Friday, February 21, 2014

Our Interview With Chuck Mead: "It WAS cool. You should have been there."

Mr. Chuck Mead doesn't need much of an intro around these parts. Maybe you know him from back in the days when BR5-49 was tearin' it up. Or maybe you know him from early days in the Homestead Grays.  Or maybe you know him from recent hootenannies in Lawrence (we last caught him at the LAC's 940 Live concert series a few years back).  Chuck hits LFK again tomorrow night at the Bottleneck with His Grassy Knoll Boys backing him up and The Howlin' Brothers opening the festivities.  Put on your dancing shoes.

Here's a last-minute interview with the man his own self, in which Chuck and Chip bond over a shared love of Hee Haw.  Our more aged readers are really going to enjoy Chuck's story about the Skyline Room.  Let us know if you were at that legendary New Year's Eve gig!

Richard:  Chuck, you've obviously got a long and storied history playing in Lawrence (or, as we call it these days, LFK).  Can you regale us with a fun tale about one of your most memorable shows, ideally from back in the days of yore?

Chuck:  One New Years' Eve, all the venues in town were spoken for so we set up a show in the Skyline Room out at the old Holiday Inn at 23rd and Iowa. Small banquet room meant for the Optimist or Rotary Club to have their breakfast. But we rented the place for a decent price and booked the show. The bill was Homestead Grays (the band I was in), Ricky Dean Sinatra, and a band called Foodhead. We show up in the afternoon and there was already puke in the ladies' room toilet and the guy who rented the room to us gave us only one trash can and three ashtrays for what we expected to be a crowd of maybe 200 people. There was a small fake Christmas tree standing decorated in the back of the room and a small removeable dance floor set up in front of the stage. Well, over 500 people - hippies, bikers, hipsters, townies showed up and raged all night long. Great gig. The electricity went off during the Ricky Dean set but we got it back on and the shadow continued. People packed in there in a dancing sweaty mess. Everybody was letting it all go because most of us were staying at the hotel that night. At 2am, after the show, people show up to clean up the room and  they found cigarette butts, beer cans, solo cups and party favors everywhere, the dance floor was actually broken, there were a couple of holes in some walls and one guy passed out on one of the tables. Needless to say, the manager wasn't too happy. But he didn't give the tools (more trash cans and ash trays etc.) to not make it such a wreck. He called me the next day and I answered the phone all hung over and he's yelling, "You broke my dance floor! There are cigarette burns on every inch of my carpet! There are holes in the wall! You destroyed my Christmas tree!" Now I have photographic evidence that the next morning, while the place was a bit of a mess, well, a disaster really, that tree was still standing. He screamed, "You told me it would be cool Chuck!" And I said, "It WAS cool. You should have been there!" 

Chip:  I was always a big fan of BR5-49, as well as a big fan of Hee Haw (it's officially the favorite program of Fort Scott, Kansas).   What was the highlight of your career in that band and what's your favorite Hee Haw character or sketch?

Chuck:  There were many highlights in the band from doing a tour with Bob Dylan, being on TV, and playing Clive Davis' Grammy party. Hell, we went all over the world. And it all came from just being ourselves and slogging it out at Robert's on Lower Broadway in Nashville. As far as Hee Haw goes, besides the fantastic musical performances, I have to say I loved it when they sang "Where oh where are you tonight?" Archie Campbell was a genius. The routine he does with Roy Clark "That's bad, no that's good."  Fantastic!  It's on Youtube. Still fun to watch. I have all the DVDs. 

Chip:  Oh, me too!

Richard: Tell us about your sound and your band these days.  Why must our readers absolutely head down to the Bottleneck on Saturday for an evening with Chuck Mead and His Grassy Knoll Boys and The Howlin' Brothers? (also, both those band names are bad-ass!).

Chuck:  I have three other guys playing with me for the last few years - My Grassy Knoll Boys.  Mark Andrew Miller plays the doghouse bass and sings with me, Martin Lynds plays the drums and sings too, and Carco Clave plays pedal steel, electric mandolin, banjo and whatever. Nice little hillbilly quartet and we rock it like we're running from something. The HB are great friends (and Lower Broadway veterans too) and between the two of us, something should get broke. 

Chip:  The show is sponsored by Free State Brewery, which is turning 25 this weekend.  What's your favorite Free State beer and have you tried their new French fries which have (sadly) replaced the legendary wedge-cut fries?

Chuck:  I'm proud the folks down at Free State are sponsoring our show. I remember when they were building it because I was working over at Liberty Hall. I have always preferred the Copperhead Pale Ale. In fact I have a couple left in my refrigerator right now that I brought home from Christmas. I haven't had the new fries yet.  I remain neutral until I've tasted them. I did love those wedges though.


1 comment:

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