Kool Kat of the Week: From Batman to Burlesque: Stormy Knight Plays Nice and Naughty at Mon Cherie’s Rockabilly Lounge

Posted on: Dec 13th, 2012 By:

Stormy Knight. Photo credit: Jeffrey Ling.

Holy smokin’! One of Retro Atlanta’s coolest ongoing events, Mon Cherie’s Rockabilly Lounge, will be shakin’, rattle and rolling its fifth anniversary this Sat. Dec. 15 at The Masquerade. Doors open at 9 p.m., The Sideburners (formerly Junior Dolan & Cash) are headlining, Reverend Andy will be spinning, free jello shots will fly, vendors such as East Atlanta’s Grease Monkeys and jeweler extraordinaire Jezebel Blue will help you with your retro revival holiday shopping, the usual Ragin’ Raffle will be drawn and the entire shindig will be topped off with a bright red maraschino cherry: a Christmas-themed burlesque show at midnight. The latter, as usual is emceed by Miss Mason, and performers include Stormy Knight, Hada Pixie, Scarlett Page and Miss Kitty Love. All for a bargain cover price of 10 bucks!

Seeing that the holidays are a time for unwrapping and staying warm by a hot fire, ATLRetro thought this would be the perfect time of year to make our Kool Kat of the Week that red-hot performer named Miss Stormy Knight. We caught up with her recently to find out more about what drives her to dance, her soft spot for sci-fi and to get a tease about this holiday-inspired Rockabilly Lounge

What about you as a little girl would have predicted your future as a burlesque performer?

I’ve been an artist for as long as I can remember and the burlesque, belly dance, and other performance arts that I do grew out of that love of creating something unique and beautiful. The fact that I get to share this lifetime love with others is an added bonus!

How did you decide upon the stage name of Stormy Knight and how does it reflect your unique style?

I’ve always loved listening to storms and the fact that they can be so many things — anything from thunderous and intense to relatively soft and light. There is great diversity in what storms are and they cannot be caged or contained. As a performer, I love the energy and diversity in my acts and love to explore different performance styles.

Nighttime is my favorite time of the day; it seems that my muse wakes up as soon as the sun goes down! Also—and here is where my geek comes out to play—my favorite comic book character has always been Batman. Since he is also known as the Dark Knight, I incorporated that spelling into my name as a little inside joke to myself.

Stormy Knight. Photo credit: Van Brown/Soul of View Photography.

When did you first perform burlesque onstage, and is there any story about how you got that first gig?

I have been on various stages since late teens and started belly dancing and doing various fetish and martial arts performances under the name Starphoenix 15 years ago. I originally joined Big City Burlesque many years ago as a bellydancer and performance artist, but soon fell in love with the burlesque art form so much that I added it to my repertoire.

Can you name one classic and one contemporary burlesque performer who is an inspiration to you and why?

Why choose just one? Sally Rand, Mae West and Satan’s Angel have been big influences on me. All three pushed boundaries, and when faced with opposition in something they wanted to achieve, they simply went about it in a new way. None of them compromised on their performances and were very forward for their times. Between the three of them, there was plenty of glamour, innovation, intelligence and ballsy wit. I have had the honor of meeting Satan’s Angel and learned quite a bit in a short time with this bluntly honest Legend.

As for contemporary performers? To narrow it down, I’ve got to ponder that one for a minute. There are so many. Catherine D’Lish is a big influence on my level of costuming. She pours her heart into her creations, and they look amazing. One day I hope to be able to create on the scale that she does. One of my inspirations is a fairly new performer who has an immense amount of raw talent and dedication. Every time I watch her perform, I am re-inspired by the creativity and imagination that she brings to her acts. I met her while working with Big Mamma D’s House of Burlesque [Charlotte, NC], of which she is a member, and am privileged to call her friend: Silver Kitsune.

You’ve recently been very instrumental in organizing burlesque shows at science fiction cons such as DragonCon and Anime Weekend Atlanta. What does sci-fi mean to you, and how have those shows gone over with fandom?

