Monday, April 30, 2012

Mansion On The Hill

Here's another one of my all time favorite country songs.

Mama Tried

Did a few acoustic versions of country songs this past weekend.  Here is one of my favorites.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Rio - Post Pecos: 1988 - 1991

After six years playing all over Hawaii, I finally convinced my wife at the time (Lynda) that it was time to get out of Hawaii.  I had bigger plans than to stay out there in the middle of the ocean, playing in dance halls and bars till I die.  Well, Lynda had a different plan.  Keep me in Hawaii, where there was no chance of ever getting anywhere.  I won't go into detail about her conniptions onstage, but whevever a nice looking girl smiled at me, boy, was in in trouble - six years of this; but going national, the possibility of getting to the next level, she wasn't going to have any of that.

The first stop was Washington state - where a couple of guys we'd worked with before asked if we wanted to do a tour of Canada with them.  We lasted two weeks, and that was all I could take of Allen and Buddy's obnoxious B.S.  Speaking of petty jealousy, Allen's head was full of that - in fact, it was head to toe with this guy, definitely the top of the pile.  So, off to central Oregon - Prineville - Lynda's hometown.  We played in a place called "Lakeside Inn", three of us, Lynda, me, and Lynda's brother on bass.  It was ok, played there Friday and Saturday nights, packed, fun times.  I also spent about three months playing banjo on a train.  Again, I had bigger plans, so next stop was Ft. Worth, Texas, I thought maybe we'd find a couple of good players, and head to Nashville.  Boy was that ever a mistake.  I'd never seen a bigger bunch of pathetic, egotistical dimwits in my life.  One guy heard me at a jam session, invited me to go to his jam session across town, so I went.  I lugged my Super Reverb amp, guitar, mic stand, and effects about a hundred yards from the parking lot into the club, where this guy's band was playing.  He gets me on the stage, he is the only singer in the band.  After he sang 4 or 5 songs, he asks me to sing one, so I do.  Nobody went nuts, nobody oohhed or aahhed, they just showed some appreciation, the polite thing to do for a guy sitting in.  This didn't go over so well with the band guy.  He sang most of the rest of the set, and even turned to his bass player and steel player and said, "Hey, why don't you sing one", to which both replied, "You know I don't sing" - neither one of them even having a mic in front of them.  As if that weren't enough, after my first lead ride, he made sure to avoid me playing anything, getting the steel guy to do all the solos for the rest of the set.  It was the same, I wasn't doing anything fantastic on guitar, but whatever I was doing offended him - I guess I was some kind of threat to his widdle manhood.  Maybe I should have slapped the guy's head, but I didn't, I just packed up my stuff and got out of there.  The guy did ask, "You leaving already?", to which I said, "Well, I'm not doing anything anyway".

Lynda and I got our hands on a drum machine, and we did a duo, her on bass, me on guitar & fiddle, and the drum machine doing what it does.  We did ok, made a few dollars.  Well, a guy we'd known in Hawaii called us from Virginia (his home state), asked if we wanted to move there and start a band with him.  It wasn't a hard decision, nothing exciting going on in Ft. Worth.  This was the Northern Virginia/Southern Maryland/DC area.  My first observation was that Mark (the ex-Marine who called us to move there) wanted to be the main singer and front guy, and, he didn't like moving the equipment in or out of the clubs, that was the job for me, Lynda, and the girl bass player we had working with us at the time - Mark always got there five minutes before starting time, and always had a hot date afterward.  He even had me tuning his guitar for him.  We put up with this for about three months - he had to go.  The girl bass player also had to go, so we hired a good steel player, and Mickey - our old drummer from Hawaii came to join us (Lynda had moved back over to bass).  We worked a few dance halls in the area, most were boring - people not even having fun, just doing their "advanced" dancing techniques, and that ever so horrid line dancing - no smiling, no laughing, no fun, just a bunch of robots trying to outdo each other.  This was only one of many less than pleasant occurences I encountered around that time.  At some point, I guess I'd had enough, and a lot of personal troubles started between Lynda and me, so I decided to move back to Hawaii, maybe regroup and try to figure out what the hell to do next.  Clint, our 7 year old son, moved to Hawaii with me, and a couple of weeks after we got there, Lynda called, Clint answered, mom says, "Where's dad?", Clint answers, "He's on a date", and presto, Lynda was back in Hawaii exactly two days later.

Those three years - first Prineville, then Ft. Worth, and ending up in the DC area, those weren't such good times.  I guess I'll say now, if you're looking for "positive", phony, or pretentious, you should probably go away, because you won't find that here.  I have this bad habit of telling things as they are, and not as I or anybody else would like them to be. I've had good times and bad, these three years just happened to be some of the bad - well, not exactly bad, but not so good.  My best years were at Pecos, nothing has lived up to those times.  As I said in some earlier posts, I'm looking in other areas of the music business.  I enjoy composing and recording, while not so much enjoying playing out live.  So, there ya have it, at least up until 1991.  More to come.

