Sunday, September 29, 2013

The End Of An Era In Tupelo

Johnny Holland and Barbara Lewis
locking the door at Album Alley for
the last time. Photo courtesy
Deb Fooshee.
This weekend marked the end of an era for Tupelo, with the closing of Album Alley, the last independent record store in the area. After more than 40 years in business, the doors were closed for the last time at 5:00 pm Saturday. I went by Friday to pay my respects to a place where I spent the majority of my youth (and money), and it was a bittersweet visit.

I have many fond memories of the place and met most of my "music friends" while browsing the extensive collection of albums, cassettes, and, later, CD's inside. I can remember sitting in the back of my truck talking music with friends (and strangers) until the wee hours of the morning, or until the police broke it up.

January 1991 is a vivid memory, as I along with 100 others camped outside the doors for the initial sale of tickets for the ZZ Top Recycler Tour. I arrived at the parking lot around midnight in coveralls (it was around 15° F), and was apparently the only one with the forethought to bring sleeping bags to help keep warm. I remember the ash tray that sat by the front door being emptied and filled with Everclear, which was then set afire to keep some warm. Of course, before the night was over, the Tupelo Police Dept. was on the scene checking IDs and making sure "no funny business is going on."

My normal routine every Friday was to go by the Alley and ask, "Anything worth a shit come out this week," to which Stanley, Johnny, Deb, Barbara, Mendi, Chico, Terry, or Brian would answer. I've always had broad tastes, and would buy 3 or 4 new albums and spend my weekend on the Trace or riding backroads listening to my newest purchases. Some of the music has stuck with me through the years. Stanley is responsible for my Ian Moore collection, Deb for people such as Keith Sykes or Todd Snider, and Johnny fed my 80's Hair Band addiction, and I want to thank you all for your contributions.

Of course, I also spent a lot of time loitering, begging Johnny to come audition for singer in my band at the time, Little Dreamer, to which he finally relented and we've spent the last 23 years writing songs together, some of which are still being played by the Project!

Goodbye, Album Alley, and to Johnny and Barbara, good luck with your future endeavors. I'm gonna miss hanging out at the store, but I know we'll all stay in touch. We have for all these years.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

So, What Are Your Plans Friday?

This Friday, September 20, 2013 at Origins Church, 499 Gloster Creek, Suite D-3, Tupelo, MS, some of the area's best musicians (and myself) will be coming together for an evening of tribute to the band U2, with the proceeds going to help feed, clothe, and educate impoverished children in Ecuador.

Quoted from the Facebook Event page:
"Regional musicians and bands will gather to perform their versions of U2 songs. All proceeds go to help feed, clothe, and school impoverished inner city children through Foundation Elohim, our mission partner in Quito, Ecuador. Please come celebrate great music and a great cause. Please share this event invite here on FB and invite anyone who may be interested! $10 donation at the door, though we will gladly accept larger donations. :0) Snacks and drinks will be available for purchase in the common area."

I'm excited to be a part of this and to get the chance to be associated with all the talent appearing. Some of these guys, like Jeff Spencer, Mark Meredith, and Melvin Orr, I have grown up hearing and admiring, and never did I think I would have the opportunity to share the same stage with them. Some of them, like Tony Caldwell or Trey Lyons, I've been lucky enough to have jammed with, and am excited to hear again.

Tony will be the Master of Ceremony for the evening, and the schedule is shaping up to be explosive. I can't divulge any of the details (you'll have to attend to find out what songs have been chosen), but I do want to go on record as saying you won't want to miss any of it, so plan on getting there early. The show starts at 7:00 PM sharp, and that's not "musician time!"

Jason Carter and I will be performing a few songs ourselves, with Paden Bell and JB Clark, our friends in the Origins house band. Origins Church is located at 499 Gloster Creek Village, Suite D-3, Tupelo, MS. We hope to see you there.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

When Was YOUR First Time?

The only time I have ever truly gotten stage fright was the first time I performed in public. Oh, sometimes I get a little nervous before a show, especially if I haven't played out in a while. Or festival gigs, especially when they are running behind, and we're there on time (who'da thunk it?). Or the heavily promoted headlining show. Or maybe, you know, when I'm sittin' in traffic at a long red light!