I am a huge geek. Yes, in fact I proclaim it loudly! And I have been involved with both conventions, as well as a few others for *ahem* quite a while. In fact I often got into trouble in school for reading my books in class, then breezing through the exams. Sci-fi, comic books, and later anime and manga, were ways for me to escape. Even now I revel in breaking open and pouring through a new book and follow many different series from different genres.

In mid 2007, I had the idea that a burlesque show might go over well at a con. I mean, who doesn’t like boobs? They’re pretty awesome, but hey, maybe I’m a bit biased here. But I didn’t just want to throw a show together; I wanted to give the fans an amazing show. I produced the first show at DragonCon to a standing-room only crowd. It did so well that I got the opportunity to do one at AWA, with the same results. Every year I produced both shows, the rooms were completely packed to the point that after the second year at each convention the show was moved to one of the main rooms to accommodate the crowd. To give the fans a little something different each year, I changed up the themes and pulled performers from across the country and abroad. For various reasons, I did not produce the 2012 DragonCon burlesque show though I  continue to produce the AWA Cabaret. Keep your eyes peeled though, as there just might be a development for this year’s DragonCon. (*wink*)

You recently returned from Great Southern Exposure 2012, didn’t you? Can you share a little about what that was like and maybe your favorite memory?

I did and I had a fabulous time meeting so many new people! There was a little nervousness because it was a competition, but for the most part I was so excited to see so many new performers and acts that I forgot to be nervous! My favorite memory had to be taking Perle Noire‘s movement class. That woman is such a talented dancer and I learned a LOT from her.

Without giving away too much, can you tease us a little about what you have planned for this Saturday’s Rockabilly Lounge?

Now that would be telling! All right, I’ll give you a wee hint: I will be doing something completely new. *wink* But you have to come out to the Rockabilly Lounge on Saturday night to see it!

You’ve been somewhat of a regular at the Rockabilly Lounge and other Mon Cherie Presents events. Why do you enjoy working with Mon Cherie and what do you think has made her Rockabilly Lounge such a long-time success?

I love working with Mon Cherie and, as a performer and fellow producer, can appreciate that she’s an honest person who is full of ideas, class and gumption. She’s true to her word and takes care of her people. Those qualities are rare in today’s world and are in great part why she has been a long-time success.

Besides, who else would let me play with fire?

Stormy Knight. Photo credit: R.J. Newton Photography.

Beyond the Rockabilly Lounge, what’s next for Stormy Knight?

Lots of sewing and crafting. I have a big act that has been pounding away in my head for little over a month now and a few others that, while less insistent, are still quite loudly proclaiming their will to live and be seen!

Finally, you have some beautiful artwork on your body and especially on your back. Can you talk a little bit about how you arrived at the particular designs, and do you consider your body as a canvas now to be complete or will there be more to come?

Thank you! My body is a canvas, and yes, there shall be more tattoos eventually, though they have to be *just right*. I am so very picky about what goes on my body, where it is placed and who does the work that I am content to go slowly. I do know what my next tattoo will be, but have not yet decided on the placement.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Getting Ready for a Rockabilly Rumble in Little 5 Points with Right Reverend Andy

Posted on: Aug 9th, 2012 By:

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. This Saturday August 10, he’s hosting a Rumble in Little 5 Points at the Star Bar, long the temple of Atlanta’s rockabilly/psychobilly scene, with a great line-up headlined by Hi-Test and including Sonoramic CommandoAtomic BoogieJunior, Dolan & Cash and Grim Rooster, so we thought it’s high time we declare the minister of one of our favorite Retro musical styles Kool Kat of the Week

ATLRetro: What’s so special about Hi-Test and why does their return warrant a Rumble?

Rev Andy: Hi-Test is one of those bands that any other band would have a hard time following. Their music is in-your-face and when you listen it goes straight to your core. They put on one hell of a stage show and all four guys are incredibly talented musicians! If you’ve never seen Hi-Test, then you’re truly missing out.

What else is happening at The Rumble?

