Tuesday, August 26, 2014

And It Was Her Worst Date Ever!

I moved to the Memphis-area, Walls, MS, to be exact, in July, 2003. I remember the date vividly: I had spent the last two years driving to Memphis three days a week for school, and I moved to the area the day before my graduation on July 11, 2003. Perfect timing, I know!

The following October, an old friend and past bandmate, Chris Wages, called to say he and his fiancé were coming to town for the evening and wanted to get together and maybe go to Beale St. I hadn't had the opportunity to go since I moved (this was during that time I was out of the music scene), so they came by my apartment and we went to Beale.

We plotted what looked to be the best route around the panhandlers and made our way to the Flying Saucer. We had a couple of beers there and wanted to go check out some music on down the street. We walked through the barricade and bought our $10 Armband that almost NONE of the establishments on Beale honored, stopped and got us some more beers, and started walking down the street, listening for something that caught our ears (I've never stopped loving music, I just quit playing it for a while). We decided to walk the entire length of Beale before deciding which establishment to grace.

As we got further down Beale, I started hearing what sounded like a band on the sidewalk. I looked at Chris and said as much, and the three of us hurried along to see who was making this music on the sidewalk for free.

We made our way down to the New Daisy Theatre, and what we saw we couldn't believe. Here was ONE GUY, sitting on a drummer's throne, with a kick drum in front of him, a snare drum on a stand sideways, a hi-hat, and the weirdest looking guitar-contraption I had ever seen.

He finished the song he was playing and introduced himself as Richard Johnston, the Hill Country Troubadour. He described his cigar box guitar (or diddly-bow, as he called it) in detail to everyone standing around (which was easily a couple hundred of people), pointing out the beer caps for pickups, the bass guitar string and 3 regular guitar strings, and the neck, which was actually the struts from a prosthetic leg. He had it split off into a guitar amp and a bass amp, and would play and sing these songs completely by himself. This was the first time I had ever heard names like R. L. Burnside or Junior Kimbrough, Raimey Burnett or Jesse Mae Hemphill, and the music was hypnotic. We spent at least two hour there, watching him do all these things by himself, letting our "Big Ass Beer"s get hot. I bought both of the CD's he had available at his next break and thanked him for kicking me in the ass enough to go home and pick my neglected guitar up. We made our way back to the vehicle and were back at my apartment about 15 minutes later. 

Fast forward to November, 2011. I was working in a print shop in Tupelo and my work one particular day was to help design some of the printing for a March of Dimes fundraiser coming up. As I was printing the posters, I noticed a familiar name as the entertainer for the evening: Richard Johnston. When the lady came to pick up the posters for the event, I asked about getting tickets to the fundraiser. I even told the whole story I just told you, and I'm guessing I bored her enough, so she hands me two tickets!

I had a young friend that was spending a lot of time at my place around this time. We'll call her "Sally". I told her the same story, adding the part from work, and asked if she would like to experience a night she'll remember forever! By this time, I had "acquired" a copy of the unreleased (due to licensing problems) "Richard Johnston: Hill Country Troubadour" DVD and put it on for her to see for herself. Sally admitted that she had never seen anything quite like that before and thought it would be a great first "real" date.

The night of the show, she comes by my apartment to pick me up (I'm a Bluesman for reason, y'all!) and we head to the BancorpSouth Conference Center for the show. As we're walking up to the door, I see Richard standing out front, smoking a cigarette. He looks at me with some kind of recognition in his eyes (no clue who he thought I was), and says, "Hey, you're a bass player, right?"

I replied no, but that I was able to play bass, and he proceeds to tell me his bass player (he had added one by this time) had a stroke a couple of days before and wasn't able to make the trip, and he would really rather have someone playing bass for him, as it makes his job easier. I look to Sally, who clearly has that "Oh, HELL no, you betta not!" look in her eyes, and just kinda shrug my shoulders, to which she says, "If you want to, I don't mind." Looking back, I think she actually DID mind.

