Tamworth 2015, the road and the Wagon.

Last week a friend said I hadn’t added anything to the blog on the website since the 2013 tour. I thought shit, that would be right. Two Tamworth’s ago as I made that long drive home I didn’t feel to clear on the path forward regarding the band, music, song writing, the lot.

The last show at the Albert in 2013 had left a darkness in me that resulted in what was the end of The Wagon as I knew it. I don’t tell stories after the fact although I had to field my fair share of rumours and concerns from people I had never met, and certainly never had the front to approach me. That time has passed. As George Strait sings, Fool me once shame on you, Fool my twice, shame on me.Last years Tamworth went along way to wiping the memory with Scotty Dogg and Den Hanrahan joining the Hitman and me into relaunching the Wagon the way it should be played.

10924696_999517940063112_4577474011667861143_n 10354226_1003576239657282_7016193712599405731_n 10915151_999604133387826_3284349863194656921_n

Only The Hitman and myself remained as permanent members, and with a new drummer and Den Hanrahan offering to fill in I kept doing some shows even some Outlaws of Country shows, Had the pleasure of playing with Jeff Mercer, of which a finer country feel on guitar you might never find. My heart was not fully in it, but I have never been a quitter. Playing with Den Hanrahan was like a cool breeze on a hot day. Hadn’t had that much fun since playing with Kinnon Holt, the greatest Outlaw Guitar slinger in this great southern land. Hanrahan punches his way through a song, just tears solos to pieces, all with a Larakin grin, infectious love of a song that just carries you along with it.I love this guy.

I was asked after my fathers funeral, by Greg Hirst who is the Brotherhood President, and a biker minister if my old three piece Blues Rock Band, Warning could reform to play the 20th anniversary of the Silverwater Bike Show. It forced me to start back on the lead guitar, and as the show approached, my confidence grew. It was fun playing the old songs, and being with my old band was great. The stories, good laughs with old friends. It was the songs though, Rory Gallagher, Johnny Winter, ZZ Top. BB King, BTO, SRV,George Thorougood, down home rocking blues. The show was fun, and when I got offered a BVH show which was a blow out, I took it and did it as a three piece. I was so use to the extra players in Chucks Wagon I doubted I could do it, but I did it anyway. It was better than I thought,, not as good as I wanted, but the good feeling stayed with me. I did a few that way this year, started even liking the space in the song, it could breathe, the song did the talking.

So, when Tamworth rolled around this year, three of the shows I did three piece, I knew it could work, and it was fun. We once again didn’t have a drummer, Simon Wale , had been playing back with us, but had Festival commitments, so Grunter Bedford lined up Ronny Rhindo, local Tamworth sticks man. I cant tell you the amount of times me and the Hitman have driven towards shows with drummers we hadn’t played with, meeting them at the show, it goes with the territory inbands that dont make good coin. There have been some awesome win’s . Scotty Dogg last year, Jacob Cook to name a couple, but  Ronny Rhindo though , bloody hell, he was simply a delight. Great bloke, great feel, all class. I wanted to bottle him. The shows were fun. The first night we headed to the Crabpot to relax, the craziness was soothing. The second show was better than the first and then me and Harding headed back to Sydney.My Family, my other passion, had to be served. Part of me laying low has been I have had to pay back the money on albums, film clips. my choice. my responsibility. I shook a few hands, my hand shake is good.

We had planned to only do four shows this year , on both weekends. I headed back to Sydney though with a lot of joy in my heart, knowing Ronny would be there the following week and Den at the first show.

1897989_1002877159727190_4369510878498137495_n

When we hit town again on the Friday, it was with a good vibe. Headed to Nundle to catch the Remains. The anti Tamworth Festival. at Nundle I was able to breath, listen to Mick Daly weave his dishevelled magic Country Rock and Roll with Bones and Scotty Dogg driving the bed the Leigh swaggers all around in. Hanrahan filled in the last set like a glove. He and Daley are brothers from another mother. Chewing the fat with Matt Nightingale, Pete Fidler, Gibbo floating, the adorable Adam Young, effervescent Sarah Carroll, Glenny Rae and Dougie Ball passing through to the show down at the hall. Standing underneath the verandah of pure Australian heritage. I knew i was being rejuvenated with all that was good about Rock and Roll, the real Rock and Roll.