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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Here's one by my all time favorite Rock & Roll bands, Creedence Clearwater Revival.  I guess in today's world they call a version like this "Unplugged".  I hate popular terms and words, but well, here it is, Have You Ever Seen The Rain, unplugged.

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More Folk Music From My Day

More folk music from my day.  This is one by James Taylor - one of the guys whose songs I  enjoyed playing when I was 16 or 17.

Not Quite Folk This Time

This one is by the great Johnny Cash.  My homage to one of the greatest country artists who ever lived.

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'Nother Folk Song From The Days Of Old

Another folk song from my day.  James Taylor did some really nice songs.  Love his simple acoustic guitar work.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

An Awful Still, And An Old Folk Song

Holy hell, of all the stills to represent this video - yikes.
Anyway, I was having some fun today with some of these old folky songs from my day.  A couple of years into my playing time, I bought a classical guitar, and started to learn some folk songs by James Taylor, Dave Loggins, Bread, etc.  I did these with my fairly new Marcario Spanish guitar.  I love this guitar, love the sound, the feel, the looks.  As I said before, slowly replacing things that I had to let go of a while back, and some things that went away without my permission - I hate when that happens - the things going away, I mean.
Please don't hold that awful still against me.

Addendum:  I guess they changed the still.  Glad if you didn't have to see that.
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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Pecos River Cafe, Part II

Left To Right:  Eddie Miles, Lee Jones, Lynda Lea, Denny Hemingson
This is in front of the stage at Pecos River Cafe

It's 1984, Pecos River Cafe has relocated to a bigger and friendlier location - a few blocks from where it all started.  The new place seats about 75 people, the pool room houses maybe 20 more, and with standing room, they stuff 300 people in there.  There's plenty of parking, the dance hall is upstairs, it's nice inside, good size dance floor.  It's a little bright, and maybe a little too nice for a redneck bar.  The first band to play there is "Key Willie Makai", young girl, ultra hip, sings ok, band is ok, the mother is as pushy and self serving as they come.  Friday and Saturday nights, there are maybe 15 people in the place.  Most of the country crowd is at the Cowboy Inn, a run down but homey place about a mile up the road.  The bands that play there aren't any better, but the place does seem to feel more comfortable.  Well, there are two owners from the old Pecos, and a couple of new ones.  My current pedal steel player, Craig Roberts, happens to be a good friend of some of these guys.  At the time, we were working military clubs all over the island, and had had Jim Mitchell alienate us from the old owners of Pecos with his sneaky tactics.  Somehow, Craig talks the new owners into giving "Rio" a try.  "Rio" has a guy who sings a lot of the old country songs (I think that was me), a lot of the Outlaw Country that was popular at the time, and plays fiddle and banjo.  We also had a decent girl singer/bass player in Lynda, Craig on pedal steel, and after going through a few sorry drummers, we ended up with Mickey Barrera - great drummer, personality to beat hell, hard worker, and just a really fun guy.  In spite of his long, Slash style hair, black T shirts with the sleeves cut off, it didn't take long before he was well accepted in that total redneck bar.  By the end of the second month of Rio playing at the new Pecos four nights a week, the weekends were looking real good - packed to the walls, rowdy - fun rowdy, but rowdy, smokey, and I had talked the management into turning the lights down more.  Key Willie had been replaced by "Dixie", consisting of a married couple from Mississippi and their rhythm section - the guy was a good singer, and they played some good country music.

A few months into this, the place was packed to the walls on the weekends, and full the rest of the week - both bands doing well for bring people in and keeping them there.  The next four and a half years were the best of my life - professionally, that is.  Besides playing the four nights a week at Pecos, we also continued to play the military clubs, and even spent a few months playing Sundays and Mondays at the Cowboy Inn.  Louie Santiago had come into Pecos, and bought out all the other owners within the first year, and had his son, Bobby, managing.  Louie only cared about money, which worked out fairly well for me, as long as I put money in his cash registers, he was a happy guy.  He didn't want to pay me what I was worth, but I wrote it off as "Paying my dues", which all artists had to do, and at the time, I was ok with it.