I played part (ok, most) of the show with Richard while Sally sat by herself in a faraway corner of the room at a lonely little table even the servers wouldn't look at. When the show was over, I invited Richard back over to the apartment for some banana moonshine, to which he replied thanks but no, and off he went back to Memphis. Sally dropped me off and left about as quick herself.

Sally quit coming around as much and eventually drifted away. Sometimes I see her out, and we stop and talk. We're still friends, but whenever that night is brought up, she smiles that unforgettable smile and reminds me, "You promised a night I'll remember forever, and it was. That was the worst date ever!"

As a side-note, I would like to draw attention to the fact that this is my 100th blog post! 100 different stories and I still haven't said a damn thing, just a bunch of drunken rambling. But that's ok. At least y'all get me. Thanks for your attention.

Monday, August 25, 2014

My ALS Ice Bucket Challenge (AND First Video Blog!)


I have a Private Party this Friday, August 29, 2014, at Jugtown Grill in beautiful downtown Aberdeen, MS, for the Aberdeen High School Classes of 1973-74 Class Reunion. I will be donating my share of the proceeds from this show to ALSA.org.

I challenge YOU to click the link below and donate to ALS Research.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Tips For Being a Lady's Man #21

Give your lady friends pet names, names only you call them. And I'm talking names deeper than just "baby" or "honey." Put a little thought into it. Enough time around a lady will reveal something about her that strikes you and you can use this as inspiration for the name. I have one friend I call "Sunshine" simply because she is always in a perky mood, even early in the mornings, and she has even told me that hearing me call her that always makes her day just a little better. And don't get caught calling another lady by one lady friend's pet name, or it's no longer something special.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Next 42 Years

So, tomorrow will be the last day I will ever be 41 years old. Man, there was so many things I intended to have accomplished by this time in my life!

When I was 14 years old, I knew exactly what I wanted to be: I wanted to be a Rock Star! I had my Kramer guitars with the Floyd Rose Systems on them. I got the expensive guitar straps with the parachute clips so I could sling my guitar around my body like the guys in Cinderella. And, yes, I had the Spandex (pictures surface from time to time)!

I started my first band at 18 years old. The band was called Little Dreamer and consisted of Johnny Holland on vocals, Terry Harris on bass, and Chris Wages on drums. We wrote our own songs and played a variety of 80's covers. We even recorded an album. I had a Marshall 50 Watt Plexi head and both 4x12 cabinets, and would lug them in to even the smallest of dives, because I was gonna act like a Rock Star! Little Dreamer went through various lineup changes through the years, and is where I started playing with Foosh, who has been MY drummer ever since.

When I was 22, I met my first "groupie!" I ended up marrying her the next year, and we had two wonderful boys together. But I still wanted to be a Rock Star, so the marriage slowly began to fall apart. I would like to publicly state that she is the person that really introduced me and turned me on to the Blues. She was so intrigued by them when she was at Ole Miss that she took Anthropology of the Blues Culture a couple of semesters. For the sake of her privacy, I won't call her by name, but for these two things, I want to say thank you for being a part of my life, if even for a brief moment.

At 23 I joined another band from Saltillo called Novus Jove. These guys had their own material, and after a little rearrangement by me (sorry guys!) we had a very solid set of music. We played all over Mississippi and into Alabama, and even played HempFest '97 in Biloxi, MS, the first hemp rally in Mississippi. Man, that was a crazy trip! We recorded two albums of original material, and even managed a meeting in August of 1998 with Robert Metzger of Capital Management in Nashville, TN. He was interested in a song I wrote, the title track from our second disc "Long Time Comin'," and was interested in promoting it on 5-Start Billboard Stations across the country. Inner turmoil among the band after 5 years of hard living, playing, and partying managed to tear that band apart in early 2000. So close! Curiously enough, this was also during my divorce.

