Kool Kat of the Week: Artie Mondello of The Delusionaires, Dishes on the Booty Shakin’ Stank and Twisted Taunting Tunes ‘Yer Mama Warned You About and Slingin’ that Floozy Sleaze at The Star Bar

Posted on: Jan 27th, 2015 By:

by Melanie Crew1421822531794
Managing Editor

Artie Mondello, dodgy, low-down guitar slingin’ transmitter of mischief and raunch, along with his partners in crime, The Delusionaires [Nadeem Khan on upright bass, Winthrop Fist (a.k.a. Dennie Carter) on drums and Lil’ Jimmy Ivy on tenor saxophone] will be causin’ a ruckus of a one night stand at The Star Bar this Saturday, Jan. 31, at 9 pm with garage rockers Tiger! Tiger and smut slingers Bad Friend!

Artie, northern by birth and reborn into the land of debauchery (the Dirty, Dirty!), the king of raunch has been delving into the nitty gritty since ’93, with turns in bands such as The Exotic Aarontones, The Vodkats, The Del Spektros and the still-active Mondellos. The Delusionaires formed (initially) in 2000 and have shared the stage with Tav Falco’s Panther Burns, the Dex Romweber Duo, Shannon & the Clams and the King Kahn & BBQ Show. They also have graced the stage at the 2003 Hukilau and were a featured act in the 2014 Coney Island Mermaid Parade Ball. Their ample releases to date include their 45 “Pistol Whipped”/”Fifth Kiss” (Dec. 2000) and LP “Destination Poon” (June 2003) on their own previously-named Zanzibar! Records; LP “Flooze Party” (Jan. 2013) by Beaverama! Records and their most recent 45 “Scrump”/”The Worm Whispers” (Spring 2014) on Baltimore’s Hidden Volume Records. In sum, The Delusionaires have earned that below-the-belt reputation they’ve fought tooth and nail for (Actually, it seems they’re pretty much a natural in that department!) and which works perfectly for our ears here at ATLRetro!

L-R: Dennie Carter, Artie Mondello, Jim Ivy, Nadeem Khan

Photo Credit: Jim Leatherman L-R: Dennie Carter, Jim Ivy, Nadeem Khan, Artie Mondello

ATLRetro caught up with Artie for a quick interview about his take on Las Vegas GrindThe Delusionaires’ maniacal craving to deliver a night of debauchery, drankin’ and booty shakin’; his retro rock ‘n’ old-school influences; and everything else we could think to ask about the naughty little band that could!

And while you’re takin’ a gander at our little Q&A with Artie, get an earful of The Delusionaires’ “The Scrump” and “She Crawls on Her Belly Like a Reptile.

ATLRetro: The Delusionaires’ sound, in essence, has been described as having a “Las Vegas Grind”-style with a twist of the low-down and dirty that’ll make your mama cry and your daddy beg for more. What exactly is “Las Vegas Grind” and how would you describe the band’s sound?

Artie Mondello: LAS VEGAS GRIND was a series of comps that Tim Warren [Crypt Records] put out starting in the late ’80s, foldercollecting sort of the slime beneath the underbelly of American popular music. You could simply call it “stripper music” but not, like, David Rose’s “The Stripper”; that’s way more uptown than what we’re talking about here. This stuff is completely devoid of any socially redeeming value, and I mean that as a virtue. All the hyperbole that the early critics heaped on rock ‘n’ roll and R&B – like, you know, leering degenerates shambling through moronic chord changes against drunken jungle drums – is actually true here. They’re records played by drunks looking to get drunker and hopefully laid, usually written in about the same time it takes to listen to it, and forgotten by everybody involved by the time last call rolls around. Very much like a cheap pulp novel – lurid, crude, prurient and totally artless. Of course, that’s everything in the world we hold dear, and that’s The Delusionaires‘ sound. The time-honored strip joint lineup of a sleazy tenor sax, thudding bass fiddle, flailing drums and greasy guitar. No attention whatsoever to song craft or polish. This isn’t music meant to be listened to; it’s for dancing, if not dirtily, then at the very least drunkenly.

