Celebrating Nashville Vinyl store finds and stating digital pundits are all wrong!

courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

If you haven’t noticed, collecting vinyl records is becoming a huge thing among all age groups in Nashville. United Record Pressing has become so backlogged that they are expanding into another space. Record Store Day is like a city wide holiday with bands playing all day long at Grimey’s, The Groove and Fond Object.

*many hyperlinks go back to vinyl videos*

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

I caught the bug a few years ago after getting an original copy of Jerry Lee LewisBreathless” on 7 inch Sun Records while going through Bee Branch Arkansas on the way back from Branson, Missouri that I found at a vintage and junk shop.

I didn’t even have anything to play it on, since I have not owned a turntable since 1988. I even sold off my collection which was really large and deep and full of imports in the late eighties for practically nothing. I know I wasn’t the only one to do that.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

It wasn’t until I started buying some vinyl over at Third Man Records that I finally bought a turntable and the venerable receiver and speakers to go with it. It all started on Craigslist where I went through two old well-heeled Marantz and Sony Receivers that burned out after about a year each. The JBL near field monitors and home theater Subwoofers that I located have stood the test of time. I went through one Sony turntable where the line level pre amp fried before going back to Amazon and settling on a reasonably priced yet better sounding Audio Technica turntable. The Sherwood receiver I purchased through Amazon has specs right out of 1990 with 100 watts per side and has a great protection circuit that has stood up for two years.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Ever since that has been resolved, I have been able to concentrate on collecting. Most Collectors are going for the twelve inch 33’s and prices are increasing. I do have a paltry 100 or so “long-play” twelve inch records but I really wanted to hear the sound of the seven inch [45’s] records like I remember.

Post Sex Pistols, Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Post Sex Pistols, Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Post Sex Pistols, Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Post Sex Pistols, Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Just like 16 bit CD’s and 24 bit hi-def, analog has some rules to tone and bigger mid-range. Twelve inch 45’s are a whole other thing entirely that became popular in the eighties but I’m not going there. Let’s just talk about seven inch records. Although 12 inch 45’s are best known as dance remixes from the 80’s, my first experience was a French Sex Pistols release of “Anarchy In The UK” on that format in 1978 at a Punk Rock shop in Santa Cruz, California.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Seven inch records could be made with more bass and increased output without worrying about the needle skipping on the record. The 45 mix often will be a lot different than the album mix. The flip side or “B” side may be a song that is not available on a record. The mix may be different in other countries. I remember owning a French Polydor copy of Jimi HendrixVoodoo Chile” where the mix had been cranked up and the guitar sounded like you were standing with your ear up against the grill cloth. I used to play it for friends back in the eighties and watch their jaw drop.

The Beatles used to release songs either on albums or on seven inch singles. Eventually the singles showed up as a collection like the Hey Jude album or the double gatefold red and blue albums.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

In my own collection, there was a huge difference between the album cut of The Rolling Stones’ “Get Off Of My Cloud” where Brian Jones’ snaking lead notes were pronounced and the single where Keith Richards’ crunchy rhythm guitar is cranked up and really drives the song playing off of Charlie Watts’ snare. It made the difference between good and great.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

The Sweet talked about how when they found out that “Fox On The Run” was being released as a single, the members of the band went in and completely remixed the song with a much harder edge akin to Motley Crue than the album version. Sweet did this behind Management and Producers backs. They knew what it should sound like and took things into their own hands. They got everybody upset and mad even though the record did well. I’m glad that Sweet did that.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Another good thing about singles is that it was formatted for AM radio where three minutes was the goal and there were limitations to time versus physical size. While some edits were a little annoying some were appreciated if you just wanted to groove and not go into a “space-out mode” like the deleted bridge in the single version of “Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin. Not to mention, if you haven’t heard Led Zeppelin on seven inch like original cuts “Living Loving Maid” or “Black Dog” than you are in for an experience full of Bonham’s snare cracks and home stereo speakers that will turn into a Jimmy Page Marshall half-stack.

As far as actual tone, I read all the garbage between vinyl and analog buffs and digital hi-def die-hards and it really comes down to whether you like a lot of high frequency stuff that only dogs can hear in a world where a computer doesn’t recognize playing on top of the note or stretch tuning and changes the actual information as well as removing all the bits of sound that define a mid frequency instruments’ personality versus a couple of snaps or crackles and something that sounds very dynamic, alive and in your living room.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

You can take the test for yourself. I own a copy of Bob Marley: Legends on CD and a new old stock copy of “Is This Love” by Bob Marley & The Wailers. I did a side-by-side. The most important aspect is Bob Marley’s voice. If you only heard it on CD, you would never recognize the grit and air that make up his actual voice texture. They are gone in the digital realm. While digital is supposed to be more accurate, it actually sounds like a comical cheap imitation.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Another side by side would be Parliament’s “Tear The Roof Off The Sucker (Give Up The Funk) regarding the groove aspect. Not only does the vinyl single sound thicker and richer in the mids but the sharp edged funk of a tight group gets lost in the digital conversion as the numeric digital world has different numeric values for different frequencies and the groove of all the instruments locking together becomes nothing more than a cool drum pattern with a bunch of instruments that seem to clog undeniably slightly loose at every juncture. The true groove is gone in the digital realm.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

One more major complaint is what digital did to Duane Allman. I own digital versions of “Layla” and Duane’s slide sounds sharp and out of tune thanks to digital algorithms. If you listen to the vinyl album or single you’ll notice Duane is playing on top of the note [not out of tune] and it gives a lift to the mood at that point in the song. It is absolutely beautiful. Too bad Duane didn’t know that computers were going to make his slide out of tune and unlistenable.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Okay, enough of my own observations that seem to defy the logic of quantized digital junkies. If it is all about sounding “real”, “in your living space” and with a wide sound field then that needle dragging through a frequency groove like a work of art is the way to go. If you like snappy eighties style keyboard loops and auto tuned vocals then the current state of shared files should work for you just fine.

My Mother's favorite before she passed away in 1966, Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

My Mother’s favorite before she passed away in 1966, Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

When I started collecting, one of my friends here in town thought I was going to just go back and buy everything I used to own. I did go after some of that but there were a lot of things I missed growing up and there are songs that did well regionally here in Nashville and are readily available as opposed to many songs that I was into growing up in California.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Collection

For the most part, I grew up in Fresno, California from the last half of 2nd grade through my junior year in high school. That time spent in Fresno meant that my tastes are eclectic, all over the place and really just defined by musicianship, groove or originality.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

If I had to define Fresno during the seventies by five groups, it would probably be Tower Of Power, Supertramp, The Tubes, Sly & The Family Stone and Buck Owens. My personal taste goes way beyond that, but those would be five groups that anybody who grew up there would say, “Oh yeah, for sure they were big in Fresno.” I can name a song by every one of those bands that I liked as well as anybody from Hoover High School Class of 78 could as well.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Collection

You could add any horn band like Chicago, Malo or Blood Sweat & Tears. The biggest cover band was called March Hare [scan of Fresno City College school newspaper circa 1978, see page 4 , article on group called Windfall for more on March Hare members]. They had a full horn section and could play just about anything popular at the time and got paid the most money. They had a four piece, guitar, bass, drums and keyboards group called Spare Hare for a fraction of the full band cost.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Collection

My own personal taste ran the gamut of Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, Funk, Jazz, Punk and so on. I even liked some Country although it really was my parents’ music at the time. To give you an idea, I listened to Judas Priest, The Ramones and liked Power Pop like Raspberries and Pezband but my dream gig would have been to play guitar for Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers in 1977.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Collection

If I tried to collect everything from my past, I would be in deep for years and years.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Collection

There are particular records that I look for such as the three dominant records I remember from my earliest days in San Jose before my parents died in San Jose, California. I have purchased the trio. The Rolling Stones “Get Off Of My Cloud” was the first record I purchased at age 6, by myself, after my mother said I could pick something out. It is still one of my favorites. The other two were San Jose regional records that went onto the national charts, The Syndicate Of SoundLittle Girl” and Count FivePsychotic Reaction.” I did get to watch Count Five practice two blocks away from my Orchard View childhood home back when.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Just about any War single reminds me of Fresno, especially “Me And Baby Brother” which is in my 400 plus and building singles collection.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

In the mid-seventies, I was really into what was modern metal or Hard Rock at the time and singles like UFO, “ Too Hot To Handle” found in Louisville, Kentucky as well as Sweet flipside “Burn On The Flame” remind me of my early band years playing guitar.