Over the 7 years I have been playing Tamworth I have seen my favourite Blues, Boogie and Country Rock and Rollers run out of town. I have been lucky I suppose. My songs are probably a straighter country than the bands I love, and I write singer songwriter type lyrics. Not good enough to break the big end of town, and not cool enough to brake the Alternative end of town. I know who I am. I am grateful for the work. For the folks that come to my shows , regulars, not many, but they all count to me. You know who you are. I know you to. Thank you

Seeing 8 Ball and Doug Bruce  get Nominated  for Golden Guitars I felt envy and hope.Seeing Luke O’Shea win three years running after winning last year, I felt joy.

I haven’t got an idea right now how to get even close, but I was glad to see their success.

The Saturday show at The Albert Hotel was a good moment in the history of the Wagon. Den was just pumped, new amp, new guitar,  full of love and power. Ronny was  in his groove from the weekend past, and then there was Harding, The Hitman. He is my last man standing, loyal to the cause, a man of few words, plenty of road stories, but few words. He however has told me clearly he believes in the songs.This he has voted with his feet . We go back a long way, and the strength of that connection has been underestimated at times.10915151_999604133387826_3284349863194656921_n

With this behind me I strapped the guitar on, and hit out. Let the songs do the talking. It felt good and right, but what meant the most to me was looking to the back of the room and seeing David Major beaming one of his beautiful smiles at me. I am to sensitive as a man, makes me hard to get on with, hard to get to know.Easy to hurt and anger. A need to be understood, I wrote it out in Wreckless on the first album.. Having people I admire tell me what we are doing counts means an enormous amount to me. I know it should not. I see others that seem to shun it completely. Its a candour I cant muster. That Saturday was what Rock and Rolls about to me. By the time I played Family Man, it moved a room. I’ve been in those rooms, It is the reason Music is my compass, my light, my access to the spirit. It was good to be the co-creator on this occasion. The rest of the day after a gig like that is a breeze, nothing else matters. I’ve seen my surfer friends like that once they are surfed out. Giving and being given to all at once. After a feed , letting the Hipshooters do their thing right in front on my, was amazing, Anton and Billy, crackerjacks, and Ronny literally carried his kit across the street and did another three sets with them. Digging deep, doing exceptional!.

By the Sunday, the last show was a pleasure, lunchtime, , great crowd, singing original songs and some Merle Haggard and others. I was grateful for the shows, thanks Dallas Vee and the Albert Hotel for having us, giving original country music ago. Every year I head back there, new albums to sell, make some new friends, see some old ones. It’s a privilege really, to be able to play. I have fantasies of grandeur, they are elusive, but Tamworth , The Albert, well that is real. The people that make there way there every year , to have fun , hear music, that is real. Thank you for pulling up a stool, and tipping your hat in our direction. I hope we gave you something in return.10929930_1003576229657283_74814406788482607_n 10933838_999603643387875_9187512169680213791_n

Heading back from Tamworth sun going down, Jason Boland and the Stranglers, Randy Rogers Band on the stereo, and then some early Richard Clapton, Mi-Sex, Rose Tattoo , George Strait to get me home. All good, all part of my mixed up musical Aussie DNA.

2015 is just starting, two trips to the USA planned for this year, some cool connections made with Ruby Dee and the Snakehandlers on their Aussie tour. Might just take up their offer to back me in Austin, make some more magic. As REK says, The road goes on forever,,,, I pray I am that lucky.