Photo Credit: Aloe Vera, L-R: Jim Ivy, Dennie Carter, Artie Mondello

Photo Credit: Aloe Vera, L-R: Jim Ivy, Dennie Carter, Artie Mondello

As the guitar player and someone who admittedly subsists off a “cultural diet of monster movies, stag films, horror comics and Hollywood tell-alls,” can you let our readers know what exactly drew you to play music and when you picked up your first guitar?

I got my first guitar when I was 18, for Christmas from my parents. I’d never displayed any sort of musical talent whatsoever and had no designs on ever being able to play an instrument. But, when someone gives you a guitar, you kinda have to learn it! Family, friend and foe alike would rue that day for years to come, ’cause if there was anything everyone could agree on when I was growing up, it was that I should never be allowed anywhere near a musical instrument. That was actually the main reason I did learn: just to be an asshole. That’s pretty much the entire reason I started actually performing, too. If there was anything less popular than my guitar playing, it was my singing, and I’m just enough of a dick to do both onstage just because everybody says I shouldn’t. I always maintained that I don’t have any talent, just a helluva lotta balls.

Photo Credit: Jim Leatherman, L-R: Nadeem Khan, Dennie Carter, Jim Ivy, Artie Mondello

Photo Credit: Jim Leatherman, L-R: Nadeem Khan, Dennie Carter, Jim Ivy, Artie Mondello

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

People here tend to drink a lot and they tend to shake their ass when they’re drunk. That’s the magic equation right there. Plus, with 3/4 of the band living out of state, we don’t get to play here all that often, which gives audiences plenty of time to forgive whatever we did at the last show.

You’ve been a member of several musical outfits [The Exotic Aarontones, The Vodkats, The Del Spektros and the still-active Mondellos] since 1993. What sort of maniacal mojo does The Delusionaires have that even after 15 years of breakups and reunions, makes you want to keep dishin’ out that “swampland sleaze”?

My guess is that one of us ran over a gypsy and we got cursed to spend eternity together. Outside of that, it’s the work of two factors. First, we’re lifelong friends, co-dependents, drinking buddies and essentially brothers, so there’s only so long we’re gonna stay apart. Second, and most significant, we just plain love playing this stuff. It’s not like a genre we choose to play; it’s not calculated, there’s no effort to create a certain sound, it’s just literally what comes out when ya put the four of us together. It’s my favorite sound in the world, literally the sound that’s running in my head all the time. That’s probably why we can exist living in two different states, never practicing and never planning anything out. This slop’s so natural to us, we don’t have to learn it.  It’s just what we are.

Photo Credit: Gretchen Wood, L-R Nadeem Khan, Jim Ivy

Photo Credit: Gretchen Wood, L-R Nadeem Khan, Jim Ivy

Who would you say are your top three musical influences?

God, there’s sooooo many, and what makes it harder is that a lot of ’em I don’t even know the names. Probably more than anything, I’d have to say the soundtracks to TV shows and exploitation movies circa 1950-1965, just that kinda generic rock ‘n’ roll and rhythm & blues that usually didn’t even get credited. The movie, THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN’T DIE (dir. Joseph Green, 1962) is a classic example; just the awesomest, sleaziest incidental music you could ever ask for. Also, the main title to THE DEVIL’S HAND (dir. William J. Hole, Jr., 1961) – I could listen to that for six hours straight. Throw in the AIP teensploitation flicks and just about any bottom-rung television show that got rerun in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and you’ve summed up at least half of every musical influence I’ve ever had.

Another major influence is the stuff Sam Phillips recorded in Memphis in the ’50s, not so much the Sun Rockabilly stuff (which is still a huge favorite and influence on me, don’t get me wrong) as the blues and boogie sides he cut, mostly to lease to other labels. It’s just phenomenal, almost frightening to hear. Crude as can be, with the minimum number of personnel he could scrape together, cheap amplifiers literally self-destructing over the course of the song, the musicians not only obviously, but audibly drunk. Anything with Pat Hare on guitar is just better than sex, pure psycho genius, and if there’s any dirtier, drunker, more louche sound than Willie Nix‘s records, I’m man enough to tell you I couldn’t handle it. Greatest stuff on earth.

Narrowing it down to a single person, I’d hafta say Link Wray, no question. I was never a lead player, never practiced any licks or anything, and discovering Link taught me that I didn’t need to feel bad about that for a second. I’m still no great shakes on guitar, but I’ll tell ya, I’d be totally unlistenable without the lessons I picked up from his records. No question.

