Texas. Got back there as fast as I could!

IMG_0906Sitting here after making it through another USA to Australia flight, I am filled with the exhaustion that comes with liven large for a short time  in a place that just fills your senses, and the excitement of seeing my wife and boys, and all the Family centered chaos of immediate needs that comes with family life.

I tried numbing myself out with movies, American Sniper (love Clint Eastwood, what a talented life he has left, a true master of his art) CAKE (To much like work, and I aint back yet) and Stephen Hawking’s life story. He is an amazing man, he sure made Lemonade.

15 hours into to longest single flight in the world ( Dallas to Sydney), I knew I had to stop hiding, and start facing up. So Sturgill Simpson is the soundtrack to this verse. Every so often I forget, that music always starts flowing from and new and original source, someone comes along like Sturgill, and just blows your boat clear out of the water. He is the next big thing, of this I have no doubt. Seeing him live restored my faith in Country Rock and Roll! The perfect mix of Nostalgia and originality. Man I needed it, with all the replicators out there regurgitating Bro Country bullshit, Sturgill sure is kicking the shit out of that Barn door.
IMG_0985

Coming back from Texas always has me feeling sad, I could live there in a heartbeat. I have felt right driving on the wrong side of the road there for over 8 years now. I love the Music, the people, the food, the way the place feels to me. Usually I am home based in San Antone, but this time around I was the House guest of Ruby Dee and Jorge Harada, from Ruby Dee and the Snakehandlers. Finer hospitality you could not have hoped for, and as I get on in years, I am surprised when I make a new friend.

Sitting out on the back porch with Jorge as we shared our smoke of choice, me my Peterson’s pipe with a hometown San Marcos blend, and him, his stogies. Talking music, life, women and the road as only men hitting 50 can. Old enough to have seen dream’s come and go. Old enough to know who you are, and what’s likely to be. Old enough to still harbor fantasies it can be different. Young enough to attempt them.
IMG_0268
Jorge put together the Snakehandlers for my early shows, and AJ Mac on Drums and Dylan Cavaliere on Country Bass were a great fit for Chucks Wagon tunes. Playing my Texas inspired music with Texans always ads something extra to the mix. For the shows that the Snakehandlers couldn’t do I have Stephen James from San Marcos on Guitar and John Duer on bass, with Tony Gloria on Drums. Different feel, same Texas magic.
IMG_0646IMG_1073

This time around it was short and sweet. I was there for my day job, which in itself was inspiring, apart from my time at the Meadows with Master Craftswomen Pia Mellody, I was able to spend my downtime in Texas with John Lee (The Flying Boy). John is a Psychotherapist, Author, Men’s worker and Storyteller. I have been influenced by his work for over 20 years, so to spend so much face to face time with such a man was soul enriching, thought provoking , and thoroughly guidance providing when it comes to my future in that field. Him being a Texan,  well hell y’all, that was just cherry on top of the Pie. My work with John was about finding and living from my King, but that’s a story for another day.

IMG_0943 - Copy

This trip had many surprises. Getting to see James McMurty , two weeks in a row, at Midnight, watching him get all his new material together, ready to roll put on tour, just standing in front of him, alone, enjoying the moment, like no other existed. When you write songs, and perform them, and then have moments where you stand in front of someone who is just in a different stratosphere, it’s humbling and exciting all at once.

You want to write songs and burn your guitar all at once. That being said on this night I just stood there, admiring, dancing, and belonging. Right place, right time. I wasn’t the only one. There was regulars that come to the church of James. Met another one right up front, never really spoke till after, but we shared a lot in common.

IMG_0947IMG_0359
When she, Andrea, Light worker, Energy healer, asked me up to Willie Nelson’s Ranch to see her son who was making a movie, I just knew you do not say not to an offer like that. I was cool just walking around Willies. One of the original Outlaws. A man who believed in himself, believed in what he could do so much so, he turned his back on it all and did it his way. The rest is history. So just being up there, soaking it all in felt special.