see you on the road somewhere.DSCN3677

Homemade Tamales!!! Randy Rogers Bands new album is a cracker

I’ve been obsessed with Randy Rogers Band latest Live at John T Floores Country Store titled Homemade Tamales. This band over the last 10 years has gone from strength to strength and this live album is about as good as contemporary Texas Country Rock gets, I am always aware that my Hank 3 Outlaw friends might think Randy Rogers is simply heading to main stream, and it is what it is, but what it is as far as I’m concerned is first class! I chased him down a few times in my travels, saw him solo with Wade Bowen at Gruene Hall, what a magical night. I stood at his tour bus for so long as I had a copy of Texas , the Chucks Wagon song I mention him in, and his manager came at, he got Randy, we chatted as I fumbled over my words, but tried to tell him how inspired I was by him. As a result of my stalking, the sheriff got to know me, and that came in handy, as it was sold out and even my best Australian accent did not get me in , but the Sheriff took pity on me , and let me stand down the side in the no Loitering section, and I watched the show through the chicken wire, under a full Texas Moon with Randy and Wade trading songs an stories, and all the Texans singing along word for word, I was just transported, to what felt like home. It was a strange and wonderful night. I got the song Dancing with you Tonight from being right there, and it’s on Lipstick and Sin .I was travelling over there with Kinnon Holt and an ex. It was the best and worst of times, best music I ever played with Kinnon Holt, he is an Outlaw!, and the relationship, well, that’s where I got Lipstick and Sin from, everything gives you something. I might not be [laying a hell of a lot right this second, but on this Sunday Morning, with the kids playing in the background and after a great feed of fresh of the grill Pancakes, Randy Rogers is playing live on my TV, and for today, this is as close to Texas I’m goning get.Image!!!

Warning, and a Working Class Man

This weekend has been interesting. Lately I have certainly felt my Mojo has gone missing. I have been fighting the Black Dog, getting up , one foot in front of the other. Last night I had a walk down memory lane, the bands of my youth, from the inside. I sat in the middle of my childhood heroes, the ones that gave it all and made it. I felt proud. A stupid feeling really, but i felt real joy for them. The years of work, and it paid off. The Angels Richard Clapton,Ian Moss, Daryl Braithewaite and Jimmy Barnes all really conquered. I couldn’t stand the people or the crowds, but we got into a beautiful spot to watch Jimmy give a master class on what Aussie Rock and Roll can be. A family man providing, for his kin, and his fans. I felt given to. I snapped a picture of friend Tim Bradshaw taking shots. His music passion is well documented. I understand that passion.

Image

Today was the opposite experience. I had a personal nostalgic moment. Nearly 28 years ago I got clean in a westie fellowship, my first sponsor taught me guitar. I never had the patience when I was using. Every Friday night I would go to his house, leaving my wife downstairs with his wife and I would go upstairs and play till the early hours, come down , and then wake her , and we would head home. I started a band called Warning. We played original Rock, and then Texas Blues. My sponsor quit the band 3 days before our first show with that line up. I was playing lead in 7 songs, and then night he walked out I had two days to learn how to cover the lead in 23 other songs, well I did it, and didn’t look back. I played with Pietro Desiderio on Drums and Mark Andrew’s on Bass.

Image Well, today for service I played with Mark and Pete for the area I grew up in. All old school songs that people knew. I was fun, and it felt good, and we sounded good. I am grateful that in recovery I have been able to play music in one form or another. I wished I had made it through, I haven’t yet, but man, I wont die wondering, I will be dying trying , giving it all I got, and teaching my sons the power that is Rock and Roll.

Image

 

 

Tonight I saw the future of Rock and Roll…..

ImageLately, life hasImage been a roller-coaster, I get sick of thinking about it, but for Valentines day I got me and Jen tickets to Springsteen, won them off ebay, as money has been tight,they were behind the stage, but I didn’t care. I needed to see him. Again. He is a revival,a prolific magnificent master. High Hopes, his latest album is a cracker, still at nearly 65 pumping them out, enviable, for men a third of his age to write so often, so deep an inspirational. Wrecking Ball was a great record. I just got the Seeger sessions on vinyl, was a cool record. Working on A dream, cool, The Rising, masterpiece. Devils and Dust, killer. I really do feel for any fool that goes to his concerts and hasn’t bought anything since Born in the USA. A wasted life.