A: We’re also having an unofficial CD release for Sonoramic Commando’s new album HANG AROUND [Ed. note: Read Slim’s Retro Review here], and you need to come early to catch the new punk country band Grim Rooster!

How did you discover rockabilly/psychobilly? And was there a key turning point when you decided to devote your life to keeping these Retro music styles alive?

I grew up with parents who listened to Elvis, Cash and all those old cats from the Sun Records days. When I hit high school, I stopped listening and began buying heavy metal albums. Toward my late twenties, I migrated back to what I grew up on and eventually went to my first local rockabilly show, which featured Sonoramic Commando. When I had the chance to start a ‘billy radio show, I grabbed the bull by the horns.

How did you become a Right Reverend?

It began as something fun I decided to do one afternoon. 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!

Why Psychobilly Freakout?

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.

For the uninitiated, what makes a great rockabilly and/or psychobilly band?

The band should capture your attention with their sound and stage presence. It may add to the stereotype, but they need to be dressed the part – no loafers on stage! A great rockabilly band should be sonically sound, know and love their songs, and avoid being “shoegazers” on stage. If someone wants to start a band, go watch and listen to Gene Vincent, Elvis Presley, Billy Lee Riley, and figure out how their music speaks to you. Turn that sound into your own. Little Richard once told me, “Everything has already been done. You just have to pick something up and figure out how to make it your own.”

How long have you been doing your Monday night shows on Garage 71?

Last month marks three years on Garage 71, but my show has been around much longer. I started it on Album 88 in August of 2004, so the show has now been around 8 years! It had a brief stint on WREK (91.1FM) and as a podcast. No matter what, this is my show and I’m sure the name will be associated with me for years to come.

What are a few bands and performers who are exciting you now?

I’m really digging the sound of JD McPherson [Ed. note: Read our Retro Review of JD’s latest album here]. Holy crap, this guy has captured the classic essence of rockabilly and jump blues, and he’s very exciting to watch perform! Check out King Sickabilly & His Full Moon Boys if you’re into Johnny Cash. His songs, even toned down, speak volumes. Exploring the past I’ve recently acquired a love for The Queers and The Cult. I don’t know how I let those two bands stay under my radar for so long. And if you don’t own any, go buy some Lone Wolf OMB and Ronnie Dawson right now!

You DJ regularly at Mon Cherie’s Rockabilly Lounge (bimonthly at Masquerade), her new Mad Lib-Ations (Thursdays at Corner Tavern in L5P)and many other of her events. How did you both meet each other and why do you enjoy working with her so much?

I believe a mutual friend had us meet a few years ago. When she began working on her first Rockabilly Lounge, said friend told her her event wouldn’t be complete without getting me involved. Since then, she and I have worked together on many events and you’re guaranteed a good time! If you can’t enjoy yourself at one of our shows, then you should be flogged.

What’s next for the Right Reverend Andy, i.e. what should our readers mark their calendars for?

I have a few more events in the works before the end of the year. I’m working on bringing Hillbilly Casino back to Atlanta, a Rocket 350 reunion, and one of the musicians I mentioned in this article will be playing Atlanta in November (his manager asked I not discuss details). I’m also collaborating on a book about rockabilly lifestyle from the past 60 years – this is in the very early stages. I’m lending my voice to the Left 4 Dead 2 video game – you’ll find me voicing multiple characters in some upcoming downloadable content! I’m a geek at heart, so hearing my voice in a video game is pretty darn cool! You’ll also find my own Website launching in the next couple of weeks so people can keep track of my new and ongoing projects.

Until the Website launches, keep up with Reverend Andy at rightrevandy.blogspot.com and twitter.com/revandy. All photos are courtesy of Andy Hawley.

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Old Enough To Drink: Bubbapalooza Turns 21! Remembering Gregory Dean Smalley

Posted on: May 23rd, 2012 By:

By James Kelly
Contributing Music Editor

(Note: all photos of Gregory Dean Smalley are courtesy of James Kelly)

In Atlanta’s Redneck Underground, Memorial Day weekend means one thing: BUBBAPALOOZA! For 21 years, the Star Bar has hosted a wild and wooly hootenanny of great Southern music and fun. This year’s event takes place on Friday May 25 and Saturday May 26, with 21 bands representing a vast array of rootsy musical styles (for a complete schedule, scroll down to the end of this article!).