As far as collecting goes in Nashville, the biggest amount and the most variety of seven inch records would go to The Great Escape on Charlotte Pike. Pricing is really reasonable. There are loads of $1.00 singles as well as collectables that for the most part are not over $10-a-piece. They put out their new inventory every Thursday and it is kept in bins by date if not in any kind of alphabetical order.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Record Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Record Collection

The Great Escape in Madison may not have as big a selection but will usually have different records then the ones found at the West Nashville store. The best thing to do, regarding The Great Escape, is to sign up for their email list and get notification when records will be off 20% or when they have their sidewalk 25 cent sale including the Bowling Green, Kentucky location.

I usually go for the 25 cent sales including Bowling Green, Kentucky and start digging around. It is important to go with no preconceived notions. It also helps to have some in-depth knowledge of decades of music. They used to have 10 cent sales but I don’t think that will be around again.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Examples of things I have found at 25 cent sales include a radio copy of Pat MethenyNew Chautauqua” which I never knew was released as a single until I found a brand new old stock copy at The Great Escape in Madison. I also found a brand new old stock seven inch copy of “Taboo” by Arthur Lyman. I remember “Taboo” from my Dad’s twelve inch long play records. He had installed a built in system in the living room and this was Hi-Fidelity recording. It was meant to show off frequency response and clarity but it would now be categorized as Lounge Music. It would fit in with a Martin Denny collection. I don’t think any of these records sold well in this format but it is so cool to have them on seven inch.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

In Nashville, there are a lot of radio copies around that ended up in retired DJ collections as the format declined and now they are all over town. A rule of thumb on seven inch radio copies is that in the 50’s and 60’s they actually spun the record numerous times and there can be a lot of wear on a very popular record and little wear on a record that did not take off.

In the 70’s and 80’s, AM radio used a tape cartridge similar to 8 track tape and would record the cut to be played multiple times on tape till it wore out and then would re-record on a new “Cart”. It is possible to find near mint radio copies from the 70’s and 80’s. I have found a few. My gem is a radio copy from the late 60’s of Big Brother & The Holding CompanyPiece Of My Heart” where Janis Joplin’s live performance rings clear and gives a front row seat of her performance. It gives me the chills. I paid less than $10 almost two years ago at The Great Escape.

Apple Records from Portugal, Courtesy Brad Hardisty Collecton

Apple Records from Portugal, Courtesy Brad Hardisty Collecton

Although it is easy to find several Excello record titles in Nashville, I have yet to find any of the three Marion James “Nashville’s Queen of The Blues” singles that were released here locally after years of searching. I guess I will have to resort to Ebay.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

There is no problem finding all the Country you want, especially mint new old stock copies of deep catalog Artists. I don’t know enough about that to make an educated guess. I do have Patsy ClineI Fall To Pieces”, plenty of Buck Owens and some Kris Kristofferson. Kristofferson singles are plentiful even on the smaller labels as he was really popular in Nashville as a songwriter. A good place for deep catalog new old stock Country would be Lawrence Record Shop down on Lower Broadway although I did find a Wreckless Eric single on Stiff Records as well as the previously mentioned Bob Marley copy of “Is This Love” at Lawrence Record Shop.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Collection

With current interest in Muscle Shoals, Fame Records can be found easily and I definitely look for Candi Staton and other Jimmy Hall produced gems. The Great Escape on Charlotte Pike usually has plenty of Fame Records along with all things Beatles and Elvis.

Since Nashville was a big hub for actual Music “Business”, there was manufacturing, distribution, recording, management and publicity that all had copies of material. There were warehouses and backrooms of vinyl that never got sold that now has found its way into used vinyl stores all over town. It’s not all Country either.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

While Grimey’s would be ranked number one for new vinyl in town, as far as used seven inch records, it’s best to go the to the Grimey’s Too [Preloved Store] and go through the two boxes on the front desk. That would be the most recent purchases. I recently found a radio copy of Blind MelonTones of Home” by doing just that. I was surprised to even see a vinyl radio copy release from 1992. I found a vintage radio copy of Judas Priest’ “Living After Midnight” as well for $1.00.

Grimey’s does stock the largest selection of local label seven inch releases. It is possible to buy a new record from GED Soul along with Infinity Cat and Third Man Records all in the same trip.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

The Groove is great for new vinyl but also has a decent stock of used seven inch vinyl. Because of its East Nashville neighborhood location, they have quite a few used copies of Alternative and Punk bands from the 90’s to the present day. If that is a specific thing, this would be a great place to check out. For me, I’m primarily looking for 60’s and 70’s but there usually is an 80’s record worth getting every time I stop by. This was the only place in town that I saw a single by The Jam. It was an import. I am looking for stateside releases since they are even harder to find.

Fond Object is an interesting place. This started from the owners’ own private collection, I believe, he was based out of Austin so, this store has a lot of late 80’s and 90’s Punk. Fond Object had stuff that probably was never available in Nashville in a retail used vinyl store. They actually had a copy of The Sex PistolsPretty Vacant” American release on Warner Brothers but they wanted $20 for it, so I passed hoping to get at a place where it would mean nothing like Lawrence Record Shop.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Third Man Records has just about every Third Man seven inch release in stock at any given time at their company store. My favorite non-Jack White single, Dan SartainBohemian Grove” was easy to find. Dan Sartain with Matt Patton [Model Citizen, The Dexateens, and The Drive By Truckers] on bass was part of the Birmingham Scene when I lived there. Third Man has been releasing a few Sun Records seven inch re-releases as well. The Raconteurs cut “Old Enough” with Ricky Skaggs still has never been released on vinyl at the home of the world’s fastest record.

Infinity Cat opened up their office to visitors with new vinyl behind United Record Pressing after having numerous fans show up at the door wanting to say “hi” on their visit to Nashville.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

That’s about it for seven inch records, except for, maybe the occasional find in an antique mall. After all, most of these records would be considered antiques.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

It’s always worth checking out the local shop when you’re out on the road. I stopped by Rasputin Records in San Jose when I was out in California recently and found the Record Store Day release of Junior Kimbrough and The Black Keys both doing “Meet Me In The City” [Fat Possum] which was impossible to find here after they were all immediately snatched up. Hill Country Blues is well known in Nashville, but the single had little value in San Jose, California. Apparently, the locals are clueless about Junior and there was a stack of copies available.

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

Courtesy Brad Hardisty Private Collection

It was also easier to get a copy of Simo’s single through Amoeba’s website in California.

  • Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN

Marion James also talks about music back in the day and Jimi Hendrix.

Marion James,

Marion James, “Nashville’s Queen of the Blues” sings “24 Hours A Day” at Metro 50th Concert, photo – Brad Hardisty

This Sunday, September 6th, will mark the 32nd Annual Musician’s Reunion at The Bourbon Street Blues and Boogie Bar in Printers Alley. Nearly a full day event, music will be starting at 3pm with the doors opening 30 minutes early. This year there will be over 20 Artists from Nashville’s storied past Jefferson Street scene to current up and coming Blues, Rhythm & Blues, Gospel and Soul.

Featured Artists will be recently signed nationally known Nashville act The Andy T Nick Nixon Band [Alligator Records] as well as local favorite Jack Pearson and many others.

Marion James - Nashville's Queen of the Blues at 30th reunion, photo - Brad Hardisty

Marion James – Nashville’s Queen of the Blues at 30th reunion, photo – Brad Hardisty

The first Musician’s Reunion show that celebrated the heyday of the Jefferson Street Sound and honored those that had passed away during the year was so popular the first time that it has become an annual event.Marion James “Nashville’s Queen Of The Blues” spearheads the event with the support of the Nashville Blues Music Community. Marion James is known for having Jimi Hendrix in her backing band back in the day as well as the top ten hit “That’s My Man” [Excello]. That song was re-released on 7 inch vinyl with the original Excello label on Record Store Day in 2014 in England and sold out quick. Copies can be found occasionally through Ebay as well as all of Marion James catalog .

marion James Hound DogMarion James went on to release a couple more singles with songs written by Larry Lee [Jimi Hendrix – Gypsys, Suns and Rainbows] who performed with Jimi at Woodstock as well as long time Jimi Hendrix bassist Billy Cox who also worked with Marion back in the day.