Image

Well tonight, heading the in the rain, we were stuck in traffic, me being my doomsday self, started to get down, and angry, but Jen guided us there the back way, and the concert started late, and as we took our seat, he came on. The first Miracle. For seats behind the stage, they were great, sound was great, and the band, well they are the best in the business and to top it off he had Nils, Little Steven and Tom Morello.. Bloody Hell, Lynard Skynard, sit down.

Tom Morello just brings something else to this already magnificent band. He is amazing on High Hopes, but the solo he does on Tom Joad is out if his world. 

Image

Then, just like a parent that saves the best present till last at Xmas, Bruce announces that we have never done this before in Australia, but tonight we are going to play Darkness at the Edge of Town, in full. Now this is a big record, a dark , heavy deep record. Racing in the streets, is a song for my soul, a record that gets men through divorce, retrenchment, disenchantment, life’s challenge.

Tonight I need the Faith that saves us, I needed to hear…

Some guys they just give up living
And start dying little by little, piece by piece,
Some guys come home from work and wash up,
And go racin’ in the street.”

You see my music has always been my “racing in the street”.I have needed to work day jobs to survive and provide for my family. I see this getting discussed these days on social media, musicians telling other musicians what they should play for, how much, whether you professional, semi professional, a hobbyist, and who thinks who is better or worst. Trying to regulate how much you should get paid. Good luck I say working that one out. If musicians can, help the rest of the professions out, get the tradies to all agree on a price to, save us al so bread.

I play, because I am a musician, I write because I am a songwriter. As an originals artist, music has always cost me more than I have earnt, cause I fund tours, I pay my band, I record albums and make film clips. Why? Cause it is inside of me, finding it’s way out, to go ” Racing in the Streets”

Image

Smoke em if you got folks, play where you can, for what you can I say, cream rises to the top, if you dedicated and any good,if you pull a crowd, and they have a good time, then you will be fine. Good luck to all my musical friends, may the force be with you.

You see, Mr Springsteen gives me faith, that if you stay true, and have a dream, then just maybe the light at the end of the tunnel, could be you.  I do wish I could meet him one day. All I would say is thank you, for having the balls, givin the world such hope, such love, for everything you had to give. God Bless you Bruce. You have saved men like me. Passionate, creative, blood pumping men, and given me a compass. For that, I am grateful.

High Hopes my friend, High Hpoes indeed…

 

I wanna go out tonight, I wanna find out what I got.
Now I believe in the love that you gave me.
I believe in the faith that could save me.
I believe in the hope and I pray that some day it
Will raise me above these

Badlands…

Image

 

 

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.

Image

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.

Image

Image

 

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.

Image

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!

Image

 

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.

Image

 

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.

Image

Image

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.

Image

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….

Image

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.

Image

 

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….

Image

ImageImage

Image

 

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.

Image

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….

Coalface 2. Country Rock and Roll Heaven

Image

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.

Tilba, The Dromadery Hotel, and Rock and Roll

IMG_1510

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!

https://www.facebook.com/groups/558737710837741/

 

Birth of our second son Maverick James Alexander Stokes

ImageI am very pleased to announce the Birth of our second son, Maverick James Alexander Stokes, born on the 6th of February, at 4.45pm weighing 9 lbs and 3 oz’s. One things for sure Jen ( Mrs Wagon) and I sure do make big babies. We were lucky Maverick came a week early, cause Marshal came a week latter, and he was over 10 lb. I know they make babies bigger than that but Jen is only little, and just like Marshal she took it to the line in  regards to labour, and just could get the head to fit out that whole. We were in the hands of Royal North Shore’s head of Maternity, as the file we brought from St George Hospital, after all we went through for Marshals birth, and Jen’s close mysterious shave with death, became compulsory reading. They certainly didn’t want that happening on their watch. There was a moment in the operating theatre where I was reassuring Jen that everything was ok, but then I could see they were struggling to get him free. His head was just jammed. I had the video camera running, but just by my side, and it ran for 15 minutes, 12 of those they were trying to pull him free. When they got him out he was blue, and I left Jen’s side to go the the baby table, and they wiped Maverick down, then pumped some air into his chest, It felt as though it went forever, but then , his lungs filled, and he let us have it. Awesome, nothing like it, that first cry.” Beautiful, Beautiful Boy”, John Lennon, you got that right. Unlike Marshals birth, we got to go back to the ward as a family, and there began 4 nights of sleeping by Jen’s bed, helping were I can, to change nappies, and rock a bye baby, but the lions share was done by mum. Her heart was set on breast feeding from the get go, and Maverick sure did have an appetite. It did take some time, and the third night was murder, one hours sleep, 15 hours of crying, feeding, shitting, and that was just us! No, really, old Maverick ran us through our paces, see what we had in us. What he doesn’t know, or maybe he does, and that’s why he picked this little family to come into to, is that me and his mother, well we don’t give up, ever, on nothing. Especially family.