Some of us have been there since the very first event, but over time things have changed; bands have come and gone and familiar old faces faded away, pulled by grown up jobs, family obligations or the need to preserve their livers. But like any great music scene, new folks step in to fill the void, and this year promises to be as good as it gets. It seems that no matter what crappy genre of music is being adored by the mainstream, traditional country, rockabilly, surf and roots rock continue to maintain a high profile in L5P. A mix of the old, the new and the unknown makes each band’s set a celebration of the diverse musical legacy established so many years ago by the late Gregory Dean Smalley.

A will o’ the wisp of a man, Smalley had a vision that has continued on, and is now entering its third decade of existence. Smalley was a journeyman musician, with temporary stints in just about every band he booked at Bubbapalooza. He was as charming as he was infuriating, able to carry on a thoughtful conversation with just about anyone on just about any subject, and a mind full of the dirtiest jokes you ever heard. While so many of the newcomers weren’t even of drinking age when Smalley died in 1996 from AIDS-related illness, each year the long-term attendees make an effort to remind everyone of his contributions to our music scene, and to keep his memory alive for old and new fans alike. But sadly, many people never got to meet him, listen to his witty and usually offensive tirades, or hear his amazing guitar playing.

During the last year of his life, Greg spent a lot of time at my house, sitting in an easy chair and watching Nascar, picking guitars, shooting the breeze, or napping for a hour or so. As the AIDS virus ravaged him, he had a medical port for injecting his prescribed drugs, and often dosed while in that chair. About six months after he died, I was walking through the living room when I noticed something under the chair that had not been there before. It was an empty syringe that had just fallen from the chair that day, one of Greg’s medications he had injected while in my home. The day it fell was September 3, Greg’s birthday. His way of saying “Hey, remember me?” As if I needed a reminder. He was unforgettable, and is still around in spirit, and every Memorial Day weekend, he smiles upon his family and friends as we celebrate his legacy.

The social media as we know it today never existed during Greg’s lifetime, and there is no telling what he would have thought of all the Twittering, Facebooking, blogging and what-not that goes on. ATLRetro tossed a request for a personal comment out into the web-o-net regarding our old pal Gregory Dean, and here’s a sample of the (printable) responses we got:

A natural-born entrepreneur, raconteur and spirited musician, Greg hustled and humped his way through life with unbridled exuberance, which carried anyone in the vicinity along for what often turned out to be a wildly memorable ride.Doug Deloach

Greg Smalley was one of the funniest, sweet, and bravest guys I ever knew, and he had a fantastic ear for music – playing it as well as putting together great shows! I miss him a lot.Katy Graves

Greg Smalley was a funny, wirey little dude that could play the shit out of the guitar!Annie Hamm

The first time I met Greg – in Columbia, SC – he tried to pick a fight with me, the ‘college-rock’ dude… a year or so later, he was an important part of the band.Walter Czachowski

Thoroughly Southern in manner and mind.Ian Shipp

Greg was quite strange (not a bad thing, I am also!), and he gave John Grant and me (Dos Hombres) a chance to play at Bubbapalooza, so how could I dislike the man!?Elliott Michaels

One of the most rewarding guitar repair clients I’ve had the pleasure of working with. Seeing Greg on stage tearing it up on his Les Paul Special made me feel like his NASCAR crew. Being in a band with him was just as rewarding. I’m sure he’s up in heaven telling other deceased rock star guitar players how to play their trademark licks.Bryan Lilje

Greg Smalley was one of the funniest guys I ever knew.Wher he played with The Chant for the first time, he knew all the guitar parts, including the little riffs in the background to sweeten things up. He put everything into what ever he was doing. I miss him so much. He made my life a better place to be.Jim Johnson