Marion James thats my manMarion has recorded a string of CD’s over the last two decades and continues to perform at special events around Nashville. Marion discussed a little of this and a little of that with The Nashville Bridge.

Brad Hardisty / The Nashville Bridge: How many years have you done the Annual Musicians Reunion Show?

Marion James: This is the 32nd.

Regi Wooten at 2013 Musicians Reunion, photo - Brad Hardisty

Regi Wooten at 2013 Musicians Reunion, photo – Brad Hardisty

TNB: What was your favorite one that you did, what year?

MJ: Well, my favorite one was the first one.

TNB: What drives you to put these shows together?

MJ: I’m just used to it. I’ve been in show business for practically all my life. My husband [Buzz Stewart], he was a Musician and also an Arranger. So, it inspired me to go on to sing in the music field.

TNB: How many records did you actually have out? Has it been three singles and several albums in the last ten or twenty years?

Marion James find out what you wantMJ: Yeah, about three singles. The rest of them were CD’s. Not records.

TNB: What are your favorite songs to sing right now?

MJ: There is one of them that I am looking forward to recording again before this year’s out. It’s one of my friends who has been into the music for a long, long time. He sung this song and it was a hit called “I Need your Love So Bad” by Little Willie John. I really like that tune.

TNB: Little Willie John, cool! You’ll have some originals as well that you are working on?

John Richards at 30th Musicians Reunion, photo - Brad Hardisty

John Richards at 30th Musicians Reunion, photo – Brad Hardisty

MJ: Yes, I have. I’ve got two songs that I have wrote.

TNB: What’s been your favorite time, musically, in Nashville? Do you like it now or did you prefer it back in the 60’s or 70’s?

MJ: I liked the 60’s and the 70’s. If you are speaking of music, some of these songs that they’re singing now, they are getting’ away with a lot. I mean, back in the day we had to sing the melody right and the songs tell a story. But nowadays, you got a few that will get up and take one line and sing it one line all the way through and get away with it. But, back in the day we didn’t do that. We sung our songs and we played our music.

TNB: Back in the day, I know that’s a theme that brings back to memory the Jefferson Street scene. You also recorded a song called “Back In The Day” a couple of years ago. Do you remember how it was when there were a lot of clubs and a lot of things were going on?

MJ: Yes, it was very much active. You had a lot of musicians and there had been a lot of vocalists that was doin’ it at that time.

TNB: You could probably go see somebody play live about every night back then.

Debbie Bond, photo - Brad Hardisty

Debbie Bond, photo – Brad Hardisty

MJ: Yeah, they had a club just about every other block on Jefferson Street back in the day. They had a different act in each club. You went in and you really enjoyed it because it wasn’t the same thing all the time. So, if you go out on the weekend and say “Well, I’m goin’ clubbin’,” you could start from 6th and Jefferson all the way out to 31st in Centennial which was a Dinner Club. There was a different act all the way.

TNB: Wow. What were some of the big names that you really liked listening to?

MJ: There was Little Richard, Otis Redding and Hank Crawford was going to school at Tennessee State University. On Sunday, Hank would have the jam session at 28th and Jefferson in a little Restaurant there they called Hayes Rendezvous and all the students would go there at three o clock on Sunday and they would have a jam. All the musicians would come in and play. There was a musician, Charlie Dungers, that would play up and down Jefferson Street and he was great. He went away from here for a while and he was playing all over Europe and then he decided to come back home and play his music and also he taught at Tennessee State University. I think it was strange he was still teachin’.

TNB: I remember now that you’ve told me about Jimi Hendrix playing with your band back then for a while. Do you have any funny stories that you remember?

MJ: Well there are a whole lot of things about Jimi that were peculiar about him that we laugh about. So really, Jimi he was kind. One of the habits, I guess it’s natural for a person to do it but, I noticed that he never did like to wear no shoes. He would just walk barefooted you know.

TNB: I’d heard that he carried his guitar around either without a case or in a paper bag or something. He didn’t ever have a guitar case.

marion james night trainMJ: Yeah, yeah, he did odd things like that. He really did, you know. Like I said, he was a nice guy, very nice to go around with also. He was on the quiet side. I don’t know how you would say it but he never was a person that was always on a run all the time. He was just calm and quiet, you know.

TNB: Now when he got on stage though he kind of commanded the stage quite a bit, didn’t he?

MJ: Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes, he did.

TNB: He liked to show off a little bit I guess.

Samuel L. Dismuke Jr., 30th Annual Musicians Reunion Show photo - Brad Hardisty

Samuel L. Dismuke Jr., 30th Annual Musicians Reunion Show photo – Brad Hardisty

MJ: He loved to show off and play that guitar. He came up with that act with trying to play the guitar with his mouth and all like that. He was a pretty good showman, you know.

TNB: Who are you looking forward to playing at the Musician’s Reunion show that is coming up?

MJ: I’m looking at Jack Pearson and Scott Holt. They are my two favorites when it comes to playing guitar. Jack Pearson was on one of my CD’s that I recorded. He did a marvelous job.

TNB: Do you think you will get up and sing with Jack Pearson?

Courtesy Marion James

Courtesy Marion James

MJ: Oh yes, I mean, you know, if it comes to that, I think I can cover it.

  • Brad Hardisty Nashville, TN

Birmingham’s \\GT// on new album and the importance of closed-up Bottletree

Photo Courtesy - \\GT// and Communicating Vessels

Photo Courtesy – \\GT// and Communicating Vessels

Birmingham, Alabama’s \\GT// is part of a Birmingham well rounded scene tradition that has produced everything from rockers Carnival Season, Brother Cane to a burgeoning Indie scene that began almost ten years ago that included everything from Hard Rocking Universal Joint and beitthemeans to more singer/songwriter oriented material from Jesse Payne and Kendra Sutton.

In fact, the scene has been diversified enough to include various hip hop acts and Punk Reggae Scenesters with a sophisticated College political mindset, The Agency.

Out of all these factions have come nationally known College Radio Americana in the form of Wild Sweet Orange and The Great Book of John. The other angle that has taken off is related to a re-look at Muscle Shoals and the Fame Studio years with St. Paul & The Broken Bones and the unpeggable Alabama Shakes.

Birmingham has managed to develop one of the best regional Indie Music Festivals in the Country with Secret Stages while local label Communicating Vessels is growing and nationwide.

\\GT// developed out of this eclectic scene when two co-workers, Scotty Lee, Byron Sonnier at now defunct venue The Bottletree got together to jam on a modern twist of Alabama gothic tale hard edge grooves. Working with established area drummer Mark Beasley, the Power Trio brings out the loud Birmingham underground belly of the Magic City.

Their newest release, Beats Misplaced, currently only available in Europe on Rough Trade will be released later this year on Communicating Vessels. In the meantime, \\GT// plan to hit every club they can along the eastern half of the United States as well as the Midwest.

The Nashville Bridge caught up with the band a few days prior to their show in Nashville at The Stone Fox on August 15th.

Brad Hardisty / The Nashville Bridge: Scotty, you have some great label support [Communicating Vessels] and some gigs coming up.

Scotty Lee – \\GT//: Yeah we do. Let’s see, we have another small run coming up from the 15th to the 23rd so far. We are doing, obviously, The Stone Fox. We have been going through St. Louis and Lexington and starting to do that Midwest kind of thing.

TNB: How was Secret Stages [Birmingham Indie Music Festival] this year?

Scotty: Secret Stages was great! We got in the second day. We were on the road but it was really awesome and everybody that came to the festival was saying great things about it all weekend. So, yeah it was really good.

TNB: I could tell you one thing. I think what you’re doing would work in Nashville now. I wouldn’t have said the same thing seven years ago. Things have really changed.

Scotty: Yeah.

TNB: Are you guys in tune with what is going on in Music City?

