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.

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This Week in Retro Atlanta, May 23-29, 2011

Posted on: May 23rd, 2011 By:

Monday May 23

Find out if Kingsized and Tongo Hiti lead singer Big Mike Geier will croon a tune or two for tips during his second week as Monday night’s celebrity bartender at newly opened Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong Parlor. Northside Tavern hosts its weekly Blues Jam.

Tuesday May 24

Parrotheads, take note! Jimmy Buffet & the Coral Reefer band aren’t wasting away in Margaritaville but playing at Lakewood Amphitheatre tonight. The Earl throws its 5th Annual Bob Dylan Birthday Bash featuring at least 22 guest singers. The $7 cover benefits Ovarian Cycle, an Atlanta-based organization raising money for ovarian cancer research. Grab your horn and head to Twain’s in Decatur for a Joe Gransden jazz jam session starting at 9 PM. 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 May 25

Get ready to rumba, cha-cha and jitterbug at the weekly Swing Night at Graveyard TavernFrankie’s Blues Mission and Danny “Mudcat” Dudeck bring on the blues at Fat Matt’s Rib Shack and Northside Tavern respectively. Joe Gransden now plays every Wed. night 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.

Thursday May 26

I Want Whisky fuse bluegrass and punk rock at Twain’s. 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. Party ‘70s style with DJ Romeo Cologne at Aurum LoungeBreeze Kings and Chickenshack bring on the blues respectively at Northside Tavern and Fat Matt’s Rib Shack.Bluegrass Thursday at Red Light Cafe features the Amanda Meredith Band.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Weekend Update: May 13-15, 2011

Posted on: May 13th, 2011 By:

It’s only bad luck if you stay home on Friday the 13th, but Saturday is another of those Retro-crazy days full of tough choices. ATLRetro is terrifyingly torn between doing the zombie, rockabilly and ROCK ‘N’ ROLL HIGH SCHOOL

Friday, May 13

For Whom The Ramones Toll. Read the Mark Arson’s review to find out why you shouldn’t miss one of two screenings of cult favorite ROCK N ROLL HIGH SCHOOL, this month’s  Art Opening & A Movie,  at the Plaza Theatre. Since ROCKY HORROR is downstairs in the main theatre, tonight’s midnight show will be in the more intimate upstairs screening room, but we’re certain there will be plenty of screamin’ as  #1 Ramones fan Riff Randall (PJ Soles) and mouse-loving music teacher Mr. McGree (Paul Bartel) declare school’s out to no-fun Principal Togar (Mary Woronoff). And you get a chance to see some groovy artwork by ATLRetro featured artists Derek Yaniger, Chris Hamer and more of Atlanta’s best pop culture artists.

Indie alt-rock bands Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven play the art deco built-in-1931 Buckhead Theatre. Redneck underground favorites Slim Chance & the Convicts team up with the alt-country Wheel Knockers for a no-cover show celebrating their new EP release and to say farewell to their bass player at Milltown Arms Tavern in Cabbagetown. Chanteuse Julie Dexter sings jazz and soul at Fernbank Museum of Natural History’s Martinis and IMAX.

Saturday May 14

Celebrate the 75th anniversary of the publication of the book GONE WITH THE WIND from 10:30 AM to 4:30 PM at the Margaret Mitchell House in Midtown. Experience 150 years of history with this special program which delves into the entire GWTW story, including Civil War soldiers fighting the Battle of Atlanta, the city in the 1920s when Margaret Mitchell wrote the book, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel’s lasting legacy. The all-day event is part of a yearlong Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind 75th Anniversary Celebration series by the Atlanta History Center.

Check out this week’s Kool Kat for a sneak peek into one of the gardens of several privately-owned historic homes featured in the Artful Garden Tour, benefiting the High Museum of Art, from 10 AM to 5 PM. Gardens are located in Loring Heights, Druid Hills, Peachtree Battle, Buckhead and Ansley Park and local artists will be working on or showcasing their art in each location.

Blair Crimmins.

From 1 PM to Midnight, eat smoked pork sandwiches and listen to some of Atlanta’s best bands at Twain’s during the 3rd annual SpringFest benefiting The Atlanta Community Food Bank. Early on it’s family time with DJ Amy Handler of AM 1690’s The Kids Are Alright and the Imperial Opa dazzling with circus antics until 2:30. Then bands takeover including The Shathouse Rats, beach music-inspired The Mermaids, soul/funk/blues performers Amy Wren and What It Is, ’20s ragtime revivalists Blair Crimmins and the Hookers (read ATLRetro’s interview with Blair here), and Gentleman Jesse and His Men.

Help recreate George Romero‘s 1968 classic, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, in Virginia-Highland by joining the second annual Zombie Pub Crawl. Get to Diesel between 4-7 PM to have professional make-up artists from Atlanta’s top Halloween attractions Chambers of HorrorAtlanta Zombie Apocalypse and Netherworld apply your make-up or get a 10% discount at Norcostco/Atlanta Costume to do your own. Sponsors include Splatter Cinema/Gorehound ProductionsJagermeisterRed Bull and Sam Adams.

 

Have a spanking good time at Mon Cherie’s Rockabilly Lounge at The Masquerade with Hard Luck and TroubleRev. Andy spinning Psychobilly Freakout, a burlesque show benefiting Burlesque Hall of FameLegends, a Ragin’ Rockabilly Raffle and free shots of that ultimate Retro delicacy, Jello! Be sure to wish Mon Cherie “Happy Birthday.”

Catch a 9:30 PM encore screening of ROCK N ROLL HIGH SCHOOL at The Plaza. Bon Jovi rocks Philips Arena. Legendary keyboardist Ike Stubblefield is at Northside Tavern tonight. DJ Romeo Cologne transforms the sensationally seedy Clermont Lounge into a ’70s disco/funk inferno.

Sunday May 15

Washboard Confessional headline 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. extended through May 21.

At the High Museum of Art through May 29 is the MOMA-organized HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON: THE MODERN CENTURY, a 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.

For more weekend fun, tune back in on Friday for ATLRetro Weekend Update. If you know of a cool happening we’ve missed, send suggestions to ATLRetro@gmail.com.

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