Life on life’s terms, the Road, Family and the Song. Year 2013

 

 

This year was tough, no way of hiding that fact, not from myself, not form anyone else. The first year I didn’t tour Texas, cancelling the shows to be by Dad’s side, there was band members leaving, birth of my second son, and then my father collapsed, and deteriorated over the year, finally passing in December. I kept playing, not as much as I would have liked, but as much as I could of under the circumstances. This is how it played out.

When I was thinking about this year it feels like it started in Brisbane just before New Year’s Eve, we  played there with Mike Errol Jnr and Corn Liquor and headed to Sydney excited for a NYE show at Matraville with Corn Liquor. We had Tex Austin sitting in on drums, and he is one of music’s great gentlemen, a hell of a lot of fun to play with, just sits in that pocket all night.  NYE was ok, but for one of the biggest shows of the year we walked out of there without a cent. That’s another story. That’s Rock and Roll.

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Then there was Tamworth, we had a strong first half of the week gigs wise then a real break till the inaugural Outlaws show at the Courthouse, and a final Alberts Hotel show. Quickly the week turned tough. The Outlaws show was a lot better than I thought it would be, and we used to drummers, Al Fisk and Mark Fairhurst. Two different stick men couldn’t be found, but both made the Wagon their own. Fisk is an uncompromising, live hard, drum harder sort of guy, man we had some fun at Wanita’s on an all-nighter after playing at Shot by Jakes, with Dave Major as well, we nuded up for a pre-dawn swim, it was a hoot. Mark is a more calculated player, worked real hard, and the Outlaws show was a success musically due to him coming up early and doing the work. Thanks man.

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It was the first time I ever ventured into the Crabpot, and Jake and I hit it off, and one night I played a three and half hour set , straight!, into a Tamworth dawn. He did a photo shoot with me. He one of Australia great larrikins, and the Crabpot will always be that weird sort of Star Wars Bar in my heart.

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The vibe went downhill over the week in the band, split loyalties and differences of opinion lead to John Wardle and Dave Turner, The Roadie, resigning. It happens. John was already playing with Benn Gunn at Tamworth, and stayed with him, so be it. He is a great player, and I wish him every success. There’s a lot more to say here, but it stays with me. Something’s are best kept unsaid. It was fun to meet long time hero Jim Lauderdale at the CMC After party!

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Luckily for me the sting of Tamworth was washed away immediately by the birth of my second son Maverick on the 6.2. 12. He was healthy and happy and as I write this he is a beautiful bouncing boy, starting to play with Little Marshal and they have become fast friends, Brothers. He is a bad sleeper though, and man I cannot remember being more tired in my whole life. Never getting a chance to catch up, he ends up in with us most mornings, and it’s pretty cool waking up with him. My mum calls him smiley, and it’s a good nick name. Kids change everything, with two boys now, and providing for them and there mum, and the band being so hard to keep together, I took a serious job, to help with bills, especially for debts I owe from film clips and albums etc. It kills me not having as much time to focus on the band, but after Maverick coming along, and then my Dad getting ill, I just had to bite the bullet.

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Had a Sydney show booked, then some shows booked down the south coast, and we needed a guitar player, and Jeff Mercer stepped in. It was amazing playing with such a talented man, he is all feel, had such an amazing touch, and yet is the coolest guy on earth. The shows where fun. We had a new drummer to, Henry. A friend of Harding’s. He wanted the job, I needed a drummer. It all worked in nicely. However it was on this trip that after setting up in Tilba at the Dromaderry Hotel. It was my mother, my father had collapsed. He had not been well for a while, but this seemed more serious. I took a risk and finished the shows, I have never wanted to cancel shows. As it was , when I got back to Sydney it was his heart and me and mum started our first night together in a waiting room, waiting while he had open heart surgery for the third time. It would not be the last time we shared a space, in over 7 hospitals in the coming 9 months. Each time he took a step forward he seemed to take two steps back. It did seem that the surgery at the time was a success, and he headed to rehab. His balance and memory were effected, eventually leading to a stroke. He recovered from the stroke, but balance and memory were worse, and he would forget he could not walk properly, and he would fall, injuring himself. Eventually he broke his hip, and kept falling, and then the wound split, he got Golden Staff, and never recovered from that. So I slept a lot at mums in the end, especially when we knew he was dying, albeit slowly, and many a night sitting in a hospital, most of the time in the dark, just holding his hand, cause I got there late, as I would come home, help out with the baby, then head off when they were asleep. With Maverick keeping us awake in the early hours and this schedule, I was always exhausted, as I had to keep working. Gigs became a nice distraction, but because we were not rehearsing or playing enough, gigs always were rough. Don’t get me wrong, there were always moments, where we were really on it, but nothing feels as good as a well-oiled working band.