The Delusionaires’ earlier releases, Dec. 2000’s 45 “Pistol Whipped/”Fifth Kiss” and June 2003’s DESTINATION POON LP were both released bya1192730836_10 your own record label, Zanzibar! Records. Tell our readers a little bit about your record label and what they’re up to now.

We created Zanzibar Records solely to put out that first 45, which we always knew was something we’d have to do ourselves because there was basically zero demand for it. 7″ singles were an all-but-dead medium back in 2000; I mean, nobody wanted ’em, least of all from a marginal outfit like us. Only an idiot would’ve wanted to put out a Delusionaires 45 at the time. And, of course, we had four idiots. Anyway, it wasn’t all that ruinous; back then, you could press up a couple hundred singles on red wax for like $500, and as there was no other expense involved in the record – I recorded it in my kitchen on used tape and “mastered” it through my VCR – it didn’t, like, ruin our lives. A couple years later, we had the bright idea to record an album, which probably was an even stupider idea, ’cause by that time, we were really pariahs on the scene. But again, it was something we wanted to do, for our own kicks, at least, and we dusted off the old Zanzibar label again. But that was the extent of the Zanzibar Records line, one 45 and one CD, and a whole lotta cornball “promotion” to make it sound more impressive than it was. I woulda loved to have made it an actual, active label, but honestly, I could barely afford to buy records, let alone release them.

Fast-forward to 2012, when we recorded the second album, which was the stupidest idea yet — the band wasn’t even officially together, and with me in Atlanta and the others down in Orlando & Tampa, there weren’t any plans on changing that. There really weren’t any plans on even releasing it, but Nadeem [bass] insisted it needed to come out, on vinyl to boot. Obviously, nobody was gonna volunteer for that kinda sacrifice, so we again put it out ourselves. Unfortunately, an actual, legitimate label named Zanzibar Records had popped up in the years since we’d split, so Beaverama! Records was born. I’d love to do more releases on this one, like, what they used to call “Adult Party Albums,” but as usual, I can’t even consider something like that when I can’t even afford to fix my windshield wipers.

Photo Credit: Jim Leatherman, L-R: Nadeem Khan, Jim Ivy, Dennie Carter

Photo Credit: Jim Leatherman, L-R: Nadeem Khan, Jim Ivy, Dennie Carter

We at ATLRetro dig your gig posters! And love the twisted throwback to ‘50s and ‘60s pop art echoing the darker side of Hollywood. Can you tell our readers who the artistic genius behind your show posters is?

Heh, thanks! No genius behind ’em, just me, screwin’ around with stuff till I like how it looks. I’m not an artist or designer or anything. It’s just fun, especially since we’re the only ones I’m looking to please. I’ve done a couple posters for other people’s bands or events, and man, did they suck. Total disasters.

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

That basically already happened a couple years back, when Bryan [Malone] at The Star Bar put together a bill of the Dels, Dex Romweber and Tav Falco’s Panther Burns. Seriously, that was like the bill I would have doodled fantasy posters of in my notebook in high school. Outside of that, I think my dream line-up’d be The A-Bones, The Royal Pendletons, The Trashwomen, The Brentwoods and Les Sexareenos, with the Dels backing Barrence Whitfield. Now, THAT’D be a festival even I’d go to…

Anything tantalizing planned for your rowdy throw down this coming Saturday at The Star Bar?

Photo Credit: Terran McCanna - Anonymous fan drawing left onstage in Jacksonville, FL

Photo Credit: Terran McCanna – Anonymous fan drawing left onstage in Jacksonville, FL

The Delusionaires never plan anything out. I don’t remember the last time we even had a set list that wasn’t just a cheat sheet with a bunch of random titles. We never go into a show having any idea how it’s gonna play out. It’s not by design, it’s just that we’re that disorganized. The one time I remember us actually plotting something out was the night we strung up a trapeze in the old Bodhisattva Social Club, and that was a catastrophe.

Actually, I lied, we do have at least one thing planned for Saturday – Buffi and Susanne from Tiger! Tiger! are going to sing a couple of numbers with us, I think, and we’ll hopefully get Shane to play second sax on a couple as well. We did this at a show in St. Pete a few months back, and it was insane, just sick in all the right ways.

What’s next for you and The Delusionaires?