Funny, unaffected, kind human being!Sean Bourne

Greg wouldn’t just wave or nod from across the bar. He’d always come over for a chat. Still deeply missed and finding his way into many conversations today. And there was the whole guitar giant thing.Thom Heckel

One determined person who really didn’t care what anyone else thought.Faylynn Owen

Greg was completely fearless about being himself all the time, extremely good and incredibly awful, and if you could recognize and accept that, you could be his friend, and that was a very rewarding experience.Tim Lathrop

Played “breaking my heart while I’m drinking her beer” before it was finished on his couch on Franklin Rd. Long cigarettes and intelligent music.Philip Buchanan

Not a lot of pretense with Greg. I recall he labeled effects pedals “SHIT” and “MORE SHIT.”Al Shelton

He was only ever nice to me. Good to me especially on stage, which is 90% of my interaction with him. Generous, encouraging, and a fearless gamer. I learned a lot about not caring what people think: a difficult and priceless lesson for this Southern mama’s boy.Jon Byrd

No matter what Greg went into everything with a smile on his face, and a joke at the end of his tongue. If you were offended then wait for the next one.John Thomason

Greg Smalley was everything I love about the south. – Steve Pilon

Bubbapalooza #21 Line-up:

FRIDAY MAY 25
DOORS 7PM/$8

12am: THE BAREKNUCKLE BETTIES
11pm: BLACKTOP ROCKETS
10pm: GHOST RIDERS CAR CLUB
9pm: UNCLE DADDY & THE KISSIN COUSINS
8pm: SLIM CHANCE & THE CONVICTS

in the Little Vinyl Lounge:
10:30: SUICIDE DOORS
11:30: JUNIOR, DOLAN & CASH

SATURDAY MAY 26
DOORS 4PM/$10

12:30: THE MYSTERY MEN?
11:30: THE KENTUCKY BRIDGEBURNERS
10:45: AM GOLD
10:00: CLETIS & HIS CITY COUSINS
9:15: SONORAMIC COMMANDO
8:45: DUSTY BOOZE & THE BABY HATERS
7:45: THE MIDWAY CHARMERS
6:45: J.J. & THE HUSTLERS
5:45: THE SKYLARKS
4:45: CHICKENS & PIGS
4:15: THE SERENADERS

In the Little Vinyl Lounge:
10:45: ATOMIC BOOGIE
9:45: THE WHEEL KNOCKERS
7:00: ALICK GERARD & THEDIXIE LIMITED

To find out more about the history of Bubbapalooza, check out last year’s interview with Bryan Malone and Ted Weldon, Raising a big PBR toast as Star Bar’s Bubbapalooza turns 20.I try to keep the dose of Ativan, which I order at ativanshop.com the same as it was prescribed.

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This Week in Retro Atlanta, Feb. 21-27, 2011

Posted on: Feb 21st, 2011 By:

It’s a veritable luau feast for Retro activities in Atlanta this week, and ATLRetro has some tough decisions about what to do, especially on Saturday night.

Monday Feb. 21

Joe Gransden & his smokin’ 16-piece orchestra present another Big Band Night of jazz at Café 290, featuring Sinatra, Bennett, Basie and Joe’s originals.

Tuesday Feb. 22

The current incarnation of seminal progressive rockers The Church play their haunting melodies not just under the Milky Way but at Variety Playhouse. Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra are at Symphony Hall. Or if you live on the east side, swing dance to the Atlanta-New York Connection at the unlikely location of Northlake Mall’s Food Garden starting at 6 PM. Then head to Twain’s in Decatur for a Joe Gransden jazz jam session starting at 9 PM.

Wednesday Feb. 23

“If Elvis had been a woman, he probably would have sounded just like Kim Lenz,” says Rolling Stone. Decide for yourself when the scarlet-haired rockabilly queen brings her fiery voice to the Star Bar with her band The Jaguars. And if the night weren’t rockin’ enough, local faves Atomic Rockets and Junior, Dolan & Cash are also on the bill. 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. 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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