I knew when I was in Tamworth that Jen could go into labour any time, I always had my phone on me, and was prepared to head back at a moments notice. When Marshal was born, the gap was to fine, and I cancelled the shows I had booked and stayed close, but this year with I Play Country out on the CMC, and the new record, I just knew we had to go, and Jen understood. It was the last of the release shows to for the Album, a tour that started in Sydney in October, and headed to Texas/Colorado and then back again for East coast dates of Australia, ending at the Tamworth Festival. I am now having 6 weeks off before my next show. Time to take stock, re-focus and then go hard. This year I am putting it all on the line. Three singles to come of the record, three singles to go onto the CMC. My family needs me now, to make it or break it with Chucks Wagon. I have played Music for the last 25 years, and the next 25 I am sure I will be playing music to, but when I started Chucks Wagon, I had not re-met Jen. I say re-met, because we knew each other when I was in Psychobilly band, The Psyclones. I loved that band, and I was the creepy old guy in it, with front man Paul O’Conner only 26, and young Jordan C Thomas only 16 yrs old on Bull fiddle.Simon Wale was 32 at the time on drums. I was married, and Jen was just a punk rock fan, Imagethere for the Music. no Sparks, nothing, that I knew of anyway. Yet years latter, at the Empire Hotel for a Barfly Ska vs Rockabilly Night, we met up, It was great to see her, and we made a date for coffee, and that started a long and I would say rocky courtship. Not rocky in a bad way, I was just used to woman who were a bit more rowdy then Jen, so I miss read some of her cue’s, which were a lot more subtle then I was use to. I was glad I came to my senses, as Jen has a lot of dignity , and it was her dignity that attracted me to her, and she wasn’t going to just fool around with no Honky Tonker till she got to know him, and now when I look back I really respect her for that. At the time it felt like she was the Hotrod in the garage, and I didn’t have the keys yet! But the coffee that we had, did lead to the closest thing to family I have ever known. I am older than Jen. Ray Charles would even be able to see that.She always told me from the start that it doesn’t concern her. As long as your happy was the advice, she took it, I’m a lucky man. She is the ice to my fire. I worry, I am a stress head. The band breaks my heart several times a week, and she is just there, cooling my engines. She said, when we got pregnant with Marshal, that she was looking forward to becoming a Family, not just a couple any more  She is always coming out with things like that, that make a lot of simple sense to me. I was worrying about something once, maybe me not appearing good enough for some situation, and she said, don’t worry, we are not fancy people. I have always remembered that. I am not a fancy person, it will be ok. And it always has.

As I write this, we are at home, first night out of hospital. My Mother in law is here for the week, and her help is magnificent. I lucked in on that front folks. My parents came over today. They had not seen Maverick yet, and still hadn’t seen Marshal for his Birthday, so it was awesome to watch them light up when they played with their Grandsons.Image

My Mother and Father gave me everything they could. Both come from Poverty and worked hard all their lives.My Father is a very decent man. I have alot of respect for him, and how he always looked after us as a family, and Mother created a home, full of activity and there was never a dull moment. That is all another story, I will tell it here one day. For now though, just seeing them, with their hearts full of love, filled me up. I had to go and get them, as neither drive as well as they use to. I worry about them on the roads all the time, so it was a relief for me to be able to do them that courtesy , and bring them here and home again after the visit.