 

 

After the fall out at Tamworth, mate and Troubadour Den Hanrahan said he would sit in on guitar and help me out. He was an angel for me this year. A brother I needed in a time of need. It was always going to be a different sound, but man, I had some fun, and then we started doing solo gigs, and Den started sitting in, and that was something I ended up doing more solo and duo shows this year, and I liked it a lot. He knows the struggle of the road, and bands, and his love for music is the same as mine. I look forward to this year’s Tamworth with Den up there with me. For the sake of a song.

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I even dusted off the slide guitar and did a few shows three piece, one show out at Orange and we played Johnny Winters version of Highway 61, Clapton’s Telephone song, Rollin and Tumblin, it was fun.

Also a highlight was going to the Independent Music Awards for Miss Texas Tonight for country song, and I Played Country for best Video. We didn’t win, but it was a nice change of scenery, and our first night out together since having a baby. Felt a bit human again.

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Just after Dad died, Deadwood 76 called me, Jeff Pope couldn’t make the show, so at four hours’ notice, I filled in. It was a really rough show, but I played some solo stuff, and it was the first time I dedicated Family Man to my father. It was the second single off I Play Country, I released it in September, and planned to get a film clip together for the CMC, but I simply ran out of extra cash, and Dad was really unwell at this time, and that’s when I had to cancel Texas/ Colorado Tour. I was bummed, but I didn’t want to be there worrying whether Dad did while I was away. I was worried about my mother to, as they had been married 60 years this year. How was she going to cope when he went, it was unthinkable.Image

For Dad’s eulogy, I went through a lot of old photos, and I dug this one out. He helped me build a guitar case for a huge Hollow Body I had, I glad I will have it for ever. Its built like a brick shit house!

 

 

So, here I sit, New Year’s Eve, three weeks out from Tamworth. Just a few shows this year, I look enviously at the posters of other bands doing 15 shows in 9 days, As much as it is gruelling as hell, it’s awesome to just take Tamworth on like that. This year, I’m playing the first weekend at the Albert then Im getting the hell out of there. My spirit this year has taken a battering. I need some time to get my head right, get the passion back, revision the dream, at the moment, it’s all lost in some sort of fog. I need to find my mojo, and just battling away on stage isn’t doing it. Den and I talked about doing a record, starting something new, and it’s exciting, and this coming year I am reforming my first ever band for some anniversary shows, so more three piece, and I am excited about that. As for the Wagon, well, it’s likely to go in the barn for a bit. I’m sure it will hit the road again, but until then….

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So thank you to all who came out to the shows, and choose to get some live music Chucks Wagon style. Thank you to all who bought the new album, my heart and soul is in that thing. Thank you to all the D.J’s that played I Play Country and Family Man. I will hopefully get a film clip together in the New Year.

Thank you to Heath Blows and Graham Walsh from Fender Australia. You guys have kept my amp humming. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the support. Thank you to Mark Fairhurst, Al Fisk, Dave Major and Henry for sitting in on Drums. Thank you to Jeff Mercer for the Guitar licks, it’s a memory I will keep for ever. Thanks to the Mighty Den Hanrahan, who stepped into a place I needed filled by someone who believed in the music, and to Dodge Dave the Hitman Harding, for holding down the bottom end. Sorry to my USA fans for having to cancel this year. I know I will be back, be great to see you then.

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Last but not least. Thank you to my lovely wife, who knows I need to play, and sees me off with a smile, knowing she has two boys to deal with as soon as I round the bend. Thank you to all the folks that support through my father’s illness and passing. Mark Andrews, my Warning bass player helped carry the coffin. I look forward to getting Warning back on stage mate. Also to Gary Poulton, who grabbed a handle on one of the most important days of my life.

 

I’m sure I have forgotten something in all this, but to be honest I’m amazed I actually got it down at all.

See you on the road somewhere….

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In Memory of Alan Stokes. My Father

ImageOde to my Father, Alan Stokes.

My Father was a decent man. A quiet achiever. He was in his family for the long haul. One of the miracles this year was after all the ill health, heart surgery, a stroke, continuous falling, he was able to make it home the day before his 60th  Wedding Anniversary. This was truly a gift, especially for mum, for him to have a home cooked meal at the table I have sat at all my life, in the house they built together to raise  a family in. It wasn’t for long enough, he fell again, broke his hip, and didn’t really recover. It was his long goodbye.

My father was born in England, he spoke about this at times. He went for Chelsea FC, as he grew up near there.  Nana and Pa were serving in the 2nd world war. Pa in the Airforce and Nana in the WACS.  He was billeted out for this time. When the war was over, he said that he started having this things like chocolate, jam and other treats and it dawned on him that the families that billeted him kept these things for themselves. It was just a story, he somehow understood.