The Cowboy Inn, that was my first real encounter with fragile egos.  Warren Johnson and the Gator Creek Band was the house band there about a year after Pecos opened its doors - playing Tuesdays through Saturdays - 9:30 pm till 3:30 am - killer hours, I don't know how they did it, but they did.  The Cowboy Inn's owner, Gar Winward, got in touch with me to ask if I'd play Sundays and Mondays, so we did - I had my price, and Gar was happy to pay it.  We had one waitress on duty - Debbie - she was somethin' else, and we had Rudy Camello tending bar - also great at what he did.  Between Rio on the stage, Rudy behind the bar, and Debbie waiting tables, we did fairly regular $2000 Sunday & Monday nights - we had our share of slower nights, but for the most part, the people were in there drinking and dancing - at the old Cowboy Inn.  Rio was always a four piece band, while Gator Creek had five guys.  Rio had the usual - 2 or 3 guy singers, lead guitar bass, drums, pedal steel, but also had a good girl singer, a fiddle, and banjo, and by far the biggest following in the state.  Gator Creek had Warren singing 90% of the songs, and usually one other guy singer, and that was it - no fiddle, no banjo, just guitars, bass, drums, and a poppy sounding keyboard.  The owner of Pecos, being the greedy guy that he was, insisted on paying a band according to how many players were in it, while the owner of the Cowboy Inn was more about the following.  Well, Gar paid us, a four piece band, the same as he was paying his five piece house band, and when Warren got wind of that fact, he hit the roof, and threatened to quit if Gar didn't fire us immediately.  Well, Gar couldn't lose his house band, so we had to go.  It was ok for us, we had plenty of work between Pecos and the military clubs, and we still had our following - packing Pecos to the walls just about every night, and having people follow us all over the island to all the military clubs - as I said, it was a great time for us, but I can't forget that whole ego thing from Warren.

Back at Pecos, it was one huge party every night - dancing, screaming, whistling, laughing, cutting up, guys chasing the girls, girls chasing the guys.  Most nights I couldn't wait to get to work.  We'd gone through a few players, but keeping the core of Lynda and me.  After going through a few drummers, Lynda decided she wanted to play drums, so we got her a set, I gave her a crash course, and a month to the day after she got her set, she was onstage playing them - and doing a damn good job.  She was not agile, but she was like a human metronome.  I loved that she was simple and solid - no B.S. to her playing.

After the first two years, Craig, the pedal steel player, I guess he started to get frustrated, he was a Grateful Dead fan to the core, liked to play loud, and began to act out.  After a few months of warnings, he finally had to go.  It just so happened that an exceptional pedal steel and lead guitar player had just moved to town, Denny Hemingson.  My friend, Keith Zeller told me about him, raving about how great a player he was, clean guy, good attitude.  So, I met with Denny, and hired him sight unseen, or more accurately - playing unheard.  Well, holy hell was he ever good.  The first week or so he came in, played pedal steel, and then played guitar on some of the songs, played at about the same level as I did.  We would talk on the breaks, and on the phone sometimes, and I guess he at some point realized I wasn't going to feel threatened by him, so he came in one night just a SMOKIN'.  The rest of the band, including me, were in disbelief at some of the stuff he was playing - both on guitar and steel.  On some of the songs, I would forget to start singing again, because I was so knocked out by what he was playing.  The whole band was grinning ear to ear the whole night.  Keith was also right about his attitude, Denny knew what he was expected to do, and he just did it - I never had to babysit him, never had to tell him to turn it down, and he was always on time.  The Pecos crowd took him in immediately, and the next two years continued on as part of the best time of my life.  By the way, Denny has been Tim McGraw's pedal steel player, second lead guitar player, and musical director for about the past fifteen years.  We emailed for a few years, and I guess it became apparent that we don't see eye to eye on the subject of the music business, and I think I offended him, so we haven't spoken in 3 or 4 years.  Kinda a shame, but well, that's the way it goes sometimes.

One of the highlights of Pecos was "Pickle" (Dan Dille), and Quinn.  Pickle was a backwoods country boy who could clog (and old mountain style of dance) like nobody I ever saw, and Quinn was also a clogger, but trained.  It became a regular thing where we would start in with "Foggy Mountain Breakdown", everybody would clear the dance floor, Pickle and Quinn the only ones on the floor - doing their clogging side by side, up the middle of the dance floor, separating towards the outside, then back down the middle again.  The people would be clapping, screaming, whistling, and generally going berserk while this was going on.  The two cloggers would escalate, until Pickle would break into moves that Quinn just couldn't keep up with.  They were both such great guys, nobody really trying to outdo the other, it just happened that Pickle had a few more moves - and his style was more wild and raw.  Quinn would be grinning and laughing, but still dancing, while Pickle went to town with his wild stuff.  The crowd would erupt at the end of the song, the guys would shake hands - genuinely admiring each other, it was just one of those things that made it all worth it.

So, those were the Pecos days, nothing since has held a candle to the way things were then, and I'm sure nothing ever will.  I learned a lot, experienced a lot, met some great people, and just lived.  I miss those days, I think about them and the people, and I often wonder what many of them are doing now.

So, thanks, guys and girls, for the best time of my life.

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