), but everyone who knows me knows that my favorite local band is The Blacktop Rockets. BTR doesn’t play as frequently as they used to,  but it is always a thrill to hear them live. They are the best!

What were some of the challenges you faced in the process of making this new CD?
Time and money – but doesn’t that seems to be a challenge regarding a lot of things in life?

Since it was recorded, you have made some major changes in the band. Can you tell us a bit about that?
The original players on the CD THE RAMBLERSChad Proctor, Matt Spaugh and Rodney Bell and I – are not currently playing together. They are very busy with family commitments, other music opportunities and their own band. They are amazing musicians, and they did such a fabulous job on the record. It is unfortunate that we could not promote the CD together as a group, but the timing wasn’t right for it. Everyone is going in different directions and I wish them all the very best.

For many months I have been working with new “Ramblers”: Danny Arana – guitar/vocals; Big Joel G – bass/vocals; and Mike Z – drums. The new line-up is awesome! We are having a great time, and they seem to really dig this new sound we are creating. Danny’s harmonies will absolutely blow you away! This new chapter of the Ramblers has turned out better than I could have hoped for.

How do you go about selecting songs to perform? What is it that pulls you to cover a tune?
I’ve been listening to “old school” country and rockabilly since I was a little kid. My Dad had an old jukebox, and I would play it for hours and hours. A lot of the 45s he had on the jukebox like Gene Vincent, Elvis, Buddy Holly, Carl Perkins and the Beatles were influential in the kind of music I play today. I listen to a lot of compilations of stuff from the ’40s and ’50s, too, and I keep lists of potential covers. I am all about things that are vocally appealing to me and either move me emotionally or make me want to get up and dance. I just know a cover song that will work for us when I hear it.

How interested/involved in music and performance are your two lovely daughters, Ava Bonner and Ella?
We get performances on a daily basis at our house. My prediction is that I have one future Vocal Star and one future Rock Star! The joke is that in a few years they will form a band with some of our other musician friends’ children, and then we’ll be the ones in the audience!

What would be your “dream gig”?
Nationally I would have to say the real dream gig would be to play at the Ryman in Nashville. To perform on the stage where so many of my musical heroes have played would be amazing! Locally I think it would be really cool to play Chastain Park and open for someone like Chris Isaak, Loretta Lynn or Brian Setzer. Of course, it would be great to open for my hero Wanda Jackson again!

What are your plans for the band now that the album is completed and released?
We have several shows on the calendar to promote the CD and are working on more for the Fall. Currently we are playing our CD Release party at the Star Bar on Saturday July 21, a show at Twain’s in Decatur on Thursday August 2, a live in-store at Decatur CD on Friday August 10 and a show at Big Tex Cantina in Decatur on Friday August 24. We also plan to play a few out of town shows this fall and winter. You can find out more about our music and show dates on our ReverbNation page.

You do a benefit every year for people with Down’s syndrome. How did you get involved in that, and why? When is the next one, and who is the featured artist?
Yes, I have two different childhood friends whose children were born with Down syndrome, and I started this to honor these beautiful kids and to help each of them with their effort to raise money for the Down Syndrome Association of Atlanta’s yearly Buddy Walk. This all started in 2010 with a show called “A Tribute.” Each year I pick a musical legend to honor, and I ask local bands to do a few songs by that artist. The first year we did Patsy Cline, and last year to coincide with his 80th birthday we did an evening of George Jones’ music. This year we will do a tribute to Ray Price! This year’s show will be on Saturday October 13 at the Star Bar.

RED HOT MAMA can be purchased on www.cdbaby.com and locally at Decatur CD. All photographs are courtesy of Caroline and the Ramblers.

 

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Vintage Vacation: Road Trips from Hell with Blast-Off Burlesque, Part 3: Barbilicious Gets Lost in Texas

Posted on: Sep 10th, 2011 By:

Barbilicious performs with LUST. Photo courtesy of Barbilicious.

With Blast-Off Burlesque’s World Tour about to take off this weekend at 7 Stages (if you haven’t bought tickets yet, book ‘em here! Only two more shows on Sat at 7:30 p.m. & 10:30 p.m.), we asked those gorgeous gals and guys about their craziest real-life travel experiences. And did they have some stories to tell—from wicked weather to dodgy directions.

In the third of this three-part series, Barbilicious was having a great time on tour with her band LUST until she headed to a rather unusual gig in Canyon, Texas…

Road Trips with my band LUST have always brought surprises, victories, defeats, and just plain weirdness. We used to take an annual West Coast Tour and go from Atlanta to the West Coast and back. A big loop that rolls down to New Orleans, then up through TX, NM, AZ and CA. Texas is a HUGE state, so in between Houston, Dallas, Austin and our favorite El Paso, there are little entertainment-starved places like Canyon, TX.

Canyon is a beautiful place located in Central TX, and cold as hell in February. After a wonderful show in Lubbock, TX, where we played for a couple of Black Metal dudes and their girlfriends in a room in a house, and had a grand tour of Buddy Holly‘s high school gym, we are looking forward to what Canyon would bring. Of course, we are pretty much broke, gas is expensive, and we need to get to the next place, so anywhere to play is always going to be better than not playing, right?

