I'd love ANY feedback about Jerry Henry's PLANET WEEKLY article
or this review by Ben Windham.
Both have flaws. Jerry wants Jimmy Dean to be from B'ham and Ben wants Wilbur to act like Citizen Kane and call his album
I'm gonna build a nice post with these two articles and you can't imagine how much fun it was today telling Wilbur that
he made the cover of Planet Weekly Magazine and TUSK, the entertainment supplement of Friday's Tuscaloosa News.
& even more satisfying was putting both publications in a manila envelope & mailing it to Wilbur in Dothan this afternoon just before the post office closed.
Shoot me some of your impressions of Wilbur's latest work!!!!
RIGHT NOW, so I can use it in my big post tonight.
Walton back after almost 40 years
By Ben Windham
May 23, 2008
WILBUR WALTON JR.
'Mr. Rosebud' (EP)
Greg Haynes' mighty book, 'The Heeey Baby Days of Beach Music,' is the last word on the rock and blue-eyed soul bands that ruled the Deep South in the 1960s. One of the best of these groups, The James Gang, hailed from Dothan.
The band had a regional hit called 'Georgia Pines' in 1965. It was — and still is — a great recording, deftly written and beautifully sung. Almost anyone who grew up in the South during the mid-60s is likely to remember it:
The trees grow tall
Where I come from
Their leaves are thin and fine ...
Vocalist Wilbur Walton Jr. was one of the main reasons for its success. His expressive baritone seemed to capture every nuance of the lyric about lost love, small-town life and the Southern countryside.
Walton, who has been missing in action for almost four decades, is back, and that's a cause for celebration. And also some reminiscing.
As a singer, he seemed in that rarefied league with Roy Orbison, someone who could convey deep emotion over a wide vocal range in the compressed context of a pop song.
The Orbison connection is germane to Walton's story. It began in the early 1960s with a band named The Webs that songwriter/producer Buddy Buie managed. The Webs backed up Orbison at a one-night stand and he was blown away. For the next two years, he used The Webs as his backup band, rechistening them The Candymen as a reference to his bluesy hit record 'Candy Man.'
The original singer for The Webs was a kid named Bobby Goldsboro. Losing his band to Orbison, he went out on his own and eventually charted some sappy but lucrative hits like 'Honey' and 'Watching Scotty Grow.'
Buie, meanwhile, was casting around for another band to manage. He took Walton and bassist Jimmy Dean from a re-formed version of The Webs and added three members of The Ramrods from Birmingham: drummer Fred Guarino, keyboardist Bubba Latham and lead guitarist Johnny Mulkey. They became The James Gang.
A caveat: This James Gang has no relation to the band of the same name that included Joe Walsh, a future member of The Eagles. For a couple of years, this Alabama James Gang was one of the biggest bands on the Southern party circuit.
'Georgia Pines' sold well and so did a second recording, 'The Right String Baby but the Wrong Yo-Yo,' written by Atlanta's Willie Perryman, a.k.a. Piano Red.
The group never was able to break nationally, however, and it disbanded in 1967. Still, Walton hung onto the name and continued to take bookings.
Tuscaloosa's Johnny Wyker, who led the fabled Rubber Band, found himself in the same situation. He tells a funny story about agreeing to form a dummy band with Walton. Depending on bookings, some nights they would play as The Rubber Band, and some nights they'd be The James Gang.
As long as the engagements were far apart, the plan worked pretty well, Wyker writes on his Web site. But one holiday season found them booked back-to-back at the same club, first as The James Gang and then as The Rubber Band.
Somehow, they managed to get out of it but 'I'm sure there was some fast talkin' involved and some fast cars too,' Wyker writes.
Walton was going through a bad time, he writes. Some nights he would be too juiced to sing. He'd claim that the P.A. system was broken and tell the band to play some instrumentals until he got his act together.
Walton has been off the scene for a long, long time. This month, however, he emerged with his first recording in 37 years, a four-track extended play CD titled 'Mr. Rosebud.' And if it's not exactly 'Georgia Pines,' it's surprisingly good.
It was recorded at Valpariso, Fla.'s, famed Playground Studios, which produced soul, garage, psychedelic and Southern rock for 20 years beginning in the late 1960s. Recently reopened and revitalized, with an anthology titled 'Soul Resurrection, Vol. 1' devoted to some of the awesome talent that passed through there, Playground has gained a whole new audience.