As usual, the Dels have almost nothing planned, just waiting to see what screwy new misadventure pops up. The one solid item in our future is a micro-tour of the Eastern seaboard at the end of June, centered around the Midnite Monster Hop in NYC on June 27, and even that hinges on none of us dying before then. I myself am playing a solo set as a one-man band in St. Augustine on Valentine’s Day, as part of a record release party for the amazing Kensley Stewart. Like pretty much every gig I do, in any of my bands, the set itself is just a MacGuffin, basically an excuse for me to go places and do things that I’m too lazy to do otherwise.

Photo Credit: Terran McCanna, L-R Artie Mondello, Jim Ivy, Cecilia Bravo (Fluffgirl Burlesque Society)

Photo Credit: Terran McCanna, L-R Artie Mondello, Jim Ivy, Cecilia Bravo (Fluffgirl Burlesque Society)

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

God, if anything, they probably already know too much. Maybe that, no matter what we might tell you after the set, we actually are all married.

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

Q: “Here, ya wanna take the rest of this keg home and finish it off?”
A: “Why, yes. Yes, we do.”

Actually, that did happen once after a gig, and it was a disaster…

 

 

Photos provided courtesy of Artie Mondello and used with permission.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Julea Thomerson on ‘Diesel Smoke & Dangerous Curves,’ Her Fellas, the Dear Johns and Honky-Tonkin’ it Up at the Star Bar

Posted on: Mar 10th, 2014 By:

Photo by JoLynn Still

by Melanie Crew
Contributing Writer

Julea Thomerson, guitar totin’, classic country-western music lovin’ high-energy southern gal and her Dear Johns will be causin’ a ruckus with a night of boot stompin’ rockabilly and country-western revival at The Star Bar this Friday, March 14! It’ll be a hootenanny and a half with her big rig honky-tonk ramblin’ pals, Cletis & His City Cousins [June 2012; see ATLRetro’s Kool Kat feature on Cletis Reid, here] releasing a rockin’ new CD, also featuring The Blacktop Rocketsslingin’ some revved up rockabilly to boot!

Julea is no newbie to Atlanta’s ‘roots’ music underground.  She’s been delivering her catchy vintage vocals and guitar pickin’ with a handful of Atlanta’s favorites, from Danny ‘Mudcat’Dudeck to Bill Sheffield to Nathon Nelson.  She was also a member of the all-girl, traditional country band, The Bareknuckle Betties, from 2010-2012.  After the Betties disbanded, she brought together a group of rockin’ fellas and created her current line-up of, Julea & Her Dear Johns.  The ‘Dear Johns’ are Spike Fullerton of the Ghost Riders Car Club [Feb. 2011: see ATLRetro’s Kool Kat feature on Spike, here] on guitar, Chad Vaillancourt lightin’ a fire on the upright bass and Gabe Pline on drums.  They’ve been gettin’ around town and revvin’ up Atlanta old-fashioned country and rockabilly-style at venues and events such as The Star Bar, The Earl, the Rockabilly Luau [Aug. 2013; see ATLRetro’s feature on the Rockabilly Luau here], the East Atlanta Strut and the Little Five Point Halloween Festival.  With her unique twangy vocals and boot-stompin’ kick assery, the sky’s the limit for Julea!

ATLRetro caught up with Julea for a quick interview about her love of traditional old-fashioned retro music made by trailblazin’ ladies who didn’t give a damn; her fellas, the Dear Johns; and her new weekly radio show, Diesel Smoke and Dangerous Curves.

And while you’re takin’ a gander at our little Q&A with Julea, take a listen to Julea & Her Dear Johns rockin’ out at The Star Bar with their revved up tune, “Rocket Dog” in December 2013 here.

How did you find your fellas, the ‘Dear Johns’ and become a band?

We started playing together about two years ago. I was playing shows with a few different folks after my previous band broke up and this was the configuration that stuck. I’ve known Chad (upright bass) for years. He’s my best friend and he’s taught me a lot about music.  I met Spike (guitar) at shows around town and always really enjoyed talking country music with him. I met Gabe (drums) the same way, but I also enjoyed talking with him because he’s a school teacher like me.

How did you get involved in the Atlanta ‘roots’ music scene? Was it easy or did you have to ‘pay your dues’?