Dickie Van Dyke & Barbilicious. Photo credit: Derek Jackson.

Where’s the gig? It’s a little ambiguous, but we do have a phone number. After some phone tagging and crackly connections, we get directions. This was before smart phones and Google maps, so we get to pull out the ole’ paper one. Why that seems to be right in the middle of a State Park. Another call, wait don’t go there, go here instead. Why, that seems to be another State Park. It’s getting dark, and really cold, it’s 28 degrees, and yes, we’re playing in a State Park. Illegally.

There is more confusion, what gazebo will we be playing at? We need one with an outlet. There are no lights, the park is closed, it’s fucking freezing. After winding around the park, we finally pull up to a gazebo, where our headlights catch glimpse of a young punker pacing back and forth, all bundled up, and waiting for us to arrive.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Scott Glazer Takes Listeners Backstage with Rock, R&B and Country Greats on AM 1690

Posted on: Aug 18th, 2011 By:

Scott Glazer performing with Mojo Dojo at Northside Tavern. Photo courtesy by Scott Glazer.

Take a visit to the audio green room that is BACKSTAGE ATLANTA (Tues. at 12:30 p.m.; encore Sun. 11:30 a.m.) , and you might find bassist Joe B. Maudlin of Buddy Holly & The Crickets sharing a firsthand account of the heyday of early rock ‘n’ roll. Or ‘80s synth-pop maestro Jan Hammer revealing the story behind how he came to compose the soundtrack to MIAMI VICE. R&B legend Peabo Bryson has stopped by, The Beach BoysBrian Wilson was a recent guest, and country star Emmylou Harris came to sit a spell, as well as pianist Kenny Ascher, who’s collaborated with John Lennon, Barbara Streisand and Paul Williams.

Those Retro music greats, however, never would have found it onto Atlanta’s airwaves if it wasn’t for the existence of an eclectic little radio station called AM 1690 The Voice of the Arts and a visionary local musician named Scott Glazer known for jumping music genres and fascinated with what goes on behind the curtains.  ATLRetro recently caught up with Scott, who also deejays The Midday Mix (Mon.-Fri., 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.) on AM 1690, to find out more about the independent radio station and Scott’s passion for preserving music history on the air.

How did you become involved with AM 1690 The Voice of the Arts?

I am a musician. In the fall of ’03, I was playing the annual run of  THE 1940s RADIO HOUR at Theatre in the Square in Marietta. One evening after the show I went to a jam session at Darwin’s, a blues joint. There I sang and played with a piano player and spoke and exchanged phone numbers with him. Turns out that he was/is station owner Joe Weber. We touched base a couple of times during the year, and [in] fall of ’04, he called me and asked me to come in to speak with him and [General Manager] Jeff Davis. I was astounded and excited!

When people hear “The Voice of the Arts,” they might think you’re another public radio station playing classical and experimental jazz. They’d be wrong, right?

First off, they’d be wrong in thinking that we are “public radio.” No National Endowment for the Arts funds come our way. Led by noted industry veteran and my personal hero Jeff Davis, our advertising sales staff is #1 and hustles like hell! As far as classical and experimental music, well, you’ll get some of everything on AM1690. We play music that we are passionate about. Most of it is music that you won’t hear on the big megabucks media conglomerates. How can there not be George Jones, Emmylou or Loretta on country radio?  Or Chuck Berry, The Olympics, Percy Mayfield, Ruth Brown, Patsy Cline or a litany of other American greats on the air?

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This Week in Retro Atlanta, Feb. 15-20, 2011

Posted on: Feb 14th, 2011 By:

OK, lovers, it’s back to the grind. It’s too late to check out ATLRetro’s top 3 picks for Valentine’s night, so let’s get right to the rest of the week.

Tuesday Feb. 15

Joe Gransden is back at Twain’s in Decatur for a jazz jam session starting at 9 PM. Or head back in time and over there to A NOVEMBER DAY: A WAR STORY, a timeless fable about friendship set against the backdrop of World War I, presented today by Thingumajig Theatre of West Yorskshire, England, today through Sun. at The Center for Puppetry Arts. Performers use hand, rod and shadow puppets, live music and a transforming set to tell the tale of a British soldier in WWI and his unexpected friendship with a stray dog. Suitable for ages 10 and up, with a teen and adult workshop on Sat. Feb. 19.

Wednesday Feb. 16

THE RED BALLOON takes flight at Theatre du Reve in 7 Stages’ Backstage Theater from Feb. 16-27. The stage adaptation uses puppetry and live original music to bring to life the classic 1956 French movie about a boy who befriends a shiny red balloon. Suitable for ages 4 and up.

Get ready to rumba, cha-cha and jitterbug at the weekly Swing Night at The Glenwood. Catch Joe Gransden every Wednesday night at 8:30 PM at Jerry Farber’s Side Door. Alice Cooper meets Kiss Southern-fried in Red Rocket Deluxe, headlining at Star Bar. Dance to ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s hits during Retro in the Metro Wednesdays presented by Godiva Vodka, at Pub 71 in Brookhaven, starting at 8 PM.

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