Dad from a young age walked on his toes, and his mother always thought he should be a ballerina, and sent him to Ballet school, he didn’t stay long. Dad was studios, and got a scholarship to a Gramma School as a result. Dad was bullied at school, my mother told me this story. He didn’t do anything about it for some time, but eventually he had enough, and one day turned around and popped this fellow right on his nose, and he hit the dirt. He never bothered my father again. My Grandfather, another quiet man, saw this and came over and gave dad a penny, he was proud he stuck up on himself.

At 15, with my Grandfather and Dad headed on a ship to Australia, stopping in at Bombay on the way. He loved that journey. My Grandfather was a quiet, decent family man as well. My Grandmother was loud. I imagine there was a lot of space when those two men travelled on that ship together, space that they enjoyed, and could breathe in. My Grandfather Samuel Stokes liked cricket, he kept a fantastic vege garden, and he brewed his own beer. He also looked after and provided for his family.  My dad did all these things as well, they gave him peace.

Every morning, my Grandfather would get up first and make a cup of tea for Nana about 6am, and serve it to her in bed. She then got up and cooked them both breakfast. I imagine my father saw this, and as a husband I saw my father always show his love to mum through thoughtful gifts and actions. Birthdays and Christmas there was always a special gift for mum, and for us, both mum and dad always got that special thing we were dying to have. . I saw that sort of teamwork all my life. Dad worked , mum raised the kids till we were at school, and then she got a job at the school, so she could be there. Her choice, it was great as kids to have that level of care. Same with Christmas dinner. The same meal, at the same house, all my life. Pudding hanging for 6 weeks made from a 100 year old recipe. I’ve told people this, and they thought I was complaining. It has been magic, a gift that has grown in value over the years. The comfort of familiarity, of family.

On arriving in Australia, they moved to a property in Binaway. He learnt to Jackaroo, and he told these stories regularly. He loved the bush, it never left him. He loved riding his horse and breaking horses. My Grandmother and his brother David arrived about 6 mths latter, and they worked there until eventually moving to Heathcote. It was from here my father joined the air force, and he also met my mother. After 6 years in the Airforce, dad started at Qantas, where he worked all his adult life.  Dad always worked hard, and worked his whole life. A great lesson he taught me was to do a day’s work for a day’s pay. It’s saved me in my apprenticeship, as they hired two, and kept me because the other guy skived off. These days I work passionately, and seeing how important it is when people are ill in hospital, where I work, it has taught me to treat patients as I wished my Dad was treated, with love and care.

 

 

When I have memories of Dad, we lived at Cabramatta West, and I am sitting in that house as I write this, and I’m 50 next January, so I’ve been living or visiting here for a long time. When we were young, mum and dad showed dogs. Australian Terriers and then Poodles. Mum loved this, and dad learnt to be a steward. We would go for weekends and they were always an adventure.

When I got old enough, I started playing soccer, and it was like the dog show period finished, and the soccer period started. Our whole family got involved. Dad coached, Mum managed or worked in the canteen, and Debbie played for the girl’s team. I would stalk dad when he got home from work, always wanting him to kick a ball to me when it was soccer session, or bowl one when it was cricket. Nine out of ten times he did it. Now as a father, when I get home from work tired from the day to my two little boys, all full of beans, I’m impressed that he had the energy. When we got older he built a 3 ft pool for us, and then when we got bigger a 4 ft, Debbie and I were always in it with our friends. These were the simple acts of a family man that changed our daily lives.

As dad worked for Qantas, we got to travel. For a working class family from the Western suburbs, this seemed exotic when I look back. First we went to Fiji, then Hawaii, which mum and dad fell in love with, and we went there several times. This sparked a love of travel and the USA, and being at an airport, taking off on a plane, being in other countries, the adventure, will always remind me of my Dad, and mum. They travelled often after we left home, Hawaii again, toured through Europe, and then the Railways of Australia.

When Debbie and I left home Dad discovered metal detecting, and whether he and mum were scanning Bondi Beach for tourist lost coins or searching for gold in the bush, there was always some treasure to show and stories to tell.

Dad was a good father, and a great Grand Father, and then literally a Great Grand Father. But it was Mellissa and Jason he Grand Fathered first, and he loved and adored those two wonderful children. I was grateful that before dad went he got to see me finally start a family. He loved Marshal and Maverick. I took them to see him just before he past, he really wasn’t with it, but as soon as he saw them two boys he lit up like a Christmas tree.

It is impossible to think of Dad and not think of Mum. They have spent their lives together, and worked as a team through thick or thin. You could never work on one of them, they always made you check it out with the other. Like every family that makes it through life, there have been ups and downs. What I learnt from Alan Stokes, was that you keep walking forward, turning up, doing what it is that you said you would do. My mother was ill for a while when we were young. I asked him about this time when I was older. He said at the time he had a nervous breakdown himself due to the stress, and went on medication, but kept going to work, as he knew mum was sick, and that he had to look after us. He told me this as though it was nothing. I know now it was huge.