I had another brief run with Little Dreamer from 2000-2002, where I starting playing music with Foosh, but it wasn't to be, and I put my guitar in the case for a few years. I had 2 young boys by this time and really wanted to be around them, so I cut my hair and tried to work things out with their mother. I took a job as a graphic designer I became a business man. But deep down I still wanted to be a Rock Star!

November, 2005, I was totally miserable. Things didn't work out with the ex and I was living alone in a town (Horn Lake, MS) where I didn't really know anyone outside of work. I lived behind Hooter's, so I spent pretty much every night sitting at the bar drinking and eating wings or a burger. I would take a paper towel from the roll, fold it in half, and just take a pen from the register. I would sit and scribble gibberish on the paper towel, stumble back to my apartment, throw the towel on the coffee table, and pass out. One night, I picked up my guitar (it had been about 4 and half years since I had touched it at this point) and just started playing. I played until the sun came up, finger sore and bleeding. I had forgotten how much I LOVED playing the guitar. Plus, I STILL wanted to be a Rock Star!

I had a short stint with Sugar Ditch in the Memphis-area, and moved back home to Tupelo in 2006. 

The Project came along in 2007 completely by accident, and with these guys I have played some of the most incredible shows! We have played clubs and festivals all over the state and have met some of the best people in the world. We've shared stages with some of the most talented artists in the world, from Memphis to Biloxi, Clarksdale to Huntsville, AL, and all points in between. Man, it's been an incredible ride.

I've witnessed the graduation of my oldest son, Elijah, and his acceptance into Ole Miss.

I've witnessed the artistry of both of my boys.

I've made friends with some of the most interesting people in the world. Even made an enemy or two.

I have had the experience of playing before a crowd (of roughly 20,000) that's almost impossible to comprehend.

I have songs placed in two different movies.

I have self-produced the last three albums I've released.

I've played country music.

But I never made it to a Rock Star. I guess a Bluesman will have to do, which is fine with me. Fits me better, anyway. Here's to the next 42 years. May you please have mercy on this old ass body!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Facebook Band Pages

Lately, I have been inundated with requests to "Like my page" on Facebook. I get it, you want numbers for people to see and maybe, JUST MAYBE, one of the someones will be someone important, and will help you launch your career. We all have had the same thoughts, gone through the same motions, so none of us can fault you.

What I've been seeing lately, though, is beginning to drive me nuckin' futz! People are jumping the gun, trying to get numbers before they even have content. They quickly click the "Create a Page" button, give it a name, and immediately start saturating their friends list with invitation notifications.

Here's the problem with that strategy: THERE'S NO CONTENT TO TELL US ANYTHING! I can't tell you how many times I've gotten an "invitation" to like ACME Blowhards or something else just as vague. And you can't just click the About section to see what it is, because there's NO FRIGGIN' CONTENT! "Oh, I'll just go and check the Photos section to see if I recognize anyone." WRONG! The only image is some half-assed "logo" that's just as vague.

Since, apparently, there are no "reliable resources to help people learn the basics of marketing" (Hint: you're sitting in front of the largest known encyclopedia in the universe), I'm gonna offer some basic tips. All of these points should be completed BEFORE you send me an invitation to like your page.

  1. Get a professional to design your logo. If you're even remotely serious in your endeavor (whatever it is, this is not limited to music), professional design will always win out. Yes, a professional designer can get expensive, but trust me, it's worth it.

  2. Have some high quality photos of whatever you're pushing on your page. Camera phones these days are more than capable of taking nice pictures, and if you don't have an eye for photography, I'm sure you have a friend with a better eye. You know the friend I'm talking about. The one with all the practice at taking duckface selfies.

  3. Fill in every field in your About section. And I mean everything. Your contact information is a must in this area. Oh, you don't want to put your phone number on your Page. How the hell is anyone gonna call you about that "cute little top with the fringe" when you won't give them a number? If you don't want to use your cell number, then get a land line (they still have those?).

