Monday, May 30, 2011

WATCH: Damon Fowler's Sugar Shack Monday at Ace's in Bradenton with full evening of the Damon Fowler Group

If, like me, you weren't able to attend last night, here are the videos.

Looks/sounds like good times:

Damon Fowler acoustic.

Damon Fowler intermission.

Damon Fowler Group with special guest Ed Wright.

Damon Fowler Group with special guest Ed Wright (Part 2).

Damon Fowler and Chuck Riley at Sugar Shack Monday/photo by Lacy Campbell

Today's Damon Fowler's Sugar Shack Mondays at Aces Live in Bradenton features a full-out, holiday blast of Blind Pig recording artist the Damon Fowler Group.

From Weekend cover story I did on Fowler and his new album:
Fowler returns from the Bahamas just in time for a WMNF (88.5 FM)-sponsored CD release party Saturday at Skipper’s Smokehouse in Tampa. “Devil Got His Way,” his second album for the prestigious Blind Pig Records, came out Jan. 18. It has already received glowing reviews from top Americana publication No Depression and daily newspapers such as the Pittsburgh Post Gazette and Philadelphia Daily News. Many of the songs on “Devil Got His Way” were written in Bradenton Beach.

Continue reading "Bradenton Beach’s Fowler releases ‘Devil.’"

Damon Fowler's Sugar Shack Mondays
Showcasing the best in touring talent
8 p.m. Mon., May 30 with special guest:
Damon Fowler Group 
No cover

Click to watch the performances and my interview with Fowler (and perhaps some special guests)  at
8:30 p.m. Monday, May30

Watch live streaming video from sugarshackmonday at

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Having fun with my freaky Facebook 'friends'

I love Facebook.

Especially on deadline.

Today's column: "My crazy Facebook 'friends.'"
Here are recent “status updates” that have made me laugh, wince or wonder if it’s time to click “unfriend.”
I rarely “comment” but if I did...
“Is it wrong to want a martini at 10 a.m.?”
Not unless it’s a workday and you just posted from your office computer. Or from home after calling in sick.

Continue reading.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

UPDATED 6/2: Alabama founding member talks tour, new album for 2012

UPDATED 6/2: Here's full interview/story with Alabama founding member Jeff Cook, performing June 4 in Bradenton..

Alabama, the most successful band in country music history, ended its Farewell Tour in Bismarck, N.D., on Oct. 16, 2004.

But the group famous for such smashes as "Mountain Music," "Tennessee River" and "Love in the First Degree" could be returning to the road in 2012.

"We're talking about doing maybe 20 shows next year," Alabama co-founder, singer and multi-instrumentalist Jeff Cook said by phone this morning. "I never felt it was right that a band called Alabama should end their career in Bismarck, North Dakota. It should have ended in Birmingham or Huntsville."

There are also talks of a new Alabama album.

"I feel sure that if we do dates we’ll have a recording to go with it," Cook said.

Jeff Cook/
On June 14, the Country Music Hall of Famers headline BAMA RISING: A Benefit Concert for Alabama Tornado Recovery at the 17,000-seat Birmingham–Jefferson Convention Complex (BJCC) in Birmingham.

In addition to Alabama, the 16 confirmed acts include Brad Paisley, Dierks Bentley, Sheryl Crow, Montgomery Gentry, Sara Evans, Kellie Pickler, Martina McBride and Darius Rucker.

"We started talking about the tour of 20 shows and the promoter said, 'Let's see what you’re made of,'" Cook said. "We spearheaded this fund-raising event and it sold-out in 15 minutes."

In March,  Paisley released the single "Old Alabama." The bridge of the song is the chorus from Alabama's 1982 hit "Mountain Music." Rather than sample the original, Paisley had Alabama members Randy Owen, Cook and Teddy Gentry join him in the studio. They're also featured in the official video.

Alabama joined Paisley to perform the song at the ACM Awards on April 3.

"Old Alabama" is currently No. 1 on Billboard's Country Songs chart.

Jeff Cook & The Allstar Goodtime Band perform June 4 at the Renaissance on 9th in Bradenton on June 4 to benefit the Del Couch Music Education Foundation.

The rest of my interview with Cook will appear in an upcoming edition of the Bradenton Herald —and linked to here — in advance of the concert.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Greatest Bob Dylan song ever

In honor of his greatness turning 70 today, here's a fiery, live, 1976 version of my favorite Dylan song, "Idiot Wind":

Here's snippet/ordering info/lyrics of original from "Blood on the Tracks" (1975).

Bunch of Tampa Bay acts covering Dylan songs right now at WMNF/Skipper's Smokehouse event in Tampa.

UPDATED 6/2: 'Glee' star Jane Lynch in talks to host Emmys

UPDATED 6/2: It's official. Looks like I'll be watching the Emmy Awards show for the first time in years. Jane Lynch rocks!

Here's the press release:
"Emmy Award-winning actress Jane Lynch will host the 63RD PRIMETIME EMMY AWARDS airing live from the NOKIA Theatre L.A. LIVE in Los Angeles on Sunday, Sept. 18, on FOX. “We’re delighted to have Jane Lynch host the Primetime Emmys this year,” said John Shaffner, Chairman and CEO, Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.
Continue reading at

UPDATED 5/25: "The TV academy's board of governors is scheduled to meet today (May 25) and could give the thumbs-up to Jane Lynch as host then," reports the Baltimore Sun. "She would be the first solo female host of the Emmys since Ellen DeGeneres in 2005."