My dad was a quiet man, and I am loud. I spent a lot of my adult life chasing rock and roll dreams, where he was always so responsible. This never ever stopped him helping me and my family whenever he could. I am grateful for that. When dad attended the first show I ever did with my Rock and Roll band, his first observation was that he actually felt his rib cage rattling.

I have a clear memory when I was about ten, of being bullied by the local hoods who were older than me. I came home with my bike they had wrecked. He insisted we went straight back up to the corner shops. I was terrified these guys would beat him up. I had never seen my father like this, he confronted then, they were young men, and chased them off, I remember walking home with this new admiration, I looked up to him with pride. He was mighty.

My family now will never be the same. I cannot not even begin to imagine what my mother will go through . It has been a lifetime together. I will miss him, he was my Dad, always there, reliable, dependable. I am glad I got to care for him to the end. I know that it is a gift for a middle aged man to support his father through his death. Many do not have active fathers, and some that do lose them way to soon. I’m glad we watched the first test and the Aussie’s won. He might have been born in England, but he was Aussie through and through.

 

Thank you all for attending today, and supporting my mother and our Family. Life is too short, losing the gift of life is always a disaster. I told my Dad the last time I saw him I will look after mum, and that we will all be OK. I meant it, and I know I can do it. He taught me how, not by what he said, but by the life he allowed me to watch him live.

Dear Lord. Please receive my father. A decent, loving, Family man. Hold his heart gently in your hands, as well as my mothers, until they can be together again.

Amen

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pi9Gz4tz5Q8

Last night Texas came to Town.

ImageThis year feels less and less about music, I pulled my guitar out in the lounge room last night, got the beginnings of a song, recorded it, as they are few and far between these days. Family has taken the focus.

This week I went with my mother and picked the plots where my father will be buried, and her when the time is right. It was a lawn cemetery that I have known all my life, she looked at the view of  lake, and thought Dad would like it. It had been an amazing journey watching her have to confront the loss of the love of her live, 60 years of marriage, a lifetime together through thick and thin, unimaginable in this day and age. There has been tears along the way. We thought we had lost him on Friday, they stopped all interventions and he kicked on, amazing.

We even snuck him a beer on Saturday, VB, his face lite up as he tasted  it, simple pleasures that have been removed from his life, he has not eaten properly for months, and recently, none at all, well maybe a table spoon of food a day. His body is gone, he was a falls risk for ages, that’s what got him in all this bother, it is  not a bother any more, he can’t walk, no desire, no ability.

I see people walk in and ask “how are you?”, I don’t like it. I know how he is, He knows how it is. He is dying. I taught myself to say. Hi Dad, “It’s good to see you”, cause it is, and it puts no pressure on him to socially respond.

Last night Texas came to town. Dale Watson and his Lone Stars played, it was great, what a tight outfit, road worn and not weary. Seeing I had to cancel Texas this year due to my Dads health, this was a gift it coming to me. It was the last show of the tour, lots of requests, and then back at the after party he even donned an Evil Kneviel outfit, was a real needed good time.ImageDale even help Tim the sound man out with a new hairstyle!  Got to catch up with Kinnon Holt, the guy still makes me laugh, awesome bloke, Outlaw Guitar man.

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Happy 60th birthday to Johnny Green, and Happy 50th to Karl. Both men are true believers in the power of real Rock and Roll, real roots based music, this aint no Australian Idol, X Factor shit her. The real deal, one man that has made a life entertaining folks all over the place and the other who backs it and brings folks like Dale to the land downunder. Thank God . Spent some time with Ezra Lee and Hank Green. They are talking of moving to Melbourne and having a crack. These guys are our future, the real future, not some corporate we take all your royalties therefore we promote the shite out of your for five minutes to earn what we can before the next series starts. Go for it boys. The gloriousness of young men on a mission.

This year is not over in so many ways, my father is hanging on, there is a Christmas party next Friday where my Dads at, I hope or my mums sake he makes it, she needs it, it’s in God’s hands now.

Its Sunday, and my wife wants me to go swimming with the boys, I want to hide in a cave, let it be dark for a while. That aint gonna happen, life my friends goes on, it’s as simple as that….

Births, deaths and taxes!