I got involved in the roots music scene when I started singing with Mudcat and Bill Sheffield at the Northside Tavern back in 2007. I suppose I “paid my dues” in a sense – I went to a lot of open mics, and I would go to shows and wait around until the bars were closing down and most of the patrons were gone, because it was at that point that some of the performers I would go see would let me get up on stage with them and sing a song or two.  Things happened pretty quickly when I started writing songs however.  I put a band together and recorded an album that I never released, and then there was The BareKnuckle Betties, an all female traditional country band I played with for a few years. I think folks who have gotten to know me see that I really love country western music, and that my passion for acquiring and sharing what musical knowledge I have is genuine. The roots music community in Atlanta is full of wonderful, good people who support each other, and many of them have been very encouraging to me.

If you could build a dream band to play with, who would you pick to be in it and why?

I’ve never thought about it all that much.  I’m pretty happy with the way things are these days. I suppose it wouldn’t be terrible to have Grady Martin in my band though, since he’s the greatest country western & rockabilly guitarist of all time. I don’t think I would mind playing music with him at all.  As far as folks who are alive today, I’d say Chris Scruggs, Kenny Vaughan, and Deke Dickerson are doing a fine job carrying on the tradition of country western guitar greatness.

Can you tell our readers a little about your weekly radio show?

My weekly radio hour, “Diesel Smoke and Dangerous Curves,” will air on AM1690 on Wednesday evenings from 7-8 pm starting April 2.  I’m so excited to be contributing to this wonderful station.  My hour will probably have a hillbilly, classic country western and rockabilly focus, just because that’s what I love the most in my heart and what I have the most of in my record collection.  But I’m also planning to cover the genres of pre-war piedmont blues, ’40s and ’50s rhythm and blues, “popcorn” and northern soul, a smidge of garage and really just everything that is good and should be played on the radio.

I’ll be playing music from both male and female performers, but I do hope to focus a spotlight on many female artists who never got the spotlight they deserved. I’m also planning to interview some trailblazing women who were making great music back when folks were telling them there was “no place for women in country music.” I have a lot of records made by folks who were just as good as Loretta Lynn or Etta James but never got the recognition they deserved. My show will focus on those women and men.

Do you have any plans for an album with your ‘Dear Johns’?

Oh, yes.  I’m studio shopping at the moment. Looking for a good engineer with a good live room and access to a tape machine who’s not afraid to do everything live.  If you are that man or woman, please get in touch with me!

Did you start playing guitar and banjo as a little girl or learn later? Any story about how you got started?

I learned guitar when I was a teenager and I’m so glad I did. My mom really wanted me to try it, but I didn’t want to at first. I almost didn’t learn to play at all because I didn’t want to cut my long nails off.  I couldn’t imagine how different my life would be if I didn’t play guitar.  I’m so glad I didn’t let my stupid nails get in the way!

I learned banjo a few years ago when I bought one.  I’m not a “real banjo player,” but I enjoy messing around on it and I love how it’s changed the way I write music at many times.  It’s a wonderful instrument. I think everyone should have a banjo!

Who are some of your favorite vintage performers and influences?

SO many! Too many to name them all, but I’ll share a few.  I love Charline Arthur because she was so talented and she didn’t take any crap from anyone.  I love Ma Rainey because she used to start her performances inside a giant box done-up to look like a Victrola only to emerge from the box in the middle of the first song covered in gold necklaces and flashing her gold teeth.  I also love her because she could perform with a big ol’ band at minstrel shows and opera houses without a microphone.  I love Lottie Kimbrough because her voice sounds like butter and makes me teary-eyed.  I love Lorrie Collins because she is the greatest rockabilly singer of all time, and because she sang about what she wanted to no matter what kind of reputation it would give her.  I love Mimi Roman because she is a New York Jewish sharp-shooting cowgirl country western singer who toured with Ronnie Self and Goldie Hill, and also because she’s a very nice lady who has been kind enough to talk with me and has been very encouraging to me about my music. You’ll hear from all these gals and more on my radio program, “Diesel Smoke and Dangerous Curves.”

Any special plans for Friday’s show at The Star Bar?

I’ll be playing some new tunes with the fellas, and I’ve also worked up a fun duet with Dave Weil from The Blacktop Rockets.  Also, my pals Cletis Reid and Johnny McGowan have put together a new CD that they’ll be releasing that night. If you like truck-driving country, you’ll want to come on out and pick one up!