"Glee" star — and Palmetto High School Rowing Club super-supporter — Jane Lynch appears to be the top choice to host TV's biggest awards show.

"She may not be the most traditional choice, but she certainly is on brand for Fox: The network is in talks 'Glee' co-star Jane Lynch to host this year’s Emmys, sources confirm," reports Entertainment Weekly.

Lynch has won both an Emmy and a Golden Globe for her portrayal of ruthless cheerleader squad coach Sue Sylvester.

“Kids of all stripes who feel different than everybody else tell me how the show helps them," Lynch told me for this story that ran last month. "The world can be cruel. If ‘Glee’ can do just that one thing, that’s really great.” says pretty much the same about the actress with ties to Manatee County landing the high-profile gig:

"After 'How I Met Your Mother' co-star Neil Patrick Harris garnered rave reviews as Emmy host of the CBS-carried ceremony, word is that Fox is close to locking Glee co-star Jane Lynch for emcee duties this year," reports the online infotainment magazine.

Jane Lynch as Sue Sylvester/publicity photo
Lynch and her wife Lara Embry are huge helpers of their pal Trish Jackson's Palmetto High School Rowing Club.

Lynch acted as emcee, using a megaphone to announce winners, during the first Chopper Dropper fund-raiser May 14 at River Wilderness Golf & Country Club in Parrish, I reported last week. More than an estimated $40,000 was raised for the rowing team, which just completed its first season, to purchase new equipment.

“We love Trish and they did so well in their first regatta boat race, taking a silver medal their first year when these other teams have been around for generations,” Lynch said. “We’re just so thrilled and jazzed about their success.”

The 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards air Sunday, September 18, on FOX.

My Lynch interviews for Bradenton Herald:

"Jane Lynch, of ‘Glee’ fame, coming to Manatee" (April 27)

"‘Glee’ star Jane Lynch gives local donation" (Feb. 11)

Watch Lynch video from Palmetto High.

Top photo: Last year, "Glee" lost best comedy series to "Modern Family," but Jane Lynch claimed a trophy in the acting slots. Credit: NBC via Los Angeles Times.

Monday, May 23, 2011

WATCH: Damon Fowler's Sugar Shack Monday with special guest Christie Lenée and the Damon Fowler Group


Christie Lenée solo performance.

My crazy puppet interview followed by serious interview with Lenée and Damon Fowler (starts at 14 min. mark).

Damon Fowler Group joined by Lenée.

Christie Lenée performs 8 p.m. today (May 23) at Aces Live in Bradenton.

Today's edition of Damon Fowler's Sugar Shack Mondays at Aces Live in Bradenton features special guest Christie Lenée.

She's a fluid, finger-style acoustic guitarist who bounds from folk to rock to blues to jazz. Lenée's also an  accomplished singer/songwriter.

The former Tampa Bay resident lives in Philadelphia when not touring nationally — or internationally.

From her website:
Christie Lenée is a progressive guitarist and conscious singer/songwriter ... Whether performing solo or with a four-piece band, Lenée’s kinetic fingerboard work, alluring voice, and rich lyrics entrance her audience. She has performed at various festivals, colleges, and concert venues along the east coast, stretching out to Taiwan for a stream of festivals in 2005.

Blind Pig recording artist the Damon Fowler Group will also be performing.

Damon Fowler's Sugar Shack Mondays
Showcasing the best in touring talent
8 p.m. Mon., May 23 with special guest:
Christie Lenée
No cover

Click to watch the performances and my interview with Lenee and Fowler at
8 p.m. Monday, May 23

Watch live streaming video from sugarshackmonday at

Sunday, May 22, 2011

PHOTOS/VIDEO: Party on the Plaza headliner Have Gun, Will Travel

An estimated crowd of 500-plus attended the killer bash Party on the Plazaread my story about the event — in downtown Bradenton on Saturday. I had a blast, especially watching headliner Have Gun, Will Travel perform. Here are the Burke brothers — Matt (acoustic guitar) and Danny (bass) celebrating with a shot.

Read my lengthy interview with Matt Burke for this past Thursday's Weekend cover story "Bradenton band’s ‘Blessing’ on national Chevy ad." 

Matt Burke losing himself in the music — or maybe he spotted a UFO.

Read Burke's first ever interview about Have Gun, Will Travel, which I did with him for the Herald in 2006.

L to R: Scott Anderson, Matt Burke, JP Beaubien, Andy Brey, Danny Burke.

Party on Plaza organizer/musician Ben Bakker joins have Gun for their hit "Blessing and a Curse"

Raina Breslauer watching her fiancee Matt Burke perform.

Click for more photos from Party on the Plaza.

UPDATED 9 p.m.: My summer movie picks

UPDATED 9 p.m.: One of my picks just won the Golden Palm at Cannes.

Here's my interview with the award-winning film's producer Sarah Green, honored last month at the Sarasota Film Festival.