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Last night I had to ring Luke O’Shea, and pull out of Songwriters in the Round. It’s the second time min 25 years that I have had to blow out a show. First time I was in Intensive care and I was heart broken . This time it has been a different sort of heart break. My father is dying. Since Easter this year when he was rushed to hospital for heart surgery he has gone down hill, suffering a stroke , broken hip, and now the Golden Staf has attached itself to the hip, and he hasn’t eaten for a month, so his kidneys have gone. It has been his long goodbye. I have appreciated getting the chance to spend so much time with him over this year, and my mother to. I was adopted at birth by my mum and dad , and even though we have had our moments, including my addiction and years of recovery, they have always been there for me, giving everything they can, when they could. I have lived a very different life then them, always spending my money on the rock and roll dream, and now I am confronted by the debt that has left me in and the young family that’s has been an old rock and rollers gift this year. They never understood why I didn’t just by a house! My wife is probably wishing I did to. With the  birth of Little Maverick this year and February and then dad starting his journey in March, it feels since Tamworth finished I have been loving in Hospitals. Now that time is nearly over. I have told myself it’s a gift to get the chance to say goodbye to an agring parent, some do not get that chance.

The gift that came from all this was my father got to go home for about a week on the day before his 60th Wedding Anniversary. This was wonderful for my mother, and the Family. 

So now we wait, hold his hand, and pray. Last night the show didn’t go on, in fact this year my heart has been broken by music, the weight of the dream I have held in my heart all my life. But the real show, the big show, life and death has gone on in all it’s roller coaster glory.

thank you to all my friends that have supported me this year through my musical depression, my parental exhaustion, and the  losing on my father as I have known him. Especially my wife.

All I have for now.

Chuck

Coalface 2. Country Rock and Roll Heaven

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Coalface 2, the brain child of one Mr Den Hanrahan took place on the weekend at our nation’s capital. A collection of roots music acoustic acts, finalizing with kick ass Country Rock and Roll and the Blues.
I had the pleasure of kicking the whole thing off with Den, and it was good to belt some tunes out. I needed it. Local artist Hannah Blackburn played some lovely Alt Folk after me. Mr Adam Young graced the stage with his Jay Farrar like dulcetones, which always warms me, he is a treasure, and Mr Karl Broadie, who is in the running for the Alt Country Album at Tamworth Golden Guitar awards completed the Acoustic set. Exquisite was used to sum up his song writing, That sums it up. The band set started with local Blues rockers The Derek Bone Band.
Den then took the stage with the Roadsiders, which consisted of Matt Nightingale on bass and Scotty Dog on Drums. It was simply the best I have heard Hank sound in ages. Matt has been an awesome addition to Dens music, and Scotty Dog from the Re-mains simply killed it. Hannah Blackburn joined Den for some Harmonies.
Next the Re-mains took the stage, and proved once again they are simply the best Country Rock Band in the land. Mick Daley is peerless in this genre and Leigh Ivin being back in the band adds pure class. It was a hoot seeing Hank join them for some rowdy harmonies on “I didn’t Mean it”.
The night though belonged to Leadfinger. Stew Cunningham was ragging right from the start, and this was all time legs apart rock and roll. Les Paul through a Marshal, as God intended it. I have never seen these dudes before, but man, I will never forget them.
The night finished at Dens joint with a guitar pull involving Karl, Adam, Stew, Hank and my own self. Early hours of drunken song and insanity. All in a day’s work.
Congrats Hank on pulling a great day off. Thanks to Bucky for the Sound.
5 stars boys.

Life , Death and Taxes…

Well for the first time in 7 years, I have had to say no to touring Texas, last week I cancelled the tour I had booked, and have chosen to stay close to my Father, as he is gravely ill and has not long for this world. It was Easter this year when we were on tour down the South Coast, that mum rang me and said Dad;s collapsed, and he has not really ever made it out of hospital. Major heart surgery, with some complications , lead to a stroke, constant falling has eventually broken his hip, and now there is an infection he cant shake. The only real blessing came when they released him the day before his 60th wedding anniversary, and he celebrated it at home with mum and family, but falling and hurting himself put him in a week latter. I have had a long time to work out any issues I ever had with my father, so just being able to visit, hold his hand, and be there, has been a simple journey of saying goodbye , and sharing all my gratitude for the life he provided for us.

I have been in the same boat of late. I have two wonderful boys, and have had to take a day job to pay back loans I took on the band, and all the taxes I avoided to keep the band on the road and put out albums and film clips, but the Tax man has come calling now, so it’s been time to pay up, and provide also for this gift which is my Family. My mother stayed home to raise me and my sister, and Dad worked, it was her choice, she returned to work, when we were both at school, and she even got a job at the school, so she could be there to drop us off and pick us up. I am very grateful for that time I got with my mum, and I see my boys in that magic relationship now, just how happy and secure they are. I can see it wears Jen out at times, but I don’t think she would change it for the world.

It has meant I have had to cut the down the amount of shows I have been doing, and that has been hard, every time I stop playing, I always feel as though it might dry up, then we got the Musicoz nomination for I Play Country as a Video and Miss Texas Tonight as a Country song. I have no idea what is going to happen here, maybe something, maybe nothing, but it sure felt good to be acknowledged. It would be great if people voted for it, I will put the link in at the end.