What’s next for Julea and Her Dear Johns?

Definitely hoping to get into the studio and record an album soon.  Hopefully we’ll keep playing cool shows and I’ll keep writing new songs.

We all know that the life of a musician can get hectic.  What do you do on a regular day when you’re just being Julea?

I teach first grade at an arts-integrated elementary school in the Atlanta area.  It can be a challenging job, but I love it so much.  I’ve taught second, third and fourth grade in the past as well.  If I’m not teaching, or playing music, or writing music, then you can probably find me at the record store.

Who are some of your favorite female local artists?

There are so many cool women in Atlanta playing really good music. Buffi Aguero (Tiger! Tiger! & The Subsonics) inspires me, as does Aileen Loy (Till Someone Loses An Eye) [March 2013; see ATLRetro’s Kool Kat feature on Aileen, here], Katy Graves and Jennifer Leavey (from Catfight!) [May 2012; see ATLRetro’s Kool Kat feature on Katy, here], Suzanne Gibboney (Tiger!Tiger!, LUST and Catfight!), Adron, Cameron Federal (Little Country Giants) Caroline Engel (Caroline & The Ramblers) [July 2012; see ATLRetro’s Kool Kat feature on Caroline, here], Lindsay Rakers, and so many more!  My friend Andy Deaver-Edmonstone (from The BareKnuckle Betties) has a great new band called the Burnt Mountain Benders that I can’t wait to hear. I’ve also gotten really into Kira Annalise‘s music here recently.  She writes amazing songs.

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

I very much prefer mono recording over stereo.  In fact, I detest the whole concept of stereo recording. I think it’s ruined many great songs.

All photographs are courtesy of Julea Thomerson and used with permission.

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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Kool Kat of the Week: Watch out, Shirley Jones! Spooky Partridge’s Katy Graves Is a Real Mother?!

Posted on: May 9th, 2012 By:

Katy Graves and son Nick in Spooky Partridge. Photo courtesy of Katy Graves.

By James Kelly
Contributing Music Editor

With Mother’s Day approaching, ATLRetro wanted to find someone special who represents both the Atlanta music scene and makes motherhood look easy. Local musician Katy Graves is one of the most energetic, friendly and interesting people in town. She has been part of the rock & roll community for many years in such bands as Doll Squad and Catfight, and while she is currently working on her teaching degree, she is also in an amazing and entertaining band called Spooky Partridge, with HER 10-YEAR-OLD SON, Nick Christian!!! Those credentials and the fact that Spooky Partridge are rocking Shorty’s Pizza in Tucker this Saturday May 12 at 8 p.m. are more than sufficient for ATLRetro to make Katy Kool Kat of the Week just in time for Mother’s Day!

ATLRetro: How did you initially get involved with performing music in Atlanta? What was your first band experience?

Katy: I sang in a couple bands in high school starting in about the 9th grade, and by the 11th grade, our band, The Doughboys, was playing out at the infamous Margaritaville as well as The Dugout in Emory Village. We did mostly covers by bands like The Police, Squeeze, The Jam, Ramones, Echo and the Bunnymen and loads of REM. Our guitar player loved REM! Can you imagine me singing REM covers? We had some originals, but mostly covers. I played cello and and piano as a kid. Susanne Gibboney (who plays with Tiger! Tiger!, Lust and Catfight), and I started Doll Squad while I was in college. We both worked at Junkman’s Daughter at the time. We all loved The Runaways and ’60s girl groups, but also L7 and the Lunachicks so we wanted to be in an all-girl band. Doll Squad opened for Shonen Knife at the Masquerade, that was so fun! 

Catfight was an incredibly popular band for several years. what do you think was the source of the appeal, and what was going on in Atlanta at that time to make the scene so open to the band? How was David T. Lindsay involved?

Ann Beaman and I had been in Doll Squad for a while, and that had kind of run its course. We ran an ad for a guitar player so we could start a new band, and Jennifer Leavey answered. She was the only person who answered that wasn’t nuts! Jennifer is just an incredible songwriter, and Catfight really took off. I think the reason we managed to do well was that we had songs with elements of a several kinds of genres and we could fit in on a lot of shows, appeal to a lot of people. We were a little garage, a little punk; we liked rockabilly; we did some girl group type songs; we also covered Van Halen, though!