Going to the Broken Spoke in Austin Texas, going early, and learning to Two Step. Getting out of my comfort zone. I really like to dance, but I get to comfortable just standing inside of myself, instead of getting in to the soul of my body, and then getting into the limbs, and moving to the music. It was stressful, it was fun, I was glad it was over, but then you had to practice, otherwise why do, so I did. Now it’s time to learn it with my wife, we need to dance more. It’s that simple.
IMG_0945

I got to see older men, men that have spent their lives building their relationship with their craft. Heybale at the Spoke, seeing those seasoned veterans of the dance halls sending them folks around the floor nearly effortlessly, was amazing. Red Volkart, Ernie Poole Ball brothers in Honky Tonk arms. Seeing James McMurty’s band though was the same, generation or to younger, but grown men in the mastery years of their craft. Was special to watch. Seeing Cornell Hurd and Rosie Flores at Ginnys Little Longhorn was the same, and Casper Rawls with the Legendary Bill Kirchen on guitar was the same. Thankyou gentleman, and for the punters that keep going and hearing good music that comes from heart.

There was those though still keeping Austin weird . Thunderosa, AJ Macs “other” band. Nashville Pussy crazy rock and roll, was fun singing a punk version of Folsom Prison Blues with them.
IMG_0652IMG_0654

When I first came to Texas to play 8 years ago, it was Jeff Smith of Hickiods Fame and Saustex Media that booked me. He still is booking me. Getting to see the Hickiods is always grinning material, Jeff always end up near nude, and when they played at the Women’s Roller Derby, and he could get away with getting a chant of “Whore”, in Mexican of course, going with the whole crowd chiming in. It’s a long story, but let’s just leave it with the Whore chant!
IMG_1277IMG_1278
The other end of the scale was seeing Sturgill Simpson, young, charging, on fire, raising eyebrows, getting people talking. Exciting, humbling, Rock and Roll.

Being at the White Horse and seeing Bar Brawl 3, just rocking out, versatile, on it, people dancing. Awesome. Singing Humdinger with the boys just made it all a better kind of Texas evening.

Being at Luckenbach Texas, catching up with Darryl Magg,  Troubadour, Texas Red Dirt Aficionado. The hours I have spent sitting at his bar after closing as he turned me onto bands and songs I hadn’t heard. Well Darryl got me up on stage on the dance hall with Country Folk artist Kevin Deal. It was a cool as shit, playing Waylon Jennings at Luckenbach. Cheesy, but still cool as shit.
IMG_1284IMG_1281

Still it was playing, seeing friends and new people enjoying my songs. Some new venues I had not played, Ginny’s Little Longhorn, what a legendary place, Giddy Up’s and Moontower, all great shows with the Snakehandlers. Triple Crown was the usual fun, Happy Hour show, but we still played load and proud. Beethoven’s at San Antonio is always a stand out. The worlds a funny place. Why a German beer Halle has taken a crazy Aussie under their wing I will never know, but I love the welcome I get there all the same. Wonderful.
IMG_0241

The same can be said for the friends I have made over the years, whether they be older or younger, Christian or pagan, I have a great time in Texas. Thank you to the beautiful Cliff and Rita Leach and show me that loving lasts a lifetime. Dawn and Stefani Duke who are simply two of the best Texas woman I know. Billy Milano who just lives with a beating heart for all to see on the outside of his chest, love him like a brother. Thank you or believing in me Billy. To Andrea, a light worker, seeker and two step companion, it was a blast.
IMG_0763

To my musical brethren, Chris Rhoades, Tony Gloria, AJ Mac, John Duer, Dylan Cavaliere, and Ruby Dee and Jorge Harada. Thank you for laying down the swing so this cowboy from downunder to sing to. Without it I would be a lonely voice.
IMG_0658

So, one hour to go till this flight touches down in Sydney and life will become all to real to fast, and driving around Texas and staying up all night will be but a dream.  I have had been able to listen to Sturgill and James whilst writing, and now I am onto Absent Father by Justin Townes Earle. Beautiful.

That’s enough for now, I will post this when I get some signal, put my head back into Willie Nelson’s new book, “Roll me up and Smoke me when I die!”  Will let Justin get me home.