Scotty: They might be more than me. The only thing that I know is like my buddies The Banditos is the only Nashville connection that I have.

TNB: Nashville is becoming more diversified with Jack White, The Black Keys and locals that grew up here like Jeff The Brotherhood.

Scotty: Oh yeah. Jeff The Brotherhood. I forgot about them. I forgot they are from Nashville.

TNB: Did you record the new full length album in Birmingham?

gt-beatsmisplaced-cover-1000-570x570Scotty: The full length we’ve got now we recorded over here at CommVess [Communicating Vessels] in their studio. We worked with Lynn Bridges and Taylor Hollingsworth [Conor Oberst, The Spider Eaters, The Puffs, Dead Fingers, Pawn & Gun] and we had a lot of friends play on it and stuff as far as background vocals and all that kind of stuff.

TNB: So, Taylor played on it a little bit?

Scotty: Yeah, he played a couple of lead parts, did some background vocals and he produced a little bit of it as well.

TNB: What’s the scene like in Birmingham nowadays? Is it still centered around The Nick? I know that The Bottletree shut down, right?

Scotty: Yeah, The Bottletree is gone. Saturn opened up and Birmingham is always going to be like it has been. All the fans that are out now are really awesome. I have a lot of friends that are still doing their thing which is great.

TNB: Are you bringing any bands with you to The Stone Fox or are you guys playing with some local bands?

Scotty: Yeah, we’re just playing with people that are from there, I guess. We are not bringing anybody with us on these runs.

TNB: What is the current goal for \\GT//?

Scotty: I just want to tour and give people a chance to hear us. That’s all I want to do.

TNB: A while back there was a demand for stuff over in Europe from Alabama [Drive-By Truckers]. I know that Taylor Hollingsworth has been over to England. Do you see any interest overseas?

Scotty: Well, our album was released over in Germany and the UK with Rough Trade so we will find out.

TNB: When will the album be out on Communicating Vessels stateside?

Scotty: It’s being released here in about September or October. Not really sure. There is no certain date right now.

TNB: Hey Byron.

Byron Sonnier – \\GT// : Hello.

TNB: How did you end up working with Scotty? Were you with him in a different band or is this kind of a new thing for you?

Byron: We were actually in a different band that was kind of a psychedelic stoner rock band. I played guitar and sang. Scotty played lead guitar. It didn’t last very long but, yeah, so we played together before.

TNB: Did \\GT//come out of a jam or did Scotty bring something to the table and say, “Hey let’s try this out?”

Byron: We both worked at Bottletree at the same time. Scotty was getting this band together and asked me if I wanted to play. I had never played bass before but I was like I’ll try and it just kind of went from there.

TNB: How long did you guys work for Bottletree?

Byron: Scotty had worked there on and off since the beginning, I worked there for a little over five years.

TNB: I moved out of Birmingham in 2008 and moved to Nashville. I used to play a lot at The Nick. I didn’t play The Bottletree but I saw some great shows [Dead Confederate, Taylor Hollingsworth, The Donnas] back then.

Byron: It was awesome! I mean The Bottletree is responsible for everything that’s happened here, I think definitely in regards to the music scene. I mean it [music scene] was there before but I think that national attention came out of that one way or another.

TNB: I was going to say that Communicating Vessels kind of came together before The Bottletree shut down, right?

Byron: Oh, yeah, well before that, for sure.

TNB: Some of the early label bands like The Great Book of John, I guess, were established playing out of The Bottletree?

GT-logo-hi-res-600-380x380Byron: Right! Alabama Shakes played open mic night only they were just called The Shakes then. St. Paul [& The Broken Bones], I mean all those bands played through here several times.

TNB: Is there something like The Bottletree now? One thing I remember is that they had had some great stuff like hummus and vegetarian food.

Byron: Now? No, I mean there is the new Saturn. It’s booked by BOWERY. It’s definitely got its own kind of thing going. It’s different. It’s more of a concert venue then a club. So, there really is not anything close to that right now. It’s definitely a void.

TNB: I thought it was a cool thing because like you could go there and eat healthy if you didn’t feel like drinking or anything you know.

Byron: Right.

Mark Beasley – \\GT//: Hey Brad it’s Mark.

TNB: Hey Mark how are you doin’? I remember seeing you play with a lot of people before I moved from Birmingham in 2008. You were playing with Kendra last thing I remember. I used to play in a band myself.

Mark: Which band were you in?

TNB: I played with Danny Everitt [Bass], the sound guy over at The Nick and Daniel Long [The Agency, Furthermore, Jesse Payne etc.]was the drummer. He has been playing with…

Mark: Jesse Payne, yeah.

TNB: Daniel has been playing with a lot of people. Our lead singer name was Peter Davenport. We were called various names over a few years and the last year we went by Furthermore. I used to see you to play with a lot of people. I remember running into you a lot of times.

Mark: Yeah, I’ve played drums in quite a few bands here and there. Some of them short lived and some of them longer.

TNB: Are you gigging full time or are you working as well?

Mark: I think all of us have jobs. There was a time I was playing in three or four bands at the same time but now those bands have kind of folded up and become inactive and now it’s just been playing with \\GT// and going on tour which is taking up most of my time at least in terms of my time playing music.

TNB: I was going to say it’s probably a good band to be in because you’ve got solid label support. They are doing stuff for you and you’ve got some decent videos out as well as a great Alabama regional vibe t your groove.

Mark: I think some of the success from the Alabama bands, at least, is kind of what you would expect Alabama to sound like. There are other bands like us and Dirty Lungs on this label that don’t necessarily, you know, we really are just a rock band with some weird perverted blues licks thrown in there. It’s not typical of what you would think of it being Southern music.

TNB: I think it fits with fans of Alabama music that know about the past ten years and bands such as The Immortal Lee County Killers, Cordova, Model Citizen or Beitthemeans, .

Mark: We played a show with those guys [Beitthemeans] in Mobile [Alabama].

TNB: It’s kind of cool to see that at first Communicating Vessels was more concentrating on almost like new Americana and now they are branching out and tapping into some other scenes. Is that how you feel?

\\GT// - photo_John Purvis

\\GT// – photo_John Purvis

Mark: I think that is just a good business model if you talk about a record label. I know Epitaph had its success having a bunch of the same kind of bands on their label but really to be successful you have to have artists of all different types to diversify your sound. So, Communicating Vessels certainly has a couple of hip hop acts. They have what you would traditionally think of as Americana acts as well as straight ahead Rock and Roll bands too.

TNB: Good luck with the new project! I’ll let you guys go.

  • Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN

Adley shares her experience about best friend Miss Oklahoma Olivia Jordan and the Miss USA Pageant on the eve of the release of her collaborative writing effort How They Sell Music on a full blown steam locomotive of a year!

Adley Stump  performing

Adley Stump performing “Little Black Dress” at Miss USA Pageant 2015, photo courtesy No Problem! Marketing

Adley Stump has followed her second season on The Voice with hard won efforts that have collided into a Super Nova this year. As a spokesperson for Little Black Dress Wines with the song “Little Black Dress” and a new video for “Stay At Home Soldier” set the stage for an appearance as the featured performer at the Miss USA Pageant this year after other performers pulled out because of comments by Donald Trump, her story of friendship with Miss Oklahoma who won the competition a few short weeks ago took center stage.

It could be called providence, but a book about the current state of affairs in the music business, How They Sell Music will continue to put her name and face out to an ever bigger umbrella of fans and musicians as she develops her own path to success in Nashville.

Adley has settled into her Nashville roots as the music business has been turned upside down. Country Music still has a traditional path to success but many avenues have opened up for Indie Country artists to strike out on their own albeit with lots of roadwork and looking at every opportunity there is including pairing with manufacturer promotions and being a dealmaker.

Adley shared some of her current insight with The Nashville Bridge.

Brad Hardisty / The Nashville Bridge: I know you were a feature performer at this years’ Miss USA Pageant. Donald Trump’s recent statements created some big issues that put the pageant in the news. It seemed to turn out to be a great experience. Do you want to talk about your performance?

Adley Stump: Absolutely. Man that was one of the most special nights of my life and all. Miss Oklahoma Olivia Jordan had been my best friend since the seventh grade. She moved to L.A. to pursue her dreams the same week I moved to Nashville.

