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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Weekend Update, April 22-24, 2011

Posted on: Apr 22nd, 2011 By:

Friday, April 22

American icon and lounge legend Tony Bennett plays the Fox Theatre. Charleston to the ragtime sound of Blair Crimmins & the Hookers at the Dancing in the Street Party outside Elliot Street Deli & Pub, 10 PM in Castleberry Hill. Also on the bill are hotdogs, icy delights from the King of Pops and music by the Artifice Club‘s DJ Doctor Q. Grammy Award-winning saxophonist/composer Joe Lovano joins the Georgia State University Jazz Band for an evening of music at vintage-movie-theater-turned-arts venue Rialto Center. Learn the Argentine tango with Tango Rio at Callanwolde Fine Arts Center. Saxophonist Traci Wynn delivers the jazz at Fernbank Museum of Natural History’s Martinis and IMAXJoe Gransden Trio jazzes up Haven Restaurant in BrookhavenFrankie’s Blues Mission is at Fat Matt’s Rib Shack, and Mudcat plays the blues at Northside Tavern.

Saturday April 23

Treasure hunt for vintage and contemporary clothes, housewares and other fun stuff from retailers and artists such as recent Kool Kat Chris Hamer at Funky Flea ATL from 1 to 6 PM at Ambient Plus Studio.

At night, Antsy McClain & the Trailer Park Troubadours serenade the “good life” on the road again of Airstream trailer living via a sound that’s a marvelous mix of rockabilly, country, swing and R&B at Red Light Cafe. For a casual chat with Antsy, who is this week’s Kool Kat, click hereLil Ed & the Blues Imperials play Blind Willie’s,and Mudcat plays a second night in a row at Northside Tavern. Better Than The Beatles pays tribute to the Fab Four at Jerry Farber’s Side Door. DJ Romeo Cologne transforms the sensationally seedy Clermont Lounge into a ’70s disco/funk inferno.

 

Sunday April 24

Jazz up your family Easter brunch with saxophonist Traci Wynn at Copeland’s in Buckhead from 11 AM to 3 PM. The Barrow Boys serve up a side of country during blues “dunch” between 1 and 4 PM at The Earl.

Ongoing

Leave it to the mad geniuses at Dad’s Garage to transform a beloved children’s classic into a bloody puppet musical. SCARLETT’S WEB features all your favorite characters from Wilbur the pig to Templeton the rat but adds some splattery special effects. Never mind, it’s all in fun though, they say, and definitely recommended only for anyone old enough to appreciate adult humor. Thurs., Fri. and Sat. nights at 8 p.m. through May 7.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec died in 1901, but it’s not a stretch to say that his vibrant posters and prints of showgirls, nightclub stars and the café culture influenced the 20thcentury romantic view of Paris and still inspire today’s burlesque performers. The High Museum of Art’s dynamic new special exhibition, TOULOUSE-LAUTREC AND FRIENDS: THE IRENE AND HOWARD STEIN COLLECTION, runs through May 1. Also at the High through May 29 is the MOMA-organized HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON: THE MODERN CENTURY, another blockbuster exhibit showcasing a photographer and photojournalist who captured on film many of the seminal moments  of the 20th century from World War II to the assassination of Ghandi, China’s cultural revolution to civil rights and consumer culture in America.

Be sure to tune back in on Monday for This Week in Retro Atlanta. If you know of a cool happening we’ve missed, send suggestions to ATLRetro@gmail.com.


 

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This Week in Retro Atlanta, April 18-24, 2011

Posted on: Apr 20th, 2011 By:

Monday April 18

Swing to Joe Gransden, trumpet player extraordinaire, and his 16-piece orchestra and celebrate the release of his newest recording this week during Big Band Night at Cafe 290 on the first and third Monday of every month. Northside Tavern hosts its weekly Blues Jam.

Tuesday April 19

Head back to the ’70s and ’80s with Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band at Philips Arena. Grab your horn and head to Twain’s in Decatur for a Joe Gransden jazz jam session starting at 9 PM. The Emory Jazz Ensemble is also playing tonight at the Schwartz Center J.T. Speed plays the blues at Fat Matt’s Rib Shack. Notorious DJ Romeo Cologne spins the best ‘70s funk and disco at 10 High in Virginia-Highland. Catch Tuesday Retro in the Metro nights at Midtown’s Deadwood Saloon, featuring live video mixes of ’80s, ’90s, and 2Ks hits.

Wednesday April 20

Get ready to rumba, cha-cha and jitterbug at the weekly Swing Night at Graveyard TavernDeacon Brandon Reeves and Danny “Mudcat” Dudeck bring on the blues at Fat Matt’s Rib Shack and Northside Tavern respectively. 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.

Thursday April 21

Not sure either of these bands is exactly Retro, but they certainly are wacky, making this perhaps the quirkiest night of the year in Atlanta concerts. At The Earl, forget Rock ’em Sock ’em Robots, Atlanta’s own crimefightin’ Falcon Lords face off in a no-holds-barred rock challenge against Captured by Robots promises Sci-fi fun with lead singer JBOT and the rest of his band robots built by him because he couldn’t get along with people. However, the crafty cyborgs have enslaved him by sticking a chip in his head, so they’re all robots now. Retro question, do they obey Asimov’s laws of robotics or are they more the Cyberdine kind? Nearby at the Masquerade, Japan’s Peelander-Z are well-known to Anime Weekend Atlanta attendees for their anime-inspired brightly-colored superhero suits, silly hats and their crazy antics which involve some serious audience interaction! Oh, and some dude named Charlie Sheen (I think he was pretty good in that movie PLATOON back in the ’80s but now he’s gone a little wild) is at the Fox Theatre tonight, too.

Cadillac Jones serves up some serious jazz funk at Atlanta’s tastiest new concert venue, Kathmandu Kitchen and Grill, formerly Pho Truc, in Clarkston from 8-10 PM. Listen to Tongo Hiti’s luxurious live lounge sounds, as well as some trippy takes on iconic pop songs, just about every Thursday night at Trader Vic’s. Wayne K. Li, Oliver Professor of Practice in Design and Engineering at Georgia Tech, delivers a gallery talk on “Experience in Motor Design” and get a chance to catch the special exhibit PASSIONE ITALIANA: DESIGN OF THE ITALIAN MOTORCYCLE during MODA‘s Thursday night Drink in Design from 6-8 PM. Read ATLRetro’s Kool Kat piece on curator Joe Remling here. Party ‘70s style with DJ Romeo Cologne at Aurum Lounge.  Breeze Kings and Chickenshack bring on the blues respectively at Northside Tavern and Fat Matt’s Rib Shack.Johnny Roquemore & the Apostles of Bluegrass are on the bill for Bluegrass Thursday at Red Light Cafe.

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