David Lindsay put out a Doll Squad 7″, and he and I were friends. He had had a disagreement with someone in Doll Squad and wasn’t keen to put out any more of our records. I didn’t know if I would want to work with Catfight, but I brought a tape over of us and gave it to him. I told him I just wanted him to give me some feedback. He called me like an hour after I gave him the tape and told me he had to put out our stuff! David put out two singles and two CDs on his label, Worry Bird Records.

How did working in the music business affect your perception of playing music as a profession? Any good sleazy Green Room stories?

I remember when I got a job working for a record company, this boyfriend (a musician) said, “You are working for the enemy now!!!” I had a great run working in the music business for 15 years, but sometimes I was conflicted. It’s hard when you have to sell art like it is shoes or office supplies or something. Also, I figured out quite early on that I did not care about meeting a lot of famous people, which I thought initially would be really fun. Yawn! That being said two of the nicest people I met while working at a record company were Brittany Spears and Notorious B.I.G. Seriously! There were a few who were complete jerks – if you see me out sometime I’ll tell you who!! I can’t think of any super sleazy stories, but I do remember we took this guy from a New York band to the Clermont Lounge after his show one night. He has irritated all of us with this superior attitude, like he had seen it all/done it all in NYC. We introduced him to Blondie, she personalized a beer can for him as she does, and he just about lost it. He was completely freaked out by the whole Clermont scene! We couldn’t believe it – he was playing Mr. Badass rock guy but he got all nervous at the Clermont! Come on!

What must one do to reconcile motherhood with a rock & roll lifestyle?

Well, I began my rock’ & roll mom lifestyle when Nick was in utero – I kept playing shows with Catfight until I was more than eight months pregnant! I would have played up until I went into labor, but Jennifer but the kibosh on that. Probably the girls were sick of loading all the equipment without me at that point. Anyway, you have to rock & roll at home a lot more when you are a mom, because as you might guess it becomes difficult to be out at shows until 2 a.m. on a regular basis. The child watched THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT from an early age, which is a questionable decision when you think about how The Who treat equipment, but we escaped any serious damage around the house somehow. When I still worked for a record company I brought Nick to every daytime in-store appearance by a band that I was working. One year I took him to Ozzfest. I always tried to take him to any daytime shows I could find – he went to Warped Tour a few times. And yes – we made him wear earplugs to every show, of course! Finally I ended up being in a band WITH my son so I could still play but also keep kid-friendly hours!

Spooky Partridge's Nick poses with a pair of drumsticks.

Tell us about Nick. Do you think he will become a professional musician? Or a baseball player? He seems equally great at both…

Nick turned 10 in February. He has been in Montessori school since he was 3. He plays drums and guitar; he can play bass and fools around on piano as well. He is dyslexic, which I believe is why he is so good at music and art; I think that the things in his brain that often make reading hard make music easy. He loves to draw. And yes, he does love baseball and soccer. I am the only mom in Americawho actually asks her child to please use the Wii or the Nintendo DSI, because we have these expensive games and the kid never uses them! He loves Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, The Who and The Cartoon Network. Nick cooks a lot – he puts red pepper flakes and/or Siracha in almost everything, however, so if you don’t like spicy food, you have to watch out. At different times he has told me that when he wants to grow up he wants to be a musician, a baseball player, a soccer player or a pathologist. Yes, a pathologist! Recently he has gotten way interested in bird-watching, of all things! He can identify lots of birds, and he draws them all the time.

Where did the idea for “Spooky Partridge” come from, and what was the formation of the band like for everyone?

Nick’s dad is Shawn Christian from X-Impossibles and Rock City Dropouts. Shawn and I met because we were in bands that played shows together all the time, so it was only natural that we wanted our child to be a musician. Nick was almost named Marshall – after the amp, of course! Shawn and I made sure that Santa brought Nick a drum set when he was two years old. By the time he was seven, he was getting pretty good, and since I had a friend teaching at a rock band camp, we sent Nick there that summer. That is when we could see he was really progressing, when we saw him play with a band. So we sent him again two years ago. He wanted to play “No Action” by Elvis Costello, but the kids in the band couldn’t learn it fast enough to perform it, which bummed him out. There were so many songs Nick wanted to play and no one to play them with. I was like “Why am I paying for this rock band camp when we can just have rock band camp at home for free?” Those camps are crazy expensive, and we already had a practice room in our house. What was I thinking?