See you on the road my friends.

IMG_1067 IMG_1061 IMG_0962 IMG_1326 IMG_1322 IMG_1341 IMG_1044 IMG_1279

IMG_1326

You play because you can not not play…..

In 2007 I toured Texas for the first time, solo, it was crazy really. I still remember being picked up by a then stranger Jeff Smith from the Hickiods and Saustex Media , who then drove me and some buddies up to Austin to play Headhunters Atomic Honky Tonk Showcase. I was freaking out, drinking a litre can of Rockstar full strength probably didn’t help. The Preacher, Phillip Van Rooyen, from CHICKENSTONES was with me. He just just reminded to get grateful, cause I was playing original music In AUSTIN TEXAS!!!!!!!! He was right, and I didn’t look back, Jeff had booked me 16 shows that first tour, and the trip, its inspiration, and the songs I started writing changed me for ever. My love affair with Texas, San Antonio, The Hill Country, and the bands I was introduced to have blown my mind. Randy Rogers Band, Bruce Robison and Charlie Robison,George George Strait ,Jack Ingram ,The Turnpike Troubadours Robert Earl Keen,Sam Baker , Townes Van Zant, not to mention just hanging out in Steve Earles home state, and getting to met him on that first trip was pretty incredible. I have always been to passionate about the music I actually like to be to worried about what someone thinks about what I like. All of the above guys just sum Texas Country Rock up for me, You add Band of Heathens, Micky and the MotorcarsCody CanadaThe DepartedWade Bowen to the mix, and man, your stereo would be happy for a long while. There are plenty more to mention here. 
Tonight I am sitting here coming out of a coma that I’ve been in most of the year. After losing my Father last year, and learning how to be a father for the second time this year, well ,that has taken its toll, and I needed to focus and getting some band bills under control for the first time in a long time has kept mainly of the stage . In saying that , last week, Simon Wale sat back in on drums, Dave Harding held down the bottom end, and then there was only me, on guitar, Harmonica and vocals. It was simple, but it felt good, just play the song, let it speak for itself. This could be the way forward for awhile. I cant stay in hiatus for to long, I will go crazy. It was awesome having Simon in the drivers seat again, good man, great drummer, lots of fun having the band back together.
Tonight I spoke to a farmer, wonderful man called Robert Allan. I met him in a milking shed up the Hunter, as my manager brokered a deal. Robert was loaning us the money to make the Black Road Film clip, Long story short, I am still honoring that commitment, but its taken longer than I wanted. Music is a fickle business. You do it sometimes , because you can not not do it. I am glad we took that loan, cause it funded Black Road. A fine film clip Produced by Alex Alex Wilplingero Weltlinger , shot by Sidat de Silva, and directed by the mighty Mike Conway . Chucks Wagon has been the ride of my life. I didn’t get to Texas last year, but I think this year I am going back, need to put a band together, and release the Live from Roadhouse Rags-ELECTRIC Album,which is in the can and I might need to give Don Bartley a call, the Master Masterer!, to finish the job.
So On a night when I cant get Texas, Music and the road out of my mind, here is the road that started it for me, Black Road……https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bH0IIh8-l1k

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!!!

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

 

 

Ragged Edge of Rock and Roll….

Image

Well its Saturday night of the Australia Day weekend, the CMAA awards are on, and I’m at home, the boys are all tucked up in bed, even wrote  another song today, that’s two since Christmas. My writing partner was my son Marshal, he was dressed as the Blue Wiggle, apparently, I’m the Brown Wiggle ( Yes, I know, there is no Brown Wiggle! You tell him that.) In-spite of the fact our couch was the Big Red Car Train, ( Thomas and the Wiggles ride together in our house), the song turned out all right. Congratulations to Luke O’sShea for another Golden Guitar

Beautiful man and his.six string machine.