From pirates and hangovers to an idiot brother, here are my picks.

Friday, May 20, 2011

REVIEW: Hershey Felder supberbly honors George Gershwin

Felder as Gershwin; Mark Garvin/Publicity Photo
Hershey Felder’s celebrated one-man show “George Gershwin Alone” opened on Broadway a decade ago.

He’s performed it nearly 3,000 times.

But the version Felder presented at the Asolo Rep’s Mertz Theatre on opening night Thursday felt fresh, vibrant and offered an intriguing look at one of the most important composers this country has ever produced.

The actor/pianist/playwright offers the equivalent of an intimate evening with Gershwin.

Felder peppers his script with anecdotes that are by turns poignant and humorous.

He’s a fine actor and considering little footage of Gershwin exists, it’s easy to feel as if the real-life character is on stage.

As for his chops at the piano, Felder proved tremendous. He deftly worked his way through the various Gershwin styles, imbuing deceptively simple ditties with gritty emotion and bringing subtle majesty to the orchestral compositions. The classically-trained player eve made the jazz numbers sizzle and swing.

The setting is akin to Gershwin’s living room, which consists of a grand piano, chair, table and work desk. Smart lighting by Michael Gilliam sets the mood.

The two-hour, no-intermission show largely consists of Gershwin reflecting on his life chronologically.

There’s the story about writing his breakthrough, 1919 hit “Swanee” because he ”wanted to be famous.” Al Jolson famously recorded the song several times and Felder delivers a funny impersonation of the singer’s brash style.

Lyricist Ira Gershwin, who never lived farther than across the street from his brother, is described as “my other half.” Gershwin then discusses composing their jazz standard “I Got Rhythm.”

The composer laments having to write show tunes and pop ditties in Hollywood rather than more serious work.

Perhaps most moving — from an acting standpoint — is watching Felder’s Gershwin perform a scene from his now classic opera “Porgy and Bess” and then read the devastating reviews. Gershwin financed the production that flopped after its 1935 opening.

“I lost everything,” he says.

There’s only a minor mention of his lover of 10 years, composer Kay Swift.

“I never saw her again,” Gershwin says flatly after explaining she found a new guy after he left New York for Los Angeles.

But it’s in keeping with his character.

“I am my music,” he says.

It’s a theme that permeates the show.

Swift leaves him and it results in the stirring “They Can’t Take That Away From Me,” which Felder performs with beautiful pathos.

Gershwin talks us through the experiences that inspired the “An American in Paris” — punctuating the tale with the honking of car horns. Regarded as a masterpiece today, the composition apparently got panned just like “Porgy and Bess” did when it first premiered.

“Criticism is the only thing any of us really remember,” Gershwin says.

Headaches are mentioned throughout the show. Turns out he had a malignant brain tumor.

Gershwin died in 1937.

He was 38 years old.

“I was dead,” Gershwin says.

But not the show.

Gershwin, or the ghost of Gershwin, tells a touching story about “Love Is Here to Stay,” a gem of the Great American Songbook.

“It was the last thing I composed,” he says. “Ira wrote the lyrics after I was gone.”

After playing the popular song, Felder performs “Rhapsody in Blue” — the entire composition, which clocks in at about 10 minutes, each moment spellbinding Thursday.

A well-deserved standing ovation and then Felder slips out of character and interacts with the crowd, eventually leading sing alongs of popular Gershwin hits such as the “Porgy and Bess” closer “Summertime.”

I would’ve preferred the show ending right after Felder’s riveting performance of “Rhapsody.”

But the audience adored becoming part of the show for the last half hour.

And Felder was particularly charming as he interacted with the elated crowd.

Ticket info.

My interview with Felder.

This just in:
Sarasota, FL (May 20, 2011)–In response to the overwhelming popularity of George Gershwin Alone (now playing through June 5), Asolo Rep has added a special one-night-only performance of  Hershey Felder in Concert: The Great American Songbook Sing-Along on Sunday, May 29 at 7 p.m. in the Mertz Theatre.
This event features an entire century of American music – beginning with Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, George and Ira Gershwin, Rogers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe, Bock and Harnick, Bernstein, Sondheim ... The Sound of Music, South Pacific, Fiddler on the Roof, Showboat and more.
Hershey Felder will lead the party from the piano as the audience joins him to celebrate a century of America’s greatest music.
Please call the Asolo Rep box office for more information at 941-351-8000; toll free 800-361-8366, or check online at

Asolo Rep’s Mertz Theatre: 5555 North Tamiami Trail in Sarasota, Florida. Free Parking.
Tickets: $17 to $65, depending on the show, day/time/seating, and method of purchase.
Contact: Box office at 941-351-8000 or toll-free at 800-361-8388, or
Groups: 10+ save from 20%; call 941-351-9010 ext. 6013 or

Thursday, May 19, 2011

ARCHIVES 2006: Have Gun, Will Travel's Matt Burke gives first ever interview about his new solo, acoustic project

BRADENTON, 5/10/06--Matt Burke.--Photo by Tiffany Tompkins-Condie.

