Kool Kat of the Week: Welcome to the Dirty, Dirty! Dave Weil and The Blacktop Rockets Deliver a New Album and a Night of Revved Up Tunes and Low Down Shenanigans at The Star Bar

Posted on: Apr 5th, 2016 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

Photo by Sloan Carroll Rainwater (Top to Bottom: Dave Watkins, Johnny McGowan, Dave Weil, Steve Stone)

Top to Bottom: Dave Watkins, Johnny McGowan, Dave Weil, Steve Stone. Photo by Sloan Carroll Rainwater.

Atlanta’s own Dave Weil, head honcho and lead vocals/guitar, along with his partners in crime, The Blacktop Rockets [Johnny McGowan (guitar/vocals); Dave Watkins (drums); and Steve Stone (Bass)] will be raisin’ a ruckus, Sun Records-style, at The Star Bar this Friday, April 8 at 9 p.m.! They’ll be peddlin’ their new full-length CD, “GO!” with fellow rockin’ revivalists, Rodeo Twister in tow! It’ll be a hootenanny you won’t want to miss!

Dave, raised on jazz and crooners like “Ol’ Blue Eyes” Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett, got rebellious ‘n’ hell-bent falling head over heels for some good old rock ‘n’ roll. So in 1993, he began dishin’ out tunes and slingin’ guitar with The Blacktop Rockets, and they’ve been revvin’ it up ever since! They’ve stormed the stage with The Blasters, the late Ronnie Dawson, Southern Culture on the Skids, Reverend Horton Heat, Wanda Jackson and so many more influential hell raisers and foot stompers! BTR’s first full-length album, MAKE MINE A DOUBLE,” was released in 1999, preceded by the single “What Ya’ll Have,” in 1996. In other words, it’s high time for a new BTR release.

ATLRetro caught up with Dave Weil for a quick interview about BTR, his take on “American music,” and reviving that old-school R&B and hillbilly twang! While you’re takin’ a gander at our little Q&A with Dave, get an earful of The Blacktop Rockets live at The Star Bar (Nov. 7, 2015) with “Please Don’t Touch” (Nov. 7, 2015).

ATLRetro: The Blacktop Rockets swooped in on Atlanta’s rock revival scene like a bat out of hell during the ‘90s rockabilly resurgence; a rockin’ renaissance of sorts. Can you tell our readers what it is about that genre of music that keeps you coming back for more?

Dec Fest - Photo by John Phillips (L-R: Dave Watkins, Johnny McGowan, Dave Weil, Steve Stone)

Dec Fest. L-R: Dave Watkins, Johnny McGowan, Dave Weil, Steve Stone. Photo by John Phillips.

Dave Weil: It’s the free-wheeling spirit of it all. The magical blending of black R&B with white hillbilly music that occurred beginning in the late ‘40s-early ‘50s, which led to what came to be called rockabilly and rock and roll. To me, it’s irresistible. When I hear it, I get a smile on my face and I just gotta move!

Any twisted tales on how you and The Blacktop Rockets get together and what’s kept you goin’ for so long?

Not really twisted, but it was a bit of a fluke. In 1993, I was doing this duo thing a la Flat Duo Jets called Sweatin’ Bullets and had a gig that the drummer couldn’t do. I had recently met David Watkins (drummer) at Frijoleros (old schoolers know) where we were both working, so I asked him to fill in and the rest is history as they say. Upright bass was added about a year later and then lead guitar. What’s kept us going is, well, all I can think is, we have to! Like Carl Perkins said, “The cat bug bit me and I’ll never be the same.”

Your sound has been described as being the “epitome of American music.” What does that mean to you? What exactly is “American music?”

“American music” is a lot of things and goes back much farther, but in terms of what I’m most familiar with and where BTR fits in, it goes back to what I said about the blending of black R&B with white hillbilly music. Twelve bar blues-based song structures with lyrics that include the tried and true themes of love and loss, regular folks telling stories, and just silly stuff like “Rock Around The Clock.” There were so many things changing in post-war America – culturally, economically, socially – and lots of those changes were reflected in the music being created then.4PAN1T

Even though the bulk of the retro rock ‘n’ roots revival pretty much died off in the late ‘90s, The Blacktop Rockets seem to have made a niche for themselves in Atlanta’s thriving sleaze-nitty-gritty redneck underground music scene. What draws you to the mischievous underbelly of Atlanta’s music scene?

That it’s the underbelly and we love underbelly. So juicy and sweet, mmm, can’t git enough of it.

Any interesting stories to tell our readers about your musical upbringing, or when you became interested in playing music?

My Dad was a musician – a damn good sax and clarinet player, but could find his way around any instrument. There was always music in the house. He was mostly a jazzer who listened to and played a lot of swing. He was also a big fan of crooners like Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett. We didn’t exactly see eye to eye back when I got into rock and roll, but he rolled his eyes and tried to tolerate it. I got into guitar like lots of my peers, from listening to The Beatles and The Rolling Stones and other Brit bands. Through buying those bands’ records and reading the writing credits, I learned about the great American bluesmen like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Elmore James. Later on in the late ‘70s I did a similar thing when I heard the Robert Gordon/Link Wray records. I started digging deep into Rockabilly music and found Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent and, of course, the legendary Sun Records material.