This weekend I head to Melbourne to do some solo shows with Den Hanrahan, he has been playing guitar of late with the Wagon, and having him on board has made playing music fun again, I lost that under the pressure of trying to get the new album finished and out there, and hopefully noticed. After Tamworth the band fell apart for the tenth time, but that was along time ago now, and things have moved on. 

I will get back to Texas, that’s for sure, sooner rather than latter, I still see myself living there, San Antonio, or San Marcos, going to Riley’s Tavern on a Friday night, eating Rib’s at the County Line, Sam’s Burger Joint, Beethoven’s on a First Friday for some tunes and some good German sausage. Seeing he Hickiods get weird, any time is the right time for that.

Recently I downloaded Charlie Robison Live at Billy Bobs, what a cracker of a record. Randy Rogers new record Trouble is also simply brilliant. I still drive to work listening to James McMurty’s Choctaw Bingo, or streaming live radio from New Braunfel’s Texas. I cant tell you how much I miss being able to see it live.

So between now and Christmas, its support the family, pay the Taxman, and get ready for Tamworth. Solo shows will be fun, and lets hope that I Play Country gets a few votes, 

See you on the road my friends…Image

 

http://www.musicoz.org/

Sunday Morning coming down….

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Sunday Morning coming down....

On a lazy Sunday, just hanging with my peeps, about to head up the Coast to see my birth mother, ( that’s a story for another day) I am just hanging with Lil Marshal, it’s the easiest thing in the wall to be around him, he is full of wonder and imagination, this morning we had cooking bowls on our heads cause it was apparently raining inside. Mums asleep cause Baby Maverick had a rough night, all sleep is precious at this time in a family life , Toddler and a baby, I slept 2 hours on the floor in a bean bag in my office cause the family was all down, and man I would have paid money for that sleep. I have been getting a poster put together for some shows in Melbourne just before my last U.S.A. trip for a little while, I have even been stressed whether I should attempt it this year, but some shows are booked, and I feel that I have to come and say thank you more than good bye. I have been thinking of all the people that have helped me way beyond the call of duty, way beyond anything I could ever repay. I have always turned up in Texas, broke, with some songs to play, to sell some records to pay the band, fuel, keep the Wagon rolling, I have worn out friends, band members, and myself. My wife just sends me with her blessing every time I head out for shows, but especially the USA. It along way from home, but I always head back there because it lives large in my heart. I have heard mixed rumours of what people think of my exploits in the USA. I should have moved there, should never have gone there. That he is obsessed with it and that I should write more about Australia. They are all right at one level, and at another, like ass holes, opinions are something everyone possesses, and they have their right to them. I am at the end of it simply grateful to have been able to go to the country I love, and play Country music, travelling around Texas , Colorado, across the continental divide, hitting California, Chicago , L.A. the list goes on. Meeting Randy Rogers was cool, Steve Earle, Jack Ingram, and that list is way to long. So I have to get back there , just this time to say good bye, and take sometime to see what’s next…
To be continued…

The power of the Power Trio

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Chuck Loving the Blues

ImageLast night for the first time in maybe 7 years I played with Chucks Wagon as a three piece band, in fact I have never played just as a three piece in Chucks Wagon! I cut my teeth on lead guitar in a Texas Style Blues band called Warning in my 20’s, but I was always a much more enthusiastic player than skilful. ( Pentatonic Scales and Modes learnt by route got me through.) Loved Johnny Winter, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Fabulous Thunderbirds, Early ZZ Top, Rory Gallagher ( I know He is Irish!), Robben Ford, the list went on. Once I started to slowly drift from Texas Blues to Texas country, I realised it was always in me. My father was a Johnny Cash fan, and my mother a Banjo player, but I rebelled against when I was a kid. Found my own way into music, so it’s interesting the effect of those earlier influences and how I have ended up back worshiping at Johnny Cash’s feet. It was that pure power and emotion of Johnny Winter and force that a trio can become that always impressed me. The way Highway 61 ripped in , made you forget Bob Dylan even wrote the song. Johnny owned it now. Then there was that boogie that ZZ Top cooled on in with, La Grange, Tush, Just got Paid Today, Jesus just left Chicago, amazing, but then when I first saw the Cold Shot video by Steve Ray Vaughan, well ,well ,well, that took it all another notch up. These guys are why I started Warning, and I was an unashamed fan, so folks, I was in love….

When I started Chucks Wagon, I just wanted to focus on song writing, singing, and being a front man, and hire great lead Guitar Players,and it has been an amazing bunch of guitar players I have had the pleasure to play with, I’m not lying when I say that there has been some Legends among them, but that’s a story for another day.