Shawn and I decided that we would have a family band. Shawn and I have not been a couple since Nick was two, but we get along extremely well, so the band was nothing but fun from the start. We started by learning songs that Nick wanted to do, we started writing originals. Nick has written some on guitar, and he writes words and works with his dad to write songs, like “I Hate Chores.”

Spooky Partridge performs at last year's Tunes From The Tombs.

Any plans to release a Spooky Partridge record anytime?

We have three songs recorded that we are really happy with, and we need to record some more! We recorded the songs with Jimmy Demer from The Accidents, and his two daughters sing back up on our song, “Robots Don’t Poop.” It’s me that is holding this record up, really – around the time we started the band I went back to school to become a Montessori teacher. I work full time, I am in school, I’m a single mom, and I’m in two bands since Catfight has been out playing again this year. I’m hoping after I finish my class at the end of the summer we can really focus on getting out a CD. Vinyl would be cool, too! Right now we have music up on our Facebook/ReverbNation page, so everyone go listen to that!

How do you go about booking a band in Atlanta, with a 10-year-old drummer?

Very carefully! We have been very lucky; Nick doesn’t even know how lucky he is, what great shows he has played! Before he turned 10, he got to play not only [Rock n Roll] Monster Bash and Drive Invasion, but he got to open for CJ Ramone at Masquerade! We started by playing in restaurants owned by friends, we got everyone we knew out to see us, and we were lucky that a lot of folks posted videos of us on youtube. We got a lot of good word of mouth, and that led to more shows. I have played some of the most interesting shows with this band. We have played at Atlanta Rocks rock climbing gym on top of a huge boulder! You have to get creative booking shows when you have a 10-year-old in the band, but really I would say it’s good to do that no matter what kind of band you have.

What’s coming up for the band in the near future?

Well, we are playing at Shorty’s Pizza in Tucker on Saturday, May 12. We have wanted to play Shorty’s because the food is great! This is a special show because it’s also an end-of-season party for Nick’s baseball team. The coach wanted Spooky Partridge for the party, and we were only too glad to oblige. There is one kid on Nick’s team who loves Led Zeppelin as much as Nick, so we are going to do an abbreviated “Moby Dick” for him. We are also playing an art opening at the Defoor Centre on June 10! That should be great.

Catfight is playing Tunes From the Tombs at Oakland Cemetery on Sat. May 19 at 3 p.m. in the Criminal Records tent. Also we are playing at the Plaza Theatre before the [Blast-off Burlesque Taboo-La-La] screening of BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS June 2 – my dream show!

Spooky Partridge. Photo credit: Rose Riot.

Any words of wisdom for aspiring female musicians? Mothers?

I have a little anecdote about being a female musician in Atlanta 20 years ago for everyone, and I hope this is something that does not happen to women in bands anymore! Doll Squad was playing at Masquerade one night, and when we finished we got off stage and wandered around, as you do, waiting to see the next band. This guy came over and said, (imagine redneck kind of voice) “Y’all were pretty good. But you’d be better if you played naked.” We just had to laugh – what can you say?? That was not the only incident like that I experienced with Doll Squad or Catfight, but it’s been a long, long time since I heard any nonsense like that. I hope no women in bands have that experience these days, but unfortunately I bet they do . . . Just keep playing ladies! Ignore the crap and get out there and play.

Moms: Expose your child to music as soon as possible – in the womb! Play every kind of music for them. Let them explore what they like. Even if you can’t sing or play anything sing with your child anyway. Get silly, have fun! Nick and I will sing “Ma-na-ma-na” from The Muppets in the car, then we sing “Bohemian Rhapsody.” It’s all music, it’s all good.

One more word of wisdom for mothers – no matter how much you want to absolutely do not watch THE STOOGES LIVE IN DETROIT DVD with your toddler thinking that he is too young to notice what obscenities Iggy Pop is yelling out. You could find yourself in the middle of Kroger with a child who yells “F****** dirt!” in the middle of the produce department. If this does happen, do what I do – pretend you are horrified and have no idea where the child could have learned this! If you are lucky, as I was, you ask him where he learned that word and he says, “From Daddy!”

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