I was a sophomore at Nettleton High School and our Speech class was producing a talent show for the end of the year. I was in the class and therefore ineligible to enter, so I volunteered my "stellar guitar talent" to entertain the attended while the judges deliberated the contest. Never had I played outside of my bedroom, but I had my first "Official Gig!" I practiced and practiced, not thinking about the fact that I'm doing a song that has vocals (I had only sang in church once before, and it was not received very well) and I might need to practice singing and playing. I still remember the song, it was "Last Kiss" made popular by J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers in 1964, and my Uncle Steve taught me how to play it and the lyrics. Pearl Jam covered it in 1999. Yeah, that song, and I was performing it, in public, a good 12 years before Pearl Jam (take that, Eddie Vedder!).

I had convinced myself that I was good, and that I was going to perform the song so well that I would receive a standing ovation that would last at least 45 seconds (I've never been short on confidence), and my parents would see that being a musician was a viable career choice (I still haven't convinced them).

We had our first (and only) dress rehearsal the weekend before the show, and we spent so much time going over the props and our wardrobe (where I was informed my leather jacket and ripped blue jeans were NOT appropriate) that I wasn't able to practice my spot. What a sin!

The night of the show finally came, and, of course, I was there early. I was excited. I was finally going to play my first show. I was already thinking of ways to explain to my mom that I would have private tutors on the road, so I would still graduate high school on time and get  my diploma. My dad would be proud, because he would finally realize that I was good for something. And I looked good! I wore a new pair of Levi's (this was before pre-washing, people, so it was the hard denim that didn't bend well and made noises, kinda like corduroy, but not quite, when you walked) and a long-sleeved white button up shirt (some habits never die). I borrowed my dad's ostrich skin boots and his wool-lined Levi denim vest to complete the look. I had my 3 color sunburst Sears Teisco Del Rey electric guitar tuned and 10 watt Gorilla amp plugged in and was ready to go.

I don't quite remember everything and everyone there, because I was in my own little world. The stage fright was beginning to kick in, and I was focusing on the lyrics (that I hadn't practiced) and remembering what the chord changes were. As the last entrant was on the stage, I was summoned backstage to get prepared. Stage fright level 2 by now. The announcement that the judges would be leaving to decide the outcome. Stage fright level 3. I'm pushed onto stage to get plugged in as my name is announced. Totally freaking out right now.

As the stage curtains are drawn, I go blank. What am I doing on this stage in front of all these people? What is this big piece of wood hanging on my shoulders? I can't play the guitar! As I stand in front of the microphone in total silence for what seemed like a million forevers, a fellow classmate, Dean Hudson, screams, at the top of his lungs, "Roy Orbison!" The resulting roar of laughter from the crowd assembled brought me from my state of paralysis and pushed my fingers into a C chord. I played that chord, walking down to the A Minor, up to the F, and on to the G7 chords that would lay the foundation for the melody line of the song. As the first verse came around, my body stepped forward, pushing my mouth into the grill of the microphone and forming the sounds that would become the words:
We were out on a date in my daddy's car
We hadn't driven very far
There in the road straight ahead
A car was stalled, the engine was dead.
 I made it through the song, with only minor embarrassment, my stage fright actually helping me through it, giving me the adrenaline rush needed to overcome the situation. A group of black girls sitting in the front row tried to heckle a little early in the song, but a well formed "flip-off" shaped chord got them to quieten down. I didn't get my 45 second standing ovation, not even a standing ovation, but I did get 15 seconds of enthusiastic applause from their seats, and that was good enough for me. I also didn't get to quit school and go on the road as a famous rock star, which was quite a bummer, so I finished high school and graduated on time, to my mother's delight. I still haven't convinced them that music is a viable career choice. I'm having a little trouble making myself believe that these days. I've about decided that music is more akin to an infection, but that's the subject of another blog altogether.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Thanks For The Memories.

The Prairie Arts Festival is an annual Arts & Crafts festival in West Point, Mississippi held each year the Saturday before Labor Day. The Kevin Waide Project was booked this year, and we had such a great time I wanted to share some of it.