So last night , at Harbord playing with our friends the Chickenstones, I simply couldn’t get one of the regular Wagon Guys, so Friday night, out came the Harmonica’s, and I tweaked the effects for lead , and just went through the paces out at Dodge Dave’s place with Henry on sticks, workman on the tools, sounded ok, all sorted, lets go for it. Saturday played at home going over the harps songs, Little Marshal set up his make shift  drum kit, went through the songs again with him counting in , One Two Seven , Six! ( he is 2 1/2!), and that was a lot of fun. Then it was off to the show.

Nice winters night, cosy crowd, and hit off with San Antone, and first solo, tube screamer pedal volume on 0, so clean it was, after that it was smooth sailing. Henry’s still picking up the songs being new, but there was the space you can find as a three piece. Letting rip in I Play Country, Burn It Down and Texas, well that reminded me of my old blues rock days. All in all job done, not to stressful at all, and fun to boot. Hanging with the Stones is always fun because they are all good men and gentlemen. They had a relatively new drummer and he was fantastic, really suited the band, and they are simply going from strength to strength. Always thought having the Stones in their name was apt, as like the Rolling Stones, it’s the weaving the guitars do that makes their sound, that and raw energy both Keith and Ronnie have , makes the two of them mightier then the one could ever be. The Old Doc and the Preacher pull the same thing off in Chickenstones, infectious foot tapping rock and roll, played cause they love it to people who come cause they simply love the boys. I stayed out the back the whole night, under the starry winter sky, shooting the shit and feeling good about playing again for the first time in awhile. My guitar was the thing that was suppose to get me out of the Bronx, give me a different life, well on that night, I was along was from where I started out and it felt good.

 

When the alarm went off on the Sunday, the morning after , there was no time to fiddle about, apart from go get the 2 year old ( we already had the 6 month old in bed, ) Heat up a bottle, watch a cartoon, then head off to the Country Road’s Radio show on 2RRR with Ronnie Boy. Ronnie has been very supportive of the Wagon, and it was a pleasure to be on the show promoting Family Man, our latest single, and he played the first single I Played Country and Miss Texas Tonight. Love the pedal steel and fiddle in Miss Texas. Tommy Detamore just makes that song. Early show, early home, and it was an awesome Sunday with Family, friends. To be honest it’s bath time right now, and I have to go and help out , bye for now folks. See on the road. Love the ones your with folks, they needs it to.

Chuck

 

 

Tilba, The Dromadery Hotel, and Rock and Roll

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Well Folks, I haven’t written for a while, I am fickle like that, ever since Tamworth I have had the wind knocked out of me. With the release of Family Man, I have seriously thought about calling it a day, “Chuck takes the Wagon of the road and becomes Family Man!” It has a certain ring to it. Having two small kids latter in my life has been a magnificent gift, one that just keeps giving. I have never missed being away more than I have when I go and play. If that makes me soft so be it. I heard Townes Van Zant say once that he was aware of the moment were he thought he could actually do this music thing, but he realised he would have to leave everyone behind to pursue it. When I started Chucks Wagon, it was my grumpy old man policy. I knew I had another shot in me, and that I wouldn’t be satisfied if I didn’t give it a royal old go. The rough plan was to do three albums in five years and then a live one to finish off, and then see where the lay of the land left me. Well it’s been 6 years, I’m three albums in and there’s the live one to come. I don’t count the Live in Austin, Texas, as it was an acoustic record, even though doing that tour with Kinnon Holt will remain with me till the day I die. That man is a true Outlaw.

The trouble is I just can’t seem to give it away that easily. We have Family Man out on the Radio tonight, and off this record, I Play Country, I know there are at least another single or two off it.

Tony Leach who did the film clip for I Play Country, has sent me the treatment for Family Man, and I know I have to do it.

Keeping a band together, when you don’t earn a lot form shows is one thing, keeping it all together , when you want to make records and film clips, and the band don’t earn much is a whole other story. When I got home from work my wife stated that she rang a budgeting company that advertises on TV to see if they would take us on, and after she explained were we are at, they were not interested. Now I earn money, good money, I had to take a day gig to keep the band moving forward, but now with dependants, spending all my money on Rock and Roll, well, that simply just can’t keep happening, so therefore I have to get myself out of this hole. So one last film clip, a farewell tour of the USA, and one last Tamworth and then I will have a good think about it. Well that was the plan.

“Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans” John Lennon.

Chucks Wagon has had more drummers then Spinal Tap, and nearly as many guitar players. You can’t have that many players go through a band, and blame anyone else but yourself, so the buck stops here.  After Tamworth, when major changes happened again, it was hard to keep moving forward.

