Some of my first memories are hanging out with my Dad and uncle playing baseball, softball, wheeling and dealing or watching and helping him when he would play music in the honky tonks. When I was very young, he would allow me to follow him around like his little roadie. I actually knew how to setup his steel guitar assembling the legs and peddles. This would always freak his fellow musicians and other folks out! because I was so young. He also played Guitar and Bass and I would help with that as well. I can remember his bands playing at Griffith Motors and Sherwood Chevrolet in Johnson City, for special events on Saturday afternoon, even Sportsman Speedway in the 70s. They would have these bands play and offer free cokes and hotdogs to try and sell cars. As a kid, I had this huge imagination and that one day, I would be just like my father and play in a band with him. I was always trying to get him to let me do something when it came to music. I just wanted to go and some places would not let me in. His brother Boyd was also a musician, in fact the entire side of my fathers family were bluegrass and old time pickers from the mountains. I can remember riding to Mountain City, to my uncles for a afternoon into the night of jamming as I lay on the floor with crayons and a coloring book gazing into a day dream with traditional bluegrass blaring in the background. At the age of nine, I asked God for the gift of music in church because I could not figure out how I was going to be like my father, like all of these people kept telling me. “One day you will grow up and be just like your Dad! a great musician” Some of Dads other band-mates and friends also played in church.. A Pentecostal church! not your normal boring church music. It was a little wild church without the snakes although we did play in a couple of those (More on that later). The drummer Johnny Roland, had Lung Cancer and could not play much longer. He showed me how to hold the sticks like buddy rich, a few beats and Dad bought me a set of 62 Slingerlands mother pearl with original calf skin heads. It was really crazy! the next thing you know, I took Johnny’s place in church playing with my fathers band in just a few weeks, with some of the same honky tonk pickers. My father loved country music and my uncle was into bluegrass and both ventured into Elvis and rock & roll because it was part of their generation. So.. their record collection was my record collection growing up. Dad and and his brother also liked to drink and gambled in the pool halls and honky tonk’s they played in. He was always trading, wheeling and dealing on the street with shady characters. I was there every step of the way learning the ropes from both my Dad and Uncle. I would watch them at times gamble away their entire paycheck on nickle machines. One story I can tell about from some of the things I witnessed, Dad loved to gamble playing nine ball. In 1979 He was playing this guy at Earls Grill on Market Street, that was a pretty rough joint in those days. Dad’s friend and band-mate Wayne Hensley, was running the place at that time and they were the house band there as well. The guy Dad was gambling with was getting very angry because he had lost 4 games in a row to my father and it was time to pay up! 100.00 bucks a game. This guy wanted to play another game after losing and was getting very loud.. Dad said “ok! and looked back at Wayne for the nod, Dad said ..“I have a title to a house on Wilson Ave, I will play you one game for what you owe me and your Mark 5 Lincoln Continental that is outside in the parking lot” The guy hesitated and said.. “ok fine”. My father ran the table and the guy flipped out wanting to fight and started throwing pool balls and sticks. Wayne, my fathers band-mate and bar manager, walked out from behind the bar and pointed a 357 at the guys face and said “Hand him the keys mother fucker, you lost”. The guy handed my father the keys and Wayne told the dude to leave, get his shit out of the car and never come back. So at 14 years old, Dad handed me the keys and said “Son, drive this car to the house” that was just 5 blocks away on Wilson. It was crazy things like this.. that prepared me for the music business and the people* affiliated with the gutter and honky tonks. I learned the hard way and although it may not sound like a very respectful lesson to most people..it is what it is! and I’m thankful to my father for opening my eyes early in life to the ways of the gutter. It has literally saved my life many times. More to come!!
POSTED ON October 25th - POSTED IN Early Beginnings