To celebrate nationally acclaimed,  Americana ensemble Have Gun, Will Travel's fifth anniversary, here's the first interview Matt Burke, best known then as an indie rocker, did about the Bradenton band the Manatee County native started as a solo, acoustic project. After playing me a rough demo of his self-titled debut disc (now out of print) in the parking lot of the Old Main Pub in Bradenton, I immediately told Burke to push forward with the project and have been writing about his band for the Herald — and numerous other publications — ever since. 

The story below ran five years ago, same days as the Have Gun, Will Travel CD release party at old Fogartyville Cafe in downtown Bradenton. Here's my Have Gun, Will Travel story "Bradenton band's 'Blessing' on national Chevy ad," another in-depth, in-person interview I did with Burke for today's Weekend cover. It's to advance the May 21 Party on the Plaza event in downtown Bradenton that Have Gun will be headlining.

May 26, 2006
From heavy metal to Hank Williams
Matt Burke will make his Bradenton debut of his new solo musical endeavor tonight at Fogartyville Cafe and unveil his "Have Gun, Will Travel" CD.

Chase Theory is the best and most respected rock band performing original music in the area. The group's first single "Pharaohs and Kings" found its way onto the hipster favorite "Emo Diaries 3" compilation (Deep Elm). And the trio's latest release, "Scrapbook," is on the national independent label Tribunal Records.

The Bradenton-based band continues to gig regularly and record new material; however, its singer/guitarist and primary songwriter Matt Burke has embarked on a separate alt. country project he calls Have Gun, Will Travel.

Burke will make his Bradenton debut of the new solo musical endeavor tonight at Fogartyville Cafe and unveil the "Have Gun, Will Travel" CD. The seven-song disc is a thoughtful, cliche-free collection of meditations on life featuring Burke's warm vocal delivery and instrumentation that includes supple acoustic guitar strumming augmented by full-moon harmonica and back-porch banjo.
Burke and I met last week at the Tip Top Tavern.

Here are excerpts from a lengthy interview.

How old were you when you started writing songs?

I don't know that you would even call them songs, but the little numbers that we were doing, I was probably 13 or 14. It was always with (my 27-year-old brother and Chase Theory bassist) Danny (Burke) in whatever project I was in.

What kind of student were you at Bayshore High School (where you graduated from in 1993)?

JP (Beaubien) and I were in the same grade and we were pretty much stoners. We would wear our Metallica shirts to school and (stuff) like that for the first couple years. And then the last couple years of high school we got back into punk rock. We definitely weren't the popular kids in school (laugh) that's for sure. We skipped a lot of school --- especially our senior year --- and were already playing music together.

Burke by Tompkins-Condie (2006)
What was the point when you started having success with The Chase Theory?

Well, the first record that we did that made us think we had any chance of getting anywhere was getting a song on that "Emo Diaries" (Deep Elm records) compilation . . . I just sent in a cassette tape that we had done with three songs on it and they liked "Pharaohs and Kings." 

When that came out we kind of, at least locally, everybody was patting us on the back for being the only band from around here who got on a national compilation.

When did you first get exposed to country or Americana music?

It was kind of always in the background. I've always been a Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson fan, stuff like that. Anything on the radio I have always been turned off by --- nothing on any of the country stations interested me . . . I think the one record that really sparked an interest was "Trace" by (alt. country pioneer) Son Volt . . . Just getting into that led me deeper. To Gram Parsons and Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie and all of his stuff. It was kind of a backwards journey I started to take once I slowly got into it.

How did the material for "Have Gun, Will Travel" originate?

At home I had always written stuff on acoustic guitar that never really translated into Chase Theory material. So, I had that whole my side of my writing songs that I never really had any outlet for.
But it was when I got a (multi-track digital) recorder that I really started getting into the instrumentation.  I decided that I was going to do something with it and it wasn't just going to be a hobby --- I really wanted to have a go at it and see what I could do. I knew I wanted to go down the avenue of that country-influenced stuff and I knew that it had a lot to do with the instrumentation.

It's all acoustic guitar based --- that's the foundation --- but the instrumentation on top of it has a lot to do with the vibe of the music. I never played harmonica or banjo or anything like that so I went out and bought a couple harmonicas in different keys and a little beginners harmonica book.

With the banjo, I knew I wanted it on a lot of the songs but I never had played one. I got one and just started messing around with it. I'm not playing it traditionally in the bluegrass style --- I'm picking it with a guitar pick. The songs on the CD are recorded that way. I'm still practicing. I'm still learning. It's an ongoing journey.

Were you apprehensive about putting out personal songs like "Paperback?" Here you are, unadorned by screaming guitars at the forefront for the first time on record.

I wouldn't say apprehensive. I was conscience of that, and that it is a big, big difference. I mean, the biggest difference between the two types of music is the raw, nakedness of your words. You don't have that volume to hide behind. Whatever you say is going to be taken at face value. It's right out there in somebody's face.

How nervous were you about performing solo for the first time as Have Gun, Will Travel?

The first show I did was the In the Raw show (at the State Theatre in St. Petersburg) and I just started pounding drinks as soon as I got to the club (laugh). Ultimately, that's what got me through that first show.

What songs on "Have Gun, Will Travel" mean the most to you?