TNB: I bet it was strange to see artists pulling out of the Miss USA Pageant just a few days before it were to air.

Adley Stump Live at the Miss USA Pageant 2015, photo courtesy No Problem! Marketing

Adley Stump Live at the Miss USA Pageant 2015, photo courtesy No Problem! Marketing

Adley: I got the call after the other entertainment backed out. It was about six days before the pageant. I was the only feature performer of the night. It was really amazing. The best part was being able to share that with her. Knowing that Olivia went on to win, the Producers and all knew how close we were and everybody was routing for her. She has genuinely been my personal role model and best friend. She is one of the best people you could ever meet. No doubt in my mind. America is just going to completely fall in love with her. She’s incredibly smart and incredibly genuine. I’ve never been more proud of anybody in my life. I am still on cloud nine from that weekend. I have been watching how fast her life has changed. They whisked her away. She has a new phone number. She has body guards now. They moved her to New York that night to stay in one of Trump’s buildings up in the Penthouse. It is just amazing what this year is going to look like.

TNB: What song did you do at the Miss USA Pageant?

Adley: I was supposed to do two. One of them did not get cleared until three days before the pageant. The song I ended up doing was incredible, it was an original song which felt pretty cool it’s called “Little Black Dress.” It fit perfect for their evening wear walk. The other song was off this last album as well so that felt pretty cool to sing an original. That was really special.

TNB: You have had a pretty busy year in combination with the new song “Stay At Home Soldier” and also the book How They Sell Music; Lesson From Celebrities On Creating Your Own Success [with co-author Bubba Sparxx]. How did the book thing come about?

Adley: I started it. Being in Nashville, I’m sitting here every day thinking people should be a fly on the wall in some of these conversations that are happening all up and down in coffee shops and book stores. I have been blessed to have an amazing group of relationships with artists all over the world that don’t get to be here. They would kill to sit with some of these people and just hang and say, “Can I pick your brain for just a minute? Can I get some advice?”

TNB: What do you think people want to know about the Nashville music business?

Adley: They want to hear from people who have done it and who are doing it, something different than what they are able to find online on blogs. I didn’t want to talk with management. I wanted to talk to people who have done it on their own. Questions like how do I get somebody a demo? When do I not? That’s the kind of real stuff that they want to know that can help them. So, I take twelve artists. Some are You Tube stars; some are touring and became platinum selling artist on their own.

TNB: I imagine you get twelve different stories.

Adley: Everybody kind of has a different story from a different genre but it kind of becomes a real good rounded look at the industry. There is a lot of really tangible take aways that you can apply to your own career. The best tips and tricks of those who did it.

TNB: Is it more than how and when to get demos to people?

Adley: You get their advice for approaching satellite radio or they talk about how they got five million You Tube subscribers here. I write my strategy for attaching You Tube for collaboration with peers or how I di X, Y and Z. It is really great for them. So, that has been a passion project of mine putting it together over the last year and a half. I really haven’t pushed it that much because our big launch is with Amazon this month as a partner and that is going to very, very exciting.

TNB: Do you have a book signing coming up?

Adley: This is the only day that I am in town along with one other day this month. We are going to celebrate it at a couple of upcoming shows. But, as far as something in town, I’m kind of waiting to see what the result is going to be because of amazon’s participation on its release. I’m not just throwin’ it out there.

TNB: Do you feel that the Country Music is changing enough that you have to be your own brand and be a self- starter?

Adley Stump promo 02, photo courtesy No Problem! Marketiing

Adley Stump promo 02, photo courtesy No Problem! Marketiing

Adley: One hundred and ten percent. That’s really what I’ve been since day one. My office is right there on 16th and Edgehill and every day I’m watching people just sit back and wait for somebody to realize that they are talented and everybody is talented. No one else is going to help you. If you think about it; if you were in any other industry like a toy company you would never sit back. People would call you crazy. You wouldn’t say, “I have an amazing toy and I am going to wait for someone to realize how awesome my toy is.   Come develop my toy for me and put money into my toy and distribute my toy and market my toy because it’s so awesome.” You’d be like, you’re crazy! You have to do that for yourself. You have to show, in my opinion, for this to work and have longevity and have a career that you really have some control in it and have the leverage to be able to get a deal.

TNB: I am sure not everybody has the skill to market themselves.

Adley: Lots of people, they find after two years that now they’re dropped [by their label or publisher]. I think you have artists knowing to do the work on their own now and it’s to exceed what artists define as success, to be one of those artists willing to take on the work. The more that I have done that and not waited for someone else to tell me what I can do, than I can be successful in the manner in which I am going to do so.   It’s really empowering. You know you really can create a true entrepreneurial adventure to the inth degree of what you are in business for. You have to treat it like that. A complete full body, full mind and full spiritual focus to get to where you wanna go.

TNB: You are kind of self-contained in the sense that you are a songwriter, as well right?

Adley: Yes, yes.

TNB: Do you think that nowadays it is going to be harder to just be a vocalist as opposed to being a singer/songwriter?

Adley: I think they need to go hand in hand. Yeah, whether, you are independent and you are looking for a major label deal they are going to have you start writing anyway because of your publishing [royalties] if you are going to make their long term return. So, I think yeah it is creating more a part of the puzzle. I get fired up when I talk about this. I would never say, Brad, you got to go see this girl she is like a little bit of good but at everything. This girl sings her ass off or she plays guitar like crazy or she’s hilarious, whatever it is. I think it is a matter of knowing your strengths just like you would have to in any other industry.

TNB: Knowing your own strength and abilities is absolutely key to the situation.

Adley: You go with your group. You know where your strengths are and you go in there instead of trying to equalize and bring up your weaknesses. It’s the difference between knowing their strengths better than everybody else in their corner and not spending ten hours a week on production, ten hours a week on getting better at guitar, ten hours a week on vocal lessons, you know, I think you really have to be very self-aware and know your DNA and figure out how you can position yourself in the market.

TNB: What do you think your strength is?

Adley: I bet my strength is the business aspect of it, creating a product. I do want to write but you know it’s not just sitting there and writing every day and creating every day. If I want to actually be heard I have to take it upon myself to make it and be heard. A strength of mine has been partnering and having massive visibility and offering value propositions to them as to why it would be a no-brainer to partner with me. Right after I got off The Voice, I partnered with Little Black Dress and now I am working with Remington Arms and Logan’s Roadhouse.

TNB: It’s important to look at different opportunities outside just trying to retail.

Adley: Well, take for example my friends that` are on Sony. They are not getting shelf space at Walmart and Kroger and all of that but we are taking 90,000 bottles [Little Black Dress Wines] in just one region putting bottleneckers on them and giving away the “Little Black Dress” song for free and it’s clickable to go right to the website to see the rest of the album. I do an email chain to where I can watch that conversion rate. Now we are in Kroger and we are touring Kroger’s now. We tell them I will come in and do a performance or a radio remote or we will do a bottle meet and greet. Kroger buys a hundred cases of wine to facilitate that. They sell more wine and I get my music in Kroger and visibility in Kroger that matches the supply chain and get to stay on the road. I can sell more of my music independently. I get the numbers up in the media. It really is just a lot of strategic alliances. I do think for the independent artist the trend is going to swing that way as far as keeping the lights on in the short term.

TNB: Do you think that by showing people the business model in your book that it shortens the development time?

Adley: I don’t think that everybody can replicate the same business model. It goes back to knowing your strengths. I don’t want to fit in a van every day and go out and tour every day to build up in indie clubs. The power of TV is for me.

TNB: It seems like TV or radio still has to play a part to get widely known.

Adley Stump promo 01, photo courtesy No Problem! Marketing

Adley Stump promo 01, photo courtesy No Problem! Marketing

Adley: Yes, you’ve got to have TV or radio. It’s still the 800 pound gorilla for becoming a household name. Radio for independents is pretty much a crapshoot. You know, unless you, somehow, win the lottery. I’ve been an independent artist for quite a while. It’s really a marriage of getting together the right team, the right song, the right look and timing. The perfect storm. I think with the average artist you wouldn’t say”Hey, here is a half a million dollars! Go drop this into radio.” I’ve known independent artists to spend a million dollars on radio and they have a ton of tracks and they have TV and it didn’t work. I think if you have a half a million to spend, I think you can get a lot more return and visibility outside of radio because you are going to have to keep putting money into radio once you are there and that’s your mode of operation. So, for the average artist, I wouldn’t recommend it.

