|| Buffalo Zone
Tuesday, 25 January 2011
It has taken me a few days to process the fact that another good friend has passed. When I first got the news that Tommy Crain was gone, I didn’t believe it. There must be some mistake, I thought, or perhaps this is some sicko’s idea of a joke. After all, other than needing hip surgery, Tommy has been fine - well, at least as far as I knew.
I have been a fan of Tommy’s since 1975. He joined The Charlie Daniels Band right after the Fire On The Mountain
album came out, and the first time I saw a CDB concert Crain was on the Les Paul. He blew me away with his southern fried leads, and the dual leads between he and Charlie in concert were just amazing. Stuff like “Cabio Diablo” and “Saddle Tramp,” and a few years later “In America” and “Still in Saigon.”
It wasn’t until 2001 that I actually met him. My very first trip to the annual Angelus Golf and Country Concert benefit. At that time it was being held in Clearwater, Florida, before moving to Tampa.
It was an absolutely beautiful day, and the concert venue was right on the edge of the water. Seagulls and pelicans flew all around, and there was a cool wind blowing in across the water. There were tents set up in the backstage area, and Jill and I were sitting and talking with all sorts of great folks. I had just met Bonnie Bramlett the night before at the pairing party, and today she came across the yard in her tie-dyed t-shirt and sat down with Jill and I and talked for the longest time. I truly feel our friendship was forged in southern steel that very day. Same with me and Tommy Crain.
When Tommy showed up at the tent wearing a huge cowboy hat, I could hardly wait to meet him. It was actually Bonnie that introduced us. I spoke to him a few minutes and had my picture made with him, and at the time I had no idea just how good a friend he would soon become. That day I watched Tommy sit in with virtually every band that played, from Wiley Fox to Marshall Tucker, Confederate Railroad to Molly Hatchet. I was still doing the Gritz magazine at the time, and when I listed my “Angelus Superlatives,” Crain was “Most Valuable Player,” a title he went on to receive every year that he was there.
Every year I looked forward to returning to Angelus, and most every year Tommy was there as well. There’s no way I could ever say what happened in what year, but some random memories include: The year Scott Greene and I had just arrived at The Hard Rock Hotel to find I was scheduled to perform an acoustic set in less than one hour. I ran into Tommy Crain who had also just arrived and he asked me when I was going to perform. I told him that apparently I was to go on in fifty minutes. He asked if I wanted him to sit in and of course I said yes. He had soon recruited Crosstown Allstars bassist Kerry
Creasy to join us, and I basically threw my set list out the window and turned it into an acoustic jam. Great fun; At one of my first Angelus events I ended up onstage in a jam with Tommy, Charlie Hayward and Sparky (CDB) and Doug Gray (Marshall Tucker); there are a lot of funny memories from the Green Room involving alcohol, but I only recall Tommy being involved once, and that was when he walked by followed by Charlie Daniels and Bonnie Bramlett was sitting in my lap. We were acting silly and having fun. Tommy looks over and says,”Now be careful, Michael.” Charlie grinned and shook his head, saying something like “You kids;” Doug Gray invited me to play with Marshall Tucker Band many, many times at Angelus, and most of the time Tommy was onstage as well. Always a stone cold blast; There were so many late night jams and so many opportunities to just sit around and talk, and I have nothing but good memories.
The only sad one came in 2008. The first day of the event, there was a late night jam that found Tommy Crain & The Crosstown Allstars backing Charlie Daniels on a set. I ended up onstage, along with Guy Gilchrist and a handful of others singing backup on “The South's Gonna Do it Again” and “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” Bassist Kerry Creasy was specially hot this night, and sang a red hot blues solo with Charlie Daniels playing lead alongside Tommy and Bob Rumer. I was also taking photos, and ended up getting a great shot of Kerry singing with Charlie behind him, grinning. The next morning we came down to go to breakfast and Tommy met me in the lobby. There were a lot of people gathered around. Tommy came up to me and said “Michael. we lost Kerry last night.” I was so shocked. I was like, “What, he quit the band?” Tommy said, “No Michael, he died.” At this point all I remember is Tommy was crying and I burst into tears and just hugged him. The whole day after that was a blur. Tommy did everything in his power to help console Kerry’s wife, who was beside herself. Tommy took Kerry’s white hat and got everyone to sign it. He was going to auction it off to help Donna financially. Tommy wore the hat the rest of the weekend before turning it over to her. It was a deeply emotional weekend, and the last time Tommy and I would attend an Angelus weekend together.
Tommy was always the first to sign on for a benefit concert. When Tim Shook and I did the Archangel Benefit in Huntsville, Alabama, Tommy was there with an all star cast including Jakson Spires, Ray Brand, and JoJo Billingsley all of whom have now passed on.