There's a lot behind all of them. For instance, the song "Freightliner" is about my lifelong love/hate relationship with Bradenton. As a Bradenton native I've always had an off-and-on relationship with the town. So that song means a lot to me. So does "Paperback." It represents a time where there was a lot going on. (My girlfriend) Raina (Breslauer) and I were --- there was a lot of stuff happening in our lives . . . That song is pretty heavy for me.

Burke by Tompkins-Condie (2006)
Speaking of your love/hate relationship with Bradenton, it appears, at least, that you're very proud of the city. The Chase Theory's latest CD "Scrapbook" features photographs on the jacket and sleeve that you took of landmarks such as the the Bradenton water tower. What effect does living here have on your song writing?

There's always this subconscious desire to break out of town. And I feel like I have that going on but then I am very deeply rooted here. All my family lives here and we go back a couple of generations. It's weird. 

It's kind of contradictory in a lot of ways. You want to get out but you're afraid to at the same time --- afraid to leave a place where your roots are so deep.

You've played a couple shows as Have Gun, Will Travel but you're having your CD release party and making your Bradenton debut at Fogartyville Cafe in the heart of your hometown (today). How important is this show to you?

It's very important. I want to present this project as seriously as anything else I have been involved. I don't want it to be pigeonholed as a side-project . . . This show is the most important so far of the Have Gun shows. It's the first time I'm playing in my hometown and I'm introducing the CD to people as a real deal.

I saved the toughest question for last. What kind of feedback are you getting on that new beard?

(Laugh.) Everyone tells me they like it. Everyone except Raina. 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

WATCH: Chicago guitar great Lurrie Bell making very special appearance at Damon Fowler's Sugar Shack Mondays show/webcast from Aces in Bradenton

UPDATED 5/17: I don't think in my decade of writing about music have I ever seen a place so packed on a Monday as Aces Live in Bradenton last night.

The great Lurrie Bell — making a very special appearance at Damon Fowler's Sugar Shack Mondays — rocked the house as did the Damon Fowler Group, who were then joined by Bell.

Here are the links to see for yourself:

Lurrie Bell performing (fast forward to the 22 min. mark, as usual things were a bit behind schedule). 

Puppet show followed by my interview with Lurrie Bell and Damon Fowler.

Damon Fowler Group performing with special guest Lurrie Bell.

Windy City guitar superstar Lurrie Bell/photo provided

It has been nearly six months since the debut of Damon Fowler's Sugar Shack Mondays at Aces Live in Bradenton.

I cohost the webcasts, conducting the mid-set interviews, and can honestly say I look forward to the event every week.

But this Monday should prove especially memorable with special guest Lurrie Bell.

A legend in his native Chicago, he's one of the greatest blues guitarists alive.

Seriously, I'd put Bell up there with Eric Clapton, etc.

Bell's an emotive vocalist, as well.


Bell has lived an amazing, poignant life. Read the compelling (definitely not your typical PR-fluff) "Lurrie's Story" from his official website.

Blind Pig recording artist the Damon Fowler Group will also be performing, making this a must-see Monday night event.

Did I mention it's free?

See ya there — I'm stoked — or watch the webcast.

Damon Fowler's Sugar Shack Mondays
Showcasing the best in touring talent
8 p.m. Mon., May 16 with special guest:
No cover

Click to watch the performances and my interview with Bell and Fowler at
8 p.m. Monday, May16

Watch live streaming video from sugarshackmonday at

Dan Toler, Mike Kach, Pedro Arevalo and more make first MacFest a success

Dan Toler (right) and Tony Tyler/posted to by Dan Kriwitsky

Dan Toler rocked it last night at MacFest with a great band featuring singer/guitarist Tony Tyler.

Here's the story running in today's Bradenton Herald by reporter Paradise Afshar:

"Southern rock fans inundate Bradenton."

"JoeBradenton" commented: "Great event. Music, fun, beer and no problems. Bradenton has become a destination for festivals."

Good call, Joe. I didn't see or hear of any trouble. Just hundreds of people getting together to enjoy first-rate music made by residents of Manatee and Sarasota.

Dan Toler playing to a big, happy crowd Saturday. Posted to by Dan Kriwitsky

I waited until the rain stopped and walked over to Old Main Street around 4:30 p.m. to catch The Mike Kach Group as well as Pedro Arevalo and Friends and the Michael Mac Band turn in sizzling, crowd-pleasing sets before Toler delivered his powerful performance.

Full disclosure: my younger brother Joel Tatangelo, whose Pinellas-based StandBack Band kicked off this year's Wanee Festival, played slide/lead guitar with Mac's band and Kach's group Saturday.

L to R: Duane Betts, Michael Mac, Frankie Lombardi, Joel Tatangelo, Mike Kach/photo by W. Tatangelo

Here's a clip of the Mike Kach Group performing the Allman Brothers Band fave "One Way Out." Not pictured above is Bodie Valdez, who's seen below playing some sweet harmonica. And, yeah, that's me at the end of the clip looking proud but nervous, which is how I pretty much always look when my brother performs.

Related stories:

"Southern rock showdown in Bradenton" (May 12 Weekend cover story includes interviews with Toler, Kach, Arevalo and Mac)."