TNB: Wow, it seems like do I spend money on radio or not is a huge question for an independent artist.

Adley: I think it’s all different. There is no formula. There is no guarantee. Traditionally, the road is how you are going to build a music career. It’s gonna take several years. You have to want it as bad as you can breathe to be able to stay in there. It’s not chasing a dangling carrot that’s been out there in the distance because I believe God changes the method in which you get to that goal. I think you have to be really structured and struggling when it comes to your goals and what you want. You have to be really flexible in the methods to get there.

TNB: It’s strange how an Artist can be struggling and all of sudden things click.

Adley: The doors can swing wide open sometimes and when they swing wide open, you never saw it coming but, you’re hopeful.   Along the way, it could be something totally unexpected that’s going to be the biggest blessing at that time in your career.

TNB: We didn’t get much of a chance to talk about your last single “Stay At Home Soldier.”

Adley: On “Stay At Home Soldier” we have used brands to capitalize on the launch with a decent amount of success. It’s a single that has been very exciting for me because it is different than the typical commercial single release; it’s going to take you back to the genesis as to why I’m an artist in the first place. It’s to write music that meets somebody where they are. We’ve put ourselves as songwriters in situations that we are not always in and this is definitely one of those. This has been a really special release for us.

  • courtesy No Problem! Marketing

    courtesy No Problem! Marketing

    Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN

Kentucky Headhunters at 3rd and Lindsley 0723201501, photo - Brad Hardisty

Kentucky Headhunters at 3rd and Lindsley 0723201501, photo – Brad Hardisty

Last Thursday night, The Kentucky Headhunters definitely rocked the jukebox and the house at 3rd and Lindsley when they celebrated the release of Meet Me In Bluesland [ Alligator Records] which features recordings made with the late pianist Johnnie Johnson [Chuck Berry]years before his passing.

Kentucky Headhunters at 3rd and Lindsley 0723201502, photo - Brad Hardisty

Kentucky Headhunters at 3rd and Lindsley 0723201502, photo – Brad Hardisty

Fred Young, Kentucky Headunters at 3rd and Lindsley 0723201503, photo - Brad Hardisty

Fred Young, Kentucky Headunters at 3rd and Lindsley 0723201503, photo – Brad Hardisty

The Kentucky Headhunters had a on and off collaboration with Johnnie which lead to a longtime friendship. The band received a call from Frances Johnson wanting to hear those recording that had been stowed away for all those years. They realized that it was time to go ahead and check out that jam session that took place a few years prior and see what was there. It turned out to be as good they remember it and after some mixing time they secured a deal with Alligator Records for this particular gem.

Kentucky Headhunters at 3rd and Lindsley 05723201505, photo - Brad Hardisty

Kentucky Headhunters at 3rd and Lindsley 05723201505, photo – Brad Hardisty

Upon its release last month, Meet Me in Bluesland was Number 2 on the Billboard Blues charts.

Greg Martin, Kentucky Headhunters at 3rd and Lindsley 0723201506, photo - Brad Hardisty

Greg Martin, Kentucky Headhunters at 3rd and Lindsley 0723201506, photo – Brad Hardisty

It was time for a proper Nashville celebration at a large local venue.

Kentucky Headhunters at 3rd and Lindsley 07201508, photo - Brad Hardisty

Kentucky Headhunters at 3rd and Lindsley 07201508, photo – Brad Hardisty

The day kicked off with a morning interview at WSM 650 when the world got a listen of mid-temp Stones rockin’ “Stumbln’” followed by an interview with Richard Young live on the air.

Richard Young, Kentucky Headhunters 0723201508, photo - Brad Hardisty

Richard Young, Kentucky Headhunters 0723201508, photo – Brad Hardisty

It was on thing to hear “Stumblin’” on WSM and another to hear it live. Kind of like hearing The Stones going through “Wild Horses” on a great sounding vinyl recording and then seeing them play it live at LP Field.

Doug Phelps, Kentucky Headhunters at 3rd and Lindsley 0723201509, photo - Brad Hardisty

Doug Phelps, Kentucky Headhunters at 3rd and Lindsley 0723201509, photo – Brad Hardisty

The set was heavy on the new album with live takes of “Little Queenie”, “Superman Blues” and plenty of rock and roll rooted in the blues.

Fred Young, Kentucky Headhunters at 3rd and Lindsley 0723201510, photo - Brad Hardisty

Fred Young, Kentucky Headhunters at 3rd and Lindsley 0723201510, photo – Brad Hardisty

It’s interesting to think that The Kentucky Headhunters scored big so fast with their guitar oriented Southern Rock at a time when Country radio was hesitant to really give them their due while now, big guitars abound in Country Radio.

Kentucky Headhunters at 3rd and Lindsley 0723201511, photo - Brad Hardisty

Kentucky Headhunters at 3rd and Lindsley 0723201511, photo – Brad Hardisty

The Kentucky Headhunters have been cutting across genres for decades now after their initial success. A lot of fans have followed them through the years while they have picked up many others from their recent successes as could be seen by the wide ranging crowd at 3rd and Lindsley.

Greg Martin, Fred Young, Kentucky Headhunters at 3rd and Lindsley 0723201512, photo - Brad Hardisty

Greg Martin, Fred Young, Kentucky Headhunters at 3rd and Lindsley 0723201512, photo – Brad Hardisty

It was a great night for lots of slide and boogie woogie piano with a tight band that has not only played together for over three decades but lives near each other off Headhunter Highway where US 68 meets Kentucky 640.

  • Kentucky Headhunters at 3rd and Lindsley 0723201513, photo - Brad Hardisty

    Kentucky Headhunters at 3rd and Lindsley 0723201513, photo – Brad Hardisty

    Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN

Denny Strickland 01 - photo_Brad_Hardisty

Denny Strickland 01 – photo_Brad_Hardisty

“We hit the green light and we were about dead even but when I caught second gear, I start pulling away from him and I look in my rear view mirror and I see him. He starts coming unglued! He’s slappin’ the steering wheel. He’s getting’ all upset. His wife’s slappin’ him and he’s slappin’ her.”Denny Strickland

When Denny Strickland showed up in Nashville a few years ago he brought the 1968 Camaro Super Sport that he had owned since high school. It’s only natural that his first release “Swerve On” had to do with the open road with a modern take on the trucker life.

Denny will soon be releasing a fresh road tale, “How Far You Wanna Go” that not only features the trucks again, but, will feature his own bright red and chrome fire breather. Denny enjoys the nightlife of Lower Broad, especially behind the wheel of his barely street legal hot rod.

Brad Hardisty / The Nashville Bridge: What made you decide to use your Camaro in the new video?

Denny Strickland 07 - photo_Brad_Hardisty

Denny Strickland 07 – photo_Brad_Hardisty

Denny Strickland: In “Swerve On” we catered to the trucks and we did drag racing with the pick- up truck. My next single is “How Far You Wanna Go” and it does deal with a diesel truck but I’m going to put my Camaro in the video too as a little tease for eye candy. I’ve had it forever. It was my first car. I have been wanting to put it in a music video and I feel that it will definitely add to this one.. The song talks about you and your girlfriend and her taking control of the wheel and her deciding whether she wants to go to Memphis or Mexico.

TNB: Your songs definitely rock a lot.

DS: It’s more simplified. It’s rockin’ and it definitely shows that rock side of me but we’re going to give it the club element, that’s my persona. It starts with my jeans and that’s my country side and my rock elements you know, I wear graphic T’s and I got my bracelets on and I got my rings and that stuff, is my 80’s rock influence and I wear my hat and my boots. You know, that all ties in with the clubbin’ thing.

TNB: Where are you shooting the video?

DS: We’re scoutin’ out locations in Memphis and we’re looking at Mexico and another location. We’re definitely going to push the envelope.   The video is definitely going to be high energy. We just now decided on the cover art and it is dark and edgy. You know, we’re keeping it real modern and rockin’.