“ It doesn’t matter how many times you get knocked down, just matters how many times you get back up” Rocky Balboa- Rocky V

But, it’s not in my nature to give up, so forward it was. My buddy Den Hanrahan said he would fill in, and before him I had the pleasure to play with the wonderful Jeff Mercer, a true gentleman with a master’s touch. Den, did finally get the call up. I have been a Den Hanrahan fan before; I actually knew I was a Den Hanrahan fan. I played the very first Ben Hall Biker Ball at Forbes a scary amount of years ago, and it was in a shearing shed, and I still remember this guy soloing, and it was Den, and the band was Saddle Rash. Den these days is a consummate Troubadour, a slave to the song, and it’s his passion that impresses most folks, you simply can’t take your eyes off this guy. He put’s everything he has into his music. I still think when he plays Ft worth Blues, Steve Earle turns around somewhere and says “Hang on a minute”.

Before the show’s on the weekend, we had played two shows as a band, both ok, some hit’, some miss’s, no use lying to yourself. On Saturday we played the Gerringong Bowlo, and I love it down that way, but, country music aunt everybody’s thing, and let’s just say Gerringong didn’t have their Cowboy boots on that night, not to mention that the local supermarket got held up with a Hammer just before the show, and the cops were everywhere, including the club. It was a cold night. As with music though, after the show, the Wonderful Sue Corbett had booked us into some accommodation, about 60 klms towards our next show, we found it in about 2am, and it was an oasis of the heart, in the bush, up against the lake, two stories of country lovin. In a band the most time you spend with each other is off the stage so the hang time is important. There’s not much to it, some beer, (in my case coffee!), some tunes, and some shit talking about some other gig, some other time, some other place. Tunes keep coming, beer runs out (everyone drinks coffee now) sun comes up, people go to bed. This night seemed just what the doctor ordered. When we did get up to a beautiful winters morning, Dave and Drummer Henry went off to get some Fry up, and after Mr Harding finished his cooking duties, we sat round working the tunes up, Den on Guitar, Dobro, Banjo, Henry on brushes, and Harding playing the  bass. It felt god, timing was right, and off we headed to Tilba Tilba.

Now this truly is Paradise on the South Coast. The Dromedary Hotel is a special place, frequented by music lovers, they listen, they dance, they buy C.D’S, they dance some more, and when the nights done, everyone is stoked. Music is a funny thing, and for no apparent reason, tonight, the line up kicked out the jams. No more worrying about getting it right, amps got turned up (told by the publican to play load!)I think is the warm atmosphere, we were amongst friends, and just let it rip. Mr Hanrahan was on fire. Harding and Henry were in the zone, all I had to do was whip out the songs. Easy! When finished a bunch of encores, and the fires were dying down, it was nice to relax, and feel like we turned a corner. It was less than 24 hours before this that I was sitting on the front steps of the Gerringong Bowlo, in between sets, thinking why I do this to myself.

What a difference a day makes…

Straight after the show, I packed up quick, and decided to do the five hours back to Sydney, easier at night. Just got to watch out for the roo’s, wombats, Hanrahan said he even saw an Emu. When I was driving through Gerroa, there was a white owl sitting in the middle of the road. Good Medicine.

Family Man’s last verse sums up why I went home. Mum and Baby Maverick were sick, and mum was getting exhausted. Even though staying and waking up at Tilba would have been good for the soul, my heart belonged at home.

So, where to from here? It’s at this point a Mystery. It was good to feel the music again, not worry, and be playing it with good men, on a mission. Film to come; looking forward to seeing what Tony Leach comes up with this time. Sydney Launch at the Botany View first week of September, and next weekend we are playing with our good friends the Chickenstones.

Texas, well Big John Duer’s booking that as we speak. Looking forward to a chicken fried steak at the County Line, trying to catch Randy Rogers in between shows, and then it’s getting ready for Tamworth. Hopefully one of these singles makes something out of the Band, but there will always be a night in Tilba Tilba were four men, balls to the well tore the house down!

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Family Man

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Family Man is the second single from Chucks Wagon’s third studio album, I Play Country. Chuck Stokes missed Tamworth Country Music Festival in 2011 due to the birth of his son Marshal, falling to close for comfort. As all the folks kicked up their heals at the Australian premier country music festival, Chuck and his lovely wife Jen gave birth to Marshal Alan Stokes, a 10lb 2 oz big bopper. After the birth Jen got an infection that nearly took her life. This song is what country is all about, real people and life on life terms. She made it through and now years later with a second child keeping them awake at night, this song is a reminder to them, and for others who have had those dark family moments, that sometimes, love does get you through. Recorded in Texas, with producer Tommy Detamore, and mastered by Australia’s mighty Don Bartley, this could be Chucks Wagon’s finest moment.
This single also marks the slowing down of the Wagon for a while. Being gifted two beautiful young boys, the focus has changed for Chuck. “I can fully understand how Garth Brooks stopped playing, to be a Family Man!”
So, Chucks Wagon will tour up till Tamworth 2014, promote Family Man and then the Wagon goes into the Barn, for some well earned rest, and I’m sure we have not heard the end from Chuck Stokes.