"Q&A with former Allman Brothers Band guitarist Dan Toler; headlining free MacFest on May 14"

Friday, May 13, 2011

Q&A with former Allman Brothers Band guitarist Dan Toler; headlining free MacFest on May 14

Dan Toler/photo provided
As a personal and Bradenton Herald policy, I don't do email interviews for feature stories. But when told that former Allman Brother Band, Dickey Betts & Great Southern as well as Gregg Allman Band guitarist and Manatee County resident Dan Toler had a swollen vocal cord and was under doctor's orders not to speak, it seemed only fair to make an exception.

Toler headlines MacFest: A Free Celebration of Suncoast Music.

The event on Old Main Street in downtown Bradenton starts at 2 p.m. Saturday (May 14) and features an outstanding lineup of artists who are members of Dickey Betts' Great Southern group.

In addition to this e-mail exchange with Toler, I talked to Great Southern keyboardist/vocalist Mike Kach, Betts' bassist/vocalist Pedro Arevalo and others involved with MacFest for this Weekend cover story:

Southern rock showdown in Bradenton.

Q&A with Dan Toler

So sorry to hear about the vocal problems. How long have you lived here?

I actually live in the Whitfield area ...  I have been in this area since 1975, with the exception of 1989 through September of 1992, when I lived in Nashville.

Who will be singing vocals and backing you May 14?

I have a young man, a guitarist and vocalist by the name Tony Tyler. And a good possibility of a young lady who really sings her you know what off, Lauren Mitchell, may do a couple tunes. What a voice.

Of the other confirmed artists/acts on the lineup — Michae Mac Band, Ben Hammond Kettle of Fish, Mike Kach, Pedro Arevalo — have you performed with any of them before?

Yes, I have worked with Mike Kach and Pedro Arevalo when I was working with Betts & Great Southern. I have not had the pleasure of meeting Ben Hammond or Kettle of Kettle of Fish but am looking forward to it.

Kach and Arevalo are in Betts’ band, which you played in as recently as the mid-2000s. When was the last time you talked to (Sarasota resident) Betts?

Actually several months ago. I am not 100% sure of when exactly. We run into each other once in a while.

Last time you played/jammed with Betts?

We played a benefit for a little girl with eye problems a few months back. Dickey`s son Duane was playing with Great Southern and it was really cool jamming with Duane. He`s a real good dude.

When you were an Allman Brother for a three-album run from 1979 to 1982, including the band's comeback, “Enlightened Rogues,” how many band members lived in Manatee or Sarasota?

Dickey, Frankie Toler (drums), David Goldflies (bass), Greg Allman and myself. Butch Trucks (drums) lived in Tallahassee, Jaimoe (drums) lived in Macon and Jim Essery (harmonica) lived in St Augustine.

What’s your favorite memory from that period with the Allman Brothers?

There are a few, I really enjoyed playing JFK Stadium in front of 140,000 people or fans. When they would cheer the musical sound would disappear from the crowd volume, and what a feeling of power that represented.

When you and your brother Frankie were cutting the title track to  “I’m No Angel” with Gregg Allman did you sense it would be such a big hit?

Yes, absolutely. Ya know, ya kind of get a feeling in your gut about a song like that, as it has all the right ingredients: catchy intro good chord changes, a great melody and vocal, a killer solo and a killer vamp out. We played that song on the road for three years before recording it.

When was last time you spoke with Gregg?

Right after my brother's liver transplant in 2008.

Any surprise guests expected at MacFest?

Can`t let any cats out of the bag as you never know who might show up. This area has several fine artists so just come on down and check out the scene on May 14th and see for yourselves.

What future Dan Toler projects — or Toler/Townsend Band should we know about?

John Townsend and I have been collaborating on new songs and ideas for a new album in the future. As for myself, I am thinking about a possible blues album for next year and am currently working on gospel songs as this is something I have a major desire to do and to be able to give something back to the Lord as He has blessed me with music all my live and I am totally grateful for this.

You’ve played with all the Southern rock greats. What’s your favorite song to perform (that you didn’t write)?

Tough one here. I would have to say "Can`t You See" by the Marshall Tucker Band is one of the all-time great Southern rock songs. Also,  I would have to say "Midnight Rider" (Gregg Allman) is another classic and it stands to reason if you are going to play Southern rock ya best know one of these numbers.

Favorite of your own songs?

I love all of them bro. They are all very special to me.

Anything you wish to add?

We love playing to our fans and new people and I am proud to play with these guys. I only hope our fans come out in big numbers to support us as they usually do and we promise to rock their socks with some of southern rocks best players. We love ya`ll. Come have a good time with us on Saturday night May 14th. God bless you all.

Check out "Dangerous" Dan Toler's killer, 3 minute solo at the 1:42 mark from this 1979 Allman Brothers Band performance in Gainesville.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

WATCH: Sugar Shack Mondays with Damon Fowler Group and special guest Sean Chambers Band


Intro with Damon Fowler, Wally, Little Charlie and me.

Sean Chambers Band performs.

I interview with Chambers and Fowler.

Watch Damon Fowler Group perform with Sean Chambers.

Blues-rock guitarist and singer Sean Chambers.