When I was recording my Southern Lights
album in Huntsville, Tommy drove down from Nashville in his big pickup truck. It was literally filled with a bed full of musical instruments, from his gold top Les Paul to a beautiful Gibson acoustic, a Dobro, a pedal steel and a few other stringed instruments. Tommy joined The Crawlers, Bonnie Bramlett, Pete Carr, John Wyker, Stephen Foster and others to help make what I feel is my best CD. We had a real ball with Tommy in the studio, and he seemed to have a great time reconnecting with old friends. One song we recorded was “Ride On My Friend,” written by Tony Heatherly in memory of Toy Caldwell. Tommy helped arrange the song, and at the end he and I improvised a lead jam with me on his Gibson acoustic, and Tommy on the Les Paul. I remember him talking about how stupid he had been to attach a midi device to the body of his Les Paul, and it would soon disappear. Then he blew me away by asking me to autograph his acoustic guitar. I was shocked, especially since I was the first to sign it. He had a way of making me feel special for sure.
A short time later I returned to Huntsville for a CD release party in the bar at The Space and Rocket Center Marriott. We had some major talent there to perform, including Tommy. He would return to play my Something Heavy
CD party a few years later in the same place, as well as to perform at the memorial concert and jam we put together to honor our friend Ray Brand after he died of cancer.
Man we had so many great jams together. will probably forget a couple. In 2007 when another friend of ours died, a bunch of us did a Jam for George McCorkle in Spartanburg, and Tommy was again front and center.
I spoke to Tommy just a few days before his passing, and he was feeling great. He was really excited about The Crosstown Allstars new live album they were putting out, and has asked me if I was still writing the liner notes for it. Of course I said yes. When I hung up the phone I had no idea whatsoever that I would never speak to him again. How could I? But I know one thing. As long as I am drawing breath, I will cherish the memories of making music and having some laughs with Tommy Crain. I feel blessed to have known him.
-Michael Buffalo Smith
View a photo retrospective from the Tommy Crain Memorial Jam in Nashville HERE
PHOTOS ABOVE: (1) Charlie Daniels and Tommy (Courtesy Tommy Crain) (2) Doug Gray, Tommy Crain and myself jamming at Angelus, circa 2002 (3) Tommy and Jack Hall back Bonnie Bramlett at Gritzfest II February 2010 (4) Tommy's guitar and hat at memorial.
Friday, 21 January 2011
It’s been a few weeks now since the benefit concert in Lakeland, Florida, but I am still reeling from the experience. I have been planning to write about the event, but things got hairy the minute I returned home to South Carolina. Scott dropped me and Tim off here at the “Buffalo Hut” and Tim was going to drive his chick-magnet pickup truck back to Spartanburg. Because we were all so tired, I invited Tim to spend the night in the guest room. Well, we awoke the next day to find ourselves snowed in. Fact is, we remained snowed in for several days, during which time I was in survival mode and got absolutely no writing done.
Once the snow and ice event had subsided, Tim returned to Sparkle City and I found myself on deadline to launch the Universal Music Tribe site. I was also on deadline for some articles for Twisted South magazine. Then on top of all that, my dear friend Tommy Crain died, and I had several days of feeling like doing nothing.
All of this brings me back to the benefit show. Now, I must first thank all of those who reached out to help me following what amounted to a year of blindness and chaos. A special thank you goes out to David Hall for getting the ball rolling. Also to Phil Stokes for pulling all he great musicians together. And of course, Phil Stevens, owner of The Music Ranch in Lakeland. What a guy. What a cool venue.
Thank you to Southern Rock’s Finest, Charlie Hargrett, Michael Sean Allman, Kymystry, The Music Ranch Band and Shane Dodson, and thanks to Gene Odom for joining us.
It was January 8th and Kymystry started the show somewhere around 5 PM, and it was a Southern rock throw down from that moment on. Nadine “Wailer” Atkinson lead the band through a set of absolutely great original tunes, then settled in for a nice set of covers that included - of course - some Skynyrd, old and new (including a nice reading of “Preacher Man”), and one of my favorite 38 Special tunes “Stone Cold Believer,” on which I was asked to join in for some fun backing vocals. At the end of the song I felt the hand of God on my shoulder, and without any plan whatsoever, began an acapella “Amazing Grace,” with Nadine joining me. It was quite a spiritual moment for me.