Denny Strickland 02 - photo_Brad_Hardisty

Denny Strickland 02 – photo_Brad_Hardisty

TNB: What’s the story line?

DS: Well, this song is going to basically be a cross country road race from Memphis to Mexico. We are partying along the way and I’ve got my girlfriend with me. We’re goin’ out and we’re hittin’ these spots where we’ve got this much time to do it and we’re pushin’ the envelope.

TNB: Does that come from life experience?

DS: I’ve travelled all over and you know I’ve been on many road trips. It’s gonna be a journey and a trip across the bottom half of the United States down into Mexico. Everybody talks about escaping to Mexico and head to the border. It always seems to be a big element in Country Music. Memphis has such a big music scene too. But, “How Far You Wannna Go” is a driver’s song but it’s focused on where we’re headed. I have been workin’ on the treatment for the music video and the picture is just now comin’ together. You have to be able to tell that story and tie it all in and I definitely feel like this next video is going to fill the gap and paint the picture for the audience.

TNB: Tell me a little bit about some of your experiences with your 1968 Camaro SS around Nashville?

DS: I will tell you the truth. I knew just about every tow truck driver by their first name. I haven’t been stranded in a while. I take that back. I was stranded a couple of weeks ago. I ended up getting stuck and had to call a tow truck service. Yes, I’ve been stranded all over Nashville. When I first moved here, I kind of just parked it for a while. You have to be able to work on them cars. I can pretty much take care of everything on it. But, you get in those situations when you do have to call. You have to break down and you have to call somebody. The tow trucks have definitely saved my tail many times. They’re definitely a life saver. I’m actually going this week to get a fire extinguisher. I’m keepin’ that car!

TNB: A fire extinguisher? What brought that on?

Denny Strickland 06 - photo_Brad_Hardisty

Denny Strickland 06 – photo_Brad_Hardisty

DS: My air cleaner caught on fire the other day. The timing was off on the motor and it caused it to back fire and I have one of those Edelbrock low profile air cleaners and it has the foam that you keep in the grill and it caught on fire for about five minutes. It was quite an experience. My friend ran across the street and ended up getting a rag trying to get it put out. But, it wouldn’t go out right then. We sat there and it took us quite some time. You know, that’s part of hot roddin’. You’re livin’ on the edge, you know.

TNB: I’m sure you get some guys that want to race you.

DS: Well, I was down on Broadway one night. This was a couple of years ago now. I had parked in front of the Hard Rock and I had my Uncle with me and I had went in to get a bite to eat. I had come out and I was workin’ on my car. I was settin’ the timin’ and makin’ sure everything was good. My Uncle was holdin’ the wires to my timing light and I had just gottin’ my timin’ light adjusted and got my timing all fixed and right when I did that he had just got the wires all caught in the alternator and broke it right after I got it all tuned. Luckily, I just got it tuned. If it had broke before that then that would have been it and I would have been in trouble. As we were workin’ on it, this couple walks out and they must have been from up north somewhere. They were real “Yankee.” They come out and they were drivin’ a 66 Cobra. It was one of those kit cars. It was fire engine red. Of course, my Camaro is red too. I guess he had been drinkin’ a little bit. The first thing he said was, “What you got there? A little 350?” I said “No sir, it’s a 383 stroker, forged. Dark pro 1 engine!” I had dark pro one heads on it. It was a hydraulic roller motor. I mean it’s popped up. I mean it wasn’t stock. Of course, he had some toys of his own in the Cobra that he was drivin’. He had a big block in it and after his little smart ass remark he jumps in his car and he cranks it up. He had those electric cut outs on his muffler where he could flip a switch and it was like he was runnin’ open headers. He didn’t realize it, but I had electric cut outs too. So, he flips his switch on and he’s got his car loud and what not. Well, I flipped mine on and mine it is just as loud or louder. He’s turnin’ his head and all shakin’ up and getting his game face on and telling his wife to buckle up and he takes off and we follow him. Well, he pulls out into the wrong lane and he is oncoming traffic.

TNB: Not a good way to start.

Denny Strickland 03 - photo_Brad_Hardisty

Denny Strickland 03 – photo_Brad_Hardisty

DS: He had apparently been drinkin’ and didn’t know where he was. He had never been to Music City and he had got his car down behind this bus. I told him, ‘You’re takin’ a chance bein’ in a place you’ve never been before with a Hot Rod. Those things are undependable and you never know when you are going to be broke down.” He said, “Ah, hell, we’ll be alright.” I told him, “Yeah, well I know every tow service in town if you do break down or somethin’.” Anyway this is right before he took off.

TNB: Just trying to be helpful, right?

DS: I was being friendly and he was the one being kind of a smart ass. Us guys down here are all about southern hospitality. Anyway he pulls out and he is in the wrong lane and we laid back a little bit just to see where he was goin’. Well, I was still testing everything on my car making sure everything is okay. I was checkin’ my gears and I had it down in first. I have a converter down in my car. I can rip ‘it up to about 1300 before it starts pullin’. It’s an automatic. I put that stall in there .He has a standard transmission in that Cobra. So, we follow him and he gets on Hermitage Street and we kind of play a little bit on the road. Well, I motioned for him, “Just stop, let’s do a dig. Let’s do a different stop.”

TNB: I’m sure he was paying attention.

DS: We get up there to that first light on Hermitage Street across from the railroad tracks and we line em up and we’re sittin’ there waitin’ for the light to turn green. I’ve got my stall. I revved up to about 3200 and I’m sittin’ there brakin’, you know, power brakin’ and we take off. I got Mickey Thompson A/T streets on my car and it don’t take much of a burn out to get them things hot. I was ready. He had some trick of his own. I mean, his car wasn’t stock by no means. We hit the green light and we were about dead even but when I caught second gear, I start pulling away from him and I look in my rear view mirror and I see him.

TNB: He probably didn’t like that.

DS: He starts coming unglued! He’s slappin’ the steering wheel He’s getting’ all upset. His wife’s slappin’ him and he’s slappin’ her. I tell you what, he’s pissed off and we beat him through the 1/8 mile and I’m stopped. He keeps on goin’. I tried to get his attention because you know if you keep goin’ down Hermitage, you end up in the bad part of town. I mean not many lights and he was in an open coupe and he had no top on his Cobra. I told him, “Go back toward the light!” He couldn’t hear me, so, they end up driving into the dark. I looked at my Uncle and said “ Hey, we’re goin’ back to civilization. I don’t know where they’re goin’ but, we’re goin’ back to town.” So, we never saw him again. I mean that was it. We ended up going back home.

TNB: Would you like to race on a drag strip?

Denny Strickland 04 - photo_Brad_Hardisty

Denny Strickland 04 – photo_Brad_Hardisty

DS: You know, I have never raced my car at the drag strip. I would like to just pull up to the track and get staged and just run it and see what it will do. I have never had a successful run at the track with my car. I have always had problems. I went to Union Hill drag strip up here in Goodlettsville. I was already to go and I was staged and right when I gave it gas when it turned green, my throttle cable broke. The guy that was lighting me up flipped out! He said, “what are you doin’?” I said “I can’t move. My throttle cable broke.” I put it in neutral and he pushed me out of the way. I rolled out of there and I had people stop and try to give me a lift. I ended up calling a friend of mine. I went to the parts store and I fixed it right there at the track and I drove it home. If it would have been somethin’ else, I would have had to call a wrecker or somethin’. For the most part, I can take care of anything on it.

TNB: One more thing. If there’s anybody you could work with in town, who would it be?

Denny Strickland 05 - photo_Brad_Hardisty

Denny Strickland 05 – photo_Brad_Hardisty

DS: You know, there are so many people in this town. I hate to say one person and then upset somebody else for me not mentioning them. That’s such a tough question. It’s like a family affair with the music business. You almost have to have your hand in every part of it to be successful.

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN

Doug Phelps talks about Chuck Berry, Keith Richards and the late Johnnie Johnson.