This week's edition of Damon Fowler's Sugar Shack Mondays features special guest the Sean Chambers Band, another Florida act with national recognition.

From Chambers' website:
Sean toured with the legendary Hubert Sumlin (Howlin' Wolf's guitarist) as his guitarist and band leader from 1998-2003. Performing extensively throughout the U.S. and Europe together, Chambers recalls this time as being his "College Education" in music. "My band would usually open the show, then take a short break and bring out Hubert for his set. I learned so much during my time playing with Hubert, I consider it my college education." Sean not only learned at Hubert's feet, but his own style of the blues began to get noticed by fans and critics as well. During a tour throughout England in 2001 Britain's own "Guitarist" magazine named Chambers as one of the top 50 blues guitarists of the last century! After his tenure with Mr.Sumlin he later performed 3 more tours throughout England on his own, and in 2003 was asked to headline the Maryport Blues Festival there.

Blind Pig recording artist the Damon Fowler Group will also be performing.

Damon Fowler's Sugar Shack Mondays
Showcasing the best in touring talent
8 p.m. Mon., May 9 with special guest:
No cover

Click to watch the performances and my interview with Fowler and Chambers at
8 p.m. Monday, May10

Watch live streaming video from sugarshackmonday at

Top 10 Kris Kristofferson covers

Kris Kristofferson's songs have been covered by everybody from Elvis Presley to Al Green — not to mention Johnny Cash and Janis Joplin.

Here are my favorites.

And here's my recent interview with Kristofferson, which has been picked up by newspapers nationwide.

Kristofferson performs Tuesday (May 10) at Tampa Theatre.

Jamey Johnson's version of "For the Good Times" barely missed my final cut.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

REVIEW: Manatee Players have fun 'Singin' in the Rain'

 Kim Betts-Gingrich
Kim Betts-Gingrich has a wonderful singing voice. She speaks splendidly, too.

But not as loud-mouthed Lina Lamont.

She’s the villainous, vocally challenged leading lady of “Singin’ in the Rain.”

And the silent movie star will to do just about anything to survive the advent of sound films.

Talking more like a truck driver than a gorgeous screen queen, Betts-Gingrich peppers the Manatee Players’ impressive production with ample laughs.

The musical is based on the classic film of the same name

And getting unfair Gene Kelly comparisons out of your head at times will likely prove difficult.

But Dewayne Barrett, who also choreographed the show, still shines as leading man Don Lockwood.

His greatest accomplishment comes at the end of the first act.

After already singing and dancing through the previous three numbers, Barrett received a well-deserved round of thunderous applause for his performance in the unforgettable title sequence.

And, yes, director Rick Kerby made it rain, which easily ranks as the show’s most stunning scene.

As for providing chuckles, Jonah Wright, playing Lockwood’s pal Cosmo Brown, also elicited quite a few — and not just when he sang “Make ’Em Laugh.”

In the singing department, all the cast members were adequate or better, but Andrea Wright, portraying aspiring actress and Lockwood’s love interest Kathy Selden, turned in particularly remarkable vocal performances.

The showers came again for the finale featuring the entire cast reprising the title song, ending the show on a fittingly fun note — the audience visibly and audibly satisfied.

Among the attendees at the Thursday opening of “Singin’ in the Rain,” which runs through May 22 and closes the Manatee Players season, sat a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer.

Dickey Betts, the singer/songwriter/guitarist responsible for such Allman Brothers Band gems as “Blue Sky,” “Jessica” and “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” gushed during the after party about his daughter Betts-Gingrich’s superb portrayal of the musical’s beautiful but rough-sounding baddie.

“It’s the first time I’ve seen her perform,” Betts said with a broad smile. “I’m so proud.”

Betts-Gingrich is a vocal instructor at her Parrish studio.

“It was hard singing off pitch,” she said. “Not so much for me,” joked her dad, the voice and composer of the Allman Brothers biggest hit, “Ramblin’ Man.”

Click for info on tickets, showtimes, etc.

Read my previous story "Manatee Players prepare to make it 'rain.'"

This review appears on page 2A of today's Bradenton Herald.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Dickey Betts at Manatee Players to see daughter in 'Singin' in the Rain'

Kim and Dickey/by Rick Kerby
A Rock and Roll Hall of Famer attended the Manatee Players opening of "Singin' in the Rain" tonight at Riverfront Theatre in downtown Bradenton.

Dickey Betts,  the singer/songwriter/guitarist responsible for such Allman Brothers Band classics as "Ramblin' Man," "Blue Sky," "Jessica" and "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed" gushed during the after party about his daughter Kim Betts-Gingrich's superb performance as the vocally challenged leading lady Lina Lamont.

"It's the first time I've seen her perform," Betts said with a broad smile. "I'm so proud."

Betts-Gingrich is an excellent vocalist in real life.

"It was hard singing off pitch," she said.

"Not so much for me," her dad, the voice of the smash hit "Ramblin' Man," joked.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Heatstroke Hotrod Hoedown leaving Bradenton

Heatstroke Hotrod Hoedown, originally held in August, ranked as one of Bradenton's best live music events for seven straight years.