Photo by Jeff Shipman (L-R: Johnny McGowan, Dave Watkins, Dave Weil, Steve Stone)

L-R: Johnny McGowan, Dave Watkins, Dave Weil, Steve Stone. Photo by Jeff Shipman.

We see that you’ve shared the stage with The Blasters, the late Ronnie Dawson; opened for Southern Culture on the Skids and Reverend Horton Heat; and backed the “First Lady of Rockabilly” Wanda Jackson and so many more! Can you tell our readers what it’s like getting to fire it up with all those movers and shakers?

Those opening spots have been some really fun shows. I feel like BTR truly deserves to be on those stages and we can bring it as well as anyone. As far as being the backing band for the legends, it’s a tremendous honor and kind of like living a dream! It’s definitely a set where you really, really want to be on your “A” game and not make any clams! Sure don’t want to get a dirty look from Wanda, ha!

You released your first album (full-length) MAKE MINE A DOUBLE in 1999, making that one long 17-year itch! Why did it take so long to get to GO, and how can our readers get their grubby little hands on a copy?!

We actually put out “What’ll Ya’ll Have” in 1996, so this is our third album. We also did a Christmas 45rpm and recorded songs here and there for compilations, but 17 years between actual full length releases is a bit ridiculous, isn’t it? I’m not sure what took so long other than I suppose the time was finally right.  You can buy one at the show on Friday, of course, plus it’s on CD Baby, iTunes and perhaps other online places. The commerce section of our website <here> is under construction now, although it might be running by show time.

If you had to choose your top three musical influences, who would they be and why?

The Star Bar: Photo Credit by Sloan Carroll Rainwater (L-R: Johnny McGowan, Dave Watkins, Dave Weil, Steve Stone)

The Star Bar: Photo Credit by Sloan Carroll Rainwater (L-R: Johnny McGowan, Dave Watkins, Dave Weil, Steve Stone)

I think it’s really hard to pinpoint influences per se, but I can tell you who I am always happy to hear on my stereo or anyone else’s. No particular order and I’m leaving plenty of others off – Ray Charles, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Howlin’ Wolf, Ronnie Dawson, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry…you get the picture.

What can ATLRetro readers expect to experience at your honkytonkin’ hootenanny and CD Release Party, April 8, at The Star Bar?

The Blacktop Rockets still pack a punch in our live show like very few acts you will see. We have a great time doing what we do and it shows. The current BTR line up is sounding better than ever. Drummer David Watkins and I are into our third decade playing together so it’s a pretty special connection there. Anyone who has heard him play knows he’s one of the top drummers in Atlanta and beyond. He can bash ’em or lay back, but he always knows exactly the right part to play for our songs.

Many of your readers know lead guitarist Johnny McGowan from not just this band, but several other cool projects he’s involved with. Johnny plays with so much fire and creativity, plus amazing technical ability that he’s constantly blowing minds and making jaws drop, including mine! Johnny joined BTR around 1996, then left for a bit around 2000, but has been the guy now since around 2009. On stage, there is no one I’ve had this much fun with. It’s just a hoot because we have little musical inside jokes and he’ll play something goofy or weird and then shoot me a quick look like, “Did ya hear that one?” and then crack up laughing.

The new guy is Steve Stone on bass. He’s another very accomplished multi-instrument player who has been a lot of fun getting to know and assimilated into the band. I love playing music with these guys and I consider myself fortunate to share the stage with such outstanding players! Plus our pals, the excellent band Rodeo Twister are opening the show!

6What’s next for The Blacktop Rockets?

A lot more gigs this year than we’ve done the past several and probably another album or at least EP in the fall.

Anything else you’d like to tell ATLRetro readers about you or the band?

I think you will really dig the new record! We’re still doing some straight-up rockabilly, but there’s more to it in terms of the songwriting. This was the first time Johnny and I collaborated and we figured out we can write really well together. We simply let the songs be what they were going to be and didn’t try to put them in a specific box like rockabilly or swing or country. If I had to say what that sounds like, I guess I’d have to nod towards The Blasters or Rockpile. We’ve added electric bass on stuff where we used to use upright only, and that gives it a feel that I think reflects well on the newer songs especially. In addition to playing guitars all over the recording, Johnny produced the album and did a knock-out job. One of the things he did that I’m most happy with was to bring in friends to play some different instruments on a few songs. There’s piano, sax, trumpet and steel guitar that are added here and there that are really nice touches.

And last, but not least, what question do you wish somebody would ask you and what’s the answer?

For here or to go? The answer is always GO! 