Image

Tamworth nearly didn’t happen at all this year,as booking took place when the old man was really ill, and even two weeks out I wasn’t set on my lineup, but knew I needed something big to happen. Even if it was just for my own heart. Live music, when people stand and deliver, really only happens when there’s an air of danger lurking about. When in our case four men come together, and they have something to leave on the stage, something that matters. Tamworth can be a car wreck of a place where people just go through the motions, and as the week goes on and they get more pissed, and more hungover, and start to break down, somehow expecting the audience should just accept it as a badge of honor, well personally I think that is Bullshit If a punter has made their way to the front of your stage, you surely owe them more than that. I have played there with no voice, that’s true, but have never not given my all, everything that was in the tank.

Image

Well this year with Den Hanrahan being with me since last Tamworth, and no one plays with more heart than this guy, and Dodge Dave Harding on the bottom end, it was the drummers stool that once again bothered me. I made a big call two weeks out and left behind Henry who had worked with me all year,  there was no Danger, great guy, never stopped having a go, but no lives could have been lost to the raged edge of Rock and Roll with him there. So the call went out, answered by none other than Scotty Dogg. From the first song at The Albert he was on it, we even played Last Song About Girls, no rehearsal, and slayed it, this is just my perspective, just how I felt, but right now, here , alone, after listening to the Blues all night and watching how the other half lived in Tamworth , it’s all I have. That and the dream for this year.

God I came close to giving up, closer than I have before. This Rock and Roll Fantasy has haunted me sine I first won a pair of Radio Head phones off a G.I,. Cordial bottle when I was in Primary school. I was trying to describe to my wife that it’s impossible for me to be just a punter at any show, I always want to be out there. Don’t get me wrong, I have Springsteen tickets and  I will rock out, I love High Hopes, Wrecking Ball, Man he has written these in his 60’s!

So, this year, with this new line up, something , anything might happen, I am working on songs, I have  new band with Hank in the wings, Warning my first band is reforming, I have two film clips/ singles to come off I Play Country, and I have a Live in Austin Texas full band album in the can for Mastering. The Howling Buzzard reckons we should hit Texas again, he has some guys, I have some Guys, wants me to make sure Hank gets there, man, it’s look classy San Diego.

So 2014 , I put you on notice, and by Australia Day 2015, I will have High Hopes, High Hopes indeed. This Dreamer isn’t done yet, it might have been close, but as Rocky said in Rocky 5, ” Its not how many times that you get knocked down that counts, it’s how many times you get back up!”

Image

Image

Image

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

 

Stories from the Wagon

It’s been a weird time of late. I have not even tried to write, as I have not really know were to start. Post Tamworth,  post Texas, personnel changes leaving me and The Hitman back at the helm, was one thing, a big thing. Got me and Fitzy, our manager back in the pocket again. All this though was put in perspective by the birth of our second child, Maverick. Only parents know the fatigue you get into when that new life burst’s its way in, and when there is already a magnificent two year old filling that space, well that’s a whole different level of tiredness again.With Jen begin home looking after the two boys, I also bring home the bacon. We are a good team. Before the last Texas Tour and album launch, I had to get a full on job, to earn cash to pay for the record, film clip, promotion tours for the East Coast, Tamworth Tour etc, and any time you do that as a musician, you sacrifice the time you actually get to have the instrument in your hand,( Listen to Miss Texas Tonight) but I have seen so many of my more accomplished peers, not be able to record, tour, promote etc, cause of no cash. So there is the trade off I chose to make. The purists would say I sold out. Maybe I did. I am not sure how I am meant to work that one out at this stage in the game. I saw on Facebook recently a female Australian Country artist announced she would be shutting down her band page, and was getting married and going back to school teaching. Cut and dry. I was so taken by her clarity of the decision. She got so many compliments and well wishes by her fans, and then the next day, gone. Her music is her legacy. It was an act of courage. I thought about it often for days after. I still am obviously.The fact is when I started Chucks Wagon I was committed to spend every cent I could get my hands on investing in the dream. To tour, to record, to get video’s on the Country Music Channel etc.   Then Brett Fitzsimmons came on board, and he bought in at every level, eventually managing the band. He and his wife Helen, have supported me, and organised support for me at such a level I would be embarrassed to flesh it out here. I will be forever in their debt, and not just for the financial support, but for the undying belief. They put their money were their mouth was. Thank you will never feel like enough. On top of that my own wife has supported everything I have put into this dream, always encouraging me to see it through. I started Chucks Wagon thinking it was my grumpy old man policy. I truly wanted to have a royal go before I was done, as a songwriter and a performer. I planned to do three studio album and one great live album, releasing video clips for every record, and then see after that what the lay of the land was. Well I’m three studio albums in, and that time of reassessment feels closer than ever, and the fact is, I am worried. The band has not seemed to create any real interest above the small but amazing friends I have met along the way that love and support this band. It has always meant a lot to me to know that I have moved folks with these songs. I was a fan first, always a fan. When I started to write music it just felt amazing, like it happened “to” me. I know I am not the greatest musician, or writer, but I am a passionate one. I was always inspired by the underdogs. Before I went to Texas last, and I had some cash, I bought some Kiss Tickets. I know this will not make sense to my country music loving friends, so let me explain. When I was in High School, I was in that rebellious phase, and I found Kiss. They seemed so far away from my mundane western suburbs life. When you open the cover of Kiss Alive 1, and see that crowd shot, or Kiss Alive 2, with that amazing stage on fire picture, it was just the opposite of my working class family. It was mind blowing. The music was raw, everyone hated them. This was before their Disco single and the Kiss lunch box’s.The first three records were loose and raw. Achievable to garage bands everywhere.