Paxton Richards (aka P-Man), frontman for the power trio the Downshifters, held Heatstroke in and around his P’Man’s Classic Cycle Paint in the warehouse district of downtown Bradenton.

There would be kegs.

Lots of coolers.

Maybe a guy selling BBQ.

People stood in the sweltering garage or sat in folding chairs outside.

Kids and dogs ran around.

Tickets? Free.

What made Heatstroke Hotrod Hoedown so special was the feeling of being at the hippest party of the year — rather than, say, a formal radio station fundraiser.

Those days are done. At least for now.

And Heatstroke Hotrod Hoedown won't even be held in Bradenton or anywhere else in Manatee County this year.

Talk about a letdown. After returning to the Bradenton Herald from my last journalism job in Orange County, Calif., I looked forward to attending the Heatstroke I recalled so fondly.

The Downshifter, from left, Cory Karish, Kevin Kuras, Paxton Richards, and Michael Zouhar performed at P-Man's Classic Cycle Shop in Bradenton. Bradenton Herald file photo from 2003.

WSLR's Arlene Sweeting sent out this email today:

"Heatstroke Hotrod Hoedown has outgrown P’Man’s Classic Cycle Paint in Bradenton and is moving to Sarasota! Teaming up with local community radio station WSLR-LP 96.5, P-Man is bringing the hip, awesomely rowdy and fiercely fun Heatstroke Hotrod Hoedown to the Sun-n-Fun Resort in Sarasota on Saturday, May 21 from 12pm-9pm."

Things change. The Hoedown outgrew its original home. I get it. But it's still tough seeing Bradenton lose such a fun, annual event.

I hope this year's event in Sarasota has an excellent turnout.

WSLR is a station worth supporting.

But P-Man, how about bring another similar bash back to Bradenton?

In addition to the Downshifters, the lineup for May 21 is The Hamiltones, Ted Lukas and the Misled, Beebs and her Money Makers, The Lambasters, The Ted Stevens Band, The Bottom Feeders and Gigi and the Cretins.

Tickets are available for $10 at Rocketman, Fogt’s Music, Sarasota Emporium, P-Man’s Classic Cycle and Paint and at Proceeds from the event will benefit WSLR-LP 96.5, Sarasota’s community radio station. No outside food or beverages will be allowed.

Monday, May 2, 2011

WATCH/UPDATED MAY 3: Damon Fowler's Sugar Shack Mondays with the Damon Fowler Group and special guest Eddie Wright Band

Eddie Wright
UPDATED MAY 3: Click link below for last night's interview/performances and Sugar Shacks from the past.

This week's edition of Damon Fowler's Sugar Shack Mondays features Fowler's talented close friend Eddie Wright.

A singer, guitarist and harmonica player, Wright has been fronting his own bands for decades. But he has also collaborated for years with Fowler. The two used to perform as a duo and Wright co-wrote most of the song's on Fowler's latest Blind Pig Records release "The Devil Got His Way" as well as a few on Fowler's 2009 Blind Pig debut "Sugar Shack."

It's always good times when the Damon Fowler Group brings unofficial band-mate Wright on stage.

Damon Fowler's Sugar Shack Mondays
Showcasing the best in touring talent
8 p.m. Mon., May 2 with special guest:
No cover

Click to watch the performances at
8 p.m. Monday, May 2

Watch live streaming video from sugarshackmonday at

Sunday, May 1, 2011

UPDATED 5/5: Kris Kristofferson to pen memoir

UPDATED 5/5: Here's the entire interview. Story running on cover of Bradenton Herald's Weekend section today: "Kristofferson reflects on remarkable career."

Kris Krisofferson has lived the kind of life most men only dream of.

A U.S. Army Captain and then a janitor, he came to be known as a poet, rock star, movie star and sex symbol.

Yeah, it's a cliche, but he's now best described as a living legend. 

I had the privilege of calling Krisofferson at his Hawaii home recently for a story to advance his May 10 date at Tampa Theatre.

Here's a snippet:

Me: Your life is as amazing as any fictional one. I’m sure you’ve had numerous memoir offers. Have you ever considered writing one, or something like Bob Dylan’s “Chronicles?”

Kristofferson: Yeah, I plan on doing that as soon as I can slow down and get off the road. I'm just as amazed as you are at the stuff I had the audacity to do (laughs). It would be interesting to do and a way to let my kids in on all the things going down.

Me: You know as soon it's completed a producer will snatch up the film rights. Who would you like see play you in the movie?

Kristofferson: Oh boy, that’s hard. They were going to do a film about Janis (Joplin) and I remember being asked if Brad Pitt would be a good guy to play me and I said, "That’s perfect!" (laugh). But the movie didn't get made and Brad got spared (laugh).

My Kristofferson story will run in the Bradenton Herald later this week. I'll update this blog post with link. 

Kristofferson at Tampa Theatre on May 10.

Photo courtesy of his label New West Records.

Mother's Day: Don't mess it up!

One week until Mother's Day.

Start planning!
Do something special with the woman who birthed you, endured you through the terrible twos, worried herself sick during your teens, wondered if you’d ever decide on a career and continues to send you a check every time your car breaks down.
For suggestions, continue reading my Sunday column "Don't mess up Mother's Day."