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.!!!
This 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.Dale 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.
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….
I 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, there 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.
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
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 who came down bearing love and gifts yesterday and lifted our spirits.
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!pringsteen
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 and 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.