Walton's EP isn't quite as retro as you might expect. A couple of the cuts, 'Lonely Song' and 'You'll Smile Again,' are soul-country, in the same vein as 'Georgia Pines' (though possibly a little less rocky). But the other two tracks, 'Johnny' and 'Mr. Rosebud,' are like something off a Steely Dan album.
The lyrics are elliptical; unlike 'You'll Smile Again,' when Walton seems to be singing reminders to himself ('The years and the wine/Sure took their toll/The feet that were once steady/Now aren't so bold ...'), the two Steely-ish songs are impressionist, open to interpretation.
'Johnny,' in fact, almost sounds like a studio jam, with stream-of-consciousness lyrics:
Vanishing vapor … a vapor
Johnny on a trip ... a trip
Johnny at his worst … hey hey hey
But it's surprisingly effective. The backup, which includes Walton's old band mate Jimmy Dean on bass, David Adkins on piano and guitars and John Seals or Warren Meigs on drums, is tight and hard, with more than a passing resemblance to the Steely Dan studio band that cut the 'Katy Lied' album.
The title cut is somewhat more focused lyrically but it's still open and suggestive:
It's been so long since I've seen you
I think perhaps you're not coming
Or have been detained at the coast
As for me things are going quite smooth
There are other fields you know
I've got a friend on an island ...
Physically, Walton changed quite a bit since the James Gang days. Gone are the slick hair and the tailored, collarless leather suit. He wears a patch over his right eye these days. His hair is longish and unkempt. He looks gaunt and weathered.
But Walton still can sing. His voice has gotten deeper and darker over time. If some of its supple power is gone, he remains a master of nuance and inflection.
People who are curious may get a good look at Walton in a recent concert in Dothan with a group calling itself 'The Strange Gang,' (featuring Buie, no less) on You Tube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YpVtW4cKvo
If you want to get deeper into Walton's new incarnation, however, I recommend the new EP. It may be hard to find in stores, but it's available on the Internet. It's probably destined to rank as one of the Southern musical comebacks of the year.
A member of the Chukker Nation got buried today.
Used to, we'd tell you how many it was but after it got to be over 100 we gave up on that stuff.
I remember when this cat showed up in the Chukker in the early 70s.
He was absolutely a body double for Jan Michael Vincent.
Trouble was, Jan Michael Vincent was hanging out in Tuscaloosa during the filming of HOOPER.
This little cat was 24. Jan Michael Vincent was 34.
Our Chukker cat won the nookie avalanche around that time.
The S.O.B. used to come up to me and tell me who he was gonna pick up while letting me know I never had a chance.
Not only that, he pushed me furthur than anyone else ever has &
I avoided violence.
He'd get up in my face when he'd gotten down to
the bicycle stage &
raise hell with me but I'd pop him with two flat
GIT UP OFF UV ME
(hope yo' head don't find a sharp corner)
& we'd git along
This cat who got buried today was a nightmare.
One day he was driving down McFarland Boulevard near DEATH & he decided he needed ME!
He showed up on my door step & said, "I was riding down McFarland Boulevard & I thought, 'Who could help me?' &
I KNEW ROBERT REGISTER COULD DO IT!!!!"
"So what's the promblim?," I axed.
"I was shooting coke & I broke the needle off in my arm."
(Right then, I knew I had a potential corpse on my hands)
"Leon, you need to go to the doctor in Northport."
"I can't go to the hospital! They'll arrest me!"
[this was way before DCH bought Northport, so Northport was different]
I told him, "You have only one option.
You have to get your Daddy to back you on his insurance & you have to go to Northport or you will
go skraight to jail."
Oh, hell, he bitched & moaned about that but he did it.
Here's what happened...
They strap him down & the doctor tells him he can't help him.
The only way my friend can get help is from a born-again DOPEHATING CHRISTIAN plastic surgeon who proceeds to walk in & say,"Well, Mr. Leon, you're a tough guy!"
Leon goes,"No sir, I'm not a tough guy."
Born again!~bible beater~ plastic surgeon sez, "You must be. You take poison & stick it into your veins with dirty syringes. I have no idea what you're on right now so I cannot give you anesthesia."
At that moment, the plastic surgeon took the scalpel in his hand & opened all of the inside of my Chukker associate's elbow.