  4. If you are a band/musician, you should have a link to your website (a REAL website) in the about area, and you should also have a mailing list signup form and an Events section, just in case I'm interested enough in checking out your music.
Only after you have successfully checked off these 4 points may you press the Invite Friends button, and even then, you really shouldn't. It's not like anyone is going to see your posts anyway, since Facebook wants you to pay them to promote your page. Only a small percentage of the people who liked your page are even going to see one post, and most of them are going to absently scroll by. And what's going to happen to all those numbers when the next big thing comes along? Remember MySpace? Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, these social networks won't be around forever. They most likely won't see the end of this decade! Put your time and effort into a real website and take control of your career.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Memoirs Of a Teen-Aged Idiot!

Went to visit an old high school friend the other day. It's been a while since we've sat and caught up with each other; most times we just see each other in passing and don't get to sit and reminisce, but we had a good visit. We talked about some of the crazy stuff we used to do as high school kids, some of which we probably shouldn't have survived.

I grew up south of Tupelo just off Highway 6 in a little community called Union/City Point. I don't guess anyone ever really decided what they wanted to name the place, because of the 2 names. The water tower announces the name as City Point but the churches say Union. Anyway, I lived in the Nettleton School District, so that is where we went to school. I spent most of my high school years riding the roads of northern Monroe County between Nettleton and Amory. Monroe County is a dry county, and we would be riding these back roads L-O-D-I-D! Lots of great ideas came from that intoxicated state, like the time my friend, Yo (we'll call him Yo to protect his identity, even though he would probably own up to it if he's reading this!), and I and a bunch of our "Bigbee Friends" decided it would be a great idea to climb over the railroad bridge that crosses the Tenn-Tom Waterway coming into Amory. And when I say climb over, I mean climb over the catwalk at the TOP OF THE TRUSSES of the bridge. At 1:00 in the morning. L-O-D-I-D. It was at the center of the top of this thing that I discovered my acute discomfort of heights. Yo said I was "cryin' like a little bitch," but I don't remember it being THAT dramatic. I do remember being a little worried and having to have help/guidance/reassurance getting down the ladder on the other side.

There was another time Yo and I made a smokes and drinks run into Amory during a late night get together. This was in February of 1994, I remember, because we had just had an ice storm that had collapsed the only bridge into Amory from Nettleton, taking with it the gas line that supplied all of Tupelo's restaurants with gas to use the fryers and such. Well, at this time, the bridge had been "repaired" (and by repaired I mean patched, and not very convincingly to the untrained eye) and the gas line had been rerouted to the curb on the edge of the bridge that the concrete retainer wall was sitting on. Along this gas line were about 10 or 15 battery-powered, flashing yellow caution lights. Well, Yo and I decided we wanted one (actually all) of them, and as they were tied to the gas line with nylon cord, he started at one end and I at the other, with Bic lighters, burning through the nylon cord that attached each light to the GAS LINE!!! Luckily, no boom, but still.

We would lay in the back of someone pickup on Main St. in Amory, one friend pouring a Coke into our mouths, another pouring the Jack Daniels, then jump in our vehicles to haul @$$ home to beat curfew. Our absolute favorite place to drink was in a storm house of a neighbor. Grave yards were a popular place to drink, too.

We knew those back roads so well in those days we could drive them drunk at night with our lights off and never miss a turn. We would even do it with a car load of passengers to prove that we could! Those who lost their shit when we did were never invited back to hang out with us, not that they would want to.

I've been going back to these places the last few weeks, reliving my stupidity, wondering how in the HELL I'm still here.

As Yo and I were laughing about some of the things we did, I made a comment about how stupid it all was, "But damn, it sure was fun."

Yo's quick response was, "If it wasn't fun, it wouldn't have been a mistake. It would have been an accident."

Perspective. That's the key to really living.