So it’s been along day, and I need to crash. Baby Maverick is asleep in our room, Marshal in his own, Mum in law out the back. . Life, it’s what happened to me while I was making other plans.(John Lennon again!) I never knew that Jen and I would form a unit, but she is my Queen Scout ( She is actually a Queen scout!) Mother and Wife. We have two big boppers, full of beans and I cant wait to see who they turn into.

Chucks Wagon, well this year, I ‘m really having a go. I have lost a few folks on that last tour. Simon Wale, Dave Turner, John Wardle. I cant believe it really. Yet I picked up the Mighty Den Hanrahan and Al Fisk and Mark Fairhurst. Dodge Dave always told me he was in it for the long haul, and he has remained true to his word. . The first show I will be doing post Maverick is a Songwriters in the Round. I am really looking forward to some solo shows this year, including the USA and talks again regarding Europe. How I would love to play London, Paris, Berlin and Amsterdam! Who knows. Stranger things have happened!

Thanks to our lovely friends that helped out and sent us all their love from afar. Four for a special mention, are Emma Woods, who received our emergency “Waters Broke ” call at 2.30 am, and was their 15 minutes latter when I picked her up so she could look after Marshal, my mother in law Fiona

Image

for coming to stay and baby sit Marshal while we were in hospital, and now to help Jen for the next week, and my dear friends Suzy and Gary Imagewho came down bearing love and gifts yesterday and lifted our spirits.

Tomerong Live!

Three country Artist’s converged on Tomerong Hall last Friday Night, bringing their own version of what lives as Australian Country Music. All shows at this time of the year seem like the wind up into the Tamworth Festival, and Tomerong certainly got a taste of what’s to come.

Benn Gunn was in fine form, opening the night in Duo mode with Mark Thomas, and it was a perfect fit for the old country hall, and the sleepy country town that is Tomerong. The crowd loved it, and Benn’s voice and guitar were warm, and his songs had the crowd singing along, especially his single ”I love Girls who like Beer”.

Den Hanrahan is one of this country’s rough diamonds; he cuts his own path, that’s for sure. If you get him talking, his passion for the truth of a song becomes screamingly obvious. With Al Fisk on drums, fresh back from Canada, which he fell in love with touring with The Remains, and ended up living there for six months, and Dodge Dave provided the perfect backline for the Crazy Horse that is Hanrahan to ramble on. With a new album 8 days away from release, these songs featured in what was a dynamic set. For my mind though, Den played Forth Worth Blues , which I just can never get sick of hearing him play. Better than Steve Earle’s version, hands down. Just don’t tell him I said that!

Chucks Wagon had the pleasure to close the night, and it being the second show with the fabulous David Sleishman on drums, I just wanted to keep it tight. The focus for me at the moment is putting the new album “ I Play County” front and centre, while  still keeping the “Lipstick and Sin” songs spinning along to. We threw in Merle Haggard’s “Working Man Blues”, and “Honky Tonk Nightime Man”, as well as “I’m on Fire” by Springsteen, but our Hillbilly version, which John Wardle shined on all three, paying homage to the finger picking skills of Jerry Reed and Brett Mason , but still making it his own.

 Getting a new line up ticking along can take time, melting everybody’s individual talents in the village stew is an art, and if Tomerong Hall was any indication, we are on our way. I was excited to watch today with millions of folks around the world, the live telecast of the Rolling Stones  50th year Anniversary show. They still have IT! At nearly 70 years old. That is incredible. I have thought for ages that the Rolling Stones have changed the definition of what it’s like to get old, forever. There is no going back now. You give it all, or go home. From there anything can happen. Well, I am a foolish man. I share this belief, and on Friday night, in a sleepy little South coast town, that was bathed in a sweet summer drizzle of rain, we came, we plugged in, and we left it there on the boards. It ain’t over yet. Keef Rules!ImageImageImageImageImageImagepringsteenImageImageImageImageImage