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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ATLRetro’s Throw Back to the 20th Century New Years Eve Guide – Our Top Ten Vitally Vintage Eras for Toasting 2016

Posted on: Dec 29th, 2015 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

Ring in the New Year in vintage-style with Retro Atlanta!  Come celebrate what once was in 2015 and welcome with open arms what will be in 2016! Start the New Year off with a bang with all the hoppin’ shindigs we’ve found for you!Basement

1. Hey, Daddy-O! Twist into 2016 at The Basement during Electric WesternsKeep on Movin! New Year’s Rock and Soul Dance Party! featuring a night chock full of ‘60s rock-n-roll, soul, doo-wop and more! The DJs will have you hoppin’, so get dressed up to boogie down for $10! Complimentary midnight toast to ring in the New Year and doors at 8pm! Get some soul this New Years Eve with Kool Kat Ruby Velle & the Soulphonics at Venkman’s! Doors at 9:30pm and tickets include a champagne toast at midnight! Or let The Star Bar show you where it’s at during their New Years’ Eve Blowout Party! featuring Sidney Eloise & The Palms, Baby Baby, Cousin Dan and How I Became the Bomb!

Clermont2. Deep Roots & Old-Time Pandemonium. Ponder 2015 by getting to the root of it all! For a New Year’s Eve filled with foot stompin’ Americana, blues and rock ‘n’ roll, make your way to Eddie’s Attic for two hoppin’ helpings of the sultry Michelle Malone & Friends and her New Year’s Eve show! First show at 7:30pm! Second show starts at 10:30pm! Or get toasty in an old-timey way, while getting down and dirty at the seedy land of debauchery, the Clermont Lounge, as they bring you a rockin’ hootenanny this NYE with Urban Pioneers, Coldheart Canyon and The Entertainment Crackers! Doors at 9pm with a free champagne toast at midnight!

3. That’s Why They Call it the Blues. For some classic blues and jazz, shimmy on down to Blind Willie’s for their New Year’s Eve Party withThe Empress of the BluesSandra Hall & The Shadows! Doors at 7pm and $50 gets you guaranteed seating, party favors and a champagne toast at midnight! Fire up the blues at the Northside Tavern with Mudcat’s Rockin’ Venkman'sBlues New Year’s Eve Party featuring Danny ‘Mudcat’ Dudeck, Eddie Tigner, Lola, Albert White, the Atlanta Horns and more! $20 cover includes party favors and champagne with doors at 9pm! Fat Matt’s Rib Shack dishes out the low-down dirty blues with the hard-stompin’ Beverly “Guitar” Watkins this New Year’s Eve! And blues on down to Darwin’s Burgers & Blues for their New Year’s Eve Blues Bash with the Larry Griffith Band! $10 gets you appetizers, desserts and a champagne toast at midnight! Doors at 9:30pm!

4. Smooth Operator. Get ‘70s toasty and smooth in 2016 with Yacht Rock Revue at Park Tavern! And you won’t want to miss special guests Yacht Rock Schooner bringin’ in the funk! So, rock on down and set sail into 2016 with Yacht Rock Revue’s NYE party, with doors at 9pm and all-inclusive food and drinks!

5. Life’s A Beach! Hula your way into 2016 at Trader Vic’s New Years Eve in Paradise featuring Kool Kat Joshua Longino and The Disapyramids dishing out the sounds of surfer girls, beach blanket bingo, hot rods and twist contests, with a midnight champagne toast, all for $10! Doors at 9pm! Surf into the New Year with Surfer Blood, Kool Kats Gringo Star and Shantih Shantih at Aisle 5!

Aisle56. Play that Funky Music! Get funky and ring in the New Year with a little old school funk ‘n’ soul! Toast the New Year at the Variety Playhouse with The Motet and The Main Squeeze, funkin’ it up for $30 in advance or $35 at the door! Doors at 8pm!

7. The Cure for Bananarama. New-Wave is the epitome of 80’s pop culture, so celebrate 2015 while toasting 2016 by continuing The Shelter’s NYE tradition at the Famous Pub with Kool Kat VJ Anthony at their 7th Annual New Wave New Year’s Eve Party! Dress New-Wave, win prizes! The festivities begin at 10pm and $10 gets you party favors, a champagne toast at midnight, a ton of super rare New-Wave music videos and a bunch more surprises, so come on out and party like it’s 1989! Or get really ‘80s New Year’s Eve style at Bone Lick BBQ at their NYE in 3-D ‘80s-themed 3-D bash! Ring in the New Year with free retro arcade games, 3-D movies, complimentary champagne and more! Tickets are $5 in advance and $45 at the door and event begins at 9pm! You won’t want to miss Kool Kat Becky Cormier Finch with Denim Arcade dishing out their ‘80s tributes at Wild Wing Café in Suwannee! Doors at 9:30pm! And the Fox S.O.BTheatre’s Official NYE After-Party burns down the house with Heart Byrne, paying tribute to The Talking Heads at 1:30am!

8. Hey! Ho! Let’s Go! Get rebellious and rock into the New Year with some old school punk, revved up rockabilly and plain ol’ retro-inspired rock-n-roll! The Earl delivers a rockin’ NYE Bash punkin’ you into the New Year with The Coathangers, Black Linen, Bad Spell, and Kool Kat Rod Hamdallah’s new gig, The Gartrells at 9pm! Grease it up at Mule Camp Tavern’s New Years Eve Rumble featuring Kool Kat Hot Rod Walt and the Psycho-DeVilles revvin’ you into 2016! Rock out in the Music Room at Smith’s Olde Bar for a New Years Eve Tribute Bash with Smithsonian and Clashinista for $15 in advance or $20 at the door. Doors at 8pm! Or ring in the New Year with a Brit Invasion in the Atlanta Room with The Backyard Birds! $10 cover and doors at 8pm! Rock across the pond to the The Earl Smith Strand Theatre for A Stone’s New Year’s Eve with Stephen Skipper & His Rolling Stones Tribute Band with The Dirty Doors, from 8:30-11:45pm! Ring in the New Year with some old-school blues rock with Gregg Allman at Atlanta MasqueradeSymphony Hall at 9pm! And jam into the New Year with a night of Widespread Panic at the Fox Theatre!

9. We’re Stayin’ Alive! In Retro Atlanta that is! Boogie on down to Mary’s in East Atlanta for their annual Attack of the New Year’s Eve Party Monster event, featuring DJ 5 HR Boner spinning your favorite disco, indie, house and rock! There’s no cover and a complimentary champagne toast at midnight! Celebration begins at 9 pm!

10. Retro Geek-A-Rama! Corndog it up at Pallookaville this New Years! You’re guaranteed a funky time that includes a kid’s corndog drop followed by the grown-folks’ celebration! The celebration is free and starts at 8:30pm! Or take a fantastical demented trip to 2016 through Dante’s Labyrinth at the Masquerade this New Years! Masks and/or face paint is required to get down with the gnomes, trolls, maidens and devils, so come on out and get demented! Hey all you super-mutants and post-apocalyptic heroes, why not ring in the New Year with Kool Kat Rev. Andy as he DJs it up at Battle and Brew’s New Years Eve Vault Party! Doors at 8pm!

 

 

 

 

 

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