Image So me and Fitzy went, and they reminded me that raw energy, commitment, and just really wanting something to happen, was what was more important than skill. They still had the balls to just play to, unlike Motley Crue who opened for them, and their music was so over manipulated, you were left wondering if anyone was really playing other than old Mick Mars.

ImageKiss are proof if you work hard, and give everything you got, then maybe you will break through. The concert was fun, not their best, that I have seen, and I have seen every Australian tour, right from their first tour where I and two school friends slept out over night to get tickets.

ImageThe thing now for myself, is that I am not sure I couldn’t have worked harder than I have, how do you know for sure, the thought haunts me, did I give it everything? It’s not over, and I will always play in some capacity, but man, I feel as though I am failing at some level, but I have always kept going, and that’s my intention right now, to put out Family Man and then Miss Texas Tonight as Film clips on the CMC, play all year, hit Tamworth and then see.

I did two solo shows last week, just me, my guitar, the songs, I missed the band, but it was a relief at another level, know one to have to rely upon, worry about, it was up to me. The shows were rusty, but ok. at songwriters I was there with two duo’s as well, leaving me really out there on my own, but it felt good.

Image

Continue reading

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.

Time to get a move on.

OK, it’s Fathers Day here, that used to be a one way street, me to my dad, but with Little Marshal being 18 mths old, it’s my second time round as a Dad on Fathers Day, and just quietly, that’s pretty cool. I had to pick him up from childcare the other day, and I was presented with the Fathers Days artwork, it made me feel good, simple as that is. Robert Fulghum, the author, pointed out that there is ” Treasure like this in shoe boxes under beds, and stuck onto fridges, in all the countries around the world. I think he is right.