The Music Ranch house band just blew the roof off of the joint. With Phil Stevens on guitar, Darrell smoking some lead (I said lead, not weed) and all the other guys giving 110 percent, they were just amazing. Once again I was unable to contain myself and joined in singing on “Can’t You See,” dragging my friend Sherry Spires onto the stage with me. Sherry is the widow of my good friend Jakson Spires of Blackfoot, and it was great to see her again.
Southern Rock’s Finest took the stage and rocked the house. Artimus didn’t make it, but the Music Ranch band’s drummer did a more than excellent job. Phil Stokes was his usual amazing self on bass and vocals, especially on Stevie Ray’s “The Sky is Crying,” and Fast Fred Cole blew some mighty tasty harp all night. Charlie Hargrett played his heart out, and raised the roof with “Train Train.” The band was joined by a plethora of jammers, including Darrell from the house band, and even your’s truly got a moment onstage on the last song playing Darrell’s guitar ion “Sweet Home Alabama” standing right beside Charlie Hargrett. Pretty cool.
Michael Allman sounded great all night, singing a few with the Music Ranch Band as well as with Southern Rock’s Finest. He sounded eerily like his daddy on “One Way Out” and “Statesboro Blues.” At one point, Michael performed an acapella “Ballad of Curtis Loew” that had the audience going nuts.
The music was great, but it was the people that made the day for me. All the wonderful people who came up and talked to me, said nice things about my writing and my music, or just wished me well. There was a lot of love in he house.
The auctions were great fun, and I do want to thank The Outlaws, Blackfoot, Charlie Daniels and Billy Bob Thornton for donating items to be auctioned.
It was a show for the books, and the meal at Whitey’s Fish Camp in Jacksonville with Tim, Scott and all the Kymystry folks made it even more special. To everyone who helped or came out and enjoyed the great music, you have my eternal gratitude.
- Michael Buffalo Smith
Michael Allman and Southern Rock's Finest
Charlie Atkinson, Kymystry
Darrell, Music Ranch Band
Me and the tall man!
THAT'S ALL, FOLKS!
Thursday, 20 January 2011
The first time I ever heard Johnny Winter’s music was way back in 1972. I remember buying the Johnny Winter LP at a drug store in Spartanburg, SC for about three bucks. I was already a fan of his
younger brother Edgar, and had read all about Johnny in the pages of magazines like Creem
and Rolling Stone.
I can remember several years during the early-to-mid-seventies when I was over the top obsessed with Johnny and Edgar. I bought all of their records, including Johnny’s Second Winter,
a three-sided record. The second side of the second disc had no grooves, Johnny said in the liner notes that while he had enough quality material for three sides, he didn’t have enough for four, so... I thought that was the coolest thing I had ever seen.
I had a four foot tall poster of Johnny on my wall that I bought at Myrtle Beach in 1975, and that same summer I saw him play here in Greenville on his Saints and Sinners Tour,
It was amazing.
Flash forward to 1992. After a bitter divorce, I had met a sweet young thing named Jill, and for our first date, we went to Clemson to see Johnny Winter. Just a smoking set. One year later to the day we drove to Atlanta to see him play again at Center Stage. Also amazing. Another year passed and again almost to the day, he was back in Clemson, as were we. In 1996 Jill and I were married, and Johnny remains a favorite of both of us.
Then in the early 2000’s I was invited by Teddy Slatus to a show at House of Blues in Myrtle Beach. We would be going onto the tour bus after the show to meet Johnny, and we were both thrilled.
As it turned out, Johnny was lead out onto the stage, obviously drugged out, and when he began to play, it was all in slow motion. It was awful. The audience began to get restless, and I heard countless negative comments. After three songs we left, broken hearted.
The dark cloud that hung over Johnny’s head back then is now gone, and I am hearing nothing but positive comments from friends who have attended recent shows. You have no idea how happy this makes me. If anyone asks, you can tell them Johnny Winter is indeed “Still Alive and Well.”
Be sure to check out our current interview with Johnny Winter here.
Tuesday, 18 January 2011
Greetings Tribe. We are so happy you have chosen to spend a bit of your web surfing time with us, and we hope you enjoy what we have to offer. We are just getting started, so look for many more features to be added in the coming weeks. We are pleased as punch to offer up new interviews with Bekka Bramlett, John Lee Hooker, Jr, Christine Ohlman, Johnny Winter and Billy Bob Thornton, along with a handful of classic interviews we conducted over the past few years. We sincerely hope you enjoy the new features as well, along with CD, DVD and book reviews, videos, free music downloads and more. Please tell your friends about us, and if you have a website and are willing to link to us we would appreciate it. There is even a nifty banner below you can copy and link to us. Thanks again for joining the Tribe, and look for many more (and much more in depth) blogs as soon as we get all the T's crossed and the i's dotted.
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