First and foremost, the festival (now in its 35 year) was very well organized and every aspect, from load in and setup to artist changeover, ran smoothly. Our contact within the festival was Bill Haughton, and Bill was a pleasure to work with. The sound company, A&M Entertainment, was great to work with as well. Sound on the stage was perfect, and the general consensus was the same out front. I know from listening to the Chad Peavey Band the sound guys were doing a bang-up job, and the whole experience was a pleasurable one. Except for the heat; Mississippi in August is usually a brutal time, and this time was no exception. I think I almost killed Foosh!

As I said, the Prairie Arts Festival is an Arts & Crafts festival, and there was an impressive display of local artists out to “pedal their wares” all up and down the downtown area. It’s been going on for quite some time, so the festival is kind of a big deal, big enough that my boys, Eli and Michael, came down from Hernando with their mother and step-siblings to enjoy the festival. It was really good to get to see them, and for them to see daddy doing what he does. Plus, it’s always nice to be able to hang out after our set and enjoy the festival itself, which is what we did. Michael had been eyeing the “Bungee Swing,” but wasn't sure enough to part with the $10 to do it, so I gave the man the money and Michael strapped into the swing. The look on his face as he was jumping in the cords, turning flips 20 feet in the air, was what every dad wants to see on the face of his children. Michael was having the time of his life, and I was proud to be able to witness it.

Being a working/traveling musician, takes you away from those you love more than anyone can understand. The fact that the boys live in Hernando and I live in Tupelo is another reason we don’t get to spend that much time together, but when we do get together, it’s about quality, not quantity, and we always try to have as much fun as legally allowed. I will remember the look on Michael’s face for many years. Nice memories to have.

The festival is pretty much contained, and letting the 13-year-old young man wander as he wanted seemed like an OK thing to do, but pretty soon, his mother was upset because he wasn't answering his cell (kids with cell phones!), so I gave it a call. Michael answered the phone and instead of hello, he announces, “I just right down the road talking to your friend the Muleman!” He was walking down the street, checking things out, and saw two men on the sidewalk playing some Hill Country Blues (he’s my son, so he has been exposed to all the different dialects) and decided to stop and listen. His ADD kicked in, and soon he was beating on the drums for one of them. They asked his name, which he quickly gave, and said, “You may know my dad, Kevin Waide.” When we arrived, it was our friends Mark Massey and Bill Abel. I got to visit with the guys, who had played the Howlin’ Wolf Festival the night before, and listen to them play a little. I even got an early copy of the Muleman’s new album. Can’t wait to hear it.

After retrieving Michael (from behind the drums, sorry Bill!), we proceeded to the Howlin’ Wolf Blues Museum. First, the museum is small, very small. They have got a new building and are in the preparation stages of the renovations, which will include a stage. That being said, it is slammed full of the Wolf and Hubert Sumlin memorabilia and is a must visit if you’re ever in the area. I can’t wait for the renovations to be complete. Richard Ramsey and his wife are curators of the museum and have collected items from all over, including some direct from Hubert himself, before his passing. There’s a Les Paul signed by Pete Townsend, one of Hubert’s Les Paul, and a Stratocaster signed by Kenny Wayne Sheppard, but my favorite was the 1953 Kay the Wolf had given Sumlin. I even got to play it for a minute (thank you, Richard!).

All in all, heat aside, I had a wonderful day with the boys. I also want to send a shout out to Jason, Gavin, and Foosh for laying down the groove and playing the blues, and Deb and Ally for showing their support (and hooping). We had a great show, and hope to be back in West Point soon. I also want to shout at my bro, Jimmy Bell from Novus Jove. It was good seeing you again today, if only for a short time. To Bill Haughton and everyone with the Prairie Arts Festival, thank you for including us in this year’s festivities, and we look forward to working with you all again. To everyone that came to the festival, thank you for your support. We appreciate it and I’m sure the Prairie Arts Festival appreciates it. We hope everyone has a safe Labor Day weekend, and we’ll see you all on the flip side.