Photos provided by Dave Weil/The Blacktop Rockets and used with permission.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Kickin’ It Out, Looking Tough with Jet Terror at the Star Bar’s NYC Punk Tribute Fri. July 27

Posted on: Jul 25th, 2012 By:

Jet Terror. Photo credit: Widdi Turner.

Think you are or ever were a punk rocker? The Star Bar is throwing a NYC Punk Tribute Night Fri. July 27 with some of Atlanta’s finest garage and punk bands headlined by none other than  Jayne County & The Electrick Queers and also including The Forty-Fives ( doingMC5 songs), The El CaminosRandy Micheal and the Sharp Dressed Lads and Ghost Bikini . They’ll be performing songs by the New York Dolls, Blondie, Ramones, MC5 and more that started a rock revolution in the early-mid 1970s before the Sex Pistols ever spiked their hair. Unfortunately too many  performers of that era have left this plane including a majority of Ramones and NY Dolls, but Atlanta is fortunate to be  home to the queen of Max’s Kansas City, Jayne County. Since we interviewed Jayne last October (catch up with that Kool Kat here), we decided to turn to Jet Terror, an Atlanta punk legend in his own right as one of the founding members of the recently resurrected and still refreshingly raunchy Dead Elvis (Ed. note: fellow band member Derek Yaniger designed the ATLRetro logo; read an interview with him and catch up some more on the history of Dead Elvis here.)

The last time I interviewed Jet was for Maximum Rock n Roll, the best newsprint hardcore punk zine ever (and still thriving on the Web here), along with the rest of Dead Elvis – Derek, Kevin Rej and Chris Mills, in Chris’s Grant Park living room. Let’s just say there was a lot of…er…colorful language. A few years later, Jet left Atlanta for San Francisco, so it’s great to see him back roughing up the Atlanta music scene. If you didn’t get to Greenwich Village in the 1970s, this Friday night is sure to be the next best thing…

Why a 1970s NYC Punk Tribute Night in 2012?

Well, we just want to celebrate the music of that era and give people a real taste of what it was like. It was really Jayne’s idea, and I put it together with the Star Bar’s help. We wanted to create an event, not just a show. It will be fuckin’ great.

Jayne County and the Electrick Queers. Photo credit: Jeff Shipman.

Is the show going to mostly be covers?

Yeah it will be a lot of covers of bands like, Ramones, Dead Boys, New York Dolls, MC5, Velvet Underground and so on. Each band may do an original or two.

Other than Jayne County, what are the three must-know performers/bands of that era in your opinion and why?

Iggy and the Stooges, Ramones, New York Dolls. If you have to ask why, go to YouTube.

How did you meet Jayne County?

I met her through my girlfriend’s business partner Tim Scott. She was wanting to play some shows and we clicked.

What’s the back story about the Electrick Queers? I understand they were first formed because Jayne needed a back-up band for a gig she had at a PAWS Atlanta fundraiser?

Basically we formed to support her on that gig, but always had planned to move forward as her current band. Here we are four years later. It’s been a blast and getting better all the time.

Any chance of a Jayne County and the Electrick Queers recording in the future?

We just recorded two brand new songs that we wrote with Jayne, and they came out very strong. She and I are always throwing around ideas and are working on more new songs currently with the band. She’s the most dynamic person I’ve ever played with.

Jet Terror. Photo credit: Jeff Shipman.

What’s up with Dead Elvis? Any more gigs planned this summer/fall?

Hey, Dead Elvis has been around for 27 years now. We never expected we would still be playing in 2012. To answer your question, I don’t know. We don’t plan it; usually some show is presented to us, and we figure we can go onstage and destroy it one more time for fun. It’s all about having fun acting like immature beer-swilling punks.

You relocated to San Francisco for a long time. What made you return to Atlanta?

Yep, I lived in San Francisco for most of the Nineties. SF is still just as much home to me as Atlanta is. I came back to Atlanta in 2000, mainly because of some family health issues, and I was also looking to form my dream band. Luckily I did meet the right guitar player (Jim Wright) and the right guys and formed The Evils.  We’re playing The Star Bar on August 24.

I hear you’re doing some work with WWE. Can you tell us about that?

I work full time for the WWE world television tour for the show’s MONDAY NIGHT RAW and SMACKDOWN. I’m the Stage Manager. I’m responsible for getting our show built, run and loaded out. I manage about 150 people a day and 14 semi trucks of gear. It’s a big crazy job. I’m on a plane twice a week to somewhere in the U.S., Canada or Mexico.

What else are you up to?

I have a wonderful girlfriend (Jen [Belgard of Libertine, and ATLRetro contributing writer]), a German shepherd, a crazy terrier and three cats. They keep me pretty busy when I’m home. Also, I’m working on buying a bar with my business partner.

Any other personal interests of note?

Yes, I love my 1947 Chevy Rat Rod truck and my Triumph Bonneville motorcycle. My favorite bands: Elvis, The Stooges, MC5, Motörhead, Eddie Cochran, Hank Williams Sr., The Kinks, etc. etc…

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

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