Right now, I am trying to get my head around getting another record out there, studio album number three. The title, well that was a hard one to settle on, at first it was going to be “Family Man”, then Shooter Jennings put that out last year, so end of that one, eventually settled on the single “I Play Country”, and the title became easy. After touring Texas now for the last five years, I was stoked to record there last year. It was a crazy ride. Originally Texan Chris Wall was going to produce, after we met at Greune Hall while I was on the road the year before to discuss it, but that turned into Chris turning us over to Tommy Detamore, and the rest is history. It wasn’t easy though.We had arranged to record after the tour in 2011, while we headed back over from Colorado. I rang Tommy heading back to Texas to check it was all good to go ahead. He said, ” Don’t know what to tell you this Chuck, but the studio Burnt to the ground last night!” I really felt for Tommy, and I am a believer in synchronicity and serendipity. I told him it was my belief that I was meant to record with him, and if he could sort something out, we would still go ahead. He did, and we did. Tommy was bailed out by a generous offer by B.A.M. studios and Bobby Floores in San Antonio, and Robert De Gaza came on as engineer, and Tommy produced, and we knocked out the basic tracks in a week, with Texan Stephen James on lead Guitar from San Marcos. Stephen had been on the road with us , was amazing and I wanted him on it. I had Tom Miller from San Antonio on bass, but Chris Rhoades from Two Tones of Steel guested on three tracks as well. Our Aussie drummer Simon Wale was in the engine room, and Buzz Talay who was touring with us from Australia played on Road Trip. Most of the record was written before I got there, but I still had some Lyrics to pull together, and as Neil Young says, sitting next to the Rabbit Hole got the record finished. I wrote the lyrics for Road Trip and Burn It Down in the car park over the week, as well as I Prayed Today. Robert De Gaza was a true gentleman, was prepared for us everyday, and we worked our asses off, as we had limited time.Having Little Marshal and Jen there was a gret way to be on the road, even though there was no sleeping in with him around!

We were still doing gigs at nights, recording all day, and when the week was done, the basic tracks were all completed. The plan was that I would be back for the mixing. It was a plan, cause Sydney is along way from San Antonio, but I just knew it had to happen, and in this band, that’s how I have worked for along time. I have always punched above my weight, and lived outside of my means. I have put everything into this band, friends have bought houses, go on nice holidays, have decent cars, I make records, film clips , tour Texas/Colorado/L.A./ New York, everywhere we can actually, plus all around Australia, us much as we can anyway. This has worn out band members, managers, exhausted wallets and hearts, but yet the drive has mostly remained. Even when I got married, and then Marshal came along, our Honeymoon was touring Texas, I really wanted my wife to see the Texas that I knew. Little Marshal was a real trooper, if he started crying while we drove, Lullabies went on the stereo till he calmed, and then back to Rock and Roll. It was funny how it calmed the whole band. 

I was able to get back to Texas this year for SXSW, and after I did some shows for the festival, I headed up to San Antonio and mixed the record with Tommy.  Since I had been back in OZ he had  added his Pedal Steel, which is mighty and sounds awesome on this record, and other over dub’s,Fiddle, backing Vocals, and we started from there. With technology the way it is , mixing was a dream, I wanted my original bass player on the record, so with the assistance of John Wardle, Chuck’s Wagon’s new guitar Player, and his mobile recording unit, he and Dodge Dave flew some tracks in from Australia, and all went into the mix.Australia’s Banjo Slayer, Mark “Bucky” Collins flew some tracks in, and again, like on Lipstick and Sin, it was amazing.! I added a Texan Trumpet player, Kullen Fuchs on I Prayed Today, and we pretty well had it. I got back to Australia, and scraped all the money I needed to get to Tommy, and it was hard, especially when my wife was in a car accident, and our car that gets the family around was written off, but we got there. 

Then it was sorting the mastering, and I always use Don Bartley, and with some fine tuning between Tommy and Don we are getting there.

I knew we had to push a single out there, so “I Play Country” was released on the CRS singles for this September release, and now we have to get in behind it, and again John Wardle , has been the Angel , supplying contacts for artwork and the film clip, all being done on the smell of an Independent Musicians Oily Rag! This week we work towards organizing and signing off on all of these, but I put a draft of the artwork out there , just so folks have something to listen to.

I figured, I would start to blog this chapter in the bands History, it’s an important time. Third Record, another push to getting our name andImage songs out there. Another throw of the dice on the Country Music Channel, The Tamworth Awards, not to mention Texas! I am stuck between two worlds, I Love Texas, but I am not a Texan, even though “I did get there as fast as I could!” My love of Texas , and it’s Music, seems to keep me on the edge over here. So be it. My understanding is that the Original Texas Country Outlaws turned their back on Nashville, and went it alone. Inspirational, and that’s what I need right now. Inspiration to get this job done. 

Thats enough for now, but it doesn’t end here. It’s just the beginning.