The Kentucky Headhunters with Johnnie Johnson: Meet Me In Bluesland

The Kentucky Headhunters with Johnnie Johnson: Meet Me In Bluesland

“We dead stopped right out on there in the middle of recording Soul and basically spent three days writing in the studio as we went. It was all off the cuff, spur of the moment stuff and we came up with Meet Me In Bluesland. It was so organic…”Doug Phelps

Country rebels, The Kentucky Headhunters are set to release Meet Me in Bluesland [Alligator Records] on June 2nd, a recording made with late pianist Johnnie Johnson, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee, known for his work with Chuck Berry, not long before his passing.

The Kentucky Headhunters met Johnnie Johnson at a Grammy after party in 1989 after they had won the Grammy for best Country performance by a group or duo for Pickin’ On Nashville.

Their name would be brought up by Keith Richards when Johnnie was getting ready to record his second solo album. A friendship both personal and professional endured through recordings, jam sessions and live gigs until Johnnie’s passing in 2005.

Brad Hardisty / The Nashville Bridge: How did you work with Johnnie Johnson in the first place?

Doug Phelps / Kentucky Headhunters: Keith, Eric Clapton and NRBQ got on the project with Johnnie for his first solo record. That would have been, I guess that was the early nineties when that came out. They wanted to do another album and Keith recommended The Kentucky Headhunters, because he couldn’t do it at the time.

TNB: So, Keith recommended you guys. I guess that was really an honor. Most people are still not aware how important Johnnie Johnson was to Chuck Berry’s songwriting and recordings as well as some of the other things he did.

DP: Let’s go all the way back to the beginning. Johnnie hired Chuck Berry in 1955 to be his guitar player. He had a sax player that couldn’t make it to a gig and he knew about Chuck. Of course, you know, Chuck ended up taking over. Anyways, Johnnie was the initial person that hired Chuck and that’s how he got that ball rollin’ in the first place. So, Johnnie sang on all the early hits and played with him for years. Chuck at one point in time decided he just wanted to start playing with the local band and he let everybody go. So, Johnnie played with Albert King for a while and recorded with him and toured with others.

TNB: I never heard much about him after that.

DP: Johnnie got off the road and became a bus driver in St. Louis. He was a city bus driver.

TNB: The realization of how important he was to Chuck Berry’s style as well as the way Chuck would do two string leads didn’t really come to my attention until the film Hail Hail Rock and Roll and Johnnie Johnson was up there playing and Chuck’s music sounded like it was supposed to.

Kentucky Headhunters Live

Kentucky Headhunters Live

DP: Yeah, Keith Richards kind of brought that out and got them playing together for the first time in quite a while. When they chose Keith to be the director, he said “I’ll do this on one condition, I’ve got to find Johnnie Johnson and put Johnny and Chuck together. “

TNB: Keith knew how important that original partnership was to the integrity of those songs. Chuck and Johnnie were really partners at one time.

DP: When you think of Johnnie and Chuck back in the day, you think so much of the teams like Robert Plant and Jimmy Page or Keith and Mick. They were the first rock and roll team if you can call it that.

TNB: What period of time was the band in when you got approached to work with Johnnie?

DP: We were approached to do the second Johnnie record.

TNB: Didn’t you meet Johnnie Johnson at the Grammys before that?

DP: I wasn’t there at the Grammys. At that time, they had just brought the Johnnie record over there to the Grammys. The first thing they ran into at this Grammy after party was Johnnie Johnson. He was over there by himself. So, they immediately went over to him and hung out with him all night. And that’s really where they first met him and they became friends with Johnnie. Then they got approached to do the second project with Johnnie which was called That’ll Work and that was in 93. So, that’ll fix you up on how they met.

TNB: So what was that first session like?

DP: Johnnie walked into the practice house and said, “Play a song and if I like it great and if I don’t, I’m out.” They tore into something and Johnnie loved it. Johnnie said, “Alright, I’m in the Headhunters!”

TNB: It sounds kind of like it gelled from the first time the band jammed with Johnnie.

DP: We really just love Johnnie. I came back in the band in 95. So, when I met Jonnie we did some shows together. We` would bring him out and use him on some of his recordings.

TNB: So, how did Meet Me In Bluesland come about?

DP: It came time for us to do our next project for Audium during 2003 and so we were recording Soul and on that particular album we were going to do the Freddie King song, “Have You Ever Loved A Woman” and we wanted Johnnie to play on it so we got in touch with him. The night before he was in Houston and sat in with The [Rolling] Stones. He is a heavy heavyweight in music. He had hung out with The Stones all night., In the meantime, Francis, Johnnie’s wife, called Richard and said “I know you have him coming into record this one song for this project but you are going to have him for two or three days there. He’s not getting any younger.” I think he was seventy eight at the time. She basically said she would love us to record and write with him, do some stuff and record with Johnnie because who knows how much longer he is going be around, so that is basically what we did.

TNB: You’re in the middle of recording Soul and the project stops?

DP: We dead stopped right out on there in the middle of recording Soul and basically spent three days writing in the studio as we went. It was all off the cuff, spur of the moment stuff and we came up with Meet Me In Bluesland. It was so organic and Johnnie made you play like men. He made you grow up in your playing. We got the project finished and just basically put it under the bed. Richard literally put it under his bed at the house. We figured there would be some point when we would take a look at it and see what we could do with it.

TNB: It’s been over a decade since it was recorded. The public never knew about it. Why didn’t this come out earlier?

photo courtesy The Kentucky Headhunters

photo courtesy The Kentucky Headhunters

DP: Now, we have been asked this question already. Johnnie passed away in April 2005 so it wasn’t much beyond this project that he passed. You know, we were asked the question, why didn’t you release it at that point? It just seemed like we didn’t want to misconstrue the fact that we were taking advantage of his death. We had the highest regard for Johnnie as well so we just we said we will just wait until Francis says what about the project or what are you gonna do with it?

TNB: So, ten years passes.

DP: It’s October of last year and we get the call from Francis, “I’m not getting any younger myself. Now, I know you got the project and I’d love to hear it.” And we said okay that’s our sign that it’s time for us to do something. Ironically, we were in the middle of writing for a new Headhunter record. We weren’t in the studio yet but kind of like that same thing like when he came in we just stopped Soul in the middle of recording.

TNB: You dropped everything again.

DP: We stopped our writing and then went full force, full speed on getting this project back out. We knew we’d done it. We were really under the gun and in a hurry. We knew it was good when we did it but it had been a long time since we had heard it so we didn’t know what we were going to get into when we pulled the tracks back up and to our surprise it was all there. I re-sang two songs. Richard re-sang two songs. Greg wanted to re-do one of the guitar parts. It was just little bits here and there and that was it. It was all there.

TNB: It was only a few days but the magic was there. Johnnie had really fit in with the band or vice versa.

DP: It was one of those magical things that just happened in the studio with Johnnie.

TNB: Yeah, then you had to figure out distribution and all that.

DP: The first thing we did was go to Alligator Records and wanted Bruce Iglauer to hear it. We figured that would be a great blues label home for it. He loved it and we started negotiating immediately with Alligator Records. We wanna make sure it gets its due. There is a lot of historical value with this project that we did with Johnnie. Johnnie brings a lot to the table and we just happened to be along for the ride. We want to be good stewards of what we do with the project. We thought that if anybody could pull that off, Alligator Records could.

TNB: It’s good to see that The Kentucky Headhunters are still around. A lot of the big rock sound in Country today can trace back to what you started back then.

DP: We were ahead of our time. Yet, we still somehow or another broke through and you know it was just such a crazy time that we were just fortunate that it turned out like it did. Well we’re all the way back to where we started with just the four of us. That’s how we started.

TNB: What about the new Headhunters album you were working on?

DP: We were about seven songs into our writing process when Francis called. We waited too long. We should have had a Headhunters project out last year or even at the end of the year before last because Dixie came out in 2010. We knew were a little behind and coming out with something new helps our tour dates. It kind of goes hand in hand. When this came up, we knew this was the project that we need to work on right now. Once it gets past the bulk of this, we are going to get back into writing and finishing up the record ahead of us. So there will be another one of them sooner than later.

TNB: This is a cool project.

photo courtesy The Kentucky Headhunters

photo courtesy The Kentucky Headhunters

DP: I still get chills when I talk about it. That’s how special it was for us and how much respect we had for Johnnie and how close we became over the years. We’re very